Have you ever considered how true worship happens?
One of the most significant differences I see between Christ-following and other religions and belief systems of the world is in the area of worship. There’s a picture in Revelation 5 that illustrates this point.
Read it for yourself, but I’ll summarize it here. John sees God the Father on the throne, with a sealed scroll in His hand, and writing on it inside and out, containing seven seals. And an angel cries out, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” When no one was found who could open the scroll, John began to weep greatly. Then one of the elders comforted him and said, “Stop weeping; the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah…has overcome so as to open the scroll and break its seals.” Then John saw the Lamb of God (Christ) who received the scroll. And in response…all of heaven began to worship Him.
Let’s unpack this a little. In our western culture, we would see something sealed as something secret and unknown. But in the culture in which this passage was written, it meant something else. A sealed scroll was a sign of forfeited inheritance. If someone fell on hard times and had to sell their land, this was a forfeiture of inheritance. The terms of sale were written on the inside of the scroll. Then the scroll was sealed. However…especially in the days of ancient Israel, provision was made for the land to be bought back, or redeemed, by the nearest kinsman who was willing to do so. These were the terms of redemption, and they were written on the outside of the scroll.
So when we look at this picture in Revelation again, we see that this scroll was the document of mankind’s fallen position, of our forfeited inheritance. The reason John wept so was that no one was found who could meet the terms of redemption for us…until the Lamb of God appeared. When He took the scroll to break its seals, the natural response was to worship Him and declare His worthiness. Because through His death, He had met the terms of redemption. Because of what He had done.
My point for sharing all this?
In virtually every religion on the planet in which a god is worshiped, that worship is given as an attempt to appease that god’s wrath, or to curry that god’s favor–to provoke that deity to act in a certain manner. (This is also true of the religion we’ve wrongly made of Christianity.)
But in true Christ-following, we do not worship Him to gain His favor or deflect His wrath, or to get Him to do something. We worship Him as a natural response to what He has already done.
And this is how true worship happens. It is not a conjuring up, or working up of emotion. It is an overflow. An overflow of gratitude when we realize what He has done for us–the incredible price He paid to redeem us, and the incredible way He continues to touch our lives. An overflow of awe when we behold His glory and His beauty. An overflow of wonder and adoration when we recognize how indescribably amazing He is. When we begin to get a glimpse of who He is and what He’s done…it’s actually difficult not to worship.
It’s an overflow.
That does not mean that we always have to feel something in order to worship Him. There is never a time when Jesus is NOT worthy of our worship and praise, so there is never an inappropriate moment to offer that to Him. What it does mean is that at the heart of our worship is an understanding that we are responding to Him, that He’s the One Who initiated this–not us.
Putting this truth in the light of re-thinking our worship, two things come to mind…
First–many of us have lost the truth behind this, and have stopped seeing worship as an overflow, and begun to see it as a duty, or worse, as a self-serving thing. We have fallen into the practice of “worshiping” God to curry His favor, or because of what we can get out of it. This can be true of any worship format, be it traditional or contemporary. This makes our worship shallow at best, and false at worst–because worship is not about us. Never was.
Second–if worship is an overflow, and if worship is a lifestyle…then there are other ways for that overflow to be expressed than just in corporate singing. We can overflow in all sorts of ways–in artistic creativity, in our occupations, in caring for the poor, in promoting justice, in taking social responsibility, and in many other ways. Understanding this is going a long way toward reshaping my views of worship.
More on this later…but for now, let me invite you to re-think this along with me. When your heart overflows for God–what does it look like? What does it make you want to do?
How do you express that overflow? (Think outside the box of singing songs, although that’s totally appropriate; but what else do you do? Your own answers might surprise you…)