I have often heard Christians say worship is more than singing – that we can do the dishes, walk the dog or even lift weights, and if our hearts and attitudes are motivated by love for God, those actions would be genuine worship. And, I am not necessarily planning on saying they are wrong because there are a number of passages in Scripture that would back up that position. However, I would like to pose another angle, another way of looking at what exactly is worship, which I believe will only deepen our understanding of what true worship really is.
First off, let me start by stating that I am not trying to simply argue semantics; my goal is to provide a deeper, more directed definition of worship. If after reading my thoughts on this, you disagree with me, that’s okay. My goal isn’t to be right or to come up with some new revelation; it is to generate meaningful dialogue that leads to greater understanding, and ultimately leads to God being praised more sincerely by those professing the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.
So, now you’re probably wondering, what exactly is my definition of worship? Here it is: true worship takes place when one’s heart, soul, strength and mind are directly focused on ascribing glory and value to God. The ascription of worth must be directed to the Lord, and it requires everything: our thoughts, our emotions and our actions. I agree wholeheartedly that we can honor God when we do the dishes, walk the dog or lift weights if our hearts are rightly motivated, but is that worship? I would suggest that, unless we do them while directly ascribing glory and value to God with everything in us, those actions are not worship, but are in fact worshipful. Like I said earlier, I’m not just trying to argue semantics; I believe there is a deeper, more genuine definition of worship many of us are, sadly, missing in our lives. If we can discover this deeper meaning, it will greatly influence the way we view worship and ultimately the way we view everything.
Now you may be asking: why is this an important topic to discuss? Simply put: because God is worthy of more. He is worthy of more than just my motivations. He is worthy of more than just my attitudes. Those are good, but not good enough, and if our adoration can go further, it should. When King David appointed Asaph and the Levites to minister before the ark of the Lord in 1 Chronicles 16, he instructed them to give praise to the Lord in this manner:
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. – vs 8-9
Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.– vs 10-11
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering and come before him. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth!… – vs 29-30
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.– vs 34-35
Asaph and the Levites were instructed to “Glory in his holy name,” “Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness,” and “Cry out.” That sounds like a lot more than just making sure we do what we do with right attitudes and motivations. And again, that’s good, honoring and I would say Biblically worshipful, but it hasn’t moved over the line into whole-person, offer-your-bodies-as-a-living-sacrifice worship. When we see the difference between what is really worship and what is worshipful, our hearts, minds and souls will be more directly engaged, and God will be praised more deeply. Ultimately, that is our goal: to give God more of ourselves.
One of the most studied passages in the New Testament about worship is Romans 12:1-2, which says:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. If we truly offer ourselves in this way, we no longer belong to ourselves, we belong to God, everything, all of us. Again, this is more than our attitudes, it is more than our motivations, it is more than our minds can even comprehend. One way I’ve heard it put was like this: God doesn’t want more worship, He wants more worshipers. In other words, He is not satisfied with us simply trying to keep our attitudes pure while going about our lives; He wants his chosen, adopted children to be completely and utterly sold-out to a life’s pursuit of “singing His praises,” “seeking His face,” and “telling of His wonderful acts.”
So next time you’re at church, and the music starts playing, be like Asaph and the Levites. Take a moment to focus your attention and affections directly toward God. It might even help to take a physical posture of surrender to God by lifting your eyes or your hands to God, or place a hand over your heart. These physical actions can be very helpful when trying to shut out distractions and focus directly on ascribing glory and value to God. Then, like the Levites: sing to the Lord, glory in His holy name, and ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name!