The following article by Dwayne will be featured this fall in Lifeway’s cirriculum called YOU. YOU, LifeWay’s newest adult Sunday School curriculum, is biblically-based with culturally relevant lessons to help Christians connect, grow, serve, and ultimately be engaged in impacting the world for God. YOU is unprecedented, because it is intentionally focused on urban/multicultural believers. We are honored to contribute to this incredible new cirriculum by Lifeway, which will focus this fall on worship.
Worship in Three Directions, Part 1
by Dwayne Moore
At some point in your life, you may have been as I was (and so many in our pews still are!). Anytime you heard the word worship, you assumed that word mostly referred to singing, clapping, and talking to God. However, worship is not just something we do on Sundays at church. And it’s certainly more than singing or attending a service, although those are included. Worship is a lifestyle. It involves everything we do and think and are. In 1 Corinthians 10:31 Paul wrote, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Paul chose the examples of eating and drinking to illustrate how our most common and everyday activities can and should bring glory and honor to Christ.
In his book The Ultimate Priority, John MacArthur Jr. explains that for our worship to be “whole-life” it must include three aspects or directions. Most certainly, we worship God when we focus directly on him, pointing our worship upward (as we normally think of worship). However, we should also worship God inwardly. The third direction we should worship him is outwardly, to those around us.
You might think of three-directional worship like this: Imagine you say to your boss, “You are the greatest boss to ever walk the face of the earth. Furthermore, this is the best job I’ve ever had or ever will have. In fact, I practically worship at your feet for just letting me do this job every day.” (Am I laying it on thick enough yet?) OK, having said such a mouthful upwardly toward your boss, how should you behave when no one’s looking? If you really meant what you said, you’ll talk well of your boss and your job when your boss isn’t around, and you’ll work hard and enthusiastically for him or her even when no one’s watching you. Why? Because inwardly you really do love your boss and you want to please him or her.
Now let’s take this idea a step further. Let’s say you’re in the service industry, and your job involves assisting other people. Every time you cheerfully seek to help someone, every time you go out of your way to meet someone’s needs, you are outwardly honoring your employer and saying by your actions how much you appreciate working for him or her. In much the same way, our God is honored-or worshipped-not only by what we say to him, but also by how much we love him on the inside and by how we respond to those he died for.
The inward direction of our worship refers to who I am when no one is looking. It’s not really difficult to lift up praises to God when we’re at church or around other Christians. In those environments we’re encouraged, even expected, to do so. But what about when we’re in the privacy of our own homes, browsing the Internet, or glancing through a magazine on the newsstands? Are we being careful to please God with our private thoughts, with the things we see, with the places we visit? (Ouch!)
Worshipping inwardly by being good is perhaps the litmus test for all of worship. If our hearts’ desire is to please God, we can no longer enjoy our former sins. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” This refers to a change inside of us. According to Psalm 51:16-17, God wants a broken and contrite heart more than our outward sacrifices. He knows that if our hearts are purely devoted to him, that can’t help but affect our outward behavior.
Written by Dwayne Moore. Copyright 2009. Dwayne is author of the highly acclaimed book, Pure Praise: A Heart-focused Bible Study on Worship. (Group, 2009)