About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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What Is Worship?

In the last 30 years or so there has been greater emphasis placed on worship in the church.  This has mostly come about, so I believe, because of the Charismatic Movement of the 1960's and 1970's.  Yet as I listen to people today with varying backgrounds, it seems to me that many of us have different definitions of what worship is.  Let me get into the mix and suggest to you what I think worship is.  Of course when defining anything, we must go back to the source where the word is originally used.  In this case our dictionary is the Bible. 

I am reminded of what Paul said in Rom. 12:1. The NIV translates the verse this way.  "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual (or reasonable) act of worship".   To me, this verse is where we should derive the basic meaning of the word worship.  We should begin our discussion here.  From this basic meaning we can expand our definition into different aspects of worship.

Therefore, before we think of a Sunday morning worship service, we should think of our lives themselves as a place of worship.  Paul says here that we should be "living sacrifices".  He obviously had the Old Testament sacrificial system in mind as he said these words.  In the past, the Jewish people offered animal sacrifices to God for particular reasons.  Now, we are to offer ourselves as "living sacrifices" to our Lord.  We should note the adjective "living" that is in  front of the noun "sacrifices".  Paul is not saying that we should kill ourselves as the Jews killed animals in Old Testament times.  That would be no use to God or anyone else.  He says we should be "living sacrifices".  Simply put, we are to give ourselves to our Lord each and every day of our lives.  We are to offer ourselves to Jesus, and let Him do whatever He sees fit with us.  We therefore become a "living sacrifice", which is true worship.  

Paul goes on to say that by offering ourselves to Jesus sacrificially, we are  "spiritually worshiping" God, or as some manuscripts say, "reasonably  worshiping" God.  What ever word you want to use, being a living sacrifice is both spiritual and reasonable.  It is spiritual, because God Himself is a Spirit, and therefore we must worship Him through His Spirit.  It is also reasonable because Jesus sacrificed His life for us, and therefore it is only reasonable for us to give our lives to Him in return.

So there we have it, our basic definition of what worship is.  Before we think of expanding our definition for this word, we must first realize that our lives must be a living sacrifice, which is only reasonable in light of "God's mercy", as Paul puts it in Rom. 12:1.

From this basic definition we can go to our secondary meanings of the word.  We often speak of our time of song and prayer on a Sunday morning as worship.  There is nothing wrong with this as long as we keep Rom. 12:1 in mind.  If we are not "living sacrifices" during the week, we will not be "living sacrifices" Sunday morning when we try to enter into worship by song and prayer.

Our goal in worship Sunday mornings, or whenever we meet together to worship, is to enter God's presence, as we give ourselves to Him in song and prayer.  As we enter His presence, we will meet Him by His Spirit.  Sometimes it is a sacrifice to devote our full attention to Him in song and prayer.  Sometimes our hearts and minds are divided and are elsewhere.  Non the less, we should act sacrificially in these times and begin to worship anyway, whether we feel like it or not.  This is not hypocritical.  We don't worship Jesus because of the way we feel.  We worship Him because He is worthy of it.  He is our Lord and Saviour.  

I call entering into God's presence through worship, " Intimate Worship".  It is intimate because we actually come face to face with our Lord through His Spirit that He pours out in a special way during these special times of worship.  Every time we come together as a church to worship can be special and intimate.  

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