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When I heard those words, it was as if a dam within my soul broke, allowing torrents of praise to flood my lips. I told Him how wonderful He was. I recited the attributes of God I had learned in Bible college. When I finished, He asked me if these were the only adjectives I had for Him.
With a sense of awe I responded simply, "You are wonderful."
A picture came to my mind, and I saw the face of Jesus before me as if it were framed. Then the frame faded. As I looked into His face, I told Him how much I loved Him. I had never done that in my life. I told Him how precious He was to me. I went on and on, trying to express my love for Him with my limited vocabulary.
When I was answering His three questions, it seemed as if just a few moments had passed. But it had actually been an hour and a half since I first knelt there. For the first time in my life I had been in the presence of God in such a way that I had lost all consciousness of time. I had begun to experience true worship—my heart responding to the love of God and expressing adoration and love to Him. All my years of Bible training, study and ministry had not evoked the response of worship from my heart that a few moments of divine revelation in His presence had.
As a sincere Methodist professor and pastor, I had thought I understood what worship of an omnipotent God involved, and I regarded our worship services as important expressions of true reverence for God—the creature worshiping his Creator. Though we did honor God sincerely from our hearts, I now understand that we had defined worship very narrowly according to the tradition of our church fathers.
My renewed study of the Scriptures concerning worship has helped me understand the divine destiny each of us has to become worshipers. Much of what is written in my book Worship Him (Creation House) is what I have learned as I have allowed my Teacher, the blessed Holy Spirit, to open my spiritual eyes to the purpose of God for our personal fulfillment—to become worshipers of God in spirit and in truth.
When I searched the Scriptures with this purpose in mind, many passages I had read before and thought I understood doctrinally began to live in my heart in a new way. Since that pivotal worship experience in my room, I have enjoyed God's manifest presence in praise and worship many times. I have also experienced the glory of His presence while studying His precious Word, observing communion and fellowshipping with other believers.
Worshipping God has many facets of reality, as we shall discuss, that make it a central theme of the Scriptures. Understanding true spiritual worship is imperative for all believers who sincerely want to know God more intimately.
As we learn about different aspects of worship, our definition of worship will become more comprehensive. But we can begin with a simple working definition from Webster's Dictionary: "showing honor or reverence to a divine being or supernatural power; to regard with great, even extravagant respect, honor or devotion; to take part in an act of worship."
The Old English spelling of the word is worthship, which aptly conveys the idea that the one to whom we show honor has worth. Worship is not an arrogant demand of God toward His creatures; it is rather a natural response from hearts that comprehend the infinite "worthship" of God—hearts that are surrendered, silent, repentant and mature.
1. A surrendered heart. The biblical pattern of worship is based on the surrender of the heart to the lordship of Christ. Without the heart reality of obedience and submission to the Word of God, we will never experience true worship in spirit and truth. Participation in the sacraments as well as in charismatic expressions of worship must reflect a heart that is bowed in gratitude and love for God in order to become true expressions of worship.
This is the fundamental essence of worship: I bow my heart before God Almighty and acknowledge His supreme lordship over my life. It is realized through total surrender of the worshipper to the One worshipped. Only as we choose to acknowledge God in all our ways (Prov. 3:6) and give Him control of our lives and destinies can we become true worshippers of God.
2. A silent heart. Worship will not always constitute the forming of words or phrases to utter before God. But it will always involve the humble prostration of our souls before God as we revere His greatness in silence and stillness. The psalmist understood this when he wrote of the Lord, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Ps. 46:10).
Even in human love, affection is not always expressed verbally. Sometimes more is said through eye contact than could ever be expressed in words. Worship involves eye contact with God; it is staring at God! A worshipping heart longs to gaze upon the Beloved and know the fulfillment that comes when that gaze is returned.
3. A repentant heart. Brokenness over our own sin characterizes a worshipping heart. When Mary came into the Pharisee's house to express her love for Jesus, she wept, washed His feet with her tears and anointed them with a costly ointment. The Pharisee condemned her as a sinner and accused Jesus for not knowing what kind of woman she was. But Jesus rebuked the Pharisee for not offering to wash His feet, the customary thing for a host to do. Then He forgave this sinful woman for all her sins (Luke 7:36-50).
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