Isn’t worship synonymous with church? Why ask such an odd question? First, clarity in our thinking and definitions leads to greater usefulness in God’s Kingdom. Second, answering such questions is a matter of obedience. Really? Yes! Romans 12:1-2 says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The Burnett paraphrase of ‘renewing our minds’ is this: Faith doesn’t mean you check your brain at the door! So I ask again: Do we go to Church or do we go to Worship?
Worship And Awe
Can we be awed? Many things have gotten in our way. And just to briefly make that point, consider this short list of examples:
- Internet – the world is connected
- 24 hour news cycle
- Hubble Telescope and other stunning images
- Saturation of technology/information/images
What does it take for us to have a sense of awe? Just a little more than the last time. And that’s the problem. We suffer from sensory overload. And that makes it more difficult for us to have a sense of awe. This impacts us in ways we don’t think about. One of those ways is our sense of awe and wonder at the Person and Majesty of Almighty God. Are we still awed by His power, grace, love and holiness?
Let’s look at Exodus 3. Yahweh appeared to Moses in a desert bush. That’s amazing all by itself. But His mere presence turned the ground around that bush into a holy spot. Moses had to remove his shoes in order to come closer. But God’s presence can and does impact other things – and people!
Notice another familiar incident in Exodus 34. Moses had been in God’s presence for some time. Proximity to a holy God changed Moses’ physical appearance. When Moses left the mountain to rejoin the nation of Israel they noticed the glow on his face. This so frightened the people that they wanted Moses to wear a veil over his face. It was very noticeable that Moses had been in God’s presence. I think the glow of God’s glory emanating from Moses’ face brought conviction to the people. That glow confronted them with their own lack of holiness. Think about it.
Coming together as God’s people is supposed to be synonymous with worship. But is that why we come? Are we just going through a ritual or is genuine worship happening? That depends on the individual. Let’s look at what I’ll call the worship weakly crowd. They exhibit little concern for:
- Where their feet have been (or figuratively: what might be ‘on’ them)
- The guile and malice in their hearts
- Gossip and lies that have come from their mouths
- What they’ve allowed their eyes to see
- A lack of prayer and/or study of God’s Word
And more could be said…
This group went to the church house but they just took a trip. Real worship wasn’t in view. They had no sense of awe at the Person of God. Their primary concern was whether or not they would get out on time. And that’s because their thoughts were consumed with beating the crowds to a restaurant, a kick-off time, or a tee time. They came to an opportunity for worship with leaving on their minds. So they leave unchanged. The glory and glow of a holy encounter doesn’t emanate from their faces or their lives. So how is that different from the weekly crowd?
Some of you are itching to correct me. I already know that worship is a 24/7/365 for believers. It’s supposed to be our lifestyle. When Paul wrote about the transformation of our minds (see above) he also said we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. The structure and meaning of the original text means the giving of ourselves is ongoing and constant. Worship is all day everyday. Doing whatever our hands find to do for our Father’s glory. With that out of the way I’ll continue with my wordplay.
The paragraph above really addresses our individual worship. But the local body of believers typically gathers once a week. And that is our corporate worship – our gathering together to declare our collective awe, wonder, amazement, and obedience to the King of Kings. Every week there are those who come to this time weakly. And there are those who come for the right reasons. Worship begins with thankfulness. That is a recognition of what our Holy Father has done for us. And thanksgiving causes us to realize that we are far from self-sufficient. What we have and what we are has been given to us. That’s a good beginning to a healthy sense of awe! And holy awe should lead us to the C words!
Worship: The C Words
Is there something that tells us when/if genuine worship has taken place? Yes, there is. There is no chapter and verse that says: Worship has taken place when (fill in the blank). But the answer is observable time after time. We just have to open our eyes and see it. I’ll show you what I mean. Notice the following examples carefully.
Isaiah 6 is a classic example of genuine worship. Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). He had a genuine sense of awe. Just read his description of the heavenly scene. Viewing that scene caused Isaiah to become aware of his own sinfulness. Then the substance of worship happened. Do you see it?
In Revelation chapter 4 John was taken up, by the Spirit, into the throne room of heaven. There he witnessed God’s holiness in a way few mortals have. And he records the natural response of those attending God’s throne. Their response is worship. He says they never stop falling down before Him who sits upon the throne, and before the Lamb, and they never stop crying, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come. That scene continued into Revelation 5.
We’ll end where we began with Moses (Exodus 34:29). Moses had been changed by his encounter with our Holy Creator. The odd thing was this: Moses was unaware of the change. He couldn’t see the glow of his own face. But change had occurred.
Anytime we see genuine worship taking place we see worshipers who have been changed. They have been confronted with the holiness of God. They have confessed the obvious fact of God’s holiness. And the result of confrontation and confession is change. And there you have the C words! They indicate whether or not we just took a trip to the church house or if we truly worshiped.
I’ve included a few other worship references below my sign-off. They will also be insightful. Be blessed!
Soli Deo Gloria!
A genuine worship encounter can be one-on-one, or en masse – I Samuel 10:5 & I Chronicles 25:1-3
The Samaritan woman (see John 4:19 and forward) – She was changed by her encounter. That change changed a town!
And this discussion couldn’t omit Saul on the road to Damascus.
The circumstances of these examples are different. In other words, there is no prescribed form for a genuine worship encounter. But there is a required substance of worship. Form should never be more important than substance. Think about it! Be doers of the Word and not hearers only.