Worship Beyond A Song

When I was in college, before Amazon, I made a habit of browsing the primitive digital mall known as eBay. As a window shopper, I rarely bought anything, but one day I came across something too good to pass up.

A gentleman from Ohio was selling some items his son had left behind after moving. Among the remains was an object of considerable rarity and great personal interest. It was an NFL trading card presented behind glass and framed against a wooden plaque. This was not just any card, however; it was Brett Favre, the famed quarterback of the Green Bay Packers and one of the most electrifying players ever (and not to mention, a personal hero). I bought the card and plaque for seven dollars.

Months later, when the card arrived, I handed it back to the postman almost as soon as I had received it. It was to be shipped to Brett Favre's fan mail address in Green Bay, where I hoped it would make it to the man himself.

Three months later, I received a parcel; I could hardly contain my excitement. As I opened it, I tore through the packaging, looking for the card. And there it was in all its glory, boasting the precise change I wanted; Brett Favre had signed it. His autograph shining in silver marker across its face. I was so enchanted I didn't even notice the accompanying letter.

When I got that card, it was as if my dreams had been realized. This celebrity giant had given Dobby a sock, granting me blissful passage into the afterlife. I talked about it for weeks, torn between showing it off and keeping it safe under lock and key. At one point, I even suggested to a friend that if I ever met Brett Favre, I would immediately become a better person, convinced that his character and charm would simply rub off.

Over the years, I spent countless hours watching Brett Favre's games and highlights, adding more and more "Favre" to my jersey collection and wearing them often.

I idolized this man.

I worshiped him.

What Is Worship?
In most churches, we identify the music ministry leader as the “worship director.” Here at FDC, Adam Anglin is our worship and arts pastor. So naturally, when we hear the word “worship,” we think of music. Scripture itself identifies the playing of instruments and singing as important modes of biblical worship, both past and present (Neh. 12:46; Ps. 33:1-3, 40:3; Is. 42:10; Eph. 5:19). The connection between music-making and worship is clear. And yet, worship is more than a song.

With Brett Favre, I was all in. I wanted to be like him, to act like Brett, and to even dress like Brett. I thought a football player was so incredible that I wanted to be him.

My experience might sound extreme, but I’m willing to bet we’ve all allowed someone or something to occupy a similar space in our hearts. The point is what I was doing was worship. Worship is a fixation, a focused, all-consuming adoration of who God is and what He’s done. Our worshipful desire, then, should be to be like Christ, to act like Him, and to clothe ourselves in His ways; we should be all-in for God.

Let’s discuss briefly what this looks like. Consider Paul’s teaching:

I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1).

Paul instructs us to present our bodies as living, holy sacrifices. But what does that mean? In chapter 6, Paul describes this presentation as being, “not to sin . . . but . . . to God, as those who have been transformed from death to life” (Romans 6:13). In essence, worship is a presentation of our whole selves (our “bodies”) as a daily expression of our life in Christ. It’s about obedience.

If you’ll notice, this month’s Scriptures deal heavily with glorifying God and obeying His commandments. This is no coincidence. Just as your parents likely feel most honored and respected when you joyfully obey, so does God. In fact, it is for this purpose He has given us His Spirit, that we would grow in joyful obedience. When we obey, we show ‌we recognize God’s authority over us, His goodness towards us, and His worthiness of our obedience.

If we look at what we’ve learned so far, we can understand worship as the heartfelt living-out of all God commands. When we do this—when we pray, gather, lift our voices, and obey His instructions—when we truly live for Him, taking every opportunity to glorify God with our lives, we are practicing worship. Every sanctified act of obedience reveals our acknowledgement of God’s glory, goodness, and might.

Why We Worship
In Luke 4:8, Jesus rebukes Satan saying, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.” Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 6 which is part of a sermon where the author urges his hearers to obey God’s Word "carefully." Why? “that it may go well with [them]," he specifies (Deut. 6:3). One of the principal reasons we seek to live worshipful, obedient lives is that such living leads to the “good life” that God intends; following God's design for worship stirs up joy in our hearts (Psalm 19:8).

