Unravelling what true worship is, and how to better posture ourselves to remain at the core and center of what it was originally intended to be.
I have often wrestled with the question – what is true worship? One can dissect it in such a way that it becomes complicated and muddled. However, I realised that in our analysing, which in itself can be valuable, we can easily drift away from the core and centre of what our worship should be – which is the beautiful man named Jesus. It cannot be any other way.
Worship becomes corrupt if we displace Jesus with any other concept – yet how often do we allow this to happen?
In Revelation 4 we see worship playing out in heaven. Oh, how wonderful it must have been for John to have witnessed this scene in person?
In verse 2-3 we see a description of Jesus as being radiant, and seated on a throne. In the midst of all this we find twenty-four thrones with twenty-four elders sitting on them, as well as four living creatures, whose wings are covered with eyes.
As these creatures cried out “Holy, holy, holy”, the elders would fall before Him and cast their crowns down saying,
“You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.”
Revelation 4:11 (NIV)
Why is this piece of scripture important? I believe this scene highlights some key rhythms important for us to understand what it means to truly worship.
This scene is an invitation to all of us. As these elders and creatures behold Him on the throne, they cannot help but proclaim what they are seeing. It is important for us to see this too.
We must mine the Scriptures to know Him more fully and therefore to love Him more deeply. We must take time to linger on descriptions of His nature and attributes of His person, allowing the Holy Spirit to breathe upon our hearts the devotion and awe that He is due.
“Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” – Psalm 145:3 (NIV)
How we regard God and how we regard ourselves are intricately linked to our heart posture during worship.
Why would God surround Himself with these creatures and elders? Why would this scene of worship go on day and night? Why would the elders fall before Him and lay down their crowns? Why? Because of His infinite worth.
Why do we sing? Why do we lift our hands? Why would we dance and shout in worship? Why would we be undignified before Him? Why would we preach the Gospel? Why would we walk in purity? Why would we handle our finances in a godly way?
Because He is worthy – His worth is infinite. It is His worth that sustains our worship.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
If we view Jesus in light of His worth, there can only be one response – that of humility. One cannot help but cast down all of our own ambition, dreams, honor and glory at His feet – just as the elders fell before Him – it speaks of becoming nothing in light of Him being everything.
Andrew Murray once said, “Humility is the displacement of self by the enthronement of God.” Humility is not just simply having a “low regard of oneself”, but it is having an absolute high regard of who God is.
Jesus demonstrated humility by only doing what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19). Jesus went as far as saying that He can do nothing apart from the Father. What a statement! He was completely yielded and submitted to the Father. He positioned Himself in such a posture of humility that it brought both honour and glory to the Father.
Whether it is because of busyness, my own selfishness, laziness, trauma, etc. – we can’t afford to drift away from this intimate posture. This influences our worship, and likewise, holds a danger in corrupting it too. Pride, in its essence, is worship of oneself. We, as God’s creation, were made to worship and enjoy God, and therefore we will always want to worship and enjoy something else if God does not fill this space. Oswald Chambers describes it as follows, “The real attitude of sin in the heart towards God is that of being without God; it is pride, the worship of myself.” May God deliver us (especially myself) from a prideful heart.
Beholding, proclaiming and positioning ourselves in humility – in light of His worth – are important ingredients that are seen in Revelation 4. We can sing all the right songs, be perfect in our skill and musical ability, and yet only build on ourselves. Displacing God from the centre can sometimes happen subtly, and not just in the songs we sing, but also in our innermost core. It’s in beholding Him that our hearts soften and our hearts are stirred in awe and wonder at the beauty of Jesus.