Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
For more than half of my life, since I became a follower of Jesus, I have been drawn to the grand, cosmic, yet very earthy idea of worship. I’ve written and spoken countless words about the topic in books, articles, seminars, and conferences. Over the years I’ve often asked myself: Why? Why does this matter so much to you, Dan?
This passage, where Jesus answers the test, the temptation, of having all this world has to offer without any suffering, is my answer. It draws its strength from Exodus 20:3, the first of the Ten Commandments maintaining covenant between God and his people: “You shall have no other gods before me,” and Deuteronomy 6:13a: “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only.”
“Worship the Lord your God and serve him only” (Luke 4:8)—it is the only way to find your complete purpose as a human being, and it is the only way to become whole, to heal, in the wearing, tearing storms of life.
A favorite writer on worship, Evelyn Underhill, wrote in 1936: “Worship, in all its grades and kinds, is a response of the creature to the Eternal.”1 Maybe like you, I have come to believe that all we do in worship is a response to our Creator’s all-pursuing love. Whether that is a beautiful response, a fitting response, or an all-encompassing response is up to us as individuals and communities.
But worship is our response.
What Jesus is doing in this passage is reorienting the devil to the way the world works according to God’s driving plan. We worship God, giving him our ultimate love, allegiance, and obedience, serving from a heart given over to a living-sacrifice way of moving through the world, and the worlds of our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.
Our inward and outward failures to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:20–24) from a pure heart, from a pure life—both personal and communal—bring the crumbling, the crushing, of the soul.
Most of us are drawn to musical expressions of worship. Some of us have had the precious experience of being in environments where there is a high expectation of meeting with God in an intimate way in the worship space. When that worship expectation is well-led by a seasoned, humble, servant-hearted, expectant, rehearsed, and capable musician, and the music is tended as a space for prayer and adoration, amazing things can happen.
I’ve seen lives turned around completely in a time of worship—a drug dealer weeping as the Spirit of God overwhelms him with love and kindness; a broken marriage experiencing the balm of grace and a renewed capacity to move forward; a young woman who was suicidal walking out full of joy and surrounded by supportive community.
While music is only one way worship happens, it can be powerful in our lives, whether experienced together in community or as we worship in our car with the music blasting and our hearts poured out to God in praise.
Really, adversary? Worship you to gain trinkets and powers that disappear and sicken the soul as they do, or worship God and serve him only? You thought the Son of Man would fall for that? I know that we do, but Jesus led the way in reminding us that worship of God is the way the servant followers of Christ live in this world.
Lord of the Wild, it’s an astounding thing how you can meet us in worship, in all its forms, reclaiming our hearts and changing our perspective to one of trust and clarity. Thank you. Keep us in the way of worship and show us the ways that will help us resist the enemy’s work to un-name us before you in our own lives. In Jesus’s name, amen.
What does this passage on worship mean to you? How do you worship the Lord your God, and serve him only?
For the Awakening,
- Evelyn Underhill, Worship (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 1936, 1937, 2010), 3.
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When Jesus is the real Head of His body, He is the One who gets all the praise and adoration; none of the praise is given to others.