The Significance of Our Physical Expressions in Worship 

And the Lord said:
“Because this people draw near with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
while their hearts are far from me,
and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…”
-Isaiah 29:13

You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it;
You are not pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit.
God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.
Psalm 51:16-17

Worship.
It holds all the significance in a believer’s life. It is, for every follower of Jesus, our lifestyle. The center of everything we say and do: to bring the Lord praise & glory. On that, I think every believer can agree.

But I want to touch on an issue where the lines can get blurred pertaining to musical worship.
What is the significance of our physical posture during a worship set? What does it mean to lift our hands, bend our knees, close our eyes, or even sing the words? What does it signify and how important is it anyway? And the question we should ask about anything we do in this life: What does it really say about the posture of our hearts?

Depending on your upbringing, culture, denomination, age, and personal style, every person’s physical posture in worship will look different, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it’s meaning.

“Are they even really worshipping if they’re so stiff during worship?”
“Where is the joy of the Lord if they’re standing so still, not even singing the words?”

These are a few of the phrases I’ve actually heard uttered by fellow believers in my time in the church. My issue, as with absolutely any secondary Christian issue (anything not pertaining to salvation), is the one where we begin judging each other’s spiritual walk and maturity based on what we see.

A sweet old man walked up to me today after service and told me he loved the way I worshipped. He said my posture was animated, worshipful, refreshing. I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened to me. Every single time it is awkward, but nevertheless, the heart behind it is sweet. I have learned to embrace a certain way of expressing praise that resembles my heart, and am typically very animated when I’m alone in my car or in a corporate worship setting. But it always makes me wonder, what does it signify to other’s when that isn’t my posture? “Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” There is a response for every moment and every season we are in. Sometimes the means dancing, sometimes that means falling on your face. There are no rules. This is an open expression of our freedom in Christ. But what about on the days when my heart is broken and I have no energy? What about on the days I want to just stand there and think of the Lord, or sit in my chair with my face in my hands? In those moments, does that mean my heart’s posture is insincere?

I want to bring attention to the places in the Word where we are given clear examples of physical posture that is a response to either praise, or victory, or fear, or joy during worship:

I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
– Psalm 63:4

May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.
– Psalm 121:2

I stretch out my hands to you, my soul longs for you.
– Psalm 143:6

I cried out to him with my mouth;
his praise was on my tongue.
-Psalm 66:17

In Ephesians 3, we see that Paul kneels before the Father.

In Isaiah, Romans, and Philippians, it’s repeated that every knee will bow before the Lord and every tongue confess Him.

For as many verses as you can find on physical posture, if I go to scripture to find examples of what true worship looks like, it is clearly all about the mind connecting with the heart who God is and what He’s done. About us exalting Jesus, and revering Him in our hearts.
Here are just a few of my favorites:

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
-Psalm 42:11

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
-1 Peter 3:15

I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.
-Psalm 86:12

I believe there are two downfalls we face when it comes to this matter:
First, the downfall of putting on a show. If your stance in worship is for others around you to know you’re ‘saved for real’, your heart’s posture is incorrect. It is clear in every single one of these verses that physical posture is an expression of the utmost reverence for God alone, not for the viewing of anyone else.

Second, refraining from lifting your hands or raising your voice for fear of what your fellow church goers will think. David danced before the Lord to express what he was feeling inside. And he was called a fool for it. If our hearts are truly focused on the Lord, this won’t be a hindrance. And when those thoughts come, a simple reminder of who you’re worshipping will quickly get rid of those fears.

At the end of the day, some of the most God fearing Christian’s I know stand in the pews and sing hymns every week. And on the other end of the spectrum, some of the most God fearing Christian’s I know run around the building shouting. Who are we to judge each other based on one way or another way, deciding what is right? Has the Lord commanded us to stand as judges of our fellow saints, or to come before him with a heart’s posture of humility, love, admiration, and reverence?

Offer up your body as the living sacrifice that it is. He’s given you hands, so by all means, lift them in a moment of praise because you’re thankful. He’s given you a mouth, so sing, shout, declare because you’re grateful. But our focus is never to be put on those things. If they are distracting your time of worship to God, they are a hindrance and I promise you the Lord would not have you even bother with them. If your heart is not connecting to God’s heart, it is just noise like every other thing that distracts us from Him. It is clear that the only requirement when it comes to worshipping is that we do it in Spirit and in truth. That we do it with genuine hearts, as with any aspect of the wide world the word Worship contains in a believers life.

While we’re on the topic of worship, I’ve been listening to Hillsong United’s new song So Will I (100 Billion X) nonstop and its bringing so much life to my heart.

 

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