The Act Of Worship.
“Our spiritual act of worship, is giving up all of ourselves, our bodies, our will, and our minds to the transformation that God grants us through the Spirit.”
Pastor Dan Price
The worship of God is the end for which people are created and abiding joy is only found in God through this life.
All of us have been to a church service where a band leader steps up onto the stage, guitar in hand, and utters these words: “would you please stand with me as we worship the Lord?” Now, this isn’t an inappropriate or inaccurate thing for the leader to say, but it is incomplete. The singing part of a service is worship, but so is the teaching, the offering, the prayers, the team making coffee, and every other bit. And it doesn’t stop there! Worship continues into our homes, offices, and classrooms.
What then is worship? Simply, worship is our response to who God is and what He has done. That means true worship is done in both a corporate, specific gathering of believers and also as a personal “all the time” act of true believers in Jesus.
The prophet Isaiah understood worship in a way that we won’t until we actually see God because he was given a vision of God, sitting on His throne, surrounded by angels worshipping Him.
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
When faced with the reality of a perfect and righteous God, Isaiah realized how sinful he was; he realized how sinful his lips were. He was unclean when he compared himself with God. He had the realization that he was “lost” in his sin. But then something crazy happened—God initiated with him. As God cleansed him, forgave him, and made him clean, what was his response? Worship. “Send me” he said. Isaiah couldn’t just pretend like nothing happened. He’d been set free to live for God. He was liberated and instead of feeling inadequate because of his sin, he was motivated by grace. This is where we stand as well. We have been given the liberating power of the Gospel1 which frees us from our sin. When we understand the depth of our sin and the depth of God’s grace,2 we can worship.
Worship is our right response to who God is and what He’s done.
Corporate worship (when the Church is gathered together at a weekly meeting) happens in a specific way, and at a specific time and place. When we talk about corporate worship, we try to teach that worship is all about our response to God in several different forms.
Corporate worship at Riverview is made up of the following elements:
Hearing the Bible3 and responding with open hearts.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work…I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word.
2 Timothy 3:16-17, 4:1-2
The preaching and hearing of the Word is essential to a correct understanding of who God is. Without this, we make God in our own image and have the tendency to worship a false god, one who shares our positions and preferences instead of the one true God, who holds both justice, mercy, righteousness, holiness, and grace in the balance of His perfect character.
Singing and confessing with our lips about who God is and what He’s done.
…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Corporate singing is a physical confession of our acknowledgment of who God is compared to who we are/were. We sing because, in humility, we are telling each other and ourselves that we believe in the truth of this perfect God who died for us. This is why we are allergic to too many songs that are “me” focused at Riv. It’s why we are so careful about our theology. Again, we want to sing correctly, even the nuances of our beliefs to more truly remind each other of who God really is.
Taking Communion (The Lord’s Supper) in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice.
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
The Lord’s Supper4 is another physical way for us to remember the sacrifice made by Jesus. We take this together to remember the bond we have as believers who’ve been redeemed together.
Obeying God’s command to be baptized as a symbol of the new life that God has given us.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Baptism5 is another way that we physically show those around us (and ourselves) that God has taken off the sinful “old self” and put His righteousness (or goodness) on us. We are new creations because Jesus substituted Himself to die for our sin.
Giving financially to God as we understand that all we have is His and is from Him.
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver…For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.
2 Corinthians 9:7,12
Giving is another way that we worship. It’s interesting that in this passage, the Apostle Paul even calls our financial generosity “ministry.” There isn’t any magical amount of money a follower of Jesus should give, but each of us is called to cheerfully supply the needs of the saints. In other words, it is our responsibility to take care of the Church. We give not because God needs anything but because He has given us the opportunity to be a part of His mission here on earth. It sometimes feels weird to talk about money, but it was one of Jesus’ most common themes in His teachings. Why? Because giving is worship. God has freely given us everything we have (most notably our salvation through Jesus) and we respond by giving back.
There are many more ways we can worship God in a corporate setting, but these five are the ones that are basic to our gatherings as believers.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9
You might wonder what this passage has to do with worship. This verse is showing us that one of the benefits of our salvation is that we are now part of the priesthood of believers. In the Old Testament the priest’s main function was to carry out the worship of God for all the people through the offering of sacrifices. The New Testament tells us that there is no need to make sacrifices anymore because we have the benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins. Because we have that benefit and are now part of the priesthood, we can worship God directly. This is why we don’t consider pastors as mediators between God and people. Their responsibilities include teaching the Bible faithfully and leading the church, but pastors don’t stand between Christians and God as a “filter” for worship. Each believer has the right to approach God and worship individually in prayer, belief, and in obedience.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Our spiritual act of worship, is giving up all of ourselves, our bodies, our will, our minds to the transformation that God grants us through the spirit. John 4:23-24 tells us that God desires those who worship “in spirit and in truth.” To worship in the spirit means that we are submitting our will to God’s spirit, which produces the spirit’s fruit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
When we let God’s spirit and truth guide us, there is a known outcome in our lives. We see evidence of what Galatians tells us. These actions are acts of worship. In them we are giving our old ways up for God’s ways.
So worship isn’t just a once a week act. It’s not a way to become clean before God. But because we are clean before Him already, we now have the ability to worship Him for who He is and what He’s done, whether we are gathered with other believers at a church service on the weekend, or scattered across the city throughout the week.
1. For further reading, see Pastor Noel’s article: The Liberating Power of the Gospel.
2. For further reading, see Pastor Paul’s article: Grace and Faith.
3. For further reading, see Pastor Steve’s article: The Bible.
4. For further reading, see Pastor Joe’s article: Baptism And The Lord’s Supper.