Like all religions, Christianity has a specific way to worship God. Christian worship is a crucial part of the faith. In order to genuinely worship, it is important to understand why we worship and how we worship. There are many examples in scripture about worship that God approves of. Additionally, there are other forms of worship that God does not approve of.
What is Christian Worship? What is the Biblical definition of worship? Christian worship is both an attitude and action of granting God the adoration, reverence, and homage, that He is due. Furthermore, worship is the expression of God’s holiness, goodness, and power. Worship is also a way to express love for God. Christian worship takes the form of many different practices, lifestyle, and events. It is both individual and congregated.
I have compiled research about key aspects of worship that all Christians should know. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, whether it has been one day, one year or twenty years. Our revelation of God should always lead us to worship.
Definition of Christian Worship
Christian worship is the act of attributing Yahweh God for all that He is: Holy, Pure, Just, All-Powerful, Loving, and Sovereign. These are only a few of the many characteristics of God. Worship is the act of expressing reverence, honor, and respect to God. Furthermore, worship is laying aside oneself and all else to recognize God. Worship is the statement that only God deserves all praise, all glory, and honor.
Additionally, worship is willing obedience to God’s commands out of a place of love. Simply put, we worship God because He is worthy and because He has worked in amazing ways in our world on our behalf. Even if He didn’t do all these things, the character of who God is, is worthy of worship, praise, honor, and constant glory.
Worshiping God replaces worship of all else. God is a jealous God who despises the worship of idols and other worthless things. In order to truly worship God, Christians must devote themselves only to God and serve Him as the One and Only True God.
A Life of Worship
Worship is also a mindset and lifestyle. For example, a Christian can live with an attitude of worship no matter what he or she is doing. Believers can do all things (that are not in contradiction to scripture) as if they are doing them for the Lord, making all of those things an act of worship.
For example, cleaning up the office for your coworkers can be an act of worship if it is done with a heart of service and love, to please the Lord. Whenever the first and second commandments are followed, it is an act of worship. Matthew 22:37-39 expresses, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” An easy way to check if you are worshipping God is if you are following the basis of these commandments with a pure heart.
In addition, worship can also look like the practice of singing and playing musical songs of praise and adoration. It can also be prayers, services, gatherings, the reading of scriptures, sermons, speeches and attending church. The way that believers worship has changed over the course of history and the two covenants of the Bible, but the heart of the matter has remained the same. Worship is that of a pure heart and desire to connect with the Creator and Sustainer of all.
What Christian Worship Is Not
Christian worship is not a time of merely emotional excitement. True Christian worship is not emotionalism caused by the hype of large groups of people, clever lyrics, or talented musicians. Christian worship is not and should not be confined to a building. Furthermore, it should not only take place when music is playing. Additionally, Christian worship is not a show. Having a stage, bright lights, and people leading songs of worship does not automatically make that event an act of worship.
People can lead or be a part of a “worship” setting without even worshiping God in the process. Consequently, worship leaders can begin to be worshiped for their talent and giftings. They can worship themselves or be worshiped by others. Worship is not always an outward act that can be noticed. In fact, true worship isn’t always noticed or witnessed by others. Never should worship be about any individual other than God Himself. If a worship setting, discipline, or practice is more honoring to a person than to God, chances are, it is not pure worship. Moreover, worship with ulterior motives is not worship.
False Concepts of Worship
Worship that is done from a works standpoint is also not a genuine act of worship. Nothing can bring restoration, reconciliation, love, or forgiveness from God accept by the grace that is lavished due to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ephesians 2:8-9). Furthermore, worship should follow Biblical patterns and paradigms.
As I stated earlier, worship can be any action that is done unto the Lord. This is true as long as it is interpreted correctly with scripture. In no way are extremist things done in the name of the Lord an act of worship. Extremist Christians who murder or bomb buildings are not worshiping the Lord. Rather, they are succumbing to the evil of the world by taking matters into their own hands, instead of following God’s purposes. God’s heart is never for destruction, rather, His heart desires that all should be saved (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
Biblical Examples of Acceptable Worship
Scripture makes it clear that God respects and accepts certain acts of worship, rather than other types of worship. As you can see in the previous sections of this blog, it is important that our worship is acceptable to the Lord. Our worship should be Biblical. It should follow the positive examples that we see as our guide. Since we are under the New Covenant, we longer provide sacrifices to the Lord, however, we can learn from the early believers the heart posture behind the sacrifices.
