A look at worshiping God in the form of one's entire lifestyle
| Worship, in its purest and most basic essence, is an expression of one’s gratitude and humility before Almighty God. It is seen in Scripture that pretentiousness and divided loyalties have no place in the scope of genuine Christian worship . Such things displease God, whose worthiness alone should prompt one to worship him in all abandon. Worship must be Biblical; it must occur in spirit and in truth, manifest itself on a horizontal level, and involve a cost on the part of the worshiper. The nature of true worship has been exemplified by such historical figures as Paul and Silas, as well as Amy Carmichael. Paul and Silas set a standard and, as this particular paper highlights, Amy Carmichael follows suit. In both cases, the worship is Biblical, wholehearted, and an unreserved response to the very nature of God. Response is a key element in the definition of worship as a lifestyle.
The trap into which Christians often stumble is the trap of Sunday morning worship. This is the idea that, regardless of the rest of the week’s events, one worships primarily within the church context and according to established church standards. While church does play a large role in the development of Christian character and faith, it does not sufficiently allow for demonstration or exercise of the Christian heart. “These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” (Isaiah 29:13) .
A Christian who “worships” on Sundays and then spends the rest of the week indulging solely in his or her personal or professional interests is a Christian whose affections are divided and whose worship is not genuine. This “Sunday only” mindset is a great hindrance to the Christian life, highly partial, and ultimately displeasing to God. With this mindset, external religious expressions such as prayer, rituals, and observance of religious holidays, are without any real merit.
“I hate, I despite your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps” (Amos 5:21-23).
This, though it may seem harsh, is God’s response to those whose worship is partial or whose affections are divided. God desires and deserves to be worshiped and adored in a wholehearted, Biblical manner.
According to Scripture, true worshipers worship in truth. “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts” (Psalm 51:6a). Worship must be rational and intellectual. It springs up from a deeply rooted understanding of the nature of God, the nature of humankind, and the nature of Biblical worship. Truth is that which has been laid out in Scripture, that which sets free, and that which produces the external factors of genuine worship. However, worship that is solely based upon truth has the potential to become an act of legalism.
One must also worship in spirit.
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
Furthermore, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Worshipping in spirit involves both the spiritual realm and human emotions. Human emotions are a factor because genuine worship naturally delights both God and the worshipper. Joy in itself can also be an expression of worship. Because God is spirit, the way in which one connects with him is naturally in spirit and by entering into his dimension. Spirit is life. God does not want dead and dry worship. On the contrary, Father God seeks worshippers to know him rationally, to love him passionately and, as a result, to worship him in spirit and in truth.
For illustrative purposes, one might look to the example of Paul and Silas, especially with regard to their natural imprisonment. Because their chains were merely natural and not spiritual, their spirits were free to connect with God through worship. Their songs of praise and thanksgiving, which they lifted up to God in all abandon, were certainly not rooted in the natural. In this way, they worshipped in spirit. In their predicament from a natural perspective, logic and rational reasoning would dictate that singing was not the appropriate response. It would have been, rather, to attempt to reason with the guard, or perhaps to wallow in silent self-pity. However, Paul and Silas were evidently men acquainted with the truth. They had a revelation of the nature of God, and responded in the most reasonable fashion, given the truth and the spirit in which they walked on a daily basis. Such is the nature of Biblical worship.
Worship can further be described as a response to the life, love and sacrifice of Christ. It is a response to his goodness. “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?” (Psalm 116:12). The fact is that it cannot be repaid, but it can certainly evoke the response of due reverence and worship. Worship is a response to Christ’s love, as well as to the Father’s love. In this regard, worship comes with a realization or revelation of the nature of God’s role as Father, as Abba, and as Daddy. Indeed, God is Daddy. Such a revelation should compel a Christian to worship, and to bask in his delight and pleasure. It is because of the love of the Father that a Christian loves. Said Christian, in response, loves both the Father and fellow human beings.
Worship is the only appropriate response to who God is. In fact, the only appropriate response is truly to worship him in all abandon. This is demonstrated in Scripture. “When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshipped” (2 Chronicles 7:3). This response requires only that the worshippers realize exactly who they are worshipping, and is further seen when Yahweh – the LORD – does the things that the people expect Baal to do, evoking the response, “The LORD, he is God! The LORD, he is God!” (1 Kings 18:39).
Further, worship is a response to the call of God. It plays out as humble submission to said call. In his childhood years, Samuel exemplifies the appropriate response to God’s call when he answers, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1Samuel 3:10). This is comparable to the standard Jesus sets when he says, “Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
To worship God with one’s very lifestyle is essentially to sacrifice one’s self, giving up things that seem too important to give up, in order that God might receive the honour and the glory he is due. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1). The term “living sacrifices” seems to be an oxymoron, due to the fact that a sacrifice generally refers to something that is not living, but dead. In this context, however, the thing being sacrificed is not life; it is a lifestyle. When one becomes “dead to sin but alive to God” (Romans 6:11), one throws away the former sinful or partial lifestyle and takes on a lifestyle of true worship. It is a lifestyle that is indeed “holy and pleasing to God.”
The essence of worship is found in the giving of oneself to God. This involves the giving of honour, praise, glory and thanks. Worship can also be marked by the giving of one’s time and assets. It is the laying down of one’s own interests for the sake of the interests of God. In this way, worship must cost the worshiper something.
One woman in history who truly sacrificed her entire worldly lifestyle for the sake of God’s interests is Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). This woman was, by the established definition, a “living sacrifice.” She was a woman defined by love, which sprung up from within a heart abandoned to the purposes of God. She was most well known for becoming “Amma” – mother – to children who had been orphaned, sold, or simply unwanted. Carmichael left behind, or sacrificed, her home in Ireland, her large family, her closest friends, and her comfort. In place of these things, she took on missionary work in India for over fifty-three years without a furlough. She sacrificed her life as it was for the life God had set before her, such that he received all the glory and honour in the midst of it. Never did Carmichael complain, for she had surrendered her life to God and taken on a lifestyle of worship.
As Amy Carmichael demonstrated by her entire way of life, genuine worship inevitably manifests on a horizontal and communal level. One’s love for God is evidenced by one’s love for people and one’s willingness to serve. These external expressions spring up from the combination of a heart and an intellect that are completely surrendered and devoted to God’s purposes.
Getting past pretentiousness and embracing the Biblical concept of worship, one sees that worship is essentially that which occurs in daily life on Monday through Saturday, as well as on Sunday. It is outside of the church context that one’s heart is revealed. One who “worships” only on Sundays and claims possession of every other day of the week does not truly worship, for worship is not an event; it is a lifestyle. Indeed, everything about life is virtually meaningless if it is not marked by an underlying, or overlying, attitude of gratitude and humility before God. Such is the nature of worship.
Throughout the mundane, daily routine, a true worshipper worships. This is possible because worship is not limited to external factors. Rather, it is very much internally based and any external factor should have its origins within a reverent and thankful heart. As has been demonstrated and illustrated by means of Scriptural references and historical figures, worship is a response to God’s awesomeness that, if it is genuine, will naturally play out as a lifestyle.
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