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As we quickly bring our celebratory year to a close, the real question is “Are you worshipping God better this year than you did last year?”
I believe that I can honestly say that even though I failed multiple times in my worship of Him, “Yes, I worshipped the Lord better this year than I did in previous years.”
This is both encouraging and challenging. It’s encouraging that God is completing the work He began in me. It’s encouraging that I’m becoming more like Christ each and every day.
But it’s also challenging because I’ll never be completely like Christ. As long as I’m in the flesh, sin is going to rear its ugly head. This isn’t an excuse; it’s just a reality. And so the challenge is for me to work harder by the power of the Holy Spirit to sin less and less and — thereby — worship God better.
And that’s what this new series is all about.
If you’re just joining The Celebration of God, I welcome you. The Celebration of God is a discipleship experience I created for the families at Truth.Love.Parent. But it’s beneficial and applicable for all Christians everywhere.
So, if you’re new to the show, I encourage you to listen to our introductory episodes. You can scroll to the very beginning of our show on your podcast player or you can check out CelebrationOfGod.com to access them there along with free episode notes and transcripts.
This is the second standalone series we’re working through, and you’re joining us for the first episode, but if you’d be interested in learning to celebrate God at church, you should check out the series we just finished last week.
I’ll include a link for the first part of that series in the description of today’s episode so you can easily access it.
And — with that — let’s talk about the oft-discussed but more-oft-misunderstood concept of worship.
First, please understand that when we talk about worship, we’re not talking specifically about singing or playing music.
I think too many people in the modern church age associate the word “worship” with the song service at their local church.
Modern Christians use the terms praise and worship so tightly that some people don’t see worship as being anything other than singing to God.
But is that really what worship is?
I have to say that singing is definitely part of the much, much larger subject, but it’s only a part. There will be applications from this study that can be made for our music, but that’s not the focus of this series.
So, “What is the focus of this series?” you ask.
Let’s start by defining “worship.”
Until we do that, we’re all going to be imagining different things. Once we’re all on the same page, then we can discuss what kind of worship pleases the Lord and what kind doesn’t.
So, here’s my plan for this series:
This concept is so important, and I’m glad you’ll be joining me for it.
But first, if you haven’t yet subscribed to The Celebration of God, I encourage you to do it so that you don’t miss the other parts of this series.
Okay, what does God think worship is?
The English Word worship shows up over 120 times in the Bible, and each of those instances can help us better understand what God means when He uses the word.
But — as many of you know — I also believe that when God inspired the Bible, He chose to use the Hebrew and Greek and Aramaic for a reason. I’m not saying those languages were inherently better at communicating the truth of God, but it’s a fact that God didn’t wait until English was invented before writing the Bible.
Therefore, good Bible translation is going to find the best English word to communicate the word from the original language.
However, sometimes it’s hard to find an English equivalent that does the original word justice.
On Truth.Love.Parent. we did a seven part study on Biblical love simply because the concept of biblical love cannot be summed up in the English word, “love.”
So, let’s begin by looking at some of the original words used in the Bible.
In Genesis 22:5, Abraham told his servants, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”
The word Abraham used gave the picture of something being depressed, pushed down, bowed over, prostrated, falling down flat.
Now, the connotative imagery reveals that people only prostrate themselves before things they believe are superior to them.
It’s the most humbling physical stance to take. You’re on the dirt, you’re completely at their mercy because you’re indefensible. And the act is designed to communicate that I submit to you in one way or another. It can be as an act of divine worship or it can be a respectful greeting. And we see many uses of the word in Scripture.
And — for the most part — bowing in many different cultures still communicates the same ideas today.
Now, there are a couple Greek words of note as well. One of them doesn’t necessarily refer to bowing down as it does any number of religious ceremonies. That one is used four times in the New Testament.
But there’s another word that’s used 60 times, and has more in common with the Hebrew word.
This word has the idea of falling, crouching, prostrating oneself in homage to another. It also refers to kissing another’s hand, and any other act that showed reverence and respect.
Of course, we also have to acknowledge that the English word “worship” is a derivative of an earlier word which many of you know was “worthship.”
The English Oxford Dictionary defines worthship as “The condition of being worthy or deserving.”
Therefore, we can say that worship communicates worth.
In a way, we could also say that any time we place value in something, we’re worshipping it.
Whether I’m prostrating myself before a tribal warlord who I’m hoping is not going to kill me, or I’m dedicating hours to washing and waxing my sports car, I’m communicating value.
If I will watch a sporting event for hours and hours, but complain that the sermon went past 12:00, I’m communicating how much value those things have for me.
Now, I’ve said this many times in my years of ministry, but Ken Collier’s observation that there are “Just two choices on the shelf — pleasing God or pleasing self” is at the crux of our understanding of worship.
I recently did an episode for TLP called “Is Your Child Addicted? Yes!.”
