Worship is the highest activity in which we can engage as human beings. Even if we never go to church, or are linked with any religious order, we all have an uncanny ability to devote ourselves to whatever our passion in life may be with a religion-like zeal. If you don’t believe that, then look again at how sport, music, politics, the arts, sex, celebrity and a host of other things dominate our lives to the point of our being defined by them.
The question every person has to face is whether or not the particular object of their devotion deserves such a central place in his or her life – not just at particular stages or under particular circumstances of life, but literally from the cradle to the grave.
From its very first page the Bible makes it clear there is only one being who deserves such veneration and that is the One from whom all life flows: God.
In the Bible God shows us there are two aspects to the kind of worship he accepts: living a life that honours him and offering the kind of praise that pleases him. These two belong together in a way that safeguards worship from degenerating into mere ritual or empty gestures.
There are a number of key things we need to keep in mind if we want to worship God in a way that is both pleasing and acceptable to him.
In the first place we need to appreciate what shapes and guides our worship: the Bible. Just as we are not pleased by gifts chosen because please the giver, so God is not pleased by worship offered because it happens to please us. God guides his would-be worshippers through his own word as to the kind of praise he delights in.
When we come to worship God, we must also appreciate who God really is: he is the God who is Trinity. This particular Bible teaching is arguably the one teaching that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion. And if that is the case, then when we come to worship the God of the Bible, we must acknowledge him for who he is: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God in three Persons.
We also need to realise that God-honouring worship is worship that we can never offer in our natural condition as human beings. We can only approach God through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (as our mediator) and by his Holy Spirit (through whom we receive new life from God). And all of this we do, not in splendid isolation, but in fellowship with other Christians as we meet together for worship Sunday by Sunday.
There is much more that could be said on this topic. So a more extended summary of how we in Bethel understand what worship is all about can be found in our philosophy of worship: In spirit and truth.