It's important to understand the difference between worshiping God and the WAYS we express our worship. Most people focus on the expressions of worship and neglect the heart of worship. Let's talk about the heart of worship first.
What is worship? Well, the first thing we learn from the Bible is that worship is a spiritual act.
"God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 (ESV)
Jesus spoke the words quoted above, and He said that we must worship God "in spirit." But what exactly does that mean? The Apostle Paul gives us insight in his letter to the Romans:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 (ESV)
Here Paul says that our "spiritual act of worship" is presenting our very lives to God as a "living sacrifice." Under the Old Covenant the people of God would sacrifice animals for various reasons, and one of those reasons was to show a person's complete devotion to God. Under the New Covenant we don't sacrifice animals — instead we sacrifice OURSELVES. But it's a "living sacrifice" meaning that we don't die physically. A living sacrifice is one where we come to God and offer our lives to Him — to live for Him and to serve Him with all our hearts.
So, according to the Bible, to worship God spiritually means to offer yourself daily to the Lord and for His purpose. This is worship.
Now, let's talk about EXPRESSIONS of worship.
It's important to remember that expressions of worship ARE NOT WORSHIP. It's just the way we express our worship. Some expressions of worship include:
- Lifting hands
- Shouting to the Lord in praise
- Some groups even include dancing to express their worship
These are all acceptable expressions, but they are NOT themselves worship. Worship comes from the heart, not from the hands or mouth or feet. Anyone can do any of the things listed above and still not worship God.
Think of it this way: Imagine you asked me to define "love" between a husband and wife, and I responded by saying, "Love is kissing and embracing." But wait...people can do those things without being in love. Kissing and embracing can be expressions of love, but they are not what love is. Love comes from the heart — not the body.
So let's review. Worship is the act of offering oneself to the Lord in surrender to His Lordship.
We can express our worship in many ways but we must never allow those expressions to become worship. Worship comes from the heart.