What is God looking for in worship?

Posted: January 15, 2019

Worship matters. The rhythm of work and rest, a rest that was accompanied by worship, was a command that God gave us in the early chapters of Genesis. However, God’s heart breaks when our worship degenerates into empty religious ritual. 

What is God looking for in worship?

When we say “I love you” to someone, we expect a response. Hopefully, we will hear the reply, “I love you, too.” When we give a gift, we expect a response. A “thank you” is nice to hear. When God shows himself to us in his splendor, in his wonder, and in his glory, it seems entirely reasonable that God expects a response. That response is worship.

The two words revelation and response sum it up. God reveals and we respond. God acts and we respond. God gives and we respond. God teaches and we respond. God corrects and we respond. God reminds and we respond. And God loves, so we respond with love and worship. Our response may be praise and wonder (like so many of the psalmists do), gratitude and thanksgiving (like the forgiven prostitute who wept at Jesus’ feet), brokenness and confession (like many of the Psalms), or obedience and sacrifice (see Romans 12:1, 2).

Jesus provided some very succinct and meaningful teaching on the meaning of worship when he engaged a Samaritan woman in conversation. Jesus overwhelms this woman with his insights and she responds with growing curiosity.  

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." 

Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:19-24, NASB).

Mount Gerizim was sacred to the Samaritans, as this was where Abraham met Melchizedek. Jesus explains how a crisis or a change is coming. The temple would be destroyed, a new era would begin, and worship would no longer be temple-focused. To “worship in spirit,” Jesus says, is not simply outward and in the right place. Authentic worship is the antithesis to externals of place, time, or circumstances. Authentic worship was a response from something so much deeper inside of us.

Spiritual worship is a response to the very nature of God, because God is Spirit. “Spirit and truth” is about sincerity and authenticity (the real thing and the true thing). It speaks of rendering such homage to God that the entire heart enters into the act, and doing this in full harmony with the truth of God as revealed in His Word. Such worship, therefore, will not only be spiritual instead of physical, inward instead of outward, but it will also be directed to the one true God as set forth in Scripture. A humble and sincere heart and a correct understanding of God are both needed.

What is God looking for in worship? He is not looking for hollow, empty religious activities! He is not looking for big offerings or big numbers and the temptation to brag that may go with these. He is not looking for a particular music style. God is looking for a sincere response to a revelation of his greatness and goodness.

So I invite you to read these words from our sacred Scriptures:

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness (Psalm 29:2, NIV).

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory (Psalm 63:2, NIV).

May they sing of the ways of the Lord, for the glory of the Lord is great (Psalm 138:5, NIV).

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory (Isaiah 6:3, NIV).

Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all (1 Chronicles 29:11, NIV).

How will you respond?