What is Worship?

Before my freshman year of high school, my dad and I took a road trip together. We both enjoy baseball so we drove from Houston to Chicago and saw four baseball games in three different stadiums along the way. The trip culminated with us celebrating my dad’s fortieth birthday at Wrigley Field – a historic stadium on both of our sports bucket lists. Before the first pitch, my dad put his arm around my stadium seat, leaned over and said, “I couldn’t imagine a better place to spend my birthday, or a better person to spend it with.”

It wasn’t just what we were doing that was special, it was that we got to do it together that elevated the joy of the occasion and made for a lifelong memory.

Theologians since the Westminster Catechism (and likely before) have argued that “the chief end of man, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Our lives are intended to glorify – to worship – God. And not only are we created to worship him, but in doing so, we get to enjoy him; we take pleasure in his presence. Christian worship, and a life marked by it, is intended to be a joyful experience.

So, what is worship? Christian worship is the joy-filled, whole-life response to who God is and what he has done for us in Christ.

Christian Worship

Worship is the expression of reverence and adoration of something. We all worship. The question is to what or to whom will we ascribe ultimate worship? We can worship money, sex, power, sports, and any number of false “gods.” Often our worship is shaped by our affections. We ascribe worth to what we love most. So Christian worship then, is intended to embed us in the story of God’s grace, allowing the story of his redemption and restoration to shape our affections for him. Therefore, Christian worship is the expression of ultimate reverence and adoration of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  

Worship is a Response

Notice worship is a response. God is the initiator of worship, meaning he moves first. He creates. He calls. He saves. He gives grace. We hear his call, are reminded of his grace, and then we respond with worship. This is why some worship services begin with what is known as a “Call to Worship.” We recognize that God, by his Spirit, initiated our worship gathering. He drew us to respond to the gospel initially, and is drawing us to worship him as a church. So, at the beginning of a worship service, someone will typically read a passage of Scripture, or initiate a call and response because it signifies God’s initiation of the worship gathering. Worship is a response.

Worship is Whole Life

If we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, our souls, our mind, and our strength (the greatest commandment), then worship must include our whole life. Our affections (heart), our spirit (soul), our intellect (mind), and our body (strength) are all involved in worshipping God. We use our minds to think about and engage the mind of God. We allow God to stir our affections – growing our heart and our love for God. When it comes to our bodies, our posture often reflects not only what we think, but what we feel about who God is, in worship. Thus, in a worship service, we may stand in reverence, kneel in prayer or submission, raise our hands in praise, close our eyes in reflection, or any number of postures that best communicates our worship.

This is why worship is about more than just the songs we sing. Although music can help shape our affections for God and give us words to help express our gratitude and praise for him, worship is more than that. Music is just one element of a worship service. Prayer, the reading of God’s word, giving, confession, teaching, the Lord’s Supper, all of these are habits we practice that shape our hearts to worship God the other 167 hours of the week. What we do corporately is intended to shape how we worship God individually.

Romans 12:1 makes this clear: “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.” Christian worship is not a one-hour-a-week kind of worship; it’s a whole life response to who God is and what he has done for us in Christ.

Who God Is and What He Has Done

Theologian Edmund Clowney once wrote: “The gospel is a call to worship, to turn from sin and call upon the name of the Lord.” Worship is an act of repenting and believing the gospel. When we embed ourselves in the gospel storylines, and remind each other of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we turn from our sin and repent. Repentance is not only turning away from an old way of living, it is turning towards God and, in doing so, ascribing worth to the only one worthy of it. Christian worship is a response to who God is and what he has done for us in Christ.

