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Falling Down

Throughout the United States, evangelical Christians attend churches week after week in order to hear preaching, participate in music, and to experience God. Often, people refer to Sunday services as “worship” service. Even more commonly, congregants refer to the musical portion of their service as “worship.”


Throughout the United States, evangelical Christians attend churches week after week in order to hear preaching, participate in music, and to experience God. Often, people refer to Sunday services as “worship” service. Even more commonly, congregants refer to the musical portion of their service as “worship.”

The definition of worship has been limited by the conventional characteristics attributed to it. In addition to the faulty but popular view of worship as only music, there is also a prevailing sense that worship is about a particular euphoric feeling that a congregant gains during service. Heightened emotion, a sense of God’s presence (which are great things to occur during worship), and general entertainment value seem to exhaust the popular definition of what should occur if worship has taken place. But while these attributes can be valid parts of worship, they fail to acknowledge the objective of worship, that is, the primacy of God as sovereign, and submission to that truth.

The Apostle Paul, in Romans 12:1 sums up the Christian’s “reasonable service of worship” when he says: “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Paul’s definition of worship suggests a holistic and God-centered response to living, which envelops more than Sunday service, but your everything.

The word “worship” is used over 180 times in the New American Standard Bible. However, worship denotes distinct characteristics, which, while not exhaustive, are representative of what worship entails:

    Deuteronomy 6:13 (cf. Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 5:9): worship God exclusively

    Deuteronomy 26:10  (cf. Matthew 2:11): present possessions to God

    1 Chronicles 16:29 (cf. Psalm 2:11): worship with reverence

    2 Chronicles 29:28 (cf. 2 Chronicles 29:30): worship with song and praise

    Psalm 86:9 (cf. Psalm 22:27; Psalm 66:4): all the nations will ultimately participate

    Nehemiah 9:3: worship with confession

    John 9:36 -39 (cf. Judges 7:15; Matthew 14:33): belief in God as He has revealed himself

    John 4:23-24; Philippians 3:3: worship in the (S)pirit

    Romans 12:1 (cf. Daniel 3:28): worship is holistic, physical

    Hebrews 10:2: remembrance of God’s salvation through Christ’s sacrifice

    Revelation 4:9-11 (cf. Genesis 24:26, 48; Genesis 27:31; 2 Chronicles 20:18; Job 1:20; Psalm 95:6; Psalm 99:5; Psalm 132:7; John 9:35-38; Revelation 5:14; Revelation 7:11; Revelation 11:16;  Revelation 19:10) : worship is falling down before God’s throne; prostration.

    Revelation 14:7 (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:3; Psalm 29:2): glorifying/fearing God’s name and attributes  

    Revelation 19:4 (cf. Nehemiah 8:6): worship involves exclamation

Ultimately, worship in the Old and New Testaments is a combination of internal attitude and external acts. The worshiper is faithful to the one true God, above all else. Internally, the worshiper is yielded in the Spirit, possesses a truthful heart, blameless before God. The worshiper freely confesses sin, and approaches God with reverence and praise, ascribing to Him the glory that He is due. Externally, God accepts worship in a variety of ways, through prayer and giving, praise and song, and through dedication of everything that the worshiper has. God welcomes diversity in worship, and the end of the age will culminate in people of all tribes and nations falling down in worship to Him.

The most consistent imagery throughout the Bible concerning worship is its association with “falling down” at the feet of the one worshiped. Reverence and self–abasement, and a view of the loftiness and holiness of God lie at the center of worship throughout the Bible.

Sharifa Stevens

Sharifa Stevens is a Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised child of the King, born to Jamaican immigrants, and currently living in Dallas. Sharifa's been singing since she was born. Her passion is to serve God's kingdom by leading His people in worship through music, speaking and writing, and relationships with people. Her heart is also unity, inspired by John. Sharifa hates exercise but likes Chipotle, bagels with a schmeer and lox, salmon sushi, chicken tikka, curried goat (yeah, it's good) with rice and peas, and chocolate lava cakes. She's been happily married to Jonathan since 2006...and he buys her Chipotle.

3 Comments

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    Sue Bohlin

    :::Nodding:::
    This is why I appreciate the fact that our pastor dismisses us on Sunday with, "Go have a great week of worship."

    • Avatar

      Sharifa Stevens

      EXACTLY, Sue!
      Especially at

      EXACTLY, Sue!

      Especially at the time of Advent, I think it’s timely to ponder what worship is, and how it pervades all of life. The incarnation of the Son of God is the prime example of what it is to take on the mission of glorifying God and submitting to His will.

  • Avatar

    bleek

    yes, I “love” God
    equally deserving of clarification is the phrases surrounding “loving” God. as those prophets of old have said, “Love is a verb.”

    worship requires glorifying God, which requires reflecting the nature & attributes of God (see John Hannah’s excellent sermon). thus, justice and joy, music and movement, gratitude and giving, etc. are integral to worship, to loving God.

    Jesus ain’t my prom date. he’s my Lord.