Coming Back to the Heart of Worship

Louie Giglio once said: “Worship is our response both personally and corporately to GOD - for who HE is…and for what HE has done…expressed in and by the things we say and the way we live.”

Now, in recent past I would have suggested this as a spot-on portrayal of what worship is. But upon further review, my grade has modified to "incomplete". No doubt, our lives speak with worship serving as the mouthpiece. After all, everyone is worshipping something, right*? But while Giglio’s explanation captures the circumference of what worship is, it doesn’t provide the fullest definition as to what the heart of worship looks like, particularly our ‘response’ to God in worship. Truth is: Worship is more than "our response"…and if we're to grasp the entirety of worship, we have to press beyond topical delineations.

But before we continue, we need to set a foundational definition of what worship is…

During a recent LEGACYouth Facedown service, we defined worship as: “Love responding to love**”, connecting the greatest gift (love) to the greatest response back to it (worship).

Through this designation, we uncovered two significant base points:

  • Worship’s design is inseparable from God’s love.
  • Worship’s intent goes beyond our expression of love.

Truly, if we are to understand worship in greater measure, we need to twig the importance of response (alongside unconditional love), given our response is part of what bridges the gap between our love and God’s love. Yes, we could dive into the famous love passages in Scripture (i.e. 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 8/13, John 3) or examine the justification-grace association for better insight, but for now, let’s drill down on ‘respond’ for a moment…

I’ll start with two more profound quotes on worship/responding in worship:

Worship is the ‘thank you’ that can’t be silenced.” ~ Max Lucado

Worship is the gift of participating by the power of the Holy Spirit in the incarnate (took human form) Son’s communion with the Father.” ~ James Torrance

Phew! Talk about complimentary heavy-hitters! Let's dig in and see what we can deduce from these quotes, shall we?

Here are some of my takeaways:

1) Responding in worship isn’t a silent action. Even when we set ourselves to ‘mute’, our heart & souls cry out to God (“I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the LORD. With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.” ~ Psalm 84:2). This doesn’t mean we’re always consciously aware of this process, as we are given the free will to manufacture or eradicate interference between God’s deep and our deep (Psalm 42:7). But though worship is much more than an expression, it’s still an integral part of worship’s DNA.

2) Responding in worship isn’t a spectator sport. We don’t worship by watching a worship leader worship God on our behalf. In reality, it’s the exact opposite. We can worship no matter where we are, no matter what our circumstances are because Christ is our ultimate worship leader. By His grace, we can worship any time, any place…the key is our participation. If we aren’t entering in, then we aren’t truly worshipping. Real response leads to perpetual, circular dialogue (i.e. as we say ‘thank you’ to God, God showers down His love on us, which increases our gratitude and expression of it, etc.).

3) Responding in worship is an opportunity given. Words like ‘incarnate’ and ‘communion’…they tell us how Jesus makes our prayers and concerns, His prayers and concerns and takes them upon Himself in the same way He took our sin on the cross. When we worship, we encounter the presence of God by encountering the power of the Holy Spirit. But it is Jesus who intercedes on our behalf as the grand mediator and facilitator between us and God. Thus, worship isn’t just between us and God (a Unitarian interaction), but involves the entire Trinity!

4) Responding in worship is a breathtaking wonder…but it’s something we must take seriously. Why? Because God takes us seriously! Thus, we can’t afford to take worship lightly, because God never takes us lightly. If we really believe in who God says He is, then it would be crazy to ‘exalt’ Him with lukewarm praise. He’s not lifted up when we go through the motions, when we stand stagnantly, allowing fear of man to rule us as we mumble words on a screen.

Truth is: Our response in worship reveals how much we know and love God (or rather how much we want to know and love God). It's not about the music, the worship pastor, the atmosphere or some other liturgical element. In the end, worship is 'simply Jesus'. It's telling God we're sorry for the things we've made it, proclaiming the truth that's it's all about Him and letting Him fill us with greater love, wisdom, understanding, joy, peace, etc. (Hence, my argument that worship in a two-way street involving the entire Trinity, not just a one-way street from us to God). Perhaps this is why when the music fades, and all is stripped away, we can always find something of worth, something unfathomably deep, something more than a song...

Footnotes

* Which, in reality, is not an example of ‘Begging the Question’. Any atheist can claim this as a logical fallacy when certain denials are applied; however, their argument starts to lose credence when worship is reduced to “ultimate concern” and “intense attention”. One can’t possibly expect to know worship in its true form, without the acceptance of unconditional love’s existence.

**Shout-out to Steve Garrett

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