by Rayola Kelley
One of the most abused and misunderstood Christian doctrine is worship. The question is, how important is it for God’s people to understand what constitutes real worship? When you study Scripture, you realize worship is of the utmost importance. It actually serves as the main entrance into the Most Holy Place.
A good example of this struggle to come to terms with genuine worship is the woman at the well. Jesus Christ went out of His way to meet with this Samaritan woman. Even though she was considered a social outcast, she pondered a very important matter concerning God. Jesus came to answer her question: “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (John 4:19-20).
Jesus clearly answered her query. His answer serves as an important point of instruction for us to consider. Sadly, few of us fail to take the intent of His instructions to properly come to terms with this issue. Many assume they know what constitutes worship, and yet when put to the test they often prove that their concept of it is nothing but fleshly and conditional.
The Samaritan woman thought that there were physical conditions attached to worship. For example, she believed that they could only worship God at a certain place that would encourage the atmosphere of worship. Jesus refuted this concept. What people fail to realize is that worship is a matter of the heart. This was brought out in Matthew 15:8-9: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
It matters little as to what is going on around a person during worship. Today, many churches try hard to create an atmosphere of worship. This is a sad state of affairs because it is up to God’s people to bring the atmosphere of worship with them. But, because of the lack of reverence and respect towards God in many Christians, very few are prepared to meet Him. They come with their problems, fleshly attitudes and hang-ups, but rarely come to meet the Holy God and do business with Him. Real worship can only begin when a person is past him or herself, and is ready to make it totally about the One who deserves all adoration.
Because of these misconceptions about worship many associate it with music and singing rather than the condition and attitude of their own heart. This has placed worship in the realm of fleshly entertainment. In our own ministry we have encountered this self-serving attitude in the past. People have criticized our fellowship meetings because the music was not professional enough for them. They failed to realize that if the worship was personally lacking, the fault rested with their unprepared hearts rather than the music.
I must point out real worship is not about having some fleshly, spiritual experience. Rather, worship provides the means in which God can meet with us on a personal basis. All worship is personal. If you don’t believe me, study Scripture. You will see where many people personally fell down before Jesus and worshipped Him without any fanfare or music. The truth is, when enough people bring the atmosphere of worship with them, God will move among them in greater ways.
Jesus made this statement to the Samaritan woman: “Ye worship, ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” The main obstacle to real worship is that people do not know who they are worshipping. When people fail to enter into worship, they reveal the inner core of their being. They do not know God.
Many have an unrealistic concept of God. Personal gods always feed emotional or mental perceptions. As people think about their particular god, they can begin to work themselves up into an emotional state. As they become caught up with their idea, they begin to equate this emotional high to be the presence of God. Sadly, this is what a lot of people are looking for when it comes to worship. They are not looking to meet with the one true God, rather they are seeking a certain feeling or experience. This is when people commit idolatry by worshipping the worship.
When a person truly knows God, the very thought of Him invokes worship whether it is in a religious atmosphere, in a prison or when facing obstacles too great to bear. When I sing spiritual songs, I am meditating on the reality they present about God. My heart is reaching up towards God as I allow the words to penetrate my heart with His reality. This is when God will reach down and touch a person’s life with His presence.
Jesus gave these final ingredients concerning worship: “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). There are two boundaries in which people must worship God. First, the right spirit must be present. We know the only right spirit in this world is the Holy Spirit. This shows us that the Holy Ghost must be motivating and guiding the person to ensure acceptable worship.
John 14:6 tells us Jesus is the truth. Therefore, the first boundary of worship entails the inspiration or motivation of the Holy Spirit while the second boundary is the reality of Jesus. Jesus is the visible image of the Father. He is the One who closed the gap between man and God to bring reconciliation. In Him, we see the love of God, His work of grace, His faithfulness and salvation. This reality encourages praise and thankfulness. This brings us to the sacrifice of worship–that of praise.
Hebrews 13:15 says: “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.” Worship is about God. It must be the attitude behind everything we do, for it is the only way of honoring Him. It is about lifting Him up in our hearts, allowing Him to draw near to us. It is about seeking His will and desire for our lives. It is about discovering Him in an intimate relationship.
Worship is not an option. I sincerely believe that if a person does not know how to truly worship God, he or she will not endure to the end. Failure to worship simply means a person does not have an intimate relationship with God.