Worship That Pleases God

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The meaning of the New Testament Greek word most often translated “worship” (proskuneo) is “to fall down before” or “bow down before.” Worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit. Since it’s an internal, individual action, it could/should be done most of the time (or all the time) in our lives, regardless of place or situation.

Actually, the English word ‘worship’ comes from the old English word ‘weordhscipe’ and means ‘worth-ship’ which it interprets as ‘worthiness, dignity or merit...’  This translates to intense love and admiration. We worship God simply because of His character and the great and marvelous things he has done. Worship is our reaction to a revelation God gives us through the Holy Spirit.

WORSHIP IS THE FIRST PURPOSE IN YOUR LIFE

We are all hard-wired to worship something

Ecclesiastes 3:11 “… He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”

Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me.”

Blaise Pascal “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus”

Anthropologists have noted that people in every culture instinctively worship something.  It’s a universal urge, hard-wired by God into the very fiber of our being - an inbuilt need to connect with God. Worship is as natural as eating or breathing. If we fail to worship God, we always find a substitute; it can be our children, money, ministry, careers and even ourselves.

God desires worshippers

Heb. 12:28 (TEV)  "Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe."

Deuteronomy 6:5 “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

The reason God made us with this desire is because he desires worshipers!  Jesus said, "the Father seeks worshipers."

So far we’ve seen that worship is bringing pleasure to God, and there are many way to do this: by trusting, loving, obeying, praising, surrendering, using our talents for his glory, and developing a close friendship with him.

What did Jesus say as the most important commandment in the Bible? Do you have to worship only while in Church?

Important commandment: Worship is the first purpose of your life. You are created and we’re commanded to worship.  It is our greatest responsibility, our highest privilege, and it should have take priority over everything else. When asked, "What’s the most important commandment in the Bible?" Jesus answered, "Worship!"

When and where can you worship

John 4:20 “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

John 4:22-24 (NIV) " You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Anytime you express love to God, you are worshiping. It doesn’t matter whether you are by yourself, with family, or gathered with other believers. A Samaritan woman once tried to debate Jesus on the best time, place, and style for worship. Jesus replied that these external issues are irrelevant; what matters is your heart. Where you worship is not as important as how and why.

Jesus said, "True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks."  These two statements by Jesus (Mark 12:30 and John 4:23) explain the kind of worship that gives God pleasure.

Worship cannot be forced. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Ezekiel 38:23 “And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'”

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

GOD-PLEASING WORSHIP IS BASED ON SCRIPTURE

John 4:24 "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

Deuteronomy 12:31 “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”

Psalm 57:10 “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.”

"Worship in ...truth." We must worship God as he is truly revealed in the Bible; anything else is idolatry. You can’t just create your own image of God ("I like to think of God as...") and worship that.  Real worship is rooted in the Word of God; it’s based on truth, not our imagination.  It is not based on our feelings, it is not based on our situation, it is not based on cultural.

We worship because of who God is. We worship him because of his love, grace and mercy.
The more you know the Bible, the better you’ll understand the truth about God, especially his grace. That will compel you to passionate worship. Whenever you feel indifferent, apathetic, or bored with worship, it means you’ve forgotten how amazing God’s grace really is.

GOD-PLEASING WORSHIP IS FROM THE HEART

Jeremiah 12:2 “You have planted them, and they have taken root; they grow and bear fruit. You are always on their lips but far from their hearts.”

Isaiah 29:13 “The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.”

Matt 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.”

Matthew 22:37
Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."”

Worship is responding to God’s Spirit

"Worship in spirit" This is not referring to the Holy Spirit, but to your spirit.  Made in God’s image, you are a spirit that resides in a body, and God designed your spirit to communicate with him. Worship is our spirit responding to God’s Spirit. Worship becomes a link, or an umbilical cord to God.

Worship must be genuine and heart-felt. It’s not just a matter of saying the right words; you must mean what you say. Heartless praise is not praise at all! It is worthless, and an insult to God.

When we worship, God looks past our words to see the attitude of our hearts. The Bible says, "Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

Since worship is delighting in and enjoying God, it engages your emotions. God gave you emotions so you could worship him with deep feeling - but those emotions must be genuine, not faked. God hates hypocrisy. He doesn’t want a show, or pretense, or phoniness in worship.  He wants your honest, real love. We can worship God imperfectly, but we cannot worship him insincerely.

Of course, sincerity alone is not enough; you can be sincerely wrong. That’s why both spirit and truth are required. Worship must be both authentic and accurate. God-pleasing worship is deeply emotional and deeply doctrinal. We use both our hearts and our heads.

I want to emphasize again that worship is more than music. Actually, worship predates music. Adam worshiped in the Garden of Eden but music isn’t mentioned until Genesis 4:21 with the birth of Jubal. If worship was just music then all who are non-musical could never worship.  Real worship happens when your spirit responds to God, not to some musical tone.

