Worship, in the Bible, is used most often in two ways. It is either an act of service, or a posture of bowing before something to which we defer or submit. The Word of God, however, is replete with references to worship that make its meaning far more robust and life-impacting than we first observe. This article defines the authentic act of worshiping God as: “an act of being fully who we are in the presence of the God who fully is.” Worship is about being, being fully present, and be with a fully present God.
To understand worship is to catch a glimpse of who He is. He is the wonderfully creative Creator. Like wildflowers, He has scattered galaxies across the universe, some of which contain 800 billion stars bigger than ours. It would take a person some 50,000 years to travel out of the galaxy that we live in, if that person could travel in a straight line at a rate of 5.77 trillion miles per year; light speed. 3500 years ago, David writes: When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son man that You care for him?
God is an ingenious inventor. Job speaks of God as the one who made a way for the wind and a path for the thunderstorm. There are elemental forces of nature such as gravity, weak force, strong interaction, and electromagnetism. These forces fuel our Sun.In this nuclear furnace, 5 million tons of matter is converted into pure energy every second, producing enough heat to keep us alive from 93 million miles away. All if the energy produced by man, in every form, in all of human history, would power the sun for all of one second. But His ingenuity is also at work in the small things. These forces cause coffee, when poured, to stay in a cup, and allow us to take showers and drive cars to work. God also created complex, life sustaining processes of stopping a paper cut from bleeding, and reactions between chemicals that cause the heart to “pump.” Smaller yet, there is vast and incredible machinery at work every moment in cells, molecules, atoms; It is astounding.
God is also the master artisan. We need only consider the perfection of a bird’s flight, the intricate design of the most common of flowers, or the remarkable detail in a dragonfly’s wing to see His unparalleled, perfect eye for creative design. A billion million times every moment, God’s divine attributes and His invisible qualities are seen in the things Has made, such that the apostle Paul is correct when he says that we are, indeed, without excuse.
Our understanding of worship has to go deeper than understanding things about God’s nature. A story in the Gospel of John takes the idea of worship from the understanding of the mind into the pit of the heart.
So, Jesus is in a small town in the high mountains west of the Jordan River. Jesus has walked many miles from Jerusalem. He is travel-worn and tired. The disciples head into town to buy food, leaving Jesus serendipitously at a well. The town whore shows up for water. She is Samaritan. Jews in that day referred to her blood line as that of dogs. Her lifestyle guaranteed no interaction with a Jew. Imagine her coming to the well, regarding Jesus, but probably never giving thought as to whether He sees her at all. Jesus then does the outrageous: “Woman, give me a drink.”
She is, of course, shocked. “How can you ask me for a drink?” Jesus, with much purpose, stays with it. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked Him and He would have given you living water.”
As the story progresses, Jesus takes her on a journey into her own heart, and gives this her, the Samaritan dog, the goods on what we worship leaders pay a lot of money to learn in conferences. He skips the church staff and the worship leaders altogether, and talks about genuine worship with a woman who, in that culture, was a piece of trash. I believe that this is because she was the perfect candidate to understand that God is hungry to be worshipped by desperate, needy, broken, forgotten souls. God has promised life and healing to the contrite of heart. He has promised a family for the lonely. She is perfect for Him! As the story ends, this woman becomes an agent of change for her whole village, even the world. We are still talking about her over 2000 years later.
According to Jesus, the worship of God has nothing to do with temples or any other man-designated place of honoring Him. Worship takes place in the spirit, and in the truth. In the heart. It is not to be overlooked that He gives this insight to a woman who is desperate for answers, and lost in the shame of what she has done. It is in the very understanding of who we are that we become receptors of God’s presence when we worship Him.
Worship is about being and not doing. We are human beings, not human doings. We are not defined by what we do, but by who we are. Dallas Willard talks about this in his book, the Divine Conspiracy. He says that children do not know how to hide their spirit behind their face, and that growing up is largely a matter of learning to hide our spirit behind our face. Every human “being” has a spirit, created by God, that is like a finger print. We cannot worship unless we are willing to approach God as a child, without hiding, posing, or posturing. To worship Him fully is to be fully human.
Worship is about being fully present. Jesus questions the woman about her past not to drag her sins out of her and condemn her. Jesus asks her the questions in order to bring her into a place of being fully present with Him. Her evasive statements and are a tell-tale indicator that she wants nothing to do with being open with Jesus. However, when the story is over and Jesus is gone, what is the one thing she points to in describing Him? She says, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did.” The gospel of Matthew says that unless we change and become like little children, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. We have to be willing to be present, just as we are. The evil one lives in the outland of what I should have done differently, and in the fear of what will happen tomorrow. When I am in the moment with God, I am worshipping him in the light, as He is in the light. John 1 says that I have fellowship with others, and His blood cleanses me from my own unrighteousness. If I am not fully present with God, I cannot worship Him.
Worship is also about being with a fully present God. I have ridden with some of the policemen who work in our city. I have friends who are detectives trying to solve child sexual abuse cases. People have come to me after services to ask for prayer for parents who have lost sons to heroin addiction. It is hard for me, honestly, to get all happy-happy-joy-joy on Sunday morning as if church is my utopia from the living hell that this world is. Consider its ruler! And long ago, worship services stopped being an adequate medication to make me stop thinking about it. I suppose part of our curse is to have to slog through all the trash that life is. But therein lies the truth about the real worship of the living God. He is forever present with us in what it is to be fully present with us as we are fully present in our life.
Before anything was created, He knew me. When the earth was without form and void, and when the Spirit of God hovered over the waters... He had me on His mind. When Jesus hung there on that cross, beaten to a pulp and beyond recognition, I was on His mind. I look back on the painful memories of growing up in an abusive place full of abusive relationships, left to my own survival instincts, and I realize God was there. And when I am in the moment with God, willing to feel my life for what it is, oh, is God there! David says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley...” not around, but through, God is there. It also says, “If I make my bed in hell, You are there.” God is there. God is here. I worship a God who is forever... here.
We cannot worship God without being willing to be ourselves, be fully present, with God who is never not present. It is not possible. Worship is about our spirit connecting with God’s spirit, in the truth about who we are being with the truth about who He is. Worship is: “Being who I am, in the presence of the great I AM.”