Worship 24 x 7

woman holding a month calendar

For many of us, worship consists of what we do when we come together once or twice a week. We have this worship broken down into five formal acts – singing, praying, teaching, communion, and contribution. This is not all worship is, however. Worship is also something that should be happening outside the walls of your congregation. We have to understand more about worship if we are going to live worshipful lives.

Worship from the Heart

The Greek word for worship literally means to prostrate one’s self, to bow down. The English root is “worth-ship.” It is something we do, not because we are commanded or because we get something out of it, but rather we worship because God is worthy. True worship will indeed build us up as we draw closer to God, but our worship centers on Him first and foremost.

We know John 4:24, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” Jesus says this in context of a question about the proper place of worship. Jesus says worship is from within. In Mark 12:28-31, Jesus says the greatest of the commandments is to love God with all of our heart, soul, and strength. It is a love we carry with us everywhere and at all times. It is not constrained to a specific time and location.

Worship in Our Lives

Amos 5:21-24 outlines God condemning acts of worship that are following the prescribed pattern. They were doing what was commanded, so why was God not pleased? Isaiah 1:11-17 repeats this condemnation, telling the people that their lives did not match their worship. They came and went through the steps of worship while living in a way that invalidated that worship. Today, we can be guilty of the same if our lives do not lift God up in worshipful living.

Real worship is a life devoted to our God. Without that form of worship coming daily from us, our assembled worship means little. Hebrews 13:15-16 says,

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.

Our lives should be sacrifices of praise, doing good to others, giving of ourselves for the sake of others, defending and helping those in need, living prayerfully – all of these things constitute worship. It is a surrendering of our lives to God in all places and at all times.

In Romans 12:1-2:

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. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

To live sacrificially, we have to remove the world from our hearts while we live that life among the world. We are transformed, putting our former selves to death, worshiping God from a well that comes from within. Hebrews 12:1-2 calls on us to lay aside the weights of this world in our lives, and verses 12-15 then instruct us to strengthen those around us, to live peacefully, to live morally, to lift the fallen. This is the acceptable worship spoken of in verse 28.

Examples of Worshipful Living

David exemplifies worshipful living in Psalm 51, calling on God for forgiveness. He not only asks to be forgiven, but David asks God to make his life pure and a life of praise. He knows sacrifices and offerings are not enough, and David calls a humble and softened heart the true sacrifice God desires. Back in Mark 12, the scribe who asked Jesus about worship understand this, and Jesus commends him, saying the scribe is near to the kingdom.

Philippians 1:19-20 records Paul saying that Christ will be honored in him in life or death, and verse 27 encourages us to make our lives worthy of the gospel. Chapter 4:18 calls the generosity of the church in Philippi a sacrifice acceptable before God. Ephesians 5:1-2 uses these same terms to describe walking in love, and Paul goes on to describes what such a life looks like – free of immorality, free of covetousness, free of deceit. He calls on us to walk as children of light, to walk with care and wisdom, using our time wisely and forever giving thanks to God and living humbly before Him and others.

lesson by Dawson Guyer

Putting Others first in Christ

Carl Bloch's painting depicting Jesus sitting before a crowd and delivering the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890

The Sermon on the Mount is easy to understand but challenging to live. We have to really open our hearts to the message being taught by our Savior so that we may walk the way He would have us. James 1:22 – 25 encourages us to see ourselves in comparison to God’s word, to take that comparison to heart, and then do something about it. So as we’re looking through Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5 and 6, let’s do so in a way that allows each of us to become more spiritually complete.

Matthew 5: 33 – 48:

“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

“You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

These words continue the theme set up earlier in the chapter that Jesus wants something deeper than outward compliance. He wants us to change our hearts and the attitudes that motivate us. This is a fundamental shift in thinking.