Worship is Joy-filled

When our lives are a living response to the gospel and we glorify God, we in turn, enjoy him forever. Worship is intended to be a joyful experience. Certainly, there are times where other emotions are at play. We can worship in times of grief or despair (see the Psalms for example). But remember: joy is not a temporary emotion. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 2:20) and is an orientation of the heart to be content, confident, and hopeful despite our ever-changing circumstances. In fact, notice how often the Psalms command us to pursue joy in God through worship:

Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart. (Psalm 32:11)

Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. (Psalm 33:1)

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy; For You will judge the peoples with uprightness and guide the nations on the earth. (Psalm 67:4)

Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. (Psalm 100:1–2)

God created us to worship and in turn experience joy. When we delight in God, he delights in us (Isaiah 62:3-5). When we draw near to God, he draws near to us (James 4:8). And when the church experiences joy in worship together, it is a shared experience, where our joy is multiplied. This is not only true for believers, but when the church worships with unbelievers in its midst, and when the church passionately confesses the truths of the gospel with one voice, unbelievers must wrestle with the truth claims of God (Acts 2:42-47).

Christian worship is the joy-filled, whole-life response to who God is and what he has done for us in Christ.


 

Resources on Faith & Science

This is a modest list of resources for further study into issues of faith and science. This is by no means exhaustive but hopefully a fair representation of the different interpretive views within orthodox Christianity. As previously stated in our ‘Faith & Science’ series, CCCC doesn’t hold to a specific interpretive position. With that said, the listing of resources here is not an endorsement (indeed, these works disagree with each other). On the contrary, we encourage you do the work both personally and in community in order to discover which of these resources makes best sense of the two books of God: his Word and his World. It should also be noted that descriptions were taken from other sources such as the publishers.

Faith & Science in General

The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis Collins is for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike. The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt and faith and as well as his experiences as a genetics researcher with discussions of science and spirituality, especially centering around evolution.


Quarks, Chaos & Christianity: Questions to Science and Religion by Sir John Polkinghorne draws on discoveries made in atomic physics to make credible the claims of Christianity, and helps refine Christian perceptions through the knowledge that the new science brings. He discusses belief in God, chaos, evolution, miracles, and prayer, and gives an answer to the question: Can a scientist believe?


Science and Religion: A New Introduction by Alister McGrath. This popular textbook introduces readers to the central questions in the field of science and religion. Ideally suited to those who have little or no prior knowledge in either area, it examines the historical, theological, philosophical and scientific aspects of the interaction between religion and science. Takes a topic-based approach which fits into the existing structure of most courses, and includes explanatory material not found in other works of this kind, making it highly accessible for those with little scientific or religious background knowledge.

Interpretive Views of Creation

Literal View (Young Earth Creationism)

Gap View

Day/Age View

Literary Framework / Ancient Near East View

CCCC’s “Understanding Creation” Presentations

Other Faith and Science Resources

Conversations Between Different Viewpoints

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design by Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, Deborah B. Haarsma, and Stephen Meyer. Presents the current “state of the conversation” about origins among evangelicals representing four key positions: 1) Young Earth Creationism – Ken Ham (Answers in Genesis), 2) Old Earth (Progressive) Creationism – Hugh Ross (Reasons to Believe), 3) Evolutionary Creation – Deborah B. Haarsma (BioLogos), 4) Intelligent Design – Stephen C. Meyer (The Discovery Institute). The contributors offer their best defense of their position addressing questions such as: What is your position on origins – understood broadly to include the physical universe, life, and human beings in particular? What do you take to be the most persuasive arguments in defense of your position? How do you demarcate and correlate evidence about origins from current science and from divine revelation? What hinges on answering these questions correctly?

Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos by Kenneth Keathley (Editor). Christians confess that God created the heavens and the earth, but they are divided over how God created and whether the Bible gives us a scientifically accurate account of the process of creation. Representatives of two prominent positions – old earth creation (Reasons to Believe) and evolutionary creation (BioLogos) – have been in dialogue over the past decade to understand where they agree and disagree on key issues in science and theology. This book is the result of those meetings that touches on many of the pressing debates in science and faith, including biblical authority, the historicity of Adam and Eve, human genetics and common descent, the problem of natural evil, and methodological naturalism. Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation? invites readers to listen in as Christian scholars weigh the evidence, explore the options, and challenge each other on the questions of creation and evolution. In a culture of increasing polarization, this is a model for charitable Christian dialogue.

