If there is a struggle to understand worship, perhaps a simple definition by William Temple (1881 – 1944), a former archbishop of Canterbury will help. Worship is “quickening the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God.” I find this definition very instructive.
Worship is quickening the conscience by the holiness of God. In the struggle to sin less, and be more holy remembering the nature of God can help subdue the passion in the moment of temptation. And when God is remembered, worship takes place. The nature of God is that of holy. Christians are to be holy because God is holy.
Worship is feeding the mind with the truth of God. There is no worship that takes place apart from the Word of God. God has exalted His Word above His name. The mind must be saturated with Scripture and when it is, worship takes place.
Worship is purging the imagination by the beauty of God. There are so many images that are presented to the eyes in a given day that demand the use of the imagination. The problem is, that so much of our imaginations are given to thoughts of revenge, or covetousness, or impure desires.
By remembering the beauty of God in His various attributes – His kindness, His love, His mercy, His providential guidance, worship takes place.
Worship is opening the heart to the love of God. Of all the attributes of God, love is most prominent. One day C. H. Spurgeon was walking through the English countryside with a friend. As they strolled along, the evangelist noticed a barn with a weather vane on its roof. At the top of the vane were these words: GOD IS LOVE. Spurgeon remarked to his companion that he thought this was a rather inappropriate place for such a message. “Weather vanes are changeable,” he said, “but God’s love is constant.” “I don’t agree with you about those words, Charles,” replied his friend. “You misunderstood the meaning. That sign is indicating a truth: Regardless of which way the wind blows, God is love.” When the love of God is remembered, worship takes place.
Worship is devoting the will to the purpose of God. At a meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Bobby Richardson (b. 1935), former New York Yankee second baseman, offered a prayer that is a classic in brevity and poignancy: “Dear God, Your will, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else. Amen.”
“I am not sent a pilgrim here,
My heart with earth to fill;
But I am here God’s grace to learn,
And serve God’s sovereign will.
He leads me on through smiles and tears,
Grief follows gladness still;
But let me welcome both alike,
Since both work out his will.
No service in itself is small,
None great, though earth it fill;
But that is small that seeks its own,
And great that seeks God’s will.
Then hold my hand, most gracious Lord,
Guide all my doings still;
And let this be my life’s one aim,
To do, or bear thy will.”
When the will of God is done, worship takes place.