Why Worship?

“What is the difference between worship and all other music?”

This blog is born out of a question I received from a young lady a couple weeks ago. I had just finished explaining that I don’t include music on my playlist if it’s not worship. “What’s the difference?” Surprised by her confusion, I spent several weeks considering her question.

Before the bulk of my post, I want to encourage those who are reading this. The odds are, if you’ve opened a blog post about worship, you are interested in worship. I see many worshipers on Sunday mornings who are completely after God, overflowing with an eagerness to praise Him, and I have no doubts that the desire runs through us all. After all, we are designed to bring Him glory (Isaiah 43:7). It’s weaved into our very existence.

Whether you are starting or continuing to grow in your knowledge of worship, I hope this post encourages your inherent desire to bring Him glory.

  1. Worship Is Conscious

It’s Sunday morning, right on the dot of service time. You walk into the sanctuary as worship begins and start singing along with the rest of the congregation.

Why?

If we don’t understand who God is and what He has done, what is the distinction between singing along with worship and singing along to Top 40s radio? It’s karaoke. We’re doing it because it feels good and everyone around us is doing it, not because we want to express our adoration for our God.

I encourage you to read Psalm 103. This scripture is certainly not the only one from which we can gain insight about why we worship the Bible is replete with reasons to glorify God but it’s a good start.

Let all that I am praise the Lord…. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases…. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things…. The Lord gives righteousness  and justice to all who are treated unfairly…. The Lord is compassionate and merciful…. The Lord is like a father to his children…. Let all that I am praise the Lord” (NLT).

From Psalm 103 alone, we are reminded that God is forgiving, redeeming, merciful, loving, righteous, just, and compassionate. What wonderful reasons for God to be worshiped! The first step to true worship is understanding Who we are worshiping and why.

Once we understand why we worship, we can move to establishing our focus.

  1. Worship Is Outside of Us (Inward-Focus)

Worship is not about us. I realize this statement sounds obvious, like “Tell me what I don’t know,” so let’s dig in a bit. Here is the same sentence stated several ways:

  • Worship is not about self-reflection.
  • Worship is not about how the song makes us feel (what we get out of it).
  • Worship is not about our personal style or what “touches our heart.”

Inward-focus contemplates the effects worship has on us, asking questions like, “What do I want to receive from worship today?”, “How do these words make me feel?” and “Do I look engaged enough in worship?” These questions are not in themselves wrong; worship does affect us emotionally when we receive from God. However, in the midst of worship, they are a distraction from our true purpose.

Many worshipers, including myself, have experienced moments driving home after a service and thinking, “I just didn’t feel worship today.” Disappointment from a lack of personal impact is the red flag of inward focus. When we’re focused on God, solely on God, worship will not disappoint.

We don’t lose depth when we shift our focus; we multiply it! We don’t lose out on a relationship just because we don’t approach worship as a two-way street. The Bible is clear that God desires a relationship with us (Acts 17:27), and He will give all He has for that relationship (Ephesians 5:25). Worship is our time to reciprocate love in our relationship with God. Out of His total love for us, we receive comfort, life, and strength in worship, but the blessings we receive are the byproduct of our true worship, not the purpose.

It is precisely because we are taking the focus off of ourselves and putting it on God that we can experience life-giving worship. Philippians 4:8-9 says it all:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

When you meditate on things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable, the ultimate result is that “the God of peace will be with you.” God is everything good! He is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, and praiseworthy! Meditating on Him, beyond ourselves, results in His peaceful presence.

  1. Worship Is Beyond Our Environment (Outward-Focus)

Worship is not about the atmosphere. Outward-focus means constantly digesting the world around us how it looks, how it sounds, how it meets our needs, etc: “That guitarist looks too crazy” or “This would look way cooler with more lights and a fog machine” are thoughts indicative of outward focus.

Let’s revisit the Biblical definition of worship:

The primary word for worship in Hebrew is shachah [shaw-khaw’], which means “prostrate (in homage to royalty or God): bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence.” Even translated into the three Greek words, Proskuneo, Sebomai, and Latreuo, the term retains a definition of deep reverence, deference, and awe — face-down emotions. Bow. Fall down. Prostrate.

Have you ever tried to check out the room around you while lying flat on your face? Experience tells me it’s very difficult. True worship isn’t easily distracted; it’s a “facedown” expression. True worship is humble and so completely concentrated on God that it actually distracts us from the world around us!

Worship Is Upward-Focused

Worship is entirely about God. Worship is about what He feels. What He gets out of it. What touches His heart. Worship is not about any of us or the distractions around us (I hope I sound redundant at this point). Really, the list of what worship is not about is so long because the list of what worship is about is so short. There is only one name on that list, and what a deserving name it is!

Worship Him because of His greatness (1 Kings 19:9-18), strength (Joshua 6), faithfulness (Genesis 21:1-7), power and creativity (Genesis 1), justice and forgiveness (John 8), protection (2 Kings 6) and worthiness! Worship God with shouts of Joy (Psalm 95:1), with psalms of praise (Psalm 95:2), with deepest awe (Psalm 5:7). Bow down before him (Psalm 95:6), sing to Him a new song (Psalm 96:1). Worship Him with all of your honesty and the depth of your being (John 4:24).

I have one primary request to end this post: in all you do, do it to the glory of God. Authentic worship the kind of worship that ushers in the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit is the result, not the catalyst, of an authentic life. When we are truly devoted to God’s glory, both inside and outside of the sanctuary, there is nothing that can stand in the way of honor, unity, and excellence in our worship.

Let’s focus on pleasing the Lord and directing all of our worship upward.
 
-Catherine Lexvold, Worship Leader