Our number one essential at Cities Church is that we worship Jesus. He is the foundation, center, and goal of everything we do. But, when we say that we worship Him, do we know what that actually looks like? There are a lot of different thoughts and opinions about what worship is and how it should look, but my goal this morning is to lay out a vision for what we mean when we say “we worship Jesus”, and then to follow up the next three weeks with more exhortations on how this vision plays out in our homes, in our communities, and in our corporate gatherings.
It’s not easy to come up with a concise definition for worship. There are so many pieces to include, and they all feel important. Worship is so all-encompassing and intricately tied to nearly every other Christian doctrine that any one or two line definition seems reductionistic, but then again a “complete” definition with full explanation is more like an entire book. So, hear my acknowledgement that much more can be said than I will say here this morning, but with that qualifier in place, here is, in as simple of terms as I can put it, a definition for Christian worship: Worship is our all-of-life response, empowered by the gospel of Jesus, to who God is and what he has done.
Allow me to unpack this:
Worship is our all-of-life response . . .
Firstly, everybody worships and nobody doesn’t worship. All of us has someone or something that shapes our thinking, our desires, and motivates us to live each day. Whatever or whoever that is, that is our god. And this is true of everyone you meet. The secular athlete worships his sport by arranging his entire life so that he might train, diet, and compete so as to receive a reward. The atheist scientist worships the intellect and arranges her whole life around making new discoveries that attempt to explain her existence. The self-centered college student worships himself by only doing things that help him personally look or feel better. All of us have something or someone that we worship, and whatever or whoever that is determines how we, in response to it, live and arrange our lives.
First, worship is our response to all that God is.
As Christians, we worship God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit; and fundamentally we worship Him because of who He is - namely, the One True God. We worship Him for His holiness and his character — for all that he is. Before and above anything He has done for us, we worship Him with all we are simply because He is the great I AM. There is none like Him, and none that rival His glory and worth.
Second, worship is a response to what God has done. Even though He is worthy of our worship for who He is alone, he has made himself known to us through his works. He has created us, He has given us life, and even now He is presently sustaining us by the word of His power. Think upon that and ask if that doesn’t drive you to worship — the reason that the atoms and molecules that make up your physical being are being held together right now is not because of your will or some impersonal law of nature, but because Jesus is holding them together by His word. As Psalm 86:10 tells us, God is great and does wondrous things, because he alone if God.
Empowered by the Gospel
And now this last part we can’t forget. Our worship is empowered by the gospel of Jesus. All of us, because of our sin, were once blind to the glory of God, and because our thinking was futile and our hearts were darkened (Rom. 1.21), we did not give thanks for the good we received from him but instead we worshipped the gifts instead of the Gift-Giver (Rom. 1.23). Instead of worshipping God, we worshipped idols, worthless substitutes, and like them, we were worthless and deserving the righteous wrath of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that He came as the truest human of all and worshipped His Father in perfect loving obedience, even to the point of bearing God’s wrath against our sin in our place. Now, by the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead, He indwells those of us who have faith in Him; and by that faith He enables us to worship Him with all-our-lives.
This is Good News. We don’t deserve to worship God. In and of ourselves we have no right to worship God. This is something that God has accomplished through the gospel of his Son, and it reminds us of our need to confess our sins. We all still have idols in our hearts that need to be toppled and destroyed so that more of who we are would be overcome by his grace, and know a deeper experience of worshiping him.