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What is Worship? Obedience Undergirds Expression

The very idea of worship begins and ends with relationship with God. Our God has shown us that His revelation of Himself to us is for the sole purpose of relationship. He needs nothing. He needs no one. But He has proven His desire to make Himself known to us, even to dwell among us.

Because of the clear gap between us–He is God and we aren’t–the principle means by which we can engage this relationship is called worship. We come to Him in full acknowledgment of His superiority, His righteousness, His sovereignty, and His absolute right to have His way with all that He has made. Such an approaching posture is what worship is all about. As His Creation, our obvious response is to bring our lives to Him seeking His desire and purpose. Nothing else makes sense.

So what does this pursuit of relationship with Him look like from our side? The dominant answer would have to be obedience. He is God and we seek to connect with Him by chasing His desires and pursing His purpose. In no other way can we do that except through obedience.

He didn’t leave us to figure that out on our own. Repeatedly, Scripture underscores the idea that obedience is the evidence of our love for Him. Examples dot the Bible of those who claimed to know Him but failed to obey Him, thus proving their “worship” was more about them than Him.

Where does obedience “fit” in the worship expressions of the local church? It seems we’re a bit more focused on expression than obedience. Sure, we give a moral nod to the priority of obedience, but how does that show up in how we lead others in worship? If we asked the average congregant to define worship, how many do you suppose would start with musical expressions? In recent interviews with pastors, even their view of worship was dominated by Sunday morning singing.

Real worship has a Monday-Saturday quality to it. Real worship greets each new day with a desire to be pleasing to God–not so we can earn His favor, but because we already have it. Real worship wants to live every moment as a “thank you” to the God who comes near, as an evidence of the supernatural connection we share, as proof that we really know Him.

Sadly, many modern Christians have become casual in their view of God and careless in how they live before Him. That’s hard to imagine when Jesus said so clearly, “If you love me, you’ll obey my commandments.” How often is God the heartbroken spouse to a Church that only pays attention to Him a few hours each week.

Maybe Sundays should be deeper rather than louder. I don’t mean deeper in complex knowledge so only a few can engage, but deeper in personal reflection and life-altering reflection. Maybe we should turn the lights back on so we can see one another wrestling with our selfishnesses and struggling to become what God offers us to be. Maybe times of worship expression should be less about great feelings and more about sacrificing our self-will on His altar.

Expression over obedience is the unfortunate hallmark of modern worship. That’s the way man has always preferred. Still, the One who makes the rules has a different view, so how can we bring obedience back into our worship. This is the challenge for the modern worship leader. Only when obedience undergirds expression will we truly engage Him in Spirit and truth.

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