I think that would be a great follow-up to today’s discussion.
But, I’ll sum that show up this way — every child is addicted. Period. And so are you. And so am I.
We’re addicted to ourselves. Now, I’m not going to take the time right now to support that claim, you’ll have to listen to the other episode, but let’s continue on as if the claim is true . . . because it is.
If I’m addicted to my own pleasure and satisfaction, then it would be less accurate to say that I worship ice cream than it is to say that I worship myself via ice cream — or, I worship myself with ice cream.
I think this is the hangup modern, American Christians have with sermons that warn us against worshipping sports and money and popularity and sex and the like. We picture people bowing down to stone and wood images, and it seems preposterous and silly to think of ourselves bowing down before a shrine that had a car sitting on it.
But the reality is that the people who bow down before idols are doing the exact same thing as the people who are addicted to drugs, or fame, or money — they’re communicating to everyone around them that the idol or the car or the sport is valuable to them.
But we need to take it a step further. They’re also communicating that those things are valuable to them for a higher reason.
The idol really isn’t the end all to end all. The car and the sex and the good grades aren’t really the god being served.
The god being served is self. The popularity and control and perfect body and beautiful house and the religious rituals were actually the sacrifices the worshipper offered to themselves. Those were the things that made them happy.
Ultimately, their god was themselves.
In Philippians 3:17 we read, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”
I encountered a man who once told me that he struggled with porn and adultery because he believed that he worshipped the female form. I had to tell him that he was mistaken. What he was actually doing was offering the female form as a sacrifice to his own flesh.
Now, let’s consider a popular passage, Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
God is saying that our spiritual worship is that we offer ourselves — all that we are, have, say, do, and feel — to God as a sacrifice. We shouldn’t be sacrificing anything to ourselves; we’re nothing more than a sacrifice ourselves. And we should be offering ourselves to God. That is our reasonable act of worship considering what He’s done for us.
But then verse two tells us what this daily sacrifice looks like:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Our sacrifice is supposed to look like our conformity to the will of God. Then the rest of the chapter talks about spiritual gifts and the marks of a true Christian. And it doesn’t limit those marks to the religious ceremonies we do during a service.
The things in our lives that prove we’re offering ourselves on the altar to God are love, righteousness, zeal, rejoicing, patience, prayer, hospitality, generosity, blessing, harmony, wisdom, kindness, and the list goes on.
My friends, here’s the point — and I took a long time getting to it because I didn’t want there to be a shred of doubt in our minds — everything we do is worship.
Everything we say is an act of worship to God or self.
Everything we buy is an act of worship to God or self.
Everything to which we listen, everywhere we go, every thought we have, every desire, everything we do is an act of worship to God or an act of worship to self.
In order to determine what we’re worshipping, we have to decide whether we’re glorifying God by doing what we’re doing or whether we’re glorifying self.
Now, this is where it gets difficult.
I’ve mentioned a number of times that we can worship ourselves with our cars. When we invest heavily in our vehicles, we may be doing it because we enjoy the satisfaction we receive, or we may be doing it because we’re trying to be good stewards of the gifts God has given to us.
That’s another reason I think it’s confusing to refer to worshipping a thing. We may very well value an object, but the more important question is why we value the object so much.
Some people value their children as a blessing and stewardship from God. Others value their children as a status symbol or guarantee of future care.
It’s not the fact that a person believes their food has value, the question is where are they investing that value? Are they placing their food on the altar to God for His honor and glory, or are they investing in their own pleasure and satisfaction?
Now, we should all understand that we’re all sinful people, and that means that every day we’re going to worship ourselves at one point or another. As I said earlier, it’s not an excuse, it’s just a reality.
But assuming that we are true followers of God, the question isn’t whether or not we worship God or self, but what percentage of the time we’re worshipping God or self.
So, let’s review.
Worship is everything we do, because everything we do shows what we value.
With all that said, here’s our goal for this series:
Next time we’re going to look at the books of Kings and Chronicles to learn what Failed Worship is.
Then we’re going to talk about Split Worship. This type of worship may seem better than Failed Worship, but the end result is often the same as Failed Worship. And — what’s really interesting about this part of our study is that it shows us the other edge of our worship. Worship to God is not solely a private thing. Our worship to God is going to affect other people. But more on that later.
And then I’d like to finish off by creating a plan for us to participate in Unified Worship — the type of lifestyle where we can say that we and our fellow disciples are worshipping God more than self.
Now, your friends are worshipping something too, and God desperately wants them to understand worship and give it to Him. So please share this episode with your friends. You can share it directly to social media, you can email it, or you could post it on your blog or website.
And don’t forget that we have free episode notes on our blog at CelebrationOfGod.com.
Listen, you are going to worship someone today. Who’s it going to be? You or God?
To that end, I’ll see you next time.
The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.