Worship. A word we hear and use all the time, but most of us do not fully understand. Just what does it mean to worship? We so quickly say that we go to church on Sunday to worship God, but what does it really mean to worship God? If we are not really sure what it means to worship God, then how can we know for sure that we are actually worshiping on Sundays? If we are to make sure that we are truly worshiping God, we must start by defining worship. Here is how theopedia.com defines worship:

Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.

This definition is a lot to process at one time, so let’s break it down and look at it in five parts, so that we can make sure that we fully understand what is being said.

The Act of Worship

“Worship is an active response to the character, words and actions of God,…”

Worship is an active behavior, not a passive one. Just because you are at a place of worship, surrounded by people who are worshiping God, that does not mean that you are worshiping God. Worship may happen in a group setting, but it is an individual activity in the sense that each individual in the group must be actively worshiping God. Not only is worship active, but it is also a response. Someone once said that God has spoken, and every man lives his life in response to God. God has initiated a relationship with us. Worship is the appropriate response. Worship is our appropriate response to who God is and what he has done. I’m not just referring to the things you like about God and the things he has done that you approve of. God deserves worship for all that he is and all that he has done, no matter how you feel about it. Everything he is and everything he has done is perfect, and if you could see things from his perspective, you would know that to be true.

The Ability to Worship

“…initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption,…”

Your response of worship is not possible apart from God revealing himself to you and giving you the freedom to respond. God could have created mankind without ever letting us know that he existed, but he did not choose to do that. God created us to be in relationship with him. He created us so that he could love us and we could love him in return. For this to happen, he had to reveal himself to us. Thus, God has revealed himself to us through both general revelation — through creation and placing a knowledge of his existence in our hearts (see Romans 1) — and through special revelation — scripture and his son, Jesus.

Revelation alone is not sufficient for us to respond to God in worship. We must be able to see and understand what he has revealed to us in order to respond appropriately in worship. Having been born into sin, you were blinded to spiritual truth from the day you were born. You had the ability to know about God, but you were unable to truly know God. God opened your eyes and enabled you to see spiritual truth and to truly know him when he redeemed you. At the moment of salvation, God removed the sin that caused your spiritual blindness and gave you eyes to see, ears to hear and a responsive heart so that, for the first time in your life, you were able to understand his revelation and respond in worship.

The Result of Worship

“…whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service),…”

As you spend time in the presence of God, letting your heart and mind respond to all that God is and all that he has done, you grow to love him more and more. And as you grow to love God more, you find him working within you, making you more and more like him. You begin to love the things he loves and to hate the things he hates. And as your heart and mind are transformed through spending time with God worshiping him, your behavior starts to change also. Your behavior is an outward expression of who you are on the inside. When your heart and mind begin to align with God, your behavior will align with him also. If you want to become more like God, then stop focusing on your behavior and start focusing on God. It is only through worshiping God that you will ever become like him.

The Manner of Worship

“…all in accordance with His will…”

I’m sure you have heard people say that they worship God in their own way. Well, worshiping God either happens in accordance with his will or it does not happen at all. John 4:24 says, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” When you stand before God, you must stand before him as one completely exposed and humbled. You deserve nothing from him, and you have nothing to offer him — you must be fully aware of those facts. You are allowed in his presence, not because you deserve it (for you deserve nothing less than an eternity in hell for all your sin and rebellion), but because, by his grace alone, you have been redeemed and brought into his presence because of his love for you. And worship only takes place in this context. If you stand before him with pride, you stand before him with no worship in you, for you must worship him in truth, and truth purges pride and elicits worship.

The Purpose of Worship

“…and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.”

Finally, we must look at the purpose of worship, and that purpose is to declare God’s infinite worthiness. He deserves nothing less that to have his infinite worth proclaimed throughout every part of his creation. There is no better way for this to happen than for those who know him to go to the ends of the earth worshiping him and proclaiming the glory of all that he is and all he has done.