What is the Purpose of Worship?

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Why do we worship God?

Worship was a thing way before the creation of the world, before humans even existed. The angels have worshiped the eternal God since before time began. Worship is a primary theme throughout the Bible – both Old and New Testaments. God designed and ordained worship with a specific purpose in mind. This is such an important topic for evangelicals today, especially since worship has morphed into something that God rejects in so many churches. It may be time to get back to the basics and ponder the questions: What is the purpose of worship? and Why do we worship God?

What is Worship?

It’s important to note that true worship is not based on our feelings or what we desire to give. Remember the story of Cain and Abel? Each gave an offering to God. Abel’s offering was acceptable to God, but Cain’s wasn’t. Cain became upset and killed his brother. And even though God banished Cain from the land for what he had done, he was marked by God so that no one would be able to kill him; that’s God’s mercy.

God communicated to Adam and Eve, and their sons, what he expected of them when it came to their offerings (a form of worship). Cain knew what God expected, but he decided to be creative and change things up. He thought God would be pleased. He was wrong, and there were consequences.

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“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 4:23, 24 ESV

Essentially, what God is looking for is NOT merely outward expressions of worship, but a spirit that is inclined toward Him based on who He is. Our external presentation of worship is based on an internal valuing of all that God is.

I agree with John Piper’s definition of worship: True worship is a valuing or treasuring of God above all things. In light of that definition, we can safely assume that there are different ways to express that worship.

Ways to Worship God

  • By singing theologically sound worship songs
  • By giving thanks to God for what he has done
  • By praising God for his wonderful works
  • By reading and treasuring the Scriptures
  • By serving others
  • By being obedient to his commands
  • By kneeling, bowing, clapping, lifting hands and dancing
  • By giving tithes and offerings
  • By living in community with other Christians
  • By allowing our words and deeds to reflect God’s glory
  • By standing firmly in the face of persecution

Definition of worship: “True worship is a valuing or treasuring of God above all things.”

John Piper

Related: Why Prayer is Vital to Christian Living

What Worship Isn’t

Worship isn’t merely an “experience” we have in a church service. Somehow we’ve made worship all about us and how it makes us feel. We couldn’t be further from the truth. In his sermon series called “True Worship“, John MacArther talks about the woman, Mary, who began to wash his feet with an expensive, fragrant ointment and used her hair to wipe them clean:

First Corinthians chapter 11 says: ‘The glory of a woman is her hair.’  And so, she uses her glory for the lowliest task imaginable.  Anybody in that part of the world who washed people’s feet would have been thought of as the most menial slave.  She uses that which is her glory to wash the dusty, dirty feet of Jesus.  And doesn’t just use water but pours out the costliest fragrance.  Now, that’s the essence of worship.  Worship is self-humiliating, and worship is profuse in its giving.

“Worship is self-humiliating, and worship is profuse in its giving.”

John MacArthur

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Worship isn’t just showing up for church, singing songs, raising hands, mouthing prayers. Worship isn’t just going through the motions.

Worship also isn’t getting emotional while singing songs that focus more on the human experience than on the character and works of God. Worship isn’t getting goosebumps while beautiful music is playing. When worship has more to do with our feeling good than with exalting God – it is the very opposite of worship.

When we believe we ought to be satisfied rather than God glorified, we set God below ourselves and imagine that He should submit His own honor to our advantage.”

Stephen Charnock

How Are We to Worship?

Jesus said in John 4 that the Father is seeking worshipers who worship “in spirit and truth”. What does that really mean? The “spirit” refers to the inner man. We are to worship from the inside out. The “truth” refers to the Word of God; all that has been revealed to us about God.

Our worship must be based on the truth that has been revealed to us about God. How can we not be in awe of all that He is and all that he has done? The more knowledge a believer has about God the more he’ll be drawn to worship God, and the more authentic that expression of worship will be.

William Temple said, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.” In other words, God must be at the center of our worship.

In order to worship God the way He desires we must be informed. The best way to be informed is to read the Bible faithfully and submit to biblical teaching. Remember that there are “wolves among the sheep”, so be sure to ask God to show you who the good teachers are, because there a myriad of false teachers out there who are deceiving many believers.

“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.”

Romans 12:1 ESV

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In the Old Testament, worshiping God included animal sacrifices. Since Christ became the ultimate sacrifice as payment for our sins, animal sacrifices ceased. Christ’s work on the cross fulfilled the requirement of the law. Paul, in Romans 12, urges his fellow believers to present their own bodies as a living sacrifice. Essentially, Paul is saying that we should daily make a conscious effort to present our lives to God by walking in obedience to Him and avoiding sin at all costs.

Giving ourselves completely to God is the ultimate form of worship. If we’re not willing to do that, any other form of worship is null and void. We must remind ourselves by saying: “God wants all of me.”

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

Related: The Holy Pursuit

What is the Purpose of Worship?

John Piper puts it so well when he states that worship was designed to “put the supreme worth of God on display” When we worship, God is on the receiving end. We should practice by repeating the words of the psalmists:

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. Psalm 29:2 ESV

All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah Psalm 66:4 ESV

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker! Psalm 95:6 ESV

Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth! Psalm 96:9 ESV

Exalt the Lord our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Psalm 99:5 ESV

I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High. Psalm 7:17 ESV

For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name. Psalm 18:49 ESV

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power. Psalm 21:13 ESV

I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you. Psalm 22:22 ESV

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1 ESV

Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness and of your praise all the day long. Psalm 35:28 ESV

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. Psalm 40:3 ESV

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11 ESV

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When Jesus said that the Father is “seeking worshipers” he meant that all those who have been born again will become worshipers. In other words, a Christian is a worshiper. When we are actively putting the supreme worth of God on display we are fulfilling God’s calling on our lives.

What Worship Looks Like Practically

A true worshiper will not be satisfied with merely expressing adoration during a church service. Their praise will bubble over naturally on a daily basis whether in private or among other believers. A lifestyle of worship will even be apparent in the presence of unbelievers.

A true worshiper of God will have a lifestyle that is contrary to the world in which we live. He or she will always be out of place, an oddity.

Rather than call ourselves believers, perhaps it would be more accurate to call ourselves worshipers. And when evangelizing, instead of asking the question, “Do you believe in Jesus?”, maybe it would be better to ask, “Who do you worship?”

A true worshiper will constantly be aware of God throughout each day. Creation declares God’s glory and the true worshiper will notice all the details and, if only in his heart, will whisper praise to the Creator. Virtually every person the worshiper sees will be a reminder of the fact that every human being was made in the image of God. Music, art, architectural design, mathematical equations, and scientific discovery will all point to God’s divine intellect. All of this and more will cause the true worshiper to adore his Maker.

A Word About Corporate Worship

Some Christians believe that it is perfectly okay to skip Sunday worship services and claim that their relationship with God on a personal level is enough. But, they miss so much. Being a Christian is so much more than having a personal walk with Christ.

“And let us 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.”

Hebrews 10:24, 25 ESV

The author of Hebrews reminds us just how much we need one another as Christians. After all, we are the body of Christ. Those who avoid corporate worship dishonor God and deprive themselves of the rich fellowship that being among other worshipers provides.

David Mathis states the following in his article Five Benefits of Corporate Worship: “Worshiping Jesus together may be the single most important thing we do. It plays an indispensable role in rekindling our spiritual fire, and keeping it burning. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and so makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.”

Dear worshiper, let’s not neglect one of the most powerful tools that God has provided to keep every Christian motivated in a world that bombards us with every kind of distraction that would, if successful, keep us from living fruitful lives to the Glory of God.

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