Last time I left some questions that were raised during the talks at MYC.
Most of my initial responses were validated by the talks, but I learnt a lot and I think my understanding of the topic was deepened.
What is Worship?
Grimmo (the speaker) asked us to write down what we thought he would spend the week talking about. I wrote,
I am expecting Grimmo to talk about living your life in obedience to God.
It turned out to be pretty close to the mark (mainly because the first MYC I went to, four years ago, was on the same topic). However, the journey is often more important than the destination, or in this case it’s the process of understanding the parts that lead to understanding the whole.
The word “worship”
It turns out that there’s four words in the bible that can be translated as “worship”.
- Liteurgo — priestly service
- Latreuo — to serve (e.g. Acts 7:7)
- Prokuneo — bow or fall down (e.g. Matt 28:9, where the women worship the resurrected Jesus, or Mark 5:6, where the demon possessed man falls before Jesus, but not really in reverence in the way we usually think of worship)
- Sebomai — to fear or stand in awe of (e.g. Acts 17:4, the word
There’s a few things from that list that, I think, aren’t included in most people’s idea of worship:
- Worship can be given to people other than God. For example, Matt 18:26 — the servant falls on his knees and implores his master.
- Worship includes things the priests used to do — yes, sacrifice is worship.
- There is no mention of singing! I’m not saying that these words are never translated in the context of singing, I don’t know enough of the Bible or Greek to say that. However, while the idea of singing praises to God comes up in the Bible a lot, the concept is not represented by any of these “worship” words.
Worship is what you do to treat god as god. It’s not defined by one set of rules, but by who or what it is that you worship. To know what worship is as a Christian, you need to know who the God and father of Jesus Christ is: the creator and sustainer of the world, and the judge.
Failures at worship
The essence of sin is to decide what is good for ourselves rather than listening to what God has said. Not only do we not treat God as God, but because every part of us is stained by sin, we can’t worship God.
Looking at the Old Testament requirements for coming before God (see Leviticus), an enormous amount of blood had to be shed, the temple had to be built to perfection, the priests had to remain pure… Sin is serious, it seriously separates us from God. We can’t just walk up to the holy and righteous God and shake his hand.
We also can’t worship him anyway we want. There seem to be a lot of people who think they have an understanding with God, that they have their own relationship with him that is free from “religious” expectations… they don’t. God has revealed himself through the prophets and now through his Son (Hebrews 1), he actually calls us to worship him his way, not our sinful way.
I mentioned sacrifice, the temple and priests. These were all given to Israel to worship God. We don’t have them now as they were described then, but we do have all these things in Jesus. He is our sin sacrifice (Hebrews 10:1-10), he is the temple and we are built in him (Ephesians 2), he is our high priest (Hebrews 7).
Jesus death on the cross was the perfect act of worship that we could never achieve. The best way we can worship God is to accept Christ’s worship on our behalf.
Worship into action
The ideas above get to the heart of what worship is, but not necessarily how we do it (beyond accepting Jesus).
I think writing about these things would take up a whole other post, but they include having a heart passionate for worshipping God, listening to God and obeying God (much of which is described in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7).
I was challenged by a lot of things at MYC, the specifics of which I’m not going to mention now, but if you want to ask me about them, or more about what we covered while looking at this topic, please do!