What is worship? The question has been asked a lot lately, especially considering that it is Celebration Week at GWU and the theme of the week is worship. And I struggle with the concept of worship probably most. Because as hard as I try, I cannot see worship in the music that plays over most CCM radio, I cannot see it in the brilliant light shows of the mega church. I cannot see it in all the places that Christian culture insists that it is.
I remember going to a Hillsong concert last semester. I stood and sang the songs and gave all appearances of being a thrilled worshipper worshipping in Spirit and Truth. But worship was the farthest thing from me. The giant stage was laid out like a huge cross, tinged with red lights running on all sides of it, and overhead, huge spotlights and lasers shone down, accentuating the fog spilling through the air, as the band boldly sang out declarations of God’s faithfulness.
In all honesty, I am cynical. I’d much rather hear those bold declarations of God’s love and faithfulness in a rowdier setting with mosh pits and crunching metal, but even that is not worship. While stadium seating made me uncomfortable, that is not why my heart was far from worshipful that night. While I find most modern worship music to be bland and repetitive, that is not why I struggle with worship.
I struggle with worship because of this:
“For worship is, essentially, the reverse of sin. Sin began (and begins) when we succumb to the temptation, “You shall be as gods.” We make ourselves the center of the universe and dethrone God. By contrast, worship is giving God his true worth; it is acknowledging Him to be the Lord of all things, and the Lord of everything in our lives. He is, indeed, the Most High God!”
-Sinclair B. Ferguson
I struggle with worship because I am utterly selfish. I struggle with worship because everything in me wants the glory, and I am driven by self sufficiency and there is no end to the depths of my arrogant, prideful heart. Everything in me cries for the glory of being my own god.
But I believe that worship begins when our self-fascination ends. Worship is the cry of a heart that has been faced with its own depravity in comparison with the beauty of Christ, and the sacrifice he made to deliver us from the sin we so eagerly run to. And in seeing the brokenness contained in my heart, I see just how unable I am to be the god I want to be. My selfishness dies in pursuit of the One who took all my excuses for my pride away from me.
We ask for humility…and I think that is noble. It’s interesting, however, that humility and humiliation share the same root. So I’m asking God, for His glory, to humiliate me because I know that Christ is the only good thing in me. Worship is amplifying that.
May the only desirable thing in me be the only thing I desire,
That my pride would die and make way for the Worthy One to which we sing.
We are not our own, we were bought at a price. And because of who God is, we see how small we are. And we can respond to this selfishly, clinging to our worthless idols made in our image, or we can accept the truth of God’s glory enthroned above ours, so much so that ours is diminished and we remember why we worship–because he is the only one deserving of our praise.
Worship is not a style of music or an inspiring sermon. Worship is a life devoted to God, who rescued us from the pit. Worship is letting Christ, the one desirable thing in us be the one thing we desire.
True worship is found in submission.