How are We to Worship God?

How are We to Worship God?

Worship is such a hot button and personal, though not private, affair between God and his people that discussions of the right and wrong ways to worship often end up with great passion and emotion spent in defending one’s own worship style. But what if there are better ways to think about worship that actually broaden our understanding of worship instead of limiting it?

Recently, after reading John 4:24, “God is spirit and His worshippers must worship in spirit and truth,” I was reflecting upon the Westminster Shorter Catechism question about “Who is God?” The answer is, “God is a spirit whose being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are infinite, eternal and unchangeable.” It was at this point that it suddenly dawned on me that each of the attributes of God describes a way his people are to worship Him. For example, 1 John 4:8 declares that “God is love.”  Might we be able to also say, ‘God is love and His worshippers must worship Him in love?”  Isn’t that the summary of the Law; the greatest commandment (Mt 22:37)?

How about, “God is holy, and His worshippers must worship Him in holiness?”  Is this good theology?  Yes, and here is why: The angels stand around the heavenly throne crying day and night, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God Almighty…” (Rev 4:8). And the Word commands us to “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44).  We know that Jesus himself declares that God alone is good (Lk 18:19). Is it, therefore, right to assume that since “God is good, His worshippers must worship Him in goodness?” I believe it is. In fact, any attribute of God ought to characterize the worship rendered to the Lord by the people of God.  Since God is just, we must worship him in justice. Amos 5:23-24 calls on the people of God not to worship with songs if they are not at the same time worshipping by pursuing justice. “Let justice roll down like waters,” the prophet cries. Since God is true and there is no falsehood in Him, and since He cannot lie (John 7:18), we must worship Him in truth. Since He is wise, we must worship in wisdom.  Because He is powerful, we must worship with power.

Practically, what this means is that worship isn’t just the singing of songs and the giving of gifts and the praying of prayers and the hearing of the Word preached on Sunday mornings. Worship encompasses every area of life. When we pursue justice in the public sphere as Christians, we are worshipping the Lord. When we use all our strength to work hard and provide a quality product for the clients we serve, we are worshipping with our power. When we create beautiful artwork or listen to good music, we are worshipping the Lord in goodness. When we care for a child, serve a need, welcome a neighbor, we are worshipping in love.

I think what impressed itself upon me most out of this lesson from the Lord, was that a singular focus on any one of these ways of worshipping the Lord is to miss out on seeing the full picture of who God is and why He is worthy of worship. So instead of limiting our worship, maybe we need to expand our worship to encompass the fullness of the God to whom we have been called into a relationship.

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