Worship as the Great Divider

Rachel Chimits

What we worship will set us apart from the world, but it will also give us soul-deep satisfaction like nothing else will.

Tim Allen once said something that is indicative of the American—maybe the entire Western World—mentality toward worship.

“Why go to a church to worship God? A church is man-made. God never said, ‘And let there be aluminum siding.’ Climbing a tree to talk to God sounds like a better idea since only God can make a tree. And if that tree's on a golf course, all the better.”

Not only does this saying imply that worship mostly happens somewhere on the other side of a pulpit, but it also suggests that worship is essentially whatever makes us happy.

It’s the idea that if golf makes you happy, that can be a better, more natural form of worship than singing in church.  

The Ease of Worldly Devotion

While it’s doubtful that David Foster Wallace ever submitted his life to Christ and his personal life is certainly not anything to emulate, the man did have a profound respect for Christianity.

Most interestingly, he articulated the nature of worship in a way that few others have managed.

“There is no such thing as not worshipping,” he stated in one of his articles for The Guardian. “Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly…. Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.

“The insidious thing about these forms of worship…is that they are unconscious. They are default settings.

“They’re the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that’s what you’re doing.”

If this is the downward drag of sinful devotion, then what should Christian adoration look like?

Where Are We Focused?

Say the word “worship,” and the vast majority of Christians probably think of singing. Others, like Tim Allen, may think of whatever their favorite hobbies are or the times when they feel most content.

The problem with this view is that it equates either a formalized scheduled action or our own happiness with worship of God.

James K. A. Smith offers a more biblical view in his book You Are What You Love. “Worship is not for me—it’s not primarily meant to be an experience that “meets my felt needs”…rather, worship is about and for God. To say that God is both subject and object is to emphasizes that the Triune God is both the audience and the agent of worship.”

To borrow David Foster Wallace’s words, we worship when we focus on God in such a way that causes us to become more selective about where our minds go and how we measure the value in our lives. Also, we’re constantly making this choice each moment of every day, not just in church.

This definition of worship opens the box and invites us to consider, in any given moment, “What am I worshipping right now? Is it my pleasure? Is it something else that I feel gives me security and comfort, or is it God?”

“What can I choose each day to increasingly focus my heart and mind on God?”

An Outward Facing Heart

Jesus describes the all-encompassing nature of worship in John 4:23-24: “But the hour is coming, and now is here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirt and truth.”

A life focused in this way on God will very quickly start to look different than others, even threaten others because our object of worship is so distinctive.

Training our hearts to look outward and upward to God is well worth the effort and struggle, though. It will grant us a peace that nothing can steal. This constant encouragement was Gary Wilkerson’s motivation behind creating his weekly podcasts and other materials, particularly the 86 Seconds devotionals.

“Do you look for the approval of God, which is given freely to us?” Gary asks in one 86 Seconds episode “You have a choice today who you’re going to live for.”

Chose well, and worship.