Welcome back to the Commands of Christ blog series where we are examining together the nine foundational commands given by Jesus and which are essential for new disciples to understand and obey. If you missed the first four posts in this series you can find them by clicking Repent and Believe, Be Baptized, Pray, Make Disciples, and Love.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:18-20).
In this post, we will look at the sixth of nine foundational commands that Christ gave for disciples to obey. This fifth command is to love and is found in Matthew 4:10.
Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve."
You are probably familiar with the context of this verse. Jesus has been baptized by John in the Jordan River. As He came up out of the water the Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and the voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Then the Spirit led Him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He had been fasting for forty days when He was tempted and this verse is His response to the devil following the third of three temptations. Jesus had been taken to a high mountain, from which the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and all their glory. He told Jesus, “All of these I will give to You if You will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus responds to the devil by saying, “Be gone, Satan. For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.”
There is the command to worship God. But like many Christian ideas, concepts, and words, they are used by many without much real thought as to what they mean. So what is worship?
Internal Essence of Worship
We must understand at this point that there are two elements of worship. There is the inner essence of worship and the external expression of worship.
John Piper believes that such a distinction ought to be made because he believes that Jesus does the same in Matthew 15:8-9.
“This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me; in vain do they worship Me.”
In this verse, the internal is the heart and the external is the lips. And when the lips say things that do not accord with what the heart believes, the worship is described as vain or empty. It is not worship. It is not worship if there is not the heart aspect to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church events as you want and never be worshipping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is, in essence, a matter of the heart.
So what is that inner experience of the heart toward God that we call the experience of worship? Maybe Jesus was pointing us toward an answer in John 4: 23-23.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Note that worshipping in spirit is not contrasted with worshipping in the body or with the body. Instead, it is put alongside worshipping in truth.
What is Jesus saying here? I think the point is that right worship, good worship, pleasing worship depends on the right grasp of the way God is – truth. If we worship an idol of our own making, we are not really worshipping God.
An important implication or worshipping in spirit and truth – having a right grasp of the way God is – is coming to value Him as that which is most valuable. Worship depends on a correct spiritual or heart understanding of God’s supreme value. True worship depends on a right understanding of God’s nature and it is a right valuing of God’s worth.
Of course, His worth is infinite. So, true worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things.
The inner essence of worship is the response of the heart when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God. Or you could use words like treasuring or prizing God or delighting in God or reverencing God. All of these inner responses to God reflect His infinite worth and beauty. That is what worship was designed to do: put the supreme worth of God on display.
External Acts of Worship
So, we worship God truly when we know Him truly and treasure Him properly. Then the word worship refers to that inner valuing and treasuring becoming visible in the world in two basic ways in the New Testament. One is acts of the mouth; acts of praise (speaking or singing) and repentance in worship services or small group gatherings. The other is acts of love with the body and the hands and the feet, acts of love that show the supreme value of God by what we are willing to sacrifice for the good of others.
We can see these two basic ways in Hebrews 13:15-16.
Through Him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
These verses begin and end with sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice is an echo from the Old Testament sacrifices which were at the centre of worship and were to display the value of God as we gave up a bull or a goat or some grain and showed that God is precious to us.
We treasure His redemption that comes to us through Jesus Christ. So through Christ, two things become worshipful sacrifices in our life: first, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name (public and private singing and praying and repenting and confessing) and second, the fruit of deeds.
Worship ought to be a part of our everyday life, not music that we listen to or how many church services or events we attend. Let’s worship God in spirit and truth.
So offer to God the fruit of your lips in praise and worship. And don’t neglect to do good. Both are pleasing to God and both are necessary acts of worship.
How has worshipping God helped you in your everyday life? What have you learned? How have you been encouraged or challenged? Please share in the comments, we would love to hear from you!