However, worship is not primarily about us or what we receive from it. Worship is about our love for God and what pleases Him. If we love God, we should desire to do what He says (1 John 5:3).

Worship also flows as a response to the Lord’s goodness. He doesn’t have to be, but God is gracious and merciful towards us. One reason we pray before meals is the simple prompt the food provides; if not for God, we would lack even the paper plate on which to place a crumb. Every breath is a reason to thank God.

And yet, it's even more simple than that: We worship God because He’s God.

The God of heaven, according to His very essence, is infinitely worthy of glory. We don’t worship God only because He blesses us, because He created the universe, or even because He saved us. We do worship Him for these things, but consider this: God could have decided not to save a single person and He would still be loving, still be good, and still be deserving of praise. His nature alone provides for all this. The very reality that God is God demands worship, a fact multiplied exponentially by the contrasting relationship between sinful man and a holy God.

As an illustration, think about storybooks and movies that feature kings. How do the common people—the peasants—usually react to the king's presence? Don't they throw themselves down on their faces? The inconvenience, discomfort, and outright dirtiness of prostration are of no concern. Meanwhile, the king parades by in elegance, dressed in the brightest linens and flanked by a throng of handsome knights. The distinction between royalty and ordinary is considerable. The mere presence of the king requires reverence. And with God, this illustration reaches cosmic heights. His existence compels our worship.

How we worship
Jesus says in John 4:24, that those who worship God must worship, “in spirit and in truth.” Here, spirit means our inner-being, our hearts. We are to worship God with all that we are, our whole selves. If our worship is not heartfelt, it is wrong.

Worship must also be, “in truth,” meaning anchored in God’s Word. Worship isn’t a free-for-all, and though many try to make worship about us and how we feel, it simply isn’t true. Worship is about God and who He is. And if God is the one who commands it, it makes sense we follow His design. But to know what that is, we must go to His Word.

We often find worshipers in the Bible responding to God’s blessing. After being protected from their enemies, provided with food, or even given a fresh sense of God’s revelation, the people would break out the best wine, so to speak, to worship God with heartfelt praise. The accounts in the Old Testament are staggering. Can you imagine sacrificing 5,000 goats to God? But it wasn’t the size of the sacrifice, and it isn’t the volume of our singing that matters—it’s our hearts. Remember, both Cain and Abel offered a sacrifice, but God rejected Cain’s because his heart was wicked.

Throughout God’s Word, including February's passage in Deuteronomy 11:1-13, God describes His design for our lives. Similarly, all of His Word answers the question, “Who is God?” We cannot plead ignorance. Scripture does not leave us the option of worshiping a god of our own making. If we are to worship in spirit and truth, we must be attentive to God’s teachings. Only then can we know what pleases Him.

One long-lost titan of the faith (he’s been dead for over 450 years), once said:

This is, indeed, the proper business of the whole life in which men should daily exercise themselves: to consider the infinite goodness, justice, power and wisdom of God, in this magnificent theatre of God.
— John Calvin

In English, Calvin describes worship as being more than simply the first and last fifteen minutes of the church service, singing KLOVE in the car, or anything else. It is our lifelong habit of allowing the goodness and majesty of our Creator to permeate our beings and lead us to praise, all while basking in the glory of His creation. As full-time Christians, we shouldn’t have a worship switch we flip when we want to please God. Though many of us do, myself included, the hope is that we would grow together in offering ourselves in living worship.

We have many good reasons to worship God, to obey Him, and to give Him thanks. He gave us everything we enjoy, including life, our families, and our friends. And He gives us everything we need, including the life of His own Son that we might live forever with Him. The reasons to thank God are limitless. However, we must always remember that our worship is not contingent on receiving anything from God. We worship God because of who He is, and He is holy.
Posted in