How Do I Worship?
Text: 1 Chronicles 16:8-11, 23-31 | Listen to Message
As a child, I thought of worship as a service on Sundays where you dressed up (to “give God your best”) and then sat and listened to other people talk and sing about how you’re supposed to obey God. Worship felt long and boring, it seemed like it was all about my performance for God, and it was completely disconnected from the rest of life.
Ask many Christian adults what they think worship is, and they’ll probably tell you it’s a kind of music.
It’s no wonder we don’t know how to worship; we don’t even know what it is!
In the Bible – and in “real life” – worship has many, many facets or dimensions. It’s praise and thanksgiving. It’s awe and reverence. It’s magnifying and glorifying. It’s loving. It’s trusting. It’s obeying. It’s serving.
In short, true worship is the response of all that we are to all that God is, has done, and promises.
Let’s come at this from a different angle for a moment. We all instinctively worship something – probably several somethings, in fact. We all glorify something when we say with our lives, “You are what I need to feel like my life has purpose, significance, security, and happiness. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Worship is universal. No matter who you are or what you believe (or don’t believe), something in your life has captured your imagination and become ultimate to you. We all love, trust, and obey something. The question is not whether or not you’re a worshiper, the question is who or what you worship. You will either worship God or you will worship some incomplete part of creation – what the Bible calls an idol.
Notice why we worship idols. Let’s say your idol is autonomy, or money, or acceptance. You worship that thing – that is, you live for that thing – because you believe it’ll make you happy, content, or safe. You gladly obey that idol’s demands because you want what that idol promises. So the worship of an idol always begins with a feeling, an emotion, an affection, a desire.
Let me suggest that the reason worship begins most naturally with affection is because this is how God wired you. You were created to worship. You were designed to pursue the greatest possible reward, the greatest possible joy, the greatest possible satisfaction, in the greatest possible object: Jesus Christ.
This is the heart of true worship: We don’t seek God out of duty, we seek Him out of delight. And we don’t seek the gifts apart from the Giver. We go to God to get God – utterly convinced, “If I have you, I have everything!”
So what if you don’t feel that way . . . but you want to? Let me suggest three things:
1. You’ve got to identify what you instinctively worship.
If the majesty and glory and grace of God are not beautiful and desirable to you, it’s because you love and enjoy something else in His place. So how do you identify what that idol is?
- Look at what occupies your mind when you have nothing else to think about. What do your thoughts go back to over and over?
- Look at how and where you spend your money.
- Look at what treat as your real, daily, functional salvation. It doesn’t matter what you profess. What are you really living for?
- Look at your most uncontrollable emotions. What makes you livid, discontent, terrified, or ashamed – deeply and repeatedly?
2. You’ve got to dismantle your idols through repentance.
Once you’ve identity what you love and serve in the place of God, you must stop giving them power over you. Kill them. Tear them down. Cut them off. Shatter and destroy them. How? By calling them what they are! By repenting and agreeing with God about them. By confessing them to someone who loves you enough to help you wreck them. By praying and asking God to change your heart so that you hate the things that hinder your love for Him.
3. You’ve got to cultivate an appetite for God.
You will never develop a taste for God if you keep filling up on the junk food of this world. You need what Thomas Chalmers called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” You need to replace one love with a greater and more satisfying love.
Great, how do I do that? Meditate on the Word of God, especially the Gospel. Pray urgently that God would make this Good News of justice and mercy personal. Get in community with other people who delight in God and don’t underestimate how God is using them to stoke your own affections. Sing music that combines truth about God with artistry that helps you feel right emotions toward God. Continue to practice these and other spiritual disciplines in faith, and see what God does!