Mother's Day is an amazing day of appreciation and love. As children, we call our moms, cook for them, and pamper them with gifts and flowers! This past week as I was preparing my sermon for Mother's Day, my mind was clouded with the idea of honoring our moms. It was somewhat frustrating, but the cloudiness brought on by Mother's Day actually helped me to see that oftentimes we operate in the gray areas between "love" and "worship."
We do so because there are many similarities between our understanding of "love" and our understanding of "worship." The way we talk about both topics are fraught with similarities. Words like "adore" and "sacrifice" can be thought of in an equally secular and sacred way. We write poetry of adoration to our loved ones. We sacrifice greatly for our loved ones and children. Parents work hard to raise their kids. The same language is used in worship. In the OT, God commanded His people to offer sacrifices of animals and grain to Him as an act of worship. The NT switches things up a little and instead calls for Christians to offer themselves as a living sacrifice. Romans 12:1 says that this living sacrifice is our true act of worship. Adoration and sacrifice are sung about in both love and worship. If you have ever listened to a worship song and wondered if it was about God or a girl, you are not alone!
While there are many ways in which "love" and "worship" overlap, there are two main differences between "love" and "worship." The first is the element of fear. Fear is seldom associated with anyone's idea of "love," but it is essential to a Christian's understanding of "worship." The fear of the Lord is mentioned throughout Scripture, we have trouble separating our understanding of our phobias (being afraid) from the fear of the Lord. I find this lack of understanding to be true for Christians both old and new. So when we talk about fear in the context of love and worship, we are not simply talking about being afraid, even though we should be most afraid of God! Matthew 10:28 says to "not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell."
The fear of the Lord is far more complex than phobias and the emotion of fear, so to help us better understand the fear of the Lord I have boiled it down to three main points: Reverence, Repentance, and Revelation.
The fear of the Lord is about reverence. Phil. 2:12 says to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." We are to view our calling and mission with the utmost reverence. We would all behave differently in the presence of royalty and celebrity. You might be more mindful of your appearance or demeanor. You might even use different language to address this person. Whatever it is, the idea of reverence is on display in those situations. The fear of the Lord means that we have reverence when we think about and approach the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is about repentance. Prov. 3:7 tells us to "fear the Lord and shun evil." The fear of the Lord is connected to turning away from evil, meaning that as we repent of our sins and wrongdoings we are growing in our understanding of the fear of the Lord.
The fear of the Lord is also about revelation. Psalm 111:10 says that "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." Our revelation of God (wisdom) springs from the fear of the Lord. Prov. 14:27 says "The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,that one may turn away from the snares of death." We understand more of who God is when we fear Him.
But the fear of the Lord is especially present in the context of worship. Psalm 33:8 says "Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him!" The fear of the Lord does not drive us away or cause us to flee from God's presence. Instead it causes us to stand in awe and wonder of who He is and what He has done and what He will do!
Part two: "When What We Love Becomes What We Worship"