Worship That Goes Beyond Obedience

Elvis Has Not Left the Building (Trapped #18)

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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8 Responses to Worship That Goes Beyond Obedience

  1. Elmo Shangnaster says:

    If you’ll permit me, gonna go off on a tangent here just to read any of the ideas others may have…

    For Jesus to learn, wouldn’t that imply that He didn’t know all there was to know, and therefore wasn’t omniscient? It’s not that I can’t abide by such a concept, but I’ve found there is this ongoing debate in Christian circles about qualifying God’s knowledge.

    Some take the classically orthodox view that God was omniscient; a thorough and complete knowledge of everything. Others take an Aprevistan or, like Greg Boyd, called an Open Theology view. God knows what He chooses or wants to know. Aprevistanians point to such scripture as Genesis 3:9 (Did God know or didn’t He?) or Exodus 3:7-10 (What did God know and when did He know it?) to support their position that God may not know what we choose in our free will.

    So if Jesus had to learn from the Father I guess my questions are, “What did Jesus know and when did He know it?”, “Was He learning during His earthly existence?”, “If He was learning from the Father, wouldn’t that imply that He could learn from others?”

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Wow! I hope others will respond to this. About two years ago, one of the elders from my Baptist church (Baptists have Elders? This church is Southern Baptist affiliated w/ a lot of Orthodox Presbyterian influence) did a lot of research with me on the Humanity/Divinty of Jesus. Unfortunately, I lost all of my notes. I hope that he still has his. The whole process began when he asked the question, “What is the point in the pursuit of specific petitioning prayer if everything is already planned and predestined?” He reasoned, “Since God is sovereign and has all knowledge (past, present, future), then it stands to reason that He knows exactly how everything will occur. Therefore, He must have a Sovereign plan, and if there is a sovereign plan, then wouldn’t petitioning prayer be a futile exercise since nothing can possibly change?” It was an eye-opening exercise, that took place over several months. We each played the advocate to whatever research the other one dug up. It made both of our heads spin, and yet, we seemed to come to some kind of conclusion. I’ve got to find those notes!

      Isnt’ it interesting how the Book of Revelation begins? The “him” in verse 1 speaks of Jesus. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, WHICH GOD GAVE HIM to show to His bond-servants…” Revelation, as you know, is revealed knowledge. It seems or appears from this verse that this “revealed knowledge” did not originate with Jesus (He didn’t have it, He didn’t know it) until the Father gave/imparted it to Him. This seeming lack of knowledge is further pointed out when Jesus says, “”No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, NOR THE SON, but only the Father.

      • Elmo Shangnaster says:

        This is an issue twirling around in my head lately. Been reading Vox Day’s blog of late, who happens to take the aprevistan position. It does explain a lot of scripture, but makes some Calvinists nervous. They take offense to the idea because they believe it limits God, but personally I don’t see it that way.

        Anyway, sorry I’m going off track, but I like what you have to say about mimicry and worship. It does go much deeper than what we do, but to who we are.

  2. Amy says:

    I just don’t know about the part where you talk about Jesus having to learn ways of the Father. A little flag went off in my head when I read that. Perhaps the verse was talking about learning some traditions?? I don’t know, I’d have to think about that. Since scripture says Jesus was fully God, fully man, that sort of thows off learning about Him for me. I personally have learned more about God by tuning out the other “teachings” or opinions for a while. Imitators? I think you can look for a moment at someone’s walk or relationship with God and think “I’d like to know Him like that” but anything after is really just wanting to be like someone else. I used to do that same thing and then wound up being a version of myself that was just that, an imitator, but it was not genuine. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning to those verses that Paul was talking about, and then again, Paul was a fundamentalist that had to fall off a donkey to get it.. lol Jesus was the stone that tripped up the bricks, but we just feel more comfy being a brick, fitting in easier, lol… I don’t fit anywhere!! lol I guess if you were to ask me which Christian I’d like to be like, my answer would be “Alice Cooper, or Dog The Bountey Hunter” Worship? For me that is a “consumation” of my relationship with my Father that is so precious. I like the Elvis on the blog for this.. Today’s institutional worhip is all about the lighting and the music, where was all that in Jesus’s day? Real worship is spontaneous, not set up. As a result of the way we “worship” today, we have become Christians that do not worship through out the week. Think about it, when you ask your self or a friend where they are going to worship, you automatically envision yourself infront of a band in a building with the lights turned down, where is that in scripture? I could produce an emotional response out of someone else by forcing some tears and then call it “God’s here!!” When in reality God is everywhere. It’s all show buisness and we mistake emotionalism for worship and say that God was really here today if everyone is balling and crying and then go to our cars after ward, leaving God at church ofcourse, cuz someone said He really showed up today!!! I recognize worhship in my life all the time now since I’ve taken some time to remove myself from the institutional midset of it all. It’s not a weekly “event”, but daily. I love God, and He is right here 🙂 So what’s missing? The genuiness of it all 🙂 Having an intimate relationship with God (which means you will most likely need to take some LONG sabaticals from the weekly hum drum show and shut off the teachers) will automatically produce all of those great characteristics you mentioned above. Above all, stay focused on the heart of a person and not so much their actions. I bet is Paul was throwing one of his tangents here today, we’d want him to get some pastoral counseling instead of seeing his heart and love for God. Thanks Dan!! I LOVE thinking, pondering, loving and talking about our Lord!

    • defrostingwindows says:

      Amy, I wish you could hear me laughing along with you! I’m glad that this has you thinking because I’m still thinking through all of it as well. Both you and Elmo have caused me to desire to investigate some of these aspects further. For anyone reading this comment, please be assured that I believe that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, and that He is the only begotten Son of God. I do however have some thoughts that intrigue me about Him. The whole divinity/humanity of Jesus really fascinates me for reasons I can’t put into words at the moment.

      • Amy says:

        I just had a thought that might help lead to a deeper understanding… we need to understand (or believe?) “created in His image” …. it’s a good start for investigating this one 🙂 I’ll be pondering too…..

  3. Amy says:

    PS.. I read about your prayer study above… I didn’t get to study it like you did, but I can tell you that my prayer life has changed. I don’t ask God for much at all, if anything through prayer. I know He knows what’s best. An example would be…. My mom had to go to the dr for a second check on some cells that came back abnormal. She had to go get the results of the test and on that evening I just “knew God” and what I mean by that is (if I can explain it?) I acknowelged that whatever the outcome would be, would be his will and either good or bad (as I would see the cells becoming cancer would be bad, but maybe that would be God’s plan) and I just said “God, I know you’ll do what’s best” and I went to bed without thinking or worrying about it. If God wanted those cells to be cancerous, then that’s what’s best. I knew that if I were to “pray about it” my prayers would have been honeslty motivated by my concern that God wouldn’t come through for us in a postive way (my way).. When my mom got the results, which came back that the cells were negative (this being her third round with cancer) she said “I know there’s power in prayer and I know that you were praying for me Amy!!” ( as if MY prayer would have changed God’s mind or outcome??) Well, lets just say she was speachless when I told her “nope, sorry, I didn’t pray, I just went to bed, smiled and knew God’s will was best”…

    • defrostingwindows says:

      That’s a good reminder Amy. That reminds me of something I’ve heard my brother say often, “Prayer is more about listening to God, than talking to Him”. It sounds like you were listening to God, and He gave you peace.

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