What is Worship?

My grandfather, Gordon Donaldson, is a man who is thoroughly in love with his Savior, Jesus Christ. By God’s grace he has served the Lord for much of his life and meditates often on the truths found in scripture on who God is, what He has done and is doing, and the believer’s response. The following is a meditation on personal worship of God that my grandfather sent me recently. I was so encouraged by these thoughts that I asked him if he would mind if I shared them here with you. I hope that you are as encouraged, convicted and spurred on to know the gospel of Jesus Christ in your personal worship as I am.

—Mike Jones


In the morning I take time for worship and prayer. I go through routines that I have used countless times, and say words that have been repeated endlessly. I read familiar Scripture portions according to plan. I pray for persons in my life, and subjects that seem to be important and/or pressing at the moment—things marital, national, rela-tional, physical, financial, material, spiritual—things relating to my family, friends, neighbors, church, missionaries, mission fields, governments, current events, impending needs, special persons.

Recently, while thus engaged, I asked, “Is any of what I am doing true worship? In what sense? What am I doing that is not merely presenting God with the needs that come to mind and the persons around me? (Seems so self-centered—and so it is!)

Is anything that I am saying here distinct from me and my needs and my family and my church and my heart’s desires? Where is the worship? Where is the centrality of GOD HIMSELF in what I do?”

Worship is adoration, veneration, contemplation, reverence, praise, blessing, exaltation—the heart so occupied with God. Where are these in my “worship”?

When I am home alone, what is worship? When I begin my day, what is worship? When I face trauma or loss, what is worship? When things go especially well, what is worship? God’s worthiness of my worship has not changed, and never will. And it rises above need on my part. A number of things come to mind, as I consider those prior questions:

I conclude that true worship (whether in a church congregation, or alone in my home) must be Christ-centered, Christ-focused, involved with God, as is Jesus Christ.

The “contemplation” aspect of worship is that which must move me away from self, and onto the person of Christ.

(We run the race)…”fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and
perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross,
despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne
of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners
against Himself…” Hebrews 12:2-3

“Fixing our eyes on Jesus”…and…“Considering Him”—stand as the two gate pillars of personal worship. One its decision; the other its occupation.

What does this exhortation show? First, the words “cross,” “shame,” and “hostility” show me myself.

  • Christ’s cross was my sentence—for deceptions, untruths, wicked imaginations, dishonesties, pretenses, pride, prejudices, evasions of obligation, selfish actions refusals to do good, etc.
  • Christ’s shame was my shame—in self-exaltation, unkept promises, neglected commitments, indefensible conduct, hurtful words, unfair judgments, wasteful endeavors, neglect of others’ needs, etc.
  • Hostility against Christ was my hostility—at not getting my way, not receiving recognition, not enjoying what I want, not having what others have, having loved ones taken, losing possessions I valued, not attaining the goal I “deserve,” etc.

My sin was His cross; my actions His shame; my hostility His condemnation.

These words also show me the Savior:

  • In joy He took my sin upon Himself!
  • It was out of this joy that endurance sustained Him through the ordeal.
  • He despised (de-valued) the shame involved in that horrendous procedure. (Considered the shame of far lesser importance than completion of the purpose for which He had come.)
  • Ultimately He sat down at the Father’s right hand, having completed His work of redemption.

A note of significance is that this “looking unto Jesus” is done, not apart from life’s daily activities, but while running the race.

Paul in Romans 12:1 says:
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.

What can “presenting one’s body as a living sacrifice” mean? Surely not the human equivalent of dead animal sacrifices! Does it not mean that the living person worships God by what he does “in his skin”—in the daily occupation of his life, and use of his time, his gifting, and his physical and mental abilities?

“Considering Him” is not, then, to be an exercise in thought and contemplation only, but a motivator and enabler in specific actions; actions of the body by which God is recognized, extolled, and honored. This is spiritual worship. This begins with time on my knees, but continues in practice by which I relate to God in Jesus Christ throughout my day.

Logically, this practice cannot exist in unbroken continuity. Daily life has many responsibilities, frequent unexpected turns and countless interruptions. But it must aim at consistency, and like a compass, distracted momentarily by a local magnetic pull, when that object is removed, returns to true NORTH. So my “home focus” is to be Christ Himself. I believe that in true worship of Jesus Christ, the following effects emerge:

“Lord, my heavenly Father, this day in Christ’s name, I come before You . . .

  • To sense Your indwelling
  • To seek Your face
  • To feed on Your word
  • To obey Your precepts
  • To ask for Your enablement
  • To walk in Your ways
  • To wait for Your guidance
  • To marvel at Your greatness
  • To exult in Your forgiveness
  • To stand by means of Your grace
  • To extol Your goodness
  • To rejoice in Your sufficiency
  • To tremble at Your judgments
  • To learn at Your feet
  • To live for Your glory
  • To eat from Your bounty
  • To act in Your will
  • To function in Your strength
  • To see through Your eyes
  • To minister with Your compassion
  • To partake of Your joy
  • To revel in Your acceptance
  • To rest in Your love
  • To grow in Your likeness
  • To speak out Your truth
  • To witness to Your salvation
  • To attest to Your majesty
  • To highlight Your works
  • To dress for Your honor
  • To give with Your freedom
  • To pray in Your righteousness
  • To love in Your name
  • To anticipate Your full revelation.”

These motivations are absolutely foreign to those outside of Jesus Christ. They have no appeal and no incentive for becoming part of one’s living. But each of these verbs, addressed to the Father in the name of the Son, and actuated through the Holy Spirit in one who knows Jesus Christ, become hallowed before Him. For me, this is the practice of personal worship.

These actions will not exist in my life automatically, just because I am a Christian. They must be “owned,” brought to God, and done consciously, intentionally, thought-fully—recognizing that I am at all times in the immediate presence of the living God who makes them possible and desires them of me. He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Author of Salvation, the King of all kings and Lord of lords, whose worthiness to be worshipped never varies, never diminishes, never ceases

So help me, God.

—Gordon Donaldson :: March, 2010

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