- Genesis 4:4, “And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering.”
Abel’s offering was acceptable to the Lord because it was the best of all that he could offer. God had favor on him because he did not withhold the best of his flocks for himself. Furthermore, he did not give God his leftovers. In the same way, we should give God the best of ourselves and not the leftovers of our energy, time, resources, and attention.
- 1 Chronicles 16:31-34, “Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice, and let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’ Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; let the field exult, and everything in it! Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
This verse shows us that we can worship God for His goodness, justice, and steadfast love. It also shows how all of creation and all of the world worship God. Additionally, we can worship God because He presently reigns and He will come back to finally judge the earth. We should follow the model of rejoicing, proclamation, being glad, singing with joy, and thanksgiving.
- Proverbs 21:3, “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.”
This Proverb displays God’s heart for worship. God does not want sacrifices of worship that are not backed by a lifestyle that is pleasing to Him. Sacrifices of worship and practices are not acceptable is there is not righteousness and justice within the life of the believer. God prefers a continual way of life that honors Him, not a sacrifice that is required or sacrifices for personal gain.
Nation of Israel
- 1 Samuel 15:22-23, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord. Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
This passage is calling out King Saul for his actions. It displays many things about worship. First, it shows that obedience is better than any type of the sacrifice of worship. If a believer is not obedient to the Lord’s commands, their sacrifices of worship mean nothing. Second, this passage reveals that rejection of the word of the Lord can have negative consequences, even if the appearance of religious activity is taking place. Saul was offering sacrifices and taking part in the appearance of holy things, but his heart was revealed as unholy.
- Isaiah 25:1, “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.”
Isaiah shows us that we should exalt and praise God for all that He has done. We can look back at all the ways He has proven Himself faithful, whether through scriptures, through our own lives or the lives of other believers. We can worship God for specific things. Also, we worship Him by declaring that He alone is our God.
- Jeremiah 7:22-23, “For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’
God is reminding the Israelite’s that He desires obedience over the sacrifices and religious activity. He is showing that the way to be His people is by obedience. In the same way, Jesus speaks of remaining in Him through obedience. This shows us that a substantial part of our worship can be in the form of obedience. Furthermore, it shows the honor and benefit that comes to those that choose to obey.
- Hosea 6:6, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
Moreover, our worship of God can be our steadfast love. It can be the knowledge that we gain about God and the knowledge that we have from knowing Him personally. Worship doesn’t have to be a distant act, in fact, God desires that worship is intimate and special.
Book of the Psalms
- Psalm 51:15-17, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”
This passage shows us that we should be aware of what God truly desires. As the psalmist expresses, he would offer a sacrifice if God so desired. We should be open and ready to give whatever type of worship and devotion that God would require. We should also be aware and intentional to give God the type of worship He would be pleased with. This particular scripture shows that God desires a broken and contrite heart over sin, rather than a meaningless sacrifice. God wants a change within His people.
- Psalm 150:1-6, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”
Celebration should constantly surround God. It should occur in all places because of His mighty deeds and greatness. We should praise God in a manner of ways. We can praise God with music, dancing, and various instruments. Additionally, we should be exuberant with our worship. The psalmist gives the picture of extremely expressive and passionate worship. This picture shows us that we should also praise the Lord with our lives in such devotion.
- Psalm 63:1-4, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name, I will lift up my hands.”
Worship is expressing who God is and what His characteristics are like. As Christians, we should adore God for all that He is. We should seek Him with all that we have. He is the source of all that we are and our worship should reflect that. Our worship should be an earnest seeking and connecting. Our hearts should long for God as we long for our physical thirst to be quenched.
- Luke 7:37-38, “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”
This action was an act of worship. We can learn from this woman who was unashamed in her worship. Furthermore, we can see that her sin did not cause her to run away from God, instead, it made her approach Him in humility and love.