Unfortunately, many equate being emotionally moved by music as being moved by the Spirit, but these are not the same. In fact, some sentimental, introspective songs hinder worship because they take the spotlight off God and focus on our feelings. Your biggest distraction in worship is yourself- your interests and your worries over what others think about you.

Diversity in Worship

Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men,”

Gary Thomas,  a Christian Author, noticed that many Christians seem stuck in a worship rut, an unsatisfying routine, instead of having a vibrant friendship with God.  Part of the problem, he discovered, was that many people force themselves to use devotional methods or worship styles that don’t fit the way God uniquely shaped them. This leaves them frustrated and confused:  Why, when I really love God, am I bored with worship?

Gary wondered, "If God intentionally made us all different, why should everyone be expected to love God in the same way?"  That began a search to identify different ways people develop a friendship with God.  As he read Christian classics and interviewed others, he discovered many different paths that Christians have used for 2,000 years to enjoy intimacy with God: being outdoors, studying, singing, reading, dancing, creating art, serving others, solitude, fellowship, and dozens of other activities.

In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary identified nine of the ways people draw near to God: 1)Naturalists are most inspired to love God out-of-doors, in natural settings; 2)Sensates love God with their senses, and appreciate beautiful worship services that involve their sight, taste, smell, and touch, not just their ears. 3)Traditionalists draw closer to God through rituals, liturgies, symbols, and unchanging structure; 4)Ascetics prefers to love God in solitude and simplicity; 5)Activists love God through confronting evil, battling injustice and working to make the world a better place; 6)Caregivers love God by loving others and meeting needs; 7)Enthusiasts love God through celebration; 8)Contemplatives love God through adoration; 9)Intellectuals love God by studying with their minds.

There is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to worship and friendship with God.  One thing is certain: you don’t bring glory to God by trying to be someone he never intended you to be.

"Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don't impose it on others."

"...That's the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship."

GOD-PLEASING WORSHIP IS THOUGHTFUL

Matthew 15:9 “’They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' "

Four times Jesus commanded, "Love God with all your mind."  God is not pleased with unconscious worship -- thoughtless singing of hymns, perfunctory praying of clichés, or careless exclamations of "Praise the Lord" because we can’t think of anything else to say at that moment. Unless your mind is engaged, worship becomes meaningless motion or empty emotion.  This is the problem Jesus called "vain repetitions."

Even biblical terms can become tired clichés from overuse; we stop thinking about the meaning. It’s so much easier to offer clichés in worship instead of making the effort to honor God with fresh words and ways. That’s why I encourage you to read Scripture in different translations and paraphrases. It will expand your expressions of worship.

Find new ways to express praise through worship

Here’s a challenge: try praising God without using the words praise, hallelujah, thanks, or amen. Instead of saying "We just want to praise you", make a list of synonyms and use fresh words like admire, respect, value, revere, honor, and appreciate.

Also be specific. If someone approached you and repeated "I praise you!" ten times, you’d probably think "For what?" You’d rather receive 2 specific compliments than 20 vague generalities. So would God.

Another idea is to make a list of the different names of God and focus on them. God’s names are not arbitrary; they tell us about different aspects of his character. In the Old Testament, God gradually revealed himself to Israel by introducing new names for himself, and God commands us to praise his name.

God wants our corporate worship gatherings to be thoughtful, too. Paul devotes an entire chapter to this in 1 Corinthians 14 and concludes "Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way."

Related to this, God insists that our worship services be understandable to unbelievers, when they are present in our worship gatherings.  For a full explanation of this, see the chapter on "Worship Can Be A Witness" in The Purpose Driven Church.

"Suppose some strangers are in your worship service, when you are praising God with your spirit. If they don't understand you, how will they know to say, "Amen"? You may be worshiping God in a wonderful way, but no one else will be helped."

Being sensitive to unbelievers who visit your worship gatherings is a biblical command, not a passing fad. To ignore this command would be disobedient and unloving.

GOD-PLEASING WORSHIP IS SACRIFICIAL

Romans 12:1 “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 act of worship.”

Matthew 2:2 “and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."”

Sacrificial Worship
In the Old Testament God took pleasure in the many sacrifices of worship because they foretold of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. But since Jesus completely paid for our sin, atoning sacrifices are no longer needed.

Now God is pleased with different sacrifices of worship: our lives, our love, thanksgiving, praise, humility, repentance, offerings of money, prayer, and even serving other and sharing with them in need.

Real worship costs. David realized this, "I will not offer to the Lord my God sacrifices that have cost me nothing."  Praise alone is incomplete worship.  We must surrender, submit, offer, and yield ourselves to him. That is the heart of worship.

One thing worship cost us is our self-centeredness. You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time. You don’t worship to be seen by others or to please yourself. You deliberately shift the focus off yourself.

When Jesus said, "Love God with all your strength" he pointed out that worship takes effort and energy. It is not always convenient or comfortable, and sometimes worship is a sheer act of the will -- a willing sacrifice. Praise takes effort. When you praise God even though you don’t feel like it, when you get out of bed to go worship when you’re tired, or when you help others when you are worn out, you offer a sacrifice of worship to God.

