A buddy of mine, who recently returned from India, was showing me pictures of an Indian market. At one of the market booths, a man stood in front of several white, high quality, expensive washing machines. What caught my attention was that the machines were in the middle of their cycle with lids wide open, filled with dark colored water. The man was not selling washing machines. He was selling tea.
Despite this man’s ingenuity and resourcefulness in his tea selling business, the man was not using the washing machines to do what they were made for. And this bothered me! The machines were not being used by their design or to their full potential. Why was he misusing these washing machines? Had anyone told him what those machines were made for?
Design is important. In order to get the correct result from anything we must first ask the question, “What is it made for?” I wonder how many of us have ever asked the question, “What are we made for?” Or “What am I made for?” For what purpose has God made us?
“True worship is the highest and noblest activity of which man, by the grace of God, is capable.”
— John Stott
Worship is important because it is what we are made for. Cheetahs are made to run, stars made to shine, and people are made to worship. I’ve never seen my dog worship. God designed mankind to worship. We do it naturally, instinctively. In fact, our lives are characterized by what or who we worship.
Simply defined, worship (v.) is intentionally giving worth or value through our words or actions. It’s worth-ship.
The Bible clearly states that God is the most valuable being in existence and deserves the worship of every person because “the Lord our God is holy!” and “his righteous deeds have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3,4).
Our greatest rebellion against God is that we have chosen to not worship him. Underneath all of the corruption and brokenness of this world, there is a misplacement of worship. Romans 1:23-25 describes man as “exchanging the glory of the immortal God” and “worshipping the creature rather than the Creator”.
Yet God, even before sin entered the scene, has been diligently working towards a world filled with worshipers of him. Worship from all peoples is God’s global pursuit. Worship must be at the center of all of our missional endeavors, otherwise we jeopardize the eternal impact of our service and charity.
So how does Jesus teach us to worship? As contradictory as it may seem, Jesus teaches that worship is narrow and broad at the same time. He narrows it to a single direction and yet he broadens it to a wide variety of practice.
“The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”
— John 4:23
WORSHIP IS NARROW
Jesus says “true worshippers will worship the Father,” narrowing our worship toward the Father only and addressing our premier problem of our misdirected worship. For we “shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). In addition, according to John 14:6, true worship is directed through Jesus.
Keeping our worship narrow is important because we must worship “in truth,” and the truth is narrow. If I compliment my friend’s red hair, but she actually has brown hair, then that’s not good. We must know what is true about God, studying his Word and who he has revealed himself to be so that we can worship him truthfully. Direct your worship towards the One through the Son. True worship is narrow in its direction.
WORSHIP IS BROAD
Jesus says “worship...in spirit and truth,” tethering our worship to the core of our being, our souls. Worship doesn’t happen at a certain geographic location (John 4:21); worship happens from the spirit, the truest part of us. Worship in the new covenant is primarily an internal disposition of the heart rather than a physical position of the feet. Have a heart of worship, and you can worship from anywhere.
This very fact that God freed up our worship from one location makes missions possible. The span of the Old Testament instructs Israel to STAY in the Promise Land and invite the nations to the temple to worship. Yet, the new covenant, justified by Jesus’ liberating blood, completely flips this command. God now tells his people to GO to the nations and plant churches within foreign cultures. Jesus teaches that worship is broad in practice.
This greatly impacts our strategy when planting churches. We must plant the gospel in such a way that people can truly understand it, and, because of the gospel, express worship to their deepest extent within their culture.
HEAVEN: A MODEL OF TRUE WORSHIP
We, the church, strive to to fulfill God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven. The truest picture of worship is Heaven itself.
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages [...] they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.
— Revelation 7:9,11
Heaven is going to be one big multi-cultural family worshipping the Father! In Heaven, we find the broadness of worship as every cultural family is present, and we see the narrowness of worship, as all glory and praise ascends to God alone. Friends, seek true worship because it is what we find in Heaven—it is what God has designed us to do forever and ever!
DIRECT YOUR WORSHIP
Worship is your statement on the character of God. What does your worship communicate about who God is? Can people derive God’s love, justice, and grace from your worship of him? Consider this study of God’s character and praise God for who he is. True worship comes from our spirit. What stirs your affections for the Father? What makes your spirit long to worship God? What can you do to cultivate your affections for God?
Just like any machine will break when it is not used according to its design, we will find ourselves short-changed through misdirected worship. You were designed for worship and Jesus deserves your worship. Give yourself to true worship.