With our emphasis on knowing God’s Word in 2018, we’re excited for this new series on spiritual disciplines. Each month, we’ll unpack a different spiritual discipline, defining it as well as offering some ideas for practical application! This month we’re taking a look at the spiritual discipline of worship.
It took me a while before I realized that worship was more than a genre of music. Growing up in an all African American Missionary Baptist Church, I saw and heard worship in all of its glory. The choir would sing songs as only they knew how. Loud and full of feeling. The words meant something. When sang, you knew they believed every word. You saw it when they closed their eyes. Shook their heads. Raised their hands. Stomped their feet. Clapped their hands. Yelled “Hallelujah.” Their bodies sang even if their mouths were closed. As a child, this was purely entertainment due to the fact that I hadn’t met the God to whom their cries and shouts were directed at. But when I did, it all made sense. He was too good and His gospel too powerful to not sing about it.
But, it wasn’t long before I realized that there was another way to worship.
“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.” (Romans 12:1)
What I sing is worship—but so is how I live. Before meeting Christ, I was a worshipper even then. A worshipper of the flesh that is. I did what it said, living according to its will and participating in whatever ungodliness it would have for me as soon as the sun came up. My life pointed to what I honored most, and anyone that knew me knew that the only thing I deemed as worthy was sin. But when the Holy Spirit moved in and moved my old nature out of the way, my heart sang a new song. One that moved my heart to believe that the only one worthy of everything I thought I owned was Jesus Christ. Knowing and believing this to be true, I began to worship God in the way that pleased Him, honored Him, exalted Him, and glorified Him. Leaving death and sin behind, by faith, my life became His. And in doing so, loving Him and loving people became the chorus by which the people around me could learn about the Christ and what He does when He redeems a soul and turns it new.
Another aspect of this that I’ve discovered is that I can also worship God by enjoying and being thankful for His good gifts.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21
It’s always intrigued me how one of the traits of those with a darkened heart is that they aren’t thankful. A darkened heart is a proud heart. And a proud heart will always lead someone to behave as if everything they have is theirs. And if theirs, it’s not a gift or a mercy of God. It’s an achievement. But when the light comes in and reorients the darkened heart to realize that good gifts come from the Father of Light (James 1:7), that all things were made through Christ and for Christ (Col 1:16), the person that once thanked themselves for everything becomes the person that abounds in thanksgiving towards their God in everything. Something as simple as a meal with your family becomes an opportunity for worship. Because you not only see food as a gift of God but the ability to taste the food as a gift. And not only the ability to taste one flavor, but many. The occasional laughter you find yourself unable to hold in during a humorous conversation with a friend reminds you of how good God must be that He’s given us laughter. We’re reminded that the experience of a laugh is not something we’re taught. From the womb, children come out with the ability to take joy in a small tickle or a silly face and that too is a gift from God to which we can give Him glory for.
On Sundays, sometimes I sing. Sometimes, I don’t. But even when I’m not singing out loud, there is the possibility that my heart and mind is writing its own hymn. Remembering the Christ and how His worship to God sent Him to earth to live and die for those like me that worshipped everything under the sun except the Son. And how once risen from the grave, He guaranteed that all who would believe would be able to one day worship Him in word and deed and fully enjoy the sound of such a life. Until they all, with a “Hallelujah” in their walk and a “Thank you God!” in their heart, join the rest of the choir by saying “Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Psalm 100:4)
Jackie Hill Perry is a writer, poet, and artist whose work has been featured on The Washington Times, The 700 Club, Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, and other publications. Since becoming a Christian in 2008, she has been compelled to use her speaking and teaching gifts to share the light of the gospel of God as authentically as she can. At home she is a wife to Preston and Mommy to Eden and Autumn.
Want to read more from Jackie? Check out her new book, Gay Girl Good God here!