Every definition is dangerous. It is like trying to enclose a wilderness of idea within a wall of words. A good definition must set limits as it also leaves room for expansion of those limits. It must be an intellectually constructed compass that guides our behavior as well as an emotionally operated recorder that accurately reflects our experience.

The Bible is not big on definitions. It is not an encyclopedia or a dictionary. It rarely takes the time to explain. Instead, it spends most of its time demonstrating and describing. It is a Who’s Who of people who, throughout history, feared God intuitively, came to know God intimately, learned to trust Him implicitly, decided to love Him unconditionally, and who then were able to accomplish great things in His Name and to His honor.

Worship is a human response to a divine revelation. More often than not it begins as primal fear. Human beings experience the greatest degree of anxiety (fear) in situations over which they have the least amount of control. An utterly sinful human being in the presence of a perfectly holy God rarely fails to drive the human to his or her knees. Terror is the byproduct of a finite, controlling, compulsive mind being completely enveloped in the infinite, the untamed, the mysterious, the unknown.

Religion rarely accomplishes transformation. Religion, as I am using the term here, is nothing more than another compulsive human attempt to contain, define, limit and thereby become the Infinite. Reduce the Mystery to a manageable, memorizeable formula and you have Orthodoxy. Encase that formula within a few easily-performed rituals and you have Religion. The mystery is gone, the uncertainty is gone, and with it the human anxiety. The trouble is that God is as absent as any hope of true transformation.

Worship, on the other hand, always effects transformation. Releasing the compulsion to manipulate, embracing the mystery, trusting the unmanageable, humbly declaring “I don’t know and I may never know,” expecting the unforeseeable to occur, patiently waiting for the Eternal to act—these are human responses that form the foundation of worship. These are the human responses that truly transform us. This is true worship.