When we look around, we recognize that each of us is unique and individually different. However, at the same time, we also realize that we hold much in common with others. These commonalities don’t appear to be accidental, but rather seem as though they were purposeful, as if Someone created us with these similarities. If we are aware of it, as we look around, we can recognize one very important similarity among all humans: we are worshippers. Countless attitudes and behaviors are often taught to us and, in time, become assimilated parts of our lives. Yet worship is different. Worship seems to boil up inside us, coming from somewhere deep within our souls. The English word for worship originates from the Old English word, weorthscipe, which literally refers to “actions motivated by an attitude that reveres, honors, or describes the worth of another person or object.”1 The object of worship doesn’t have to be the same thing for all of us to be worshippers. The reality is that we as humans are often drawn to and naturally compelled to worship something. Nevertheless, why are we worshippers?
Created to Worship
In the Westminster Shorter Catechism, this question is asked, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” This statement teaches us a lot about worship. According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, we are all created to do one thing; our chief end, aim, and purpose in life is to worship God. Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 10:31, where he writes, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” The Psalmist declares that all nations who were created by God will worship the Lord: “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name” (Psalm 86:9). These are just two verses that speak of our aim in life. Sadly, the issue with humans is that we choose to worship people and things that are not the Being we were created to worship. Worshipping anyone or anything other than the One we were made to worship is idolatry. Often times, we think of and see idolatry as worshipping statues created by human hands in foreign temples. While this is true, idolatry goes far beyond human creations or buildings; ultimately, it is a heart issue. Anything we place above God in our lives becomes an idol. Christian or not, all of humanity struggles with idolatry.
All of Life is Worship
Sadly, our culture, which is at least steeped in Christianity, has failed to adequately understand worship. As Christians, many of us have relegated worship to a particular time slot on a particular day, and equate worship with singing songs or hearing music. While this is worship, the Bible makes certain to show that all of life is about worship, not just our musical praises and church services. In Micah 6:6-8, Micah states, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Here, the prophet notes that worship is more than just offering sacrifices; it’s a lifestyle of justice, love, and humility. In the New Testament, Paul writes, “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. 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.” Paul tells the Romans to be living sacrifices, to worship God through their lifestyle.
The Importance of Gathering to Worship
Despite the recognition of all of life as worship, we have to be careful to not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Coming each week to worship our God together is vitally important. In Acts, we see the early church making a priority to gather together weekly to worship. In Acts 20:7, Luke records, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them.” In Hebrews 10:24-25, the church is encouraged to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” From the inception of the church, gathering together weekly to worship the Lord has been important and practiced.
Over the next several weeks, we are going to look at the “Worship Gathering.” We’re going to discuss the importance of gathering together, as well as the elements that make up the worship gathering (e.g. music, sermon, the ordinances, etc.). Our prayer is that this would equip all of us to better understand the worship gathering and the importance it holds in our lives, and to encourage all of us to faithfully gather together to worship the Lord regularly. Next week, we’ll look at the element of music in our worship gatherings.
1Ralph P. Martin, “Worship,” in vol. 4 of The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1988), 1117.