Worship – What Is It?


Peninsula Community Church

September 15, 2013

Worship Series – What is It?

John 4:20-26 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Over the next several weeks we will work through a series on worship. The goal in this series is to understand what worship is, and why worship is important to us as passionate followers of Christ. We will also look at the attitude of worship, and even the mechanics of corporate worship to help us to appreciate the concepts and ideas of worship more fully.

As we begin this study, the first thing we must do is to define worship. For the purpose of this study, we will define worship as giving value or honor to something. This is critical because what we value we will worship and what we worship will begin to control us. The Greek word for worship literally means “to come forward to kiss.” It carries the idea of one coming before royalty and bowing to kiss their ring. It is this word picture that gives us the idea of giving honor and value. The English word for “worship” also carries with it the idea of having worth or placing worth on something or someone.

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson summarized this idea of what we worship controls us when he said, “The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And a man will worship something —have no doubt about that, either. He may think that his tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of his heart—but it will out. That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.” These are powerful words from one who would not be considered a strong believer but he hit the nail on the head.

Gordon Dahl put it more succinctly when he said, “Most [people] tend to worship their work, work at their play, and play at their worship.” But what they do not understand is that worship is more than a Sunday activity.

Greg Beale titled his landmark book We Become What We Worship. His thesis is simple: “What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.” He traces the theme throughout Scripture to show that we are worshippers, and that our worship exposes us and changes us. We either revere the world and are conformed to the sinful patterns of the world, or we revere God and are progressively conformed into his likeness. It is your choice.

While the story has many themes we will concentrate on that the one theme of worship. In this story we experience Christ’s teaching on the idea that what we worship is an issue of value. Let me relate this story in this way. We find here that Jesus has an intentional encounter with a Samaritan woman at the local well. This was an ordained encounter and not one of chance. This action on the part of Jesus was remarkable and was counter to the culture of his day. For one, the Jews and the Samaritans did not like each other. They in fact were at odds with one another. You see during the Assyrian captivity the Jews were taken away and were placed into captivity. There was a group of Jews who were left behind who compromised their religious beliefs by taking on the religious culture of the Assyrians and by building their own temple to worship God. When the Jews returned to Jerusalem they reacted negatively to this new found group of people, the Samaritans and their way of worship. 

The Samaritans were a pagan secular religion which was an integration of Jewish and pagan worship. The whole religion was begun as an act of rebellion and was fortified by the Assyrian captivity where the Assyrians purposely intermingled pagans with the Jews who remained in Samaria. Jereboam’s actions caused the kingdom to be split into. He set up two places of worship beside Jerusalem. This was the beginning of their downfall.

Notice as well that they move from a discussion of her spiritual condition to a discussion about worship. You see this was important to both sects: the Jew and the Samaritan alike. In the discussion, Jesus makes some claims about worship that we need to consider.

First, worship is an issue of the heart. It is not a place. The Samaritans perceived they were worshippers because of the location of their temple. The Jews assumed they were worshippers as they worshipped in Jerusalem. But Jesus countered the location mentality by stating that worship was not about a place but it is all about the heart.

Second, true worship is of the heart as we must worship in truth. You see it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks and it is out of he heart that our worship is manifested. The condition of our heart will determine the quality and the focus of our worship. As we will see in future studies, worship is not as much about outward expression as it is inward direction.

Third, our worship is in the spirit. It is alive and has life or at least it should. The spirit guides, informs, and transforms our worship. You see if our focus is only on a building or a place we can believe that we cannot truly worship unless we are in the building or a specific place. But if the spirit of God is in us, which He is, and we are people of God, then our worship is distinct in that it is not place but it is an attitude. All we do is in fact worship. How we live! How we represent Christ to others! What I do when no one is looking is a qualifier of my worship!

It is interesting to note that one of the passages of Scripture that comes to mind here is that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). One of the definitions of glory is “manifestation” or “revelation” of God. Listen to this. If that is true then if I am a passionate follower of Christ, then all I do must reflect His glory and illustrate to the world who He is and what He is.  When I fail to do this then I am in essence committing a sin and a falling short of manifesting God in my life and to others.

Let’s look at this way. What I value I will worship and what I worship I will value. If I worship money then my life will be focused on making money and obtaining things. If I worship fame, then I will focus on being famous. If I worship intellect, then I will focus on education and the gaining of knowledge. But if I worship God, then I will focus on obedience to His word, His ways, and His purposes for my life which will bring about God’s blessings.

The fourth and final thought in his passage is that Jesus was dealing with traditions. Too often our worship is stagnated because we are in a box. We believe that the parameters of worship are so narrow that anything outside our structure is not viable. Tradition binds us and puts the emphasis on the the things of worship rather than the person of worship. Notice the debate Jesus was having. You worship on this mountain but the Jew worships in Jerusalem. But Jesus states that the time is coming that you will not worship in a place but a person. From the Old Testament, the Jews had received specific instruction on how worship should be carried out. It was a system that  was about to be outdated as Christ would fulfill the requirements of the law. 

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