What is True Worship?

I had the amazing privilege of worshiping God with thousands of other people at a Christian worship concert a few months ago. It was truly an amazing experience listening to everyone’s voices and watching people raise their hands to the Living God.

Over the last several years, however, God has made me aware that real worship to Him is so much more than a song we sing during a Sunday morning church service or at a worship concert. Just because we worship God outwardly with voices raised and hands held high does not mean our worship is pleasing to Him. He wants much more from His people. The Bible says, “Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him, ‘Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.'” Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God? For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God'” (Matthew 15:1-9).

Jesus was saying that the Pharisees put a higher regard for their religious rules rather than obeying God’s Word and following His heart. God said through the prophet that they gave God lip service, but really did not have concern for what God thought was important! Again the Bible says, “But the words you speak come from the heart–that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander. These are what defile you,” (Matthew 15:18-20a). God looks at the heart and sees what man is really thinking and the motives behind his actions. We can put on a show for others and look spiritual on the outside, but God looks beyond appearance and knows our true intentions and the way we live our lives the other six days of the week.

For many years of my Christian life I gave God lip service, but my heart was far from His heart. I struggled with pornography, unforgiveness toward several people who had hurt me, lying, cheating and I talked bad about people behind their back. I was extremely selfish and had many insecurities, too. The list could go on! I was a mess on the inside, but failed to realize that God was concerned with my very thoughts and my inner man. I cared very little about what God thought was important, but did a bunch of religious things that appeared spiritual.

I remember taking a trigonometry class at the Christian high school I attended during my teenage years and I was under a lot of pressure to do well in school, especially this class, because I had a very good GPA. I cared more about maintaining good grades over honesty and doing the right thing. We graded our own homework assignments most of the time and being the spiritual giant I was, I cheated on several of them so I could receive a better grade in the class. Now, at the time, I tried to convince myself that I meant to put the right answer and reasoned through why it was acceptable for me to cheat. However, deep in my heart I knew it was wrong. Then I would go and worship God on Sunday morning or in chapel and let everyone know I was a great Christian man.

One day at school, the trigonometry teacher taught a devotion for our whole class and he talked about how a young man cheated in his class several years earlier. God did a deep work in the young man and he felt a conviction from the Holy Spirit to go back to the teacher and ask for forgiveness for what he had done. Well, the Holy Spirit convicted me for months and months after the teacher gave that devotion, but I refused to obey God for fear of not getting a good grade. Years went by and God finally softened my heart to His leading in college. Every time I came home from school, God would remind me to go back to this high school teacher and ask him for forgiveness for cheating in his class.

I finally mustard up enough courage to obey God and go make it right. I went into the school and had lunch with my younger brother and afterward ran into my old trigonometry teacher. I told him what God was doing in my life and how He kept asking me to go ask for forgiveness for cheating in his class. My old teacher said, “You are totally forgiven because God can forgive any sin.” I went away from the school on cloud nine because I walked in obedience to God and made things right with my teacher! When I got back to my car, there was a song on the radio that said, “How good it is to be forgiven of your sin.” I began praising and worshipping God and I knew that my worship was acceptable and honoring to Him because I was willing to do what He asked of me.

A man that cares about what concerns God and honors Him by walking in obedience is a man that truly worships God. The Bible says, “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes! Cease to do evil, Learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land,” (Isaiah 1:16-19).

When we do the things that are pleasing to Him and not just follow a bunch of religious rules, we bring pleasure to His heart and our righteousness will break forth like the morning sun! As we learn God’s ways and walk in obedience to Him, He will lead our lives down such a rewarding path. Is God tugging at your heart? Are there areas of your life that He wants you to deal with? It could be unforgiveness toward a loved one or friend, an unhealthy sexual lifestyle, gossip or slander toward an individual or church. Maybe God is asking you to spend more time with Him, help your neighbor across the street or go on a missions trip? You might be in a place where I was for many years; going through the motions, but not really connected to God. In humility ask God to forgive you for your past indifference and to help you live a life fully devoted to Him. My prayer is that you obey the convictions of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide you to a place of victory. True worshipers of God honor and please Him and do not just give Him lip service. Take it from me – when you do it God’s way, life is truly worth living!

What happens when we worship God?
When we worship God, we give reverence and honor to Him. We have a deep desire to please Him and obey His teachings. The Bible says, “Jesus answered, ‘If a person [really] loves Me, he will keep My word [obey My teaching]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home (abode, special dwelling place) with him,'” (John 14:23 AMP). This simply means, if we say we love God, but do not obey his teachings, we are fooling ourselves. Real love for God and worship towards Him involves an act of obedience. When real authentic worship takes place in a believer’s life, God draws near to him and makes His Presence known. God desires us to encounter Him and gain revelation and insight from Him for our everyday lives. This happens during worship whether in a corporate worship setting or during your own personal quiet time with God.

The Bible says, “Call to Me and I will answer you and show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know (do not distinguish and recognize, have knowledge of and understand),” Jeremiah 33:3 AMP).

How does true worship change us?
As a believer seeks God and passionately pursues Him, God begins to reveal His purpose to him. It could be that God brings to remembrance of a broken relationship that needs to be mended or in my situation, I had to go back and apologize for cheating on several homework assignments. It might mean that God is asking you to change jobs or pursue a different career all together. Whatever the case, the key is to spend time in God’s presence so that you can gain clear direction and walk in obedience, which is true worship.
True worship changes us because we respond to God’s leading and revelation. God reveals areas of our hearts that need to be transformed to be more like His. Or , He reveals good works for us to accomplish. But this only happens when we truly worship God. Will you worship God today?

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