When you hear the word ‘worship’ what do you immediately thing of? I’m guessing the image that’ll come into your head is of the typical Sunday morning church congregation singing hymns, or maybe a more youth orientated event like Summer Madness/Manafest.
And while singing is a part of worship, there is so, so much more to it than that. It’s a way of life.
You’ll probably be familiar with the Matt Redman song ‘The Heart of Worship’. I’m going to be using it to help explore just what is the heart of worship.
‘I’ll bring You more than a song
For a song in itself
Is not what You have required’ – God does not need us to tell Him how great He is. He wants us to, but doesn’t need us to. What He needs us to do is to live a life of love towards others, pointing them towards him.
‘You search much deeper within
Through the way things appear
You’re looking into my heart’ – worship is an intimate thing between you and God. He is looking deep into our heart. Worship is so much more than the outer aspects of singing, clapping, lifting your hands. It is a deep, personal thing, and yet is mainly done by merely repeating words others have written. At the heart of worship is something much more personal than singing other people’s words. No song can fully express what is on your heart, what you personally want to say to God, how you want to glorify Him (unless you’ve written it, and even then only for a short time)
I’m coming back to the heart of worship
And it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus
I’m sorry, Lord, for the things I’ve made it
When it’s all about You
All about You, Jesus – we need to adopt the mentality Paul had when he wrote “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”(Philippians 1v21) At the heart of worship is putting Christ above self. At the heart of worship is expressing thankfulness for what Jesus has done on the cross and what He has enabled for us through His death, expressing a desire to live life fully for him, choosing to serve no-one, and nothing else.
Obviously singing has a big role to play in worship – through times of worship you can really get a sense of God’s presence. And I feel God uses the lyrics of songs to speak to us – most of the stuff I’ve written, has been directly inspired through song lyrics. Also, you only need to listen to a Christian music station for a short while before they play testimonies of people whose lives were changed as a result of a song they heard on the station.
But many people fall into the trap of thinking that’s it. There is so much more to worship than just singing. Singing can help us focus on God, and be filled up by Him, but there has to be a response. There has to be more than singing. My definition of worship is that it is the act of glorifying God. That can be done by telling Him through song, through prayer and also through actions.
In the song God of Justice by Tim Hughes there is are two really powerful sections that just strike me as being what worship is all about. The first:
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord – this addresses the singing aspect of worship – it should involve us from being filled up by God, and then being compelled to go out and glorify him through our life.
The second section is a challenge to the idea that worship is just about singing:
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go
This has strong parallels with the song Lifesong by Casting Crowns:
Empty Hands held high
Such Small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to you
In both songs it is obvious that they feel singing on its on is not enough. This is a theme that comes across clearly through Jesus’ words in the Gospels. A few supporting texts are supporting texts: Matthew7 v17-23, where Jesus is talking about the need for our lives to produce fruit, rather than just give Him lip service, a theme touched on again in John 15 v1-8. Also in Matthew 25 when people are being judged on how they live their lives they are purely judged on practical acts done to others through which God was glorified (and therefore worshipped), not how many praise sessions they attended. In Galatians 5v6 we are told “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” Not faith expressing itself in song, but in love. That is what the heart of worship is all about: Living your life in such a way that when people look at you God can be glorified as a result of what you do.
Hebrews 13 also has an important point to make about worship. In verse 15 we are told to ‘offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God’ and in verse 16 it tells us what sort of sacrifice God is looking for: ‘And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.’ This has strong links with Isaiah 58, a chapter that, in the New Living Translation, is entitled True and False worship, and is a request from God to the Israelites to fight for the oppressed, feed the hungry, clothe those without clothes and to care for the needy, rather than merely living a life of fasting and paying lip service to God.
An important thing to note is that our reason for doing practical acts of worship has to be right. We are not doing them to be saved (our salvation comes purely through Jesus’ blood), but because we are saved.
One final thought: If all our worship is done in a church/ Christian event, how do the non-Christians get to experience God? God doesn’t need more bums on pews; He needs more people living out their faith on the street, in school, in offices. He needs people living a life of worship.