Five Essentials of Biblical Worship
What actually exemplifies worship? Is it simply a matter of attending what we call our Sunday morning “worship” service? We sing songs and hymns, we pray, we give offerings, and we proclaim the Word of God, all of which are, in and of themselves, acts of worship. Is that all that is necessary? The truth is, there are many who are doing all of those things very faithfully who have never genuinely worshipped their God.
The first mention of worship in scripture is found in Genesis 22:5 where Abraham tells his servants “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.” This was in obedience to God’s instructions to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham calls this an act of worship! Let me share with you five things that we can learn about true worship from Abraham’s experience.
Worship is spiritual in nature: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Abraham’s decision to obey God was an act of his spirit. It took place on a level somewhere beyond his fleshly desires or instincts. While we must worship while in our fleshly bodies, we must never worship “in the flesh.”
Worship is intensely personal: Abraham went up on the mountain alone with his son Isaac, leaving his servants to wait. That does not mean that a church cannot worship as a group. It does mean however that our worship should be very intimate, and extremely focused.
Worship is devoid of selfish interests: Abraham spent exactly zero time thinking about what he wanted, his only concern was pleasing God. When the service is focused on how exciting things are or whether the congregation enjoys it or not, worship ceases to occur. Worship is about what pleases God, not us.
Worship requires sacrifice: For Abraham to engage in worship, he had to obey God’s command, which meant sacrificing his only son. We know from the story that what God wanted was not the death of Isaac, but the consecration of Abraham’s heart. That requires dying to self.
Worship is a participatory activity: All of the things mentioned in the first paragraph are worship activities. For us to be engaged in worship, however, we must be conscious of what we are doing. It requires more than simply going through the motions.
By focusing our thoughts and being conscious of our actions, we can offer the most pleasing sacrifice of all to our God: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Hebrews 13:15).