Uriah Guenther is a leader in C&YA and the director of our worship team, Temple Worship. He and his wife Havilah also host Bible studies at their home in Midtown KC. Uriah reflects on what true biblical worship is and how it informs the function of praise in our lives.
Throughout scripture, worship is defined as the central position of creation in relation to its Creator. Worship in the Bible is shown three ways: in our sacrifice (Gen 22), in our consecration (Lev 27:21), and with a proper vision and context for our world: fading, momentary, a vapor before God and his kingdom (James 4:14). Positionally, worship is the safest place for a human heart to dwell, a place close to God. Through proper worship we are able to please God and be empowered to fulfill his will for our lives. The call of scripture is for us to reconcile, deep within our hearts, whether or not we will worship the Lord. Before any ministry activity or religious duty can be accomplished, it is crucial for us to determine who it is that truly reigns in our lives.
Before any ministry activity or religious duty can be accomplished, it is crucial for us to determine who it is that truly reigns in our lives.
Of course, mankind worships whether he or she does so consciously or not. We must understand that our body is a temple and our heart contains a throne. When Adam and Eve introduced the world to sin, the throne was tainted. The Creator God no longer held his rightful position and as a consequence the vacant space may be occupied by whatever humanity deems worthy. Certainly, if sin or general worldliness rules our hearts, our daily devotion will follow. Our heart's desire and worship, will always dictate how we spend our time, energy and our resources, paying homage to our false gods.
James 4:4 “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
The conversation of our lives are saturated by who or what we worship. We were created with the liberty and freedom to choose what we will devote ourselves to, yet often our friendship with the world puts us in opposition with God and spoils our service. We were created to worship and serve, but the world disparages the idea of servanthood. The occupation of “the servant” is negative and derogatory in a self-serving and idolatrous world. From the world's perspective, for someone or something to rule over us is so bothersome it sends shivers down our spine. Yet, what they can't understand is the redeemed servant is a child of freedom, a person in the ultimate place of blessing. Just think of the oneness God’s servant Adam experienced with Him in the garden; how freeing! How beautiful the thought; to take strolls with the Father, holding his hand, telling him how his day went. To worship God in intimate friendship has always filled the servant with joy and peace.
Sadly, in our crude rendition of “freedom”, we worship idols unaware. We waste our lives watching TV series and sports. We pour out our labor for ourselves, spending our wages on our own passions and pleasures. Even the most fleshly forms of worship require sacrifice, but to take all your desires, hopes and dreams and lay them before God is to reclaim the power of true worship.
Because praise begins with worship, when our worship is hindered, so is our praise, our ministry, our prayer life and all our lives touch.
It is important for us to distinguish between how the bible discusses worship and praise. Biblical praise is the external, physical, and thoughtful expression of the heart of worship. Because praise begins with worship, when our worship is hindered, so is our praise, our ministry, our prayer life and all our lives touch. In that framework, worship should be the truest pursuit of the believer. Worship is our most valuable pouring out and is what transforms us. We should covet the opportunity to worship, drowning ourselves in the authority of God’s will. In the immersion of worship, I lose my life; in that burying of self, joined to death with Christ, I rise, a new creature (Rom 6:4). This creature is uninhibited by the world and offers the throne of their heart to only one King. We are only able to praise Jesus, with the all of our being. Tears well up in my eyes at the very thought of being consecrated to the purpose of worship. Who am I to be called to praise? What have I done to receive the honor and privilege?
King David was considered a fool when he displayed through praise his heart of worship (2 Sam 6:14-23). Regardless of what others thought, he dedicated his life to pouring our praises; his heart was centered in worship. The word Judah, the name of the Jewish tribe of both David & Christ, means “to give praise”. Christ is the Lion of Judah. The praise that is bold, fierce, powerful, conquering, unrelenting truth and proclamation of that reality is encompassed in the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev 5:5).
When we look at the function worship/praise has in our lives, it is important to note the difference. Worship fuels praise. A man or woman of worship praise God in all aspects of life: When singing, you are praising. When welcoming people at church, you are praising.When creating PowerPoints, praising.When you meet a new small group member for coffee, praising. When you prepare a message to preach, praising.A corruption of our worship towards God will be evidenced in the auxiliary function of praise. To praise is to outwardly practice worship. It is to proclaim or make physical what is happening in your heart. In true worship, true praise is powerful.
True praise preaches. Old Testament prophets let people know their message by first establishing "thus saith the Lord!” That is true praise. The power of God encapsulated in truth. Who can help but be impacted by a truthful, joyful proclamation that God has redeemed their soul! Or that God has raised us, the sinner, from the miry depths into his grace through faith. What a thing is is to praise, the physical moment to give back to God, to sacrifice what little we have to make his worship known. To shout to the world what God has done for us and how we can trust Him!
Praise is like the heat of a fire, the result of worship’s burning. Though a fire must be approached with respect, to sit by its side is to benefit from the glory of its contained power. How simple it is to enter the company of a warm fire. When one desires retreat from the cold of this world, it is of no consequence which friends are standing beside the fire, there is freedom there. The same is true when praising God, it isn’t awkward or embarrassing to cry out to God when your heart is desperate for the flame of worship. When the soul overflows, it cannot help but celebrate or even grieve in praise to God. If we are dead to this world; then what care does a dead man or woman have about the accuracy of the notes they sing, or the posture of their body. A dead man or woman only knows one thing, to desperately offer what little they have to the one who made them alive again.
The root of the matter is this: will we give back to our Creator? Before we ask ourselves other complex Christian questions like, “am I thankful? or what do I need to grow? or where would God have me to serve?” this core truth must be in place. God has created me for his good pleasure; I will worship the Creator, not the creation. This is the fundamental battle of our flesh and our age.
Romans 1:25 “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.”
If your praise to God is shallow and broken, it is most likely because your heart is occupied by an unlawful tenant.
In Genesis 22, Abraham, who loved his son Isaac above all other earthly things, was willing to give him back to God in sacrifice. The bible calls Abraham “God’s friend”. If he had rather been the friend of the world, true worship would not have been found on that mountain top. Abraham was a man known for his obedience, but obedience wouldn’t be his testimony if he wasn’t willing to worship God that day. Who sits on the throne of your heart? If praise is the outward expression of what we reverence in the throne room of our hearts, then the delicate matters of the heart or of utmost importance. If your praise to God is shallow and broken, it is most likely because your heart is occupied by an unlawful tenant. Let’s search our hearts and prayerfully ask God to reveal who we worship: God, or the world.