Kidder’s Column

The Heartbeat of the Believer

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.

Recently I was talking to a group of church leaders and started my devotional thought by asking the question, “What is worship?” People equated it with the sermon, evangelism, revival, truth, praise, and adoration. Yet no one mentioned that it’s about God, about making a commitment with Him, and giving Him worth, honor, and glory. 

Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Instead of being passive, it’s participative, not simply a mood or feeling, but a declaration of our awe and wonder. It’s attributing worth to God, in giving, ministry, and praise. 

Worship is about God showing up and breaking through inside of us by His presence and grace. At its core, it’s about being so moved by the majesty of God that we kneel down in obedience and devotion, and rise up in a holy life.

The health and vitality of the believer rises and falls on making adoration the center of their experience. According to Revelation 14:6-12, it is the commemoration of creation and celebration of the redemption. It is the believer’s response to the mercy and goodness of God in the act of adoration, thanksgiving, and submission. We worship because of who He is and what He has done, is doing, and will do through His Son and His Spirit.

A par excellence model on the meaning of true worship is found in the life of Isaiah. We discover that true worship takes place when believers seek the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. Isaiah went into the temple seeking the Lord, and was rewarded by seeing His glory. Worship always focuses on God (Is. 6:1).

We must enter into worship not so much to have our needs met, but to have an encounter with God. Thus the most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience for an hour a week rather than seeking God. In true worship we are the performers, the pastors and worship leaders are the directors, and God is the audience.

Second, true worship always begins with an awareness of God’s holiness. “And one [seraphim] cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory’” (Is. 6:3 NKJV). In recent years, we have emphasized the personal nature of God, His love and joy, to such a degree that we’ve forgotten that our God is also a Holy and Awesome God. We have almost made Him into a “little buddy.” We need a balance in our worship between the holiness of God and a loving personal God. When Moses was aware of God’s presence in the burning bush, he was afraid. When we are aware of the presence of God, we become filled with awe, reverence, and even fear (see Hebrews 12:28).

Third, true worship also helps us understand ourselves, our shortcomings, and need to seek God’s forgiveness. After having encountering a holy God, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips . . .” You cannot come into the presence of God without becoming aware of His holiness and our own ungodliness. Our confession always results in forgiveness. When Isaiah senses God’s holiness it compels him to acknowledge his own sinfulness and to confess. That confession leads to the free forgiveness of sins. As a symbolic gesture the angel takes a hot coal and touches the lips of the prophet to declare his sins forgiven.

Through worship we experience forgiveness. We need to hear the same message the Prophet Isaiah heard: “Your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Is. 6:7, NIV). 

Finally, worship motivates us to live a holy and righteous life filled with service, ministry and blessings. 

When Isaiah hears God saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah is moved and responds, “Here am I! Send me.” We cannot enter into the worship of the Almighty, without departing into the world to serve and make a difference. 

S. Joseph Kidder is professor of church growth and leadership at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA.

Joseph Kidder, DMin, is professor of Christian ministry and discipleship at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Berrien Springs, MI, USA.