Worship from a Sincere Heart
In this segment, Pastor Steve Gallagher teaches us about true Biblical worship, an important element for someone seeking to overcome sexual addiction through a vibrant life in Christ. (From Podcast Episode #357 - What Role Does Worship Play in Freedom from Porn?)
Jim: I'm joined in the studio today by Steve Gallagher. Pastor Steve Gallagher is the founder and president of Pure Life Ministries. It's always good to have you here in the studio.
Steve: Yeah, I'm so happy to be here with you Jim.
Jim: We're talking today about the role that worship plays in the life of a man seeking freedom from sexual sin. We have chapel services usually twice a week here on campus, and we have seen the great value that can be derived from Spirit led services, where God really shows up. In much of the evangelical church today, worship is about the style of music that is offered. Churches have been fighting culture wars between contemporary and traditional worship styles for years. But what I'd like you to do for us today, Pastor, is to look past these superficial concerns and really bring us back to the meaning of worship and the attitude of the heart that makes our expressions of worship pleasing to God. So, to get us started, why is worship such an important issue for those struggling with sexual sin?
Steve: Well, Jim, when I thought about this question, I immediately thought about the opening of my book At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry. Let me just read the first few sentences here. “Deeply embedded within the heart of man is a spiritual alter. Every human has the capacity, no, the need to worship. The objects of that worship are the things or persons which have taken the pre-eminent position of importance in the person's life. Whatever they may be, they cast their looming shadow over all of the other aspects of his life. It is this position in the human heart that God demands to occupy.” And then I go on to share, “The Great Commandment as Jesus called it out of Deuteronomy Six (v. 5), that ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” Then I go into talking about how people corrupt that inward need for worship by worshiping idolatry, different forms of idols, which of course, this book is regarding sexual idolatry.
The basis of worship really manifests itself in how we live our lives. What we are devoted to. And what we sing in church should be an outflow of what's going on in our hearts throughout the week. Just in our daily life, it's not just about going to church, singing some songs and then going back to living a carnal and worldly life. It is an outflow of a love for God.
Jim: Well, Pastor, take us to the Bible. How does the Bible describe or define worship?
Steve: It's interesting that the Hebraic term and the Greek term for worship are so similar in what their meaning is. “Shachah” is the Hebrew term, and it means to bow down, to prostrate oneself, worship, obeisance, homage to royalty, or in reverence to God. So, you get the sense of not singing songs, but you get the sense of really humbling yourself before someone you consider to be greater than yourself. The Greek form of the word maintains the same idea. “Proskuneo” means to bow down, to fall upon the knees and touch one's forehead to the ground as an expression of profound reverence, as well as kneeling, or prostrating oneself to show respect or make supplication. You get the same sense of coming to a person who you consider to be of much greater quality and character than yourself and humbling yourself before that person. That's what the term worship really means.
Jim: How is our lifestyle a manifestation of worship?
Steve: It's interesting that one of the first times the word worship is used in the Bible is actually in the Ten Commandments. The Lord starts immediately talking about, you shall not make any idols, and so on. Then He says, “You shall not worship them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children of the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me” (Exodus 20:5). Wow, what a statement.
To serve the idols of the day was a lifestyle. It isn't just a matter of going and bowing down before an idol. You are identifying yourself with that religion, which affected every aspect of your life. If you were one of the Ba’al worshipers in Israel, you were going to be hanging out with Ba’al worshipers and doing the sorts of things that Ba’al worshipers do. If you are a worshiper of Jehovah, then you're going to be around the temple or around the Tabernacle. That's where you're going to find yourself and you're going to be with people who are devoted to the God that they serve.
For us in American life, worship is very much tied into what we are devoted to. The reality of worship comes forth in your daily life and it shows forth in the way you live throughout the week. And so, you can go to church on Sunday and sing some songs, but if you aren't truly humbling yourself before God and walking with God, you are not a worshiper of the Lord.
Jim: Pastor, I've read the Ten Commandments, I don't know how many times, but when you read it, just then it really struck me that if you're not worshiping Yahweh your God, then you're a God hater.
Steve: It's funny because I had the same experience before when I’ve read it. I finished out that fifth verse where it talks about Him visiting the iniquity of the third and the fourth generations of those who hate me, and that's how the Lord sees people who won't worship him. It really is a love or hate deal.
Jim: One of the problems that we always see with the nation of Israel is while they're called to worship God, they constantly struggled with idolatry. They would worship the Lord on His day, and then at other times they’d be found in other worship places, worshiping Ba’al and other gods. But don't we really see that today with people who go to church on Sunday, but they're not really worshiping God, they're worshiping everything else but God?
Steve: Yes. The Lord said through Isaiah to the people of his day, “Because this people draw near with their words” (Isaiah 29:13a). Man, does that describe the American church today. We have a lot of big words about our Christian experience or commitment. But this is what he goes on to say: “And they honor me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts from me, and their reverence for me consists of tradition learned by rote” (Isaiah 29:13b). That is describing the worship of a hypocrite. That's what it’s describing. Your mouth is saying one thing and you're putting out an image of being a certain type of person. You're communicating that. You're conveying that to everyone around you, and you call yourself Christian, but you hold your heart back from me. That's what the Lord is saying. You withdraw your devotion to me, and in your heart your really devoted to other things. You're not devoted to me. Man, you feel the pain in God's heart because He loves people, and He wants them to love Him. That’s what Christianity is supposed to be all about. It's not just another form of religion, it is relationship with the Lord our God. That relationship is proven in our affections and in our heart.
Jim: So, worship is about a loving God who wants us to love Him in return. What would you say is the foundation of true worship?
Steve: Well, Jesus defined it. I love that He defines it to a pagan woman. He didn't tell the Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, and He didn't even tell His disciples. They were off in the city. He tells a Samaritan woman, and this woman had been married five times. I mean she was not even a moral woman. And He said to her, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” (John 4:23).
He's saying that true worshipers are those who worship in spirit and truth. And so, by inference, that means there are those who aren't worshiping in the Spirit. They're worshiping in the flesh, and they're not worshiping out of a sincere love for God. They're insincere, which is what we were just talking about. So, the foundation of true worship is to come before God, as I said earlier, in humility. It’s very much in your heart, where you are bowing down before the Lord, and recognizing His superiority. You're recognizing your sinfulness, your fallen nature, your puniness, and you're coming before Him in that kind of humility. In that humility, you are in the spirit of worship.
That's what happens at Pure Life Ministries. We teach the men this. They’re coming in at varying degrees. But they're coming into, maybe many of them the first time in their lives, what it really means to open their mouths and sing songs, and even in between the songs, to express love and devotion to God. That is worship. It's not just a simple matter of singing some songs that you've grown accustomed to, or where you like the tune of a song or something. It is a matter of coming before God and expressing love, adoration and reverence for Him. That's what true worship is all about.
Jim: I think you've given us a great foundation for worship, and have shown us why it's so valuable and how it helps men overcome their sexual sin. Thanks for coming in today.
Steve: Yeah, it's been my pleasure, Jim.