- John 4:23-24, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
It is important to worship with a genuine and truthful heart. True worship is full of truth. We should know the truth about who God is in order to accurately worship Him. Additionally, we must be led by the Spirit in our worship.
- Romans 12:1, “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.”
This scripture explains that true and proper worship is offering our bodies as living sacrifices. We should live a holy, undefiled life. This lifestyle is pleasing to God.
- Colossians 1:10-14, “so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
A life that is worthy of the Lord is fruitful, progressive, strengthened by God’s power, and marked with perseverance and thanksgiving. God has blessed His people greatly, which is an incredible reason to worship.
- Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Whenever we worship, we should be worshiping with faith. Worship without faith cannot please God. Our worship should recognize who God is.
- Revelation 4:8-11, “Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’ Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor, and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.”
Revelation paints a powerful picture of the glory and power of God. It expresses His holiness in numerous ways. Additionally, it shows the living creatures and elders laying themselves down to God. We can follow this same model in our worship. God is above all things because from Him are all things. No one else could ever do what He did and continues to do.
- Revelation 5:9-10, “And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were slain, and with your blood, you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation isn’t the only passage that talks about seeing a new song. The book of Psalms also declares that we should sing a new song. God is worthy of our continued expression of worship. He alone is worthy because of the sacrifice He made. Worship should occur over the entire world. Therefore, in our own worship, we should recognize this and worship with other people groups. Our worship should be inclusive to the vastness of the people of God.
Biblical Examples of Unacceptable Worship
God is furious when it comes to unacceptable worship. Many times, there have been consequences to those who worship in pride or selfishness. These examples teach us to have prudence and reverence in our worship. We should check our hearts to be sure that we have pure motives. Furthermore, we should give God the best that we have and not the fragments of what is left after we indulge.
- Genesis 4:3,5,7, “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD…but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast…If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”
Cain’s offering was not the best that he could offer. He gave some of what he had but he didn’t joyfully give of his best. God didn’t look with favor on this offering because he was withholding from the Lord. The Lord explains that if Cain did right and if he gave an acceptable sacrifice of worship that he would be accepted. In the same way, if we do what is right in worship it will be accepted.
- Exodus 32:7-8, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
In this instance, the Israelites attribute the power and glory of God to a worthless idol. We should be careful not to give credit where credit is not due. Only God should receive our worship and appreciation for the things He has done.
- Matthew 23:2-5a, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see.”
When worshiping, we should be sure that our lifestyle matches what our worship portrays. We should check to make sure that we are not hypocritical or expecting from others things that we ourselves do not give. Our worship should be solely for the Lord, not for others to see us and praise us.
- Acts 5:1-2, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.”
This was not an act of worship because it was deceitful and backed with impure motives. Ananias and Sapphira wanted praise from men, but greed caused them to lie and withhold money. It was their money to give. They could have given willingly as much as they had desired, but their lying was what eventually caused them their lives. We should give with a joyful heart. Our worship should not be for recognition. It should never be focused on selfish motives.
How to Worship
As Christians, we can worship in song, dance, art, creativity, and music. We should worship skillfully and selflessly. Tithing, giving to the poor, supporting and helping the weak, and holistically loving the people of God is worship. Additionally, worship can be the meditation and reading of scriptures, journaling, and praying, attending church, and Christian events.
Both personal and congregated worshiping should occur in the lives of Christians. Worship should be a passionate and joyful way of life. It does not have to be based on our present circumstances. Instead, worship can continue through any challenge simply because of who God is and the promises that He has spoken. Worship can occur through hard work in our responsibilities. Our worship shouldn’t begin and complete according to the time of service or personal quiet time. It should be a continued way of life.
Any action that can glorify God, is worship. Therefore, our entire lives can be pleasant incense to the Lord. For example, with each activity, we should ask ourselves, “How can I glorify God through this?” Or ask, “How could I love someone through this or show them the Lord?” You will be surprised at how many opportunities you have each day to worship the Lord.
Finally, worship is obedience to God’s commands in scripture. Worship is expressed in numerous ways. However, worship itself is not in the activities. It is in the heart posture and lifestyle of the individual.