What do you think of when someone mentions worship?
My initial thought, and likely the thought many of you had, is singing songs with your church on a Sunday morning or on your way to work. This is certainly a form of worship, and it’s actually going to be the primary focus of today’s post. Until said otherwise, when worship is mentioned it will be referring to it being done through song. However, it is also relevant to take note that everything we do is worshiping something. Keep that in mind as you read this.
In the past few years that I have been actively seeking Christ and relationship with Him, I’ve realized something about myself which I think may apply to many of my fellow believers. I have a terrible habit of taking worship too lightly. I have a terrible habit of coming to worship as a way to gain something for myself. I have a terrible habit of making worship about me instead of the one true God. I have found that too often I have approached worship with the goal of achieving some sort of religious quota for my own glory (either receiving or contributing).
But worship is about giving back to God for all the good gifts and promises He has already given us through Christ. When we have that sort of self-centered approach we shift our affection to be focused on ourselves and what we want rather than God and what He wants. The tricky part here is learning to become aware of our own motivation. That’s not always easy because we have a tendency to place more emphasis on our words and actions than on our hearts.
Our words hold a lot of power. They have the power to accept Christ, to overcome the enemy, and they have the power to defile us (Matt. 12:33-37, Matt. 15:7-11, Rev. 12:10-11). What is in our hearts will come out of our mouth. Love or hate, blessings or curses, truth or deceit. I believe this goes beyond the actual words. It goes deeper into the intent. God knows our hearts. He knows what is coming out of our mouths even when other people may not recognize it. Even when we don’t recognize it. How do we begin to become more aware of what’s taking place in our hearts?
If you’ve been reading my last few posts, it should come as no surprise to hear me say that seeking God is the core of this growth. I have found that the more I learn about who God is the more I learn about who I am. Even before giving my life to Him and claiming the identity I had in Him. That’s because during that time while learning about who He was, I learned who I was not. I saw those beautiful characteristics of our Father, and I knew that I wasn’t living life how I was purposed to. Through intimate relationship with Him, God has certainly moved in my life and as I grow closer to Him, the more in line I become with Him in this life on earth, just as I am in the Spirit. In becoming a Christian, I’ve still had to recognize those places where (in my flesh) I do not reflect the Father, though. This isn’t always easy, but it becomes easier the more we know those characteristics of God. We can pinpoint those moments where they are not present in us.
How does this apply to worship? Well, remember that what is in our hearts is what comes from our mouths – no matter what the words are. There is the intent that must be looked at, and knowing our hearts well aids us in interpreting our intent. So even if you’re singing along to those songs at church, it doesn’t mean your intent is to worship God. Your intent may be to convince others that you are, or to gain some feeling of satisfaction that you’ve completed your duty. I know that I’ve been in both of those places before. Learning this was not an easy thing. I felt hurt, defensive, and worried that I couldn’t make myself right again. Those were all mere feelings or lies, of course.
The point here is, words are simply the tool used to express what’s in our hearts, they aren’t necessarily the truth in and of themselves. You can tell someone, “I love you.” But if your heart’s intent is to deceive them, it does not make those words true (Jer. 9:7-9)! The same goes for worship. We need to be actively seeking the Lord so we can grow in our self-awareness and recognize when our words do not line up with our intent.
I want you to take a moment to think about why we find ourselves in those places at times. Why is it that we can find it so difficult to genuinely worship? Why is it so easy to get distracted? I think of Paul when he speaks to the Romans about the often quoted concept of doing what you don’t want to and not doing what you would like (Rom. 7:15-17). There is a constant battle between flesh and spirit that goes on inside us (Gal. 5:17). We cannot entertain both. We cannot assume a role of neutrality. We cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24). We must decide if we will serve God and live in the Spirit, or if we will serve the world and live in the flesh. Distraction comes because this is a constant surrender and not always an easy one. When we have not chosen to surrender to God, distractions creep their way in easily. The Christian walk would be significantly simpler if there was a one time choice that made your flesh suddenly aligned with the Spirit, but that isn’t the case. God desires us to choose Him daily amidst all our troubles and temptations. Not just one day where it perhaps seemed convenient.
Next question: how do we respond when we realize our intent is skewed or we are struggling with distraction?
We have to repent and seek alignment again. Intent outside of glorifying God means we are not surrendered to Him. This is no reason for shame. We are human and make mistakes, but we have to recognize and fix them. Shame simply draws our attention deeper inward when those moments of recognition should draw our attention to God. In fact, it’s a blessing to be able to recognize those moments and not be stuck in them. That ability itself is a reason to worship God.
I believe I’ve made my point fairly clear when it comes to the described form of worship. I want to discuss it in a broader sense now. Are you aware that everything you do is an act of worship? It is not confined to singing, it’s not even confined to righteous deeds, bible studies, or prayer. Everything we do is worship. The question is what are you worshiping? It of course should be God, but consider these other examples of what you may worship within your day to day life: yourself, your significant other, celebrities, a diet, entertainment, theology, politics, occupation, the list is endless. Let’s be clear, none of these things are evil. Many of them are directly beneficial to our faith and well-being when approached properly (with an intent to glorify God and not ourselves). But the same principles apply to this more general definition of worship. Intent, self-awareness, and action (repentance).
With the knowledge that we are always worshiping something comes the responsibility to keep ourselves in check. We cannot come to a realization like this and brush it off. We have to be willing to take the time to reflect. What do you find yourself worshiping on a daily basis besides God? What are you worshiping it for (is God not more worthy of praise – Jer. 9:23-24)? What are ways you can better catch yourself and refocus throughout the day? These are the sort of questions that I have had to ask myself and taking the time to really consider them has definitely helped me in addressing the areas where my attention and intention is not on God and glorifying His name.
One last thing I want to make note of in regards to always worshiping something: Loving is different than worshiping. Jesus commanded us to love others (Mark 12:30-31, John 13:34-35). It is a good thing to love. Apart from God, we cannot love how we were commanded to, though. It is when we stop loving by faith and begin loving by the flesh that we allow it to evolve into worship, or idolatry. When our intention shifts from glorifying God through it.
Some of you may be thinking, “Oh, I thought I may be worshiping _____, but I’m just loving _____! All good here.” I encourage you to put that away for a moment and still take the time to consider what may be receiving your worship instead of God. If you thought about it, it was probably for a reason. I believe we naturally search for things to worship (even if it’s ourselves), because we were made for worship (the glorification of God’s name). However, we know that there is only one who is worthy of our praise. He is the one true King. He is the Prince of Peace. He is our deliverer. He is our Creator. He is our savior. He is God presented to us as the Holy Trinity: Father, Holy Spirit, Son. Please become aware and intentional of what you choose to worship. Jesus is worthy of our constant surrender and choosing of Him. Whether that worship is expressed in song alongside your congregation or in the simple acts of life throughout your day.
Thank you for reading! I’ve been wanting to share about worship since I began to realize this struggle of mine, but I didn’t have the right way to express it until recently. I know that I am not the only one who faces this issue. I would venture to say there is no temptation or sin that is unique to a single person. We are never isolated or alone in whatever we are facing. If this post did resonate with you, I want to urge you not to allow shame to take over. Recognize guilt and the gift that it is to be able to see where we need to grow. Then choose to align yourself with Christ again and take action to cultivate that growth. I pray this week you put your attention on Christ and find yourself worshiping Him more than anything! Within the next month or so I hope to be writing a second piece on/involving worship/idolatry because they’ve been on my mind lots lately. Keep an eye out for that! Abide in Him. May He bless you and keep you. Have a wonderful week!