Paul said, 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 act of worship."

GOD-PLEASING WORSHIP IS CONTINUAL

Psalm 61:8 "Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day."

Psalm 71:8  “My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long.”

Worship is not just for church services; we’re told to "Worship him continually." and to "Praise him from sunrise to sunset."   In the Bible people praised God at work, at home, in battle, in jail, and even in bed! Praise should be the first activity when you open your eyes in the morning and when you close them at night.   David said, "I will thank the Lord at all times. My mouth will always praise him."

1 Corinthians 10:31, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory

Worship is not a part of your life; it is your life, and every activity can be transformed into an act of worship when you do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God. The Bible says, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."  Martin Luther said, "A dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God."

How is it possible to do everything to the glory of God? By doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus and by carrying on a continual conversation with him while you do it! The Bible says, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men."

This is the secret to a lifestyle of worship; doing everything as unto the Lord. Work becomes worship when you dedicate it to God, and perform it with an awareness of his presence. The Message paraphrase of Romans 12:1 says "Take your everyday, ordinary life -- your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life -- and place it before God as an offering."

When I first fell in love with my wife, I thought of her constantly:  while eating breakfast, driving to school, attending class, waiting in line at the market, pumping gas -- I could not stop thinking about this woman!  I often talked to myself about her, and thought about all the things I loved about her. This helped me feel close to Kay even though we lived several hundred apart from each other and attended different colleges. By constantly thinking of her, I was abiding in her love.

The lifestyle of worship is just falling in love with Jesus. Two classic books can teach you how.  The first, from the 17th century, is The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, a humble cook in a French monastery. Brother Lawrence was able to turn even the most commonplace and menial tasks, like preparing meals and washing dishes into acts of praise and communion with God.

The key to friendship with God, he said, was not changing what you do, but in changing your attitude toward what you do. What you normally do for yourself, you begin doing for God, whether it is eating, bathing, working, relaxing, or taking out the trash!

Today we often feel we must "get away" from our daily routine in order to worship God, but that is only because we haven’t learned to practice his presence all the time. Brother Lawrence found it so easy to worship God through the common tasks of life, he didn’t have to go away for special spiritual retreats.

This is God’s ideal.  In Eden, worship was not an event to attend, but a perpetual attitude; Adam and Eve were in constant communion with God. Since God is with you all the time, no place is any closer to God than the place where you are right now. The Bible says, "He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything."

Another of Brother Lawrence’s helpful ideas was to pray shorter conversational prayers continually throughout the day, rather than trying to pray long sessions of complex prayers. To maintain focus, and counteract wandering thoughts, he said "I do not advise you to use a great multiplicity of words in prayer, since long discourses are often the occasions for wandering."  In an age of attention deficit, this 450-year-old suggestion to keep it simple seems to be particularly relevant.

Many Christians use "Breath Prayers" throughout their day. You choose a brief sentence, or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath: "You are with me." "I receive your grace." "I’m depending on you." "I want to know you." "I belong to you." "Help me trust you." You can also use a short phrase of Scripture: "For me to live is Christ." "You will never leave me." "You are my God." Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deeply into your heart. Just be sure that your motive is to honor God, not control him.

"O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name."

"Pray all the time."

The fastest way to reconnect with God throughout your day is to pause and be silent for a few second. Stop what you are doing, look around you with new awareness, and listen in silence for the voice of God. Silence honors God  and allows us to hear him speak to our hearts.  If you love God, you’ll listen to him.

Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop. Just as musicians practice scales everyday in order to play beautiful music with ease, you must force yourself to think about God at different times in your day. You must train your mind to remember God.

At first, you’ll need to create reminders to regularly bring your thoughts back to the awareness that God is with you in that moment.  Over time, it will be more natural to think about God more often, talk with God about everything, and sense his presence everywhere.

Another classic is Frank Laubach’s booklet, The Game With Minutes. Laubach, founder of the World Literacy Movement, began to play a game with himself to see how often in a day he could remember that God was with him. He set a goal of thinking about God’s presence at least once every half hour and developed reminders to help him do so. He then progressed to thinking about God once every 15 minutes. Eventually, his awareness of God became so ingrained that he talked with God constantly about every person he saw and every circumstance he experienced.

If this seems impossible, remember it’s a habit you develop with practice. Like all relationships, a friendship with God takes time. You don’t build it overnight. Begin by placing visual reminders around you. You might post little notes that say "God is with me and for me right now!"

Benedictine monks use the hourly chimes of a clock to remind them to pause and pray "the hour prayer."

If you have a watch or cell phone with an alarm you could do the same.  If Muslims pause to kneel and pray 5 times a day, why can’t we?  Sometimes you’ll sense his presence, other times you won’t. Your goal is not a feeling, but a continual awareness of the reality that God is always present.

If you are seeking an experience of his presence through all of this, you’ve missed the point. God cannot be controlled or manipulated for your pleasure. You exist for his pleasure. We don’t praise God to feel good but to do good.

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