Intelligent Design

Discovery Institute website

Darwin’s Black Box by Michael J. Behe helped to launch the intelligent design movement: the argument that nature exhibits evidence of design, beyond Darwinian randomness. It sparked a national debate on evolution, which continues to intensify across the country. From one end of the spectrum to the other, Darwin’s Black Box has established itself as the key intelligent design text — the one argument that must be addressed in order to determine whether Darwinian evolution is sufficient to explain life as we know it.


 

The Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen C. Meyer. Meyer presents a convincing new case for intelligent design (ID), based on revolutionary discoveries in science and DNA. Along the way, Meyer argues that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution as expounded in The Origin of Species did not, in fact, refute ID.


Evolutionary Creation

Biologos website

How I Changed My Mind About Evolution: Evangelicals Reflect on Faith and Science by Applegate and Stump (Editors). Many evangelicals have come to accept the conclusions of science while still holding to a vigorous belief in God and the Bible. How did they make this journey? Here are the stories of 25 people who have come to embrace evolution and faith, including Francis Collins, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, James K.A. Smith, Jennifer Wiseman, and N.T. Wright.


 

Adam and the Genome: Reading Scripture After Genetic Science by Dennis Venema and Scott McKnight. Genomic science indicates that humans descend not from an individual pair but from a large population. What does this mean for the basic claim of many Christians: that humans descend from Adam and Eve? Leading evangelical geneticist Dennis Venema and popular New Testament scholar Scot McKnight combine their expertise to offer informed guidance and answers to questions pertaining to evolution, genomic science, and the historical Adam. The authors address up-to-date genomics data with expert commentary from both genetic and theological perspectives, showing that genome research and Scripture are not irreconcilable. It should be noted that some readers found Venema’s first half of the book sounder than McKnight’s conclusions in the second half.

Sin and Playing the ‘Don’t Judge’ Card

Don’t judge others, Jesus didn’t judge others.

It’s an easy statement to make – ubiquitous on social media.  Folk use it to defend politicians, athletes, celebrities, or anyone else’s behavior that the New Testament clearly defines as sin.

The advantage being leveraged is the ignorance of Christians who don’t know what the Bible says about judging (and the different uses of the word) combined with the corrosive power of a shame culture that loves to embarrass, cajole, and marginalize people who don’t toe the latest societal line. That’s why its common when professed Christians essentially make statements like “God loves everyone as everyone, so everyone can do what everyone wants to do” to be met either with virtual silence from Christians who know better or supported with cheers by others who don’t.

To actually look at the context of Jesus’ warning in Matt. 7:1-2 to “judge not, that you be not judged,” is to realize that Christ isn’t prohibiting the identification of something as sinful but the hypocrisy of legalistic religion that thrills in doing so before first sincerely examining potentially greater sin struggles in one’s own life (e.g., the speck/log contrast). This seems to be the definition of judging Jesus is using in this oft-quoted, oft-misapplied passage. The point Christ makes is that singling out the lesser sin struggles of others while hypocritically holding onto greater transgressions is the kind of religious hypocrisy that is the opposite of the kingdom of God. Ahem, please note that Jesus even “judges” his listeners in this very passage by calling them hypocrites (v. 5)! Therefore, we have an admonition for Christians to keep growing in the gospel so they would be quicker to examine their own hearts for sin struggles and slower to criticize other believers for theirs.

However, slower isn’t the same as not at all.

The idea it’s automatically unloving or un-Christian to properly call someone’s sinful behavior as sin is far afield from what Jesus said or did. Furthermore, it’s far afield from what his apostles did and said in the rest of the New Testament.

For example, in 1 Cor. 5, the Apostle Paul writes in the local church at Corinth, “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.” 1

If this were written in 2019 some might be shouting Paul down on Facebook as unloving or give him a Twitter “clap back” shaming him for “judging” others (ironically, both judgments in themselves) because God accepts everyone as they are, or that love is love, or some other bumper sticker platitude that gets you likes and attaboys on the social network echo chamber.

