Have We Sometimes Short-Circuited The Definition Of Worship?
In the last post, Worship According To Jesus…What’s Missing?, we talked about how some define worship as love, adoration, passionate yearning, heartfelt devotion, etc. This is good; yet, when we look at the life of Jesus, He EXPANDS the definition of worship. I’m about to give some examples from His life, but first I would like to further explore the definition of worship.
Go to your favorite search engine and type in “definition of worship” and read some of the entries. I would say that probably most of them would fit along with “love, adoration, reverence, devotion”. Some will probably throw in “obedience”. Obedience is certainly a biblical definition for worship. Samuel said, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.” The apostle John said, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” You can’t argue with that. Worship is obedience, but worship can go beyond obedience.
What is an example of worship that goes beyond mere obedience? For starters, “Cheerful giving” would be one example. We are commanded to give, but we are not commanded to give cheerfully. Nevertheless, God loves a cheerful giver! Worship can go beyond obeying, and can also include the manner and attitude of how we obey.
What’s another example of worship beyond obedience? Let’s look at a child. How do children worship their heroes? They do more than just obey, love, and adore, don’t they? What do kids do? They start dressing like their heroes (see picture above). If their hero is an “American Idol” or a music star, then they want to sing like they do, or in the style that they do. Kids will go beyond action and will take on the attitudes of their heroes. They will read, watch, listen, and discuss everything they can about their heroes. They mimic, they act out, and portray their heroes. They worship their heroes by imitating them. (Here’s where we sometimes short-circuit the definition of worship. We don’t often include words like “mimic”, “imitate”, or “portray to define the actions of those who truly worship.) They will “DO” what they see their hero “DOING”. Does this sound like a familiar Bible verse?
Did Jesus Have A Hero?
Now, let me ask this question: Did Jesus think of someone as being “The Greatest”? Let’s listen carefully to these words, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”– John 10:29. “You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.–John 14:28. Jesus deeply revered the Father. Jesus “looked up” to the Father.
As we said earlier, children worship their heroes by watching and doing what they do. Jesus humbled himself, watched His Father, and did what the Father did. Now, please understand that I’m not saying that Jesus went around dressing up like some cheap imitation of a Great Shepherd. What I am saying is that he patterned Himself after the Father. Jesus explained this very pattern by saying, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does–John 5:19. So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [the one I claim to be] and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me–John 8:28. Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does–John 10:37. Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working”– John 5:17. I believe that Jesus behaved this way not just out of rote obedience or to just fulfill a prophecy or plan. I believe that He truly revered His Father with such devotion that His heart wanted to follow every move, action, and attitude of the Father.
What Did Jesus Have To Learn?
Isn’t it striking that according to John 8:28 Jesus, the Son of God, actually had to be “taught” some of the things of God by the Father? Wow! Can you picture this in your mind? Jesus was an exceptionally eager learner who became ultimately dependent upon the Father, and hung on every word that the Father spoke to Him. What was Jesus learning from the Father? Jesus was not only learning what to do and say, but I tend to think that He was somehow studying the mannerisms of the Father. What do I base that on? Listen carefully to the following verse: “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”—John 12:49-50 NIV. Jesus wasn’t the type of man who just wanted to know facts, He always wanted to know the heart of a matter. Remember Jesus said that He only does what He “sees” His Father doing. To me, this indicates that He was a keen observant student, and He studied the Father. He would go alone to spend time with the Father.
Some would call this extreme hero-idolizing, Paul called it worship. “Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship—Rom. 12:1. There’s an old saying that goes, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I wonder if imitating is also the sincerest form of worship? Paul said, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” Ephesians 5:1-2.
So, here’s a crude definition of biblical worship towards God according to the life of Jesus: 1) To obey, love, cherish, adore, and be devoted to the point that the way you live speaks these very words. 2) To go beyond mere obedience and into an attitude and lifestyle where you mimic, imitate, and take on the likeness and identity of the one you worship. 3) To become so closely aligned with the one you worship that you allow them to live their life through you, which would require you to become a living sacrifice.
Here is where I’m turning it over to you to comment: I want to hear from you on this question. How can we be Imitator-Worshipers of God? I’ll start by giving you this link called, “Mimicking Christ” http://www.c-we.com/adelumc/110102.htm
(SIDE NOTE: Paul on several occasions urged people to imitate him also: 1 Corinthians 4:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, 1 Thessalonians 1:6. We are also encouraged to imitate the faith of those “who led you, who spoke the word of God to you”–Hebrews 13:7. We are also told, “…so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith…”—Hebrews 6:12. I suppose we all need models to follow after.)
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