What Is Worship?
Worship is a word that brings many images to mind in our current experience—gathering for church, the playing of music, the singing of hymns, bowing in prayer. But what is worship? Worship, in a short definition, is ascribing to God honor, glory, adoration, praise, and devotion. When instructing children, we must keep this definition in mind so that children do not associate the definition of worship with the outward forms by which we express heartfelt worship at church. How then must we teach our children about worship? Consider these four general headings.
Worship is an act of ascribing honor, glory, and value to someone or something.
Worship is an outward expression of an inward value. In other words, we worship what we believe is lovely, beautiful, honorable, and good. These outward expressions of worship often include music, songs, praise, and proclamation, but they are all expressions of an inward desire. However, most people do not worship God because they do not see Him as supremely valuable. Romans 1:21–23 describes the tragic exchange that every unbeliever makes by valuing sin above God: “For even though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the likeness of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.” Children need to be shown how this truth affects them in their daily lives. Ask your children questions like, “What is most valuable to you?” and, “What do you really love the most?” These questions can begin to expose them to their own false worship and introduce their need for a changed heart.
Worship is a matter of the heart.
Questions like those above reveal the second aspect of worship. Worship is not merely an outward expression like singing, prayer, and preaching. Worship comes from the heart. In John chapter 4, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God was seeking worshipers, and such worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24). The first requirement that God gives to regulate His worship is for worship to be done “in spirit.” Because God Himself is Spirit, He requires that the human spirits of His worshipers accord with the outward actions involved in worship. On the contrary, God rebuked false worshipers in Mark 7:6, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me.” Unless a person’s heart-level desires are supernaturally driven by a love for God, every outward expression of “worship” would be considered false and dishonoring to Him. Use this truth to ask your children questions like, “What are you thinking about when you sing songs to God?” and, “Why do you enjoy going to church?” Such questions can help you to reveal your children’s hearts and promote gospel conversations.
Worship accords with God’s Word.
Complementary to worshiping in spirit, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God’s worshipers must also worship “in truth.” A true worshiper is known by his or her love for the truth revealed in God’s Word. But a false worshiper is exposed by his or her willful disobedience to God’s commands, even if he or she has lively affections for God. This guardrail helps us from dishonoring God by going beyond His prescriptions for worship in the church. In the Old Testament, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu offered worship which God had not commanded, and God consumed them in fire from His altar (Lev 10:1–3). When you talk to your children about worship, ask them questions like “What things honor and dishonor God?” and, “Why do you think that our church worships the way it does?” Point them to biblical answers to these questions and encourage them with the richness of God’s revelation.
"Worship is not a ritual or a feeling or an activity to be limited to a church building. It is the heartfelt praise of God based on the truth of God's word" - Adventure Club Teacher Book: The Truth About The Church The Bible & The End Times p.127
We resemble what we worship.
Finally, remind your children that all people—believers and unbelievers—become like the thing they worship. Psalm 115 vividly portrays this reality. After describing the deadness of false idols, verse 8 concludes, “Those who make them will become like them, everyone who trusts in them.” Teach your children that what they value most will shape their lives and promote either a relationship with God or continuation into more sin. Point them to the precious truth of 2 Corinthians 3:18, that all who behold the glory of Christ are transformed into His image. Speak to your children about their need to see and believe in Jesus. Ask them questions like, “How do you think you need to change?” and “Can you see growth toward God or toward sin in your life?” Such questions might reveal to them what they truly value and worship in their hearts.
The Bible is full of godly expressions of worship and warnings against false worship. As you seek to lead your family to worship the one who is worthy of all honor, glory, praise, and dominion, ask good questions that will expose their hearts. Pray that God will open their eyes to hypocritical and sinful worship and turn to Christ to be recreated and daily renewed in His image.
Thank you for this on worship. I needed to know.
Kay Haskell on
How. Are you?