But the apostle not only says what this self-professed Christian is doing is sinful but also that the community of faith should respond to this situation. Interestingly, Paul adds that the Corinthian church isn’t to include non-Christians in this kind of accountability. Dealing with the sins of someone in this communal way applies only to those who consider themselves to be a part of the community of Jesus (v. 11, “anyone who bears the name of brother”). Paul then sums up the principle in vv. 12-13, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”

It’s illuminating that the apostle’s expectation for the world and the church are completely different. He knows unbelievers aren’t compelled to follow kingdom ethics (e.g., sexuality, stewardship) nor should Christians expect them to follow Jesus as King or see God’s Word as authoritative and binding on their lives. Thus, the community of faith has no accountability with “outsiders” in those matters.

However, the tune changes when it comes to those within the community of faith.2 While the gospel should shape our addressing any sin with grace, humility, and a keen awareness of our own shortcomings, make no mistake, it also creates a community where sin can be not only identified but also, if need be, confronted. That’s why the expected answer of the question, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” is “Yes” provided the kind of judging is the kind Paul has outlined and not weighing into someone’s eternity as if we were God the Judge.

Neither Jesus nor the rest of the New Testament knows anything of the idea that calling something sinful the Scripture considers the same is somehow the sin of “judging others.”3 It’s merely just agreeing with what God’s Word says. Just make sure if you are agreeing with what God’s Word says about any kind of sin, you also do it with the understanding that the only reason you are a follower of Jesus is because God in his grace redeemed you from the same sinful situation as everyone else. And that were it not for the Cross and the wondrous love of God in Christ, we would all be far from him.

This should also help us see that followers of Jesus fall into a spiritually dangerous situation when they erroneously play the “don’t judge others” card in refusing to acknowledge sinful behavior in other professed Christians. This sets them up at some kind of quasi-authority who knows better than the New Testament ethic (and likely Christian orthodoxy throughout the last two millennia) and leads some scrambling to Google any and all other articles or videos of professing believers that would agree with them. But this kind of strategy only parallels, in a sobering way I might add, Paul’s words to the Romans, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (1:32). Talk about judgment!

It’s more likely that people who play the “Don’t judge” card do so because they’ve confused acceptance with endorsement. They want to rightfully love/support their person in question and think that in order to do so they must wrongfully endorse everything that person does without hesitation. But acceptance is different from endorsement. Contrary to the cultural forces that say differently, you can accept someone for who they are without endorsing everything they do.

To not endorse certain behavior in believers (because it’s sinful) isn’t unloving or unkind. In fact, it’s the most honest kind of love. It’s the kind of love Jesus gave to the woman caught in the act of adultery. Once again, Jesus pushes back on the hypocrisy of the religious leadership when he says to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”4 But, after they leave, Christ turns to the woman and says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”5 Jesus’ love is one that takes her where she is but doesn’t leave her where she is. This woman, after meeting Jesus, is to seek obedience from this time forward. So while Christ’s love fully accepts, it doesn’t fully endorse. He doesn’t say, “I love you for who you are so do whatever you choose,” but the opposite, “I am for you. You know what is right and wrong. Seek to obey.” Jesus loves this woman best because he is honest with her about who she is and what she had done. This is grace and truth, not grace or truth. Together they’re helpful, but offering one without the other is damaging and dangerous.6

Unfortunately employing the “Don’t judge” trump card retards our real growth in the gospel because it keeps us from being honest about sin and sinners. It’s grace over truth, not grace with truth. As much as arrogantly, pridefully condemning others reveals a lack of knowledge about the truth of the gospel so does endorsing sinful behavior in other believers while telling everyone else how wrong they are for calling sin a sin.

May Jesus tutor us all as his followers into what loving other believers (and unbelievers) looks like for our good, their good, and his glory!