Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Worship?

I recently had a friend ask me the question, "What is the purpose of worship?" That’s a great question. Every Sunday, hundreds of thousands of people around our country (and many more around the world) gather to central meeting places to carry on a thing called worship. But what is it, and why do we do it? (Please note that I’m speaking of corporate worship, not private worship, family worship, or the way in which our deeds are a form of worship--see Hebrews 13:15-16).

There have been much better responses to that question than I am able to articulate here. Having said that, here is my attempt: Worship is simply ascribing to the Lord the glory due His Name (Psalm 29:2). How much glory is due to God’s Name? The Scriptures tell us He dwells in "unapproachable light" (1 Timothy 6:16). "I am the Lord," says God, "and there is no other, besides me there is no God". Psalm 115:1 says, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory". God is a God of infinite splendor; therefore, He is worthy of infinite worship and praise.

Why does God allow us the privilege of declaring His praises? First, because it was His design in creating us. Isaiah 43:7 says, "everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory". Second, because declaring His Glory is also ultimately the purpose for our redemption. 1 Peter 2:9 says "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." Again, Ephesians 1:4-6 also makes this point clear: "In love he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved." God has a great zeal that His Name be revered and honored. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:36). Any ministry which is focused on leading God’s people into worship must have enhancing God’s reputation and declaring His excellencies back to Him as its primary goals.

So, God delights in having His Name exalted, and His excellencies declared. Does that make Him self-centered? If so, is that a sin? Not at all. When we boast, we are guilty of the sin of pride. But God can desire praise, because He is the only One worth boasting about. If you or I do anything of any lasting value, it is wrong for us to brag about it, because it is robbing God of the credit; anything we’ve done of eternal significance can only be done through His enablement and strength.

Finally, consider John 4:23-24--"But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth". Jesus spoke these words to the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritans had their own versions of the first five books of the Old Testament, and that was it. Their worship was emotional, and done in spirit, but lacked a foundation of truth.

Jews such as the Pharisees, by contrast, had prided themselves in having the Law. They had the truth, but Jesus said about them, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me". In other words, they worshipped in truth, but not in spirit.

God is seeking worshippers, Jesus says, who will both worship God in spirit--with ferver, love, emotion--and in truth--sound thoughts about God based on the truth of God from the Word of God, designed to cause us to love God all the more.

Any worship ministry in the church, therefore, must strive to accomplish these two things: provide elevated, lofty thoughts about God--His winsome character traits and His mighty deeds-- and provide an atmosphere in which these things are delighted in and cherished by the worshippers. This is true worship.

"Worship is not a gathering. Worship essentially is not a song service. Worship essentially is not sitting under preaching. Worship is not essentially any outward act. Worship is essentially an inner stirring of the heart to treasure God above all treasures in the world, a valuing of God above all that is valuable, a loving of God above all that is loveley, a savoring of God above all that is sweet, an admiring of God above all that is admirable, a fearing of God above all that is fearful, a respecting of God above all that is respectable, and a prizing of God above all that is precious. That is worship..."
--John Piper

"Declaring the truth about God and His Glory, about Christ and His work, provides a necessary correction to worship which begins with man and his needs. The problem, I believe, with most of our worship is that it begins with man and his need, not God and His glory. So people come to worship to receive, rather than to give, rather than to spend themselves. ‘You are worthy, our Lord and God’, says John in Revelation,’to receive glory and honor and power,’ and whatever we may get is the byproduct of acceptable worship--like picking up flowers along the path"
--Alistair Begg

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