What is fruitful worship, and why should we worship? Fruitful worship is a life transformed by an intimate relationship with God. Worship is demonstrated in song, prayer, lifestyle, by individuals and an assembly, spontaneously and prearranged. Worship is the stirring by God’s Spirit of our spirit, emotion and will. It is a response of the whole person to God. The evidence of fruitful worship is a life characterized by devotion and allegiance to God.
The English word worship is derived from the Old English word “worthship”, a word reflecting the worthiness of one receiving honor and devotion. Fundamentally, worship is about God, and for God. Worship is what God desires, and what He is worthy of. Our motive is to please God and glorify Him.
What worship is not: it is not time to read the church bulletin; it is not entertainment; it is not extra time to get to church before the message. All professing Christians are not Christ-like; and all who go to church on Sunday morning are not fruitful worshippers. Worship should be done every day, all day long, and not only on Sunday morning.
The Bible shows us that worship takes place in heaven all the time [see, Nehemiah 9:6,Job 38:7,Revelation 4:8, 5:13, 7:9-12,11:16,15:3-4,19:11-16].
We will spend eternity worshipping God. The problem is the absence of fruitful worship in the life of the Church today. A.W. Tozer described worship as, “The missing jewel of the evangelical church.” The solution is that people need to learn to worship.
As we consider the purpose of worship we learn that worship is: required and responsive.
There are over six hundred commandments in the Old Testament, but only ten were written with the very finger of God. Accordingly, they are deserving of special attention. Similarly, the first of these commandments is of special importance because of its place of priority. In the first of the Ten Commandments God tells us that worshipping Him is required.
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.
We must remember that these are the Ten Commandments, not the ten suggestions. In the first commandment, God tells us that we must place Him first before any other god. He begins to show us that worshiping Him is different from worshipping any other god. For example, worship of God does not involve a carved image or likeness. We do not worship God by falling down before a statue or idol.
How then should we express worship to God? What God requires us to do is to love Him in such a way that He is first in our lives. Consider the premier prayer of the Hebrews, the sh’ma beginning in Deuteronomy 6:4.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
The Hebrew word sh’ma is translated “hear”, and alerts us that what God is about to say requires our attention. We are told that we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and strength. This is the essence of what God requires in worship.
Jesus was asked to identify the greatest commandment in the law, and He quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5:
Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus was teaching us that worship of God is required, and is characterized by love. Although love is related to obedience, we want to be careful not to reduce worship to merely obedience. Obedience can become a ritual or behavior. For example, we can go to church because we feel that we have to. We are willing to do the right behavior, and be obedient, but the desire to be with God is missing. Fruitful worship includes an attitude of love, adoration, and allegiance, as well as obedience.
He also shows us that a proper relationship with God must precede a proper relationship with other people. We cannot love others as we love ourselves until we first worship God. It is important to see that Jesus volunteered the response regarding the commandment to love our neighbor as we love ourselves when he was solely asked to identify the greatest commandment. We must understand that our relationship with others is intimately connected to our relationship with God. Furthermore, our love for others may be one way that we can evaluate our love for God. If we struggle to demonstrate love for others it likely reveals that we are not as close to God as we need to be.
The fact that worship is required is seen from God’s design of man. God has created us with a void to stir us to seek Him and find Him that we might worship Him. The Apostle Paul made this clear to the great Greek philosophers of his day as he addressed them at Athens:
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. [Emphasis added]
Many of us have gone through life trying to fill this void by searching in the wrong places. Like a man standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon trying to fill the canyon by kicking rocks into the gorge, the canyon is never full. We try to fill the void with career achievement, financial success, the bigger house, the new car, the best ‘toys’, drugs, alcohol, sex, relationships, etc. Yet, these objects of our attention, our allegiance, and our worship never satisfy. The hole remains unfilled until we learn to worship God.
We go through life with a thirst that only God can satisfy. The relationship between this unquenchable thirst and the satisfaction of worshipping God, is seen in the account of Jesus’ interaction with a Samaritan woman at the well as recorded in John 4. Here, as we learn that worship is required, we see five essential principles about worship: