How We Worship: Head + Heart + Hands

Biblical Worship is a whole-life response — Head, Heart, Hands — to the greatness and goodness of God.

When we boil it all down and reduce biblical worship to its very essence, we are left with an all-encompassing response to God’s greatness and goodness. In my last post we talked about the above definition of worship. I explained that worship is a complete response to God where no corner of our selves is left unengaged. I made the point that when we encounter God in His full glory and receive His perfect love, we can’t help but give our lives back to Him in worship — just like Isaiah did.

But what exactly does it mean to give God your entire life in worship? What does it actually look like to worship Him wholly and completely?

In Mark 12:30 Jesus responds to a radical question presented by one of the religious leaders of His day. The scribe approaches Jesus and says, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus brings the inquisitive scribe all the way back to Deuteronomy 6, saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

In doing so Jesus is saying that the requirement for His people is and always has been the same — to love God perfectly. This is worship: to love God so much that you live your life perfectly and completely for Him. The completeness of this love is expressed through that which makes us humans made in God’s image: the heart, the soul, the mind, and the body. This list is meant to be exhaustive. If we love God with each of these aspects of our being then our worship of Him will be complete.

For the sake of simplicity (and of course, alliteration) I like to use the words head, heart, and hands to communicate the same idea. Let’s look briefly into how we use each of these aspects of our being to worship God.

Head: We Are Theologians

The head (or mind, dianoia in Greek) represents our faculties of thinking, reasoning, and understanding. One of the ways we worship God is by engaging our heads to understand who He is. We can’t worship God for who He is if we never take the time to learn about His character, understand His attributes, and study His creation!

Imagine that I were to tell my wife that I absolutely adore her, but I never spent time with her, never learned what she loved, never asked her questions about what her life was like growing up, and never tried to find out what truly makes her tick! My praise and adoration of her would most certainly be disregarded because it would be based on an incomplete and misguided understanding of who she is. I’d also be sleeping on the couch every night.

As worshipers we must be theologians! We must be students of the Bible (God’s Word) and scholars of God’s amazing creation. The reality is that if we say we adore God, we must also understand why He is worthy of our adoration. In fact if we adore Him for who He is not, we are in a sense worshiping an idol of our own creation. Therefore, as worshipers of God, we must use our heads in order to love Him for who He is.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” Romans 12:33

At first read we might think that this verse in Romans is saying that it’s a fools errand to spend the time learning about God. I mean, what’s the point if we can never truly know or understand Him? Rather, this verse tells us that this is an activity we will (and should) do for 10,000 years and still never come to a complete understanding of who God is. Even when we encounter Him in His full glory we will still have an eternity before us of worshiping Him with our minds!

Heart: We Are Lovers

The Greek words for heart and soul (kardia and psyche) are similar in that they both refer to the internal control center from which everything else flows. It’s the heart and soul that motivate our behavior, our desires, and our thoughts. So, for our purposes I will only use the word heart.

In the same way that the human heart pumps blood throughout our bodies, helping each part function as it should, the heart (and soul) of the Bible represents the affections and loves that power our thoughts and actions. The heart is what motivates us to move toward one direction or another; it drives our desires and our decisions. No wonder the heart is such a big deal in the Bible. The heart is at the center of us all.

So, what does it look like to engage our hearts in worship? I especially gravitate toward the word “affection” because it brings up an almost visceral feeling of love inside me. It’s not just the action of believing deep down inside that God is worthy of my affections—it is the action of loving the God that is worthy of my affections. It’s engaging our affections with God in a way that enlarges our desire for Him.

When we love God with all our heart we are effectively saying that there is nothing else in this world that is as worthy of the same love: not my house, not my career, not even my family! This is what it means to worship with all my heart, and this is the posture in which God longs for us to remain. For, as we grow as heart worshipers and our affections for God increase, we begin to love what He loves, we long for what He longs for, and we do what He would do. Worship of the heart will literally change your life.

Hands: We Are Kingdom Servants

The word Jesus uses for strength (ischys) means our ability, our might, our force, our power. I like to use the word hands. This embodies our actions; what it is we do.

For two hours on Sunday we meet for a worship gathering inside the walls of a sacred space. The other 166 hours of our week are lived outside of those walls. Does that mean we are only worshiping for two hours a week? Absolutely not!

The Apostle Paul says in Romans 12:1  In view of God’s mercies, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to the Lord, THIS is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul understands that worship is first a response to God, and then it is an all-encompassing reality for the believer that involves everything we are and do. In this, as worshipers, we are given great purpose in this world. It means that whether you are a teacher, a janitor, a stay-at-home parent, an athlete, or currently unemployed, you can live out your vocation (or use your hands) as an act of worship for the Kingdom of God.

A Cosmic Pipe Dream?

For years I read Jesus’ words and thought “That sounds to me like a cosmic pipe dream. God knows we can’t love Him that completely; that perfectly! Why does He command us to do something we can’t do?”

As I said earlier, this is God’s requirement—to love Him completely. The reality, however, is that we do not have the power in us to do that. But Jesus did. He was in perfect communion with the Father at all times, loving Him fully with every aspect of His being. Thankfully, our salvation isn’t based on how perfectly we worship God with our lives. Rather, it’s based on Jesus and His perfect life. And so our hope is in Him, Jesus Christ, the one who lived the life that we could not.

Let us then worship Jesus with our whole lives—head, heart, and hands—for the glory of God the Father, through the Holy Spirit alive in us!