Worship starts Within
As I began to prepare for this deep dive into our core values and into worship in particular, I stumbled upon something interesting about worship that should affect how we think about worship in the modern church. The call to worship is a concept we see from the first pages of scripture to the book of Revelation. But the mechanics of worship change drastically depending on the setting.
For instance, in the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for worship used most often (71 times in the Old Testament) is a word that literally means “to bow down with reverence and respect.” The Hebrew language is a picture language, and the picture associated here is that of lying flat on your face before God.
In the New Testament, the most used Greek word for worship is used 26 times in the gospels mainly of people coming and bowing on their face before Jesus to worship Him. The same word is used 21 times in the book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament. But here’s where we find something strange. This word is only used one time in all of Paul’s Letters, which make up a majority of the New Testament. These letters were written in large part to New Testament churches about their conduct and their worship, and yet the primary word for worship is used only one time. Why? Let’s look at the passage where it is used:
But if all of you are prophesying, and unbelievers or people who don’t understand these things come into your meeting, they will be convicted of sin and judged by what you say. 25 As they listen, their secret thoughts will be exposed, and they will fall to their knees and worship God, declaring, “God is truly here among you.” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NLT)
I’ve highlighted a few thoughts from this text for a reason. This says seekers will be led to worship because they see God in the midst of believers. This is what’s different about Paul’s writings. In the Gospels, Jesus was here on the earth in bodily form. People would bow before Him in worship because He was there with them. In Revelation, again Jesus will be before us, this time in his glorified body, and it will bring us to our knees in worship.
But right now, in this era we are living in, and in the era of the church Paul was writing to, Jesus is not present in bodily form, so worship looks different. In John chapter 4, we get a glimpse of this. Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman at the well. She has been married 5 times, and was now living with a guy that wasn’t her husband. Jesus asks her about this, but she tries to change the subject by talking about where people should worship. We find an answer to our question in Jesus’ response:
Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. 23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Here’s the difference. Jesus is saying a time is coming (and is now here) where worship is no longer localized, but rather it is internalized. Jesus isn’t here to bow down to. The church building isn’t the only place you are meant to worship. The call to worship is not about a place. It’s not about a mountain or a temple or a shrine. Worship is an internal disposition. It is a matter of the heart. Some Christians come to “worship” on Sunday, but live life contrary to God’s will Monday through Saturday. Worship to them is a place. It is a tradition. It is an event. But the reality is, the temple God lives in is now in every heart that opens itself to Him. When you put your faith in Jesus, His Holy Spirit comes to reside within you. Yes, there is still a place for coming to corporate worship on Sunday and getting on your knees before God, but more importantly, we are to be living lives of worship, bowing our hearts before Him daily.
The Father is looking for those who will worship Him in Spirit and in Truth. He’s looking for those who live lives of worship rather than just come to worship. Worship begins within. So here’s my question for you; what kind of worshipper are you? Sunday worship is nothing more than a corporate expression of the worship happening within every day. You can come to church and bow down all you want on Sunday, but if you are not living as a worshipper every day, you have failed to truly worship.