What is acceptable worship?
“Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe…” (Hebrews 12:28, ESV)
ou may not believe me when I pass on this information to you, but most Christians do NOT know how to worship. Worship, according to its old English roots, means to attribute worth to something or someone. The worship of God is meant to show ultimate worth to God in Christ. It is not meant to be entertainment. It is not meant to be a time to fulfill your spiritual needs. It is not ever to be a time of your edification or even your education about righteousness or other holy topics, though these things can happen in the context of worship. According to the scripture above, worship is only “acceptable” when it is filled with “reverence and awe” toward God. It is a time to attribute ultimate worth to God and godly ways. That is why praise and singing and prayers and such are important in worship. They fulfill requirements to show reverence to God. That’s why people bow their heads and fold their hands in respect. That is why people will dress up to attend or speak with hushed voices. Worship is meant to show ultimate reverence and awe toward God Almighty. Anything less is not really worship, is it?
I’ve even seen pastors and church members who treated special worship services that were to be aired on TV as a production needing direction and special lights and cameras to promote “an effect” or emotional response. Then, they would ask if people “enjoyed” the worship. Is that what worship is for, for enjoyment? NO. There are many mainline pastors who treat worship as a social gathering. They put emphasis on social norms such as political correctness and proper phrasing to please the sensibilities of the public. Is this worship? This may be worship of political correctness, denominationalism, or the church, but it is most definitely not the worship of God. Some evangelical Christians like to promote worship as an emotional time of connection with God. They stress getting emotionally involved in order to be more open to God. Sadly, this ends up with people throwing up their hands or shouting “Amen” because other people are doing it. People might be pressured to speak in tongues or speak a certain way in order to “fit in”. Is it worship if people are trying to “fit in” with the congregational norms? NO. If God isn’t absolutely central to worship, if the reverence and awe of God are not critical to the function of that time, it may be worship, but it is not worship that is “acceptable” to God (Hebrews 12:28).
In his book, In the Eye of the Storm, Max Lucado explains why he too feels worship is misunderstood and poorly conceived in modern times. He wrote: “Worship is when you’re aware that what you’ve been given is far greater than what you can give. Worship is the awareness that were it not for his [God’s] touch, you’d still be hobbling and hurting, bitter and broken. Worship is the half-glazed expression on the parched face of a desert pilgrim as he discovers that the oasis is not a mirage.
Worship is the “thank you” that refuses to be silenced.
We have tried to make a science out of worship. We can’t do that. We can’t do that any more than we can “sell love” or “negotiate peace.”
Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer.” (See Grace for the Moment, p. 346)
When you worship God, do you feel “reverence and awe”? Is your time of worship centered on God or something else? Do you choose to go to worship depending on how you feel, whether you are getting enough for your money, or whether you are engaged? Worship is NOT a time for you to determine its worth by how it affects you. Worship is a time when you show up for God! How well do you practice worship on your own? Do you only participate in worship on Sunday mornings, God forbid?!! Are there times when worship has become more about you than about God? A little self-reflection on this topic will go a long way into bringing you closer to God and God closer to you!