Man was made to worship God. God gave man a harp and He said, “Here! Above all creatures that I have made and created, I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument, and I’ve given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can.”
When man sinned, he took that instrument and he threw it down in the mud. And there it has lain for centuries, rusted and broken and unstrung. And man, instead of playing a harp like the angels and seeking to worship God in all of his activities, is ego-centered and turns on himself, and sulks and swears and laughs and sings, and it’s all without joy and without worship.
Worship is the missing jewel in modern evangelicalism. We’re organized, we work, we have our churches, we have our agendas, we have almost everything. But there is one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: and that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It’s the one shining gem that is lost to the modern church. And, I believe, we ought to search for this until we find it.
—A.W. Tozer (1961)
It’s the first Palm Sunday, and here comes Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. The crowds begin to shout “Hosanna! Hosanna!” The old donkey pricks up his ears. Some in the crowd throw their coats in the road; others spread out palm branches.
“Well!” says the donkey, switching a fly off a mange patch. “I had no idea they really appreciated me like this! Listen to those hosannas, would you. I must really be something!”
Friends, if anybody comes around after the service saying, “Wow! That was terrific!”—they’re not actually saying hosanna to you.
All you did was bring Jesus to them.
—A. W. Tozer (cited by Anne Ortlund, Up with Worship, 169-70)
God wants us to worship Him. He doesn’t need us, for He couldn’t be a self-sufficient God and need anything or anybody, but He wants us. When Adam sinned it was not he who cried, “God, where art Thou?” It was God who cried, “Adam, where art thou?”
—A. W. Tozer, Worship: The Missing Jewel
God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will.
Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first.
—A. W. Tozer
I’m going to give you a definition of the word worship as I shall use it. You’ll not find this definition anywhere because I made it myself. After Webster’s done the best he can for you, then a good thinker ought to make his own definition. If you don’t define, you won’t be understood; if you define too much you won’t be listened to, because there isn’t anything so boring as a preacher who gets up and gives you a lecture on Webster; but if you don’t define enough people won’t know what you mean. You’ll be talking about one thing and your audience will be hearing something else, and you may not mean the same thing at all.
I want to define worship, and here is where I want to be dogmatic. Worship means “to feel in the heart”; that’s first—feel it in the heart. Now I happen to belong to that segment of the Church of Christ on earth that is not afraid of the word “feeling.” We went through a long deep-freeze period at the turn of the century, when people talked about “naked faith.” They wanted to hang us out there like a coonskin drying on the door. And so they said, “Now, don’t believe in feeling, brother; we don’t believe in feeling. The only man who went by feeling was led astray; that was Isaac when he felt Jacob’s arms and thought it was Esau.” But they forgot the woman who felt in her body that she was healed! Remember that? A person that merely goes through the form and doesn’t feel anything is not worshiping.
Worship also means to “express in some appropriate manner” what you feel. Now, expressing in some appropriate manner doesn’t mean that we always all express it in the same way all the time. And it doesn’t mean that you will always express your worship in the same manner. But it does mean that it will be expressed in some manner.
And what will be expressed? “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder.” It is delightful to worship God, but it is also a humbling thing; and the man who has not been humbled in the presence of God will never be a worshiper of God at all. He may be a church member who keeps the rules and obeys the discipline, and who tithes and goes to conference, but he’ll never be a worshiper unless he is deeply humbled. “A humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe.” There’s an awesomeness about God which is missing in our day altogether; there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.
—A. W. Tozer, Worship: The Missing Jewel in the Evangelical Church