Let Your Yes Be Yes

In Numbers 30:2, God’s law talks about taking pledges and making oaths. This was part of their culture, and it’s still part of ours in some situations. Jesus, however, says that oaths and pledges are unnecessary if we are fundamentally honest people. Jesus addresses this again in Matthew 23, when Jesus talks about the Pharisees placing oaths on various sacred relics and then giving different weights to those different oaths. Jesus goes on to say not to make any oaths at all. Just be a person of your word.

This shifts from a legalistic approach to our word and toward a more spiritual approach. This is not about external signs. It is a way of life and a reflection of your spirituality and your character. Our honesty then gives credibility to the message we bring. It reinforces the changing power of God’s word in a simple, immediately evident way. By our honest word, we show that we mean what we preach.

Others Before Self

Jesus then addresses the nature of personal vindication. Again, the law lays down fundamentals of equitable recompense when wronged. Jesus says instead to get over it and move on, for by this time, God’s people had taken rules that were meant to be applied to a legal system and made it personal. See Leviticus 19:17 – 18 for an example of how God’s people were supposed to keep personal feelings out of legal resolutions.

These concepts are not new, but Jesus is ensuring we understand the importance of love — even for those who don’t love us. Be generous; avoid vengeance; go the extra mile; bless those who hate you. This takes a major shift in our own concept of fairness. It means avoiding the easy way out and doing right by others, even when we don’t feel they deserve it. It’s not our place to dole out punishments to everyone we don’t like. Instead, we should be living peaceably and without animosity toward others anywhere.

Perfect As God Is Perfect

All of this leads us to spiritual wholeness. These teachings and others in the Sermon on the Mount lay down the template for what godly living truly looks like. That template abandons worldly reason and secular justice. It demands a complete self-sacrifice and a change in heart. Let your words and your actions agree. Let go of all resentment or anger you might have toward others, and be ready to do good toward all. In these ways, we grow closer to Christ and show Him to others through the way we live.

lesson by Don Larsen

Better Than the Pharisees

Carl Bloch's painting depicting Jesus sitting before a crowd and delivering the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890

Matthew 5:20 – 30:

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

How could anyone’s righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees? In many ways, these individuals were seen as the protectors of the law. They knew the law inside and out. Their conduct was seen an spotless. But they had a problem, and we see Jesus address this issue in many places, none more so than Matthew 23. Their problem was this: their righteous conduct was superficial. They enforced and upheld the outer signs of the law, but they missed the deeper meanings that should have affected their hearts.

Going Beyond Compliance 

Romans 10:1 – 3 records Paul commending many of his former colleagues for having a zeal to God but missing the deeper knowledge of the scripture, for God’s word goes beyond our conduct. It goes to our motives and our attitudes. It touches upon and changes our hearts. Nothing exemplifies this distinction more than the very first examples Jesus touches upon in Matthew 5 — murder and adultery.

Jesus says that it’s not enough to simply avoid doing these things. He’s not looking for simple compliance. He wants our hearts, and He says that contemptuous and hateful attitudes are just as wrong and sinful. James 1:19 – 20 says that worldly anger undermines God’s righteousness, so we should never let it control us. Animosity is a poison that spreads, so Jesus tells us to take care of it quickly in Matthew 5:24 – 25. Paul will later tell us to not let the sun go down on our anger. The idea is the same: take care of these things quickly.

Jesus goes to the same extreme with the sin of adultery. He warns us against sinning in our hearts, even if we do nothing outward that would reveal that inner sin. He goes so far to say that it is better to lose an eye or a hand rather than allow them to lead you into judgment. This may not look like physical dismemberment, but it may mean we cut other things out of our lives that lead us away from God and into temptation.

Keep Your Heart

Proverbs 4:23 – 27:

For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.

Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.

Most of us can say that we’ve never committed murder or adultery. That’s easy. What’s harder is being the living sacrifice Paul describes in Romans 12. This requires more than outward compliance. It’s about who we are in our hearts. We should be diligent and vigilant in guarding our hearts and living the way Jesus would have us. Put away crooked and hateful words. Keep you eyes forward. With your step, and keep on that path laid out for all of us.

lesson by Don Larsen