The Life of Worship – What is It?

“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.” John 4:23-24

Over the past 30+ years, I can’t tell you how many books, articles, sermons, and seminars I have read or listened to on the topic of worship. There are a lot of convictions, declarations, and opinions – some good, and some not so much. I know I have definite convictions on the subject. The majority of my ministry has been spent being involved in studying and seeking to worship and lead worship in a manner that is pleasing and exalting God. Looking back over the decades (I can’t believe I can say that – decades!), there are some things I think I got right. There are other areas that I stumbled through. Today, I am still on the pursuit – some days are better than others.

The declaration made by Jesus, in the passage above, is a radical shift from what people of His day thought about worship and religion. It is a radical shift from what most of us believe. Even for those of us who know all of the right answers, in our hearts, there is always a battle going on. There will always be a struggle to worship God in spirit and truth. The world will not do us any favors in this. They will try to shift our focus to anything but Jesus. To live a life of worship, we must be diligent. In fact, if don’t intentionally pursue it, it is not going to happen.

Thankfully, God is gracious and merciful. He knows our weaknesses. When we slip, slide, fall, or even run away, His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-24). He is the God of new beginnings. He delights for us to delight in Him, because in Him He knows we will find our greatest joy and satisfaction.

Over the next few weeks, I will share thoughts about the life of worship. As I have said here before, I do not claim to be an expert. I do not claim to even live this well. One of the reasons I call this blog “In Pursuit of the Life of Worship” is because that is exactly what it is for me. It is a pursuit. A journey that will last my lifetime and beyond. Sometimes, I think I get it right. Many times, well, let’s just say I have a long way to go.

However, I want to live out this life in a way that glorifies God and brings me to a deeper, richer knowledge and love for God. So, I keep moving on. And I encourage you to do the same, as you encourage me to do the same. Together, we join the most glorious pursuit of all – to know and love the One Who spoke all things into existence, holds them together by the power of His Word, and has redeemed us by His Own blood. This is Someone worth pursuing a relationship with.

Together for His glory…

The Self-Centered God: God-Centered Worship, Part 4

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) In the past couple of weeks, I have addressed what it means that all things are from God and through God. Today, I will attempt to unpack what it means that all things are to Him.

In my years of being in worship ministry, I have heard numerous descriptions and analogies of what takes place in the worship of God: giving to God; offering ourselves to God; reflecting His glory; we are fulfilling the command to worship; we are performing for the audience of One; bringing glory to God. And there are many more. These ideas can be helpful as we think through how we should worship God.

When we think of something being “to” someone, we often think of giving or offering something to them, whether it is a gift or something that we owe to them. However, when we try to apply this to God, we need to be cautious because there are aspects related to bringing or giving that may apply to us as humans, but cannot apply to God. The earlier verses in Romans 11:33-35 make it clear that we cannot give counsel or gifts to God that either increase His knowledge or possessions. All wisdom and knowledge are His. The earth and the universe are His. He lacks nothing. So, our worship does not add anything to God. Anything we bring to God is already His.

So, what is the purpose of our worship? Scripture is full of commands to worship the Lord, bring offerings, and even offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). There has to be a reason that we worship, other than just requiring us to do this act out of obedience. And there is.

God’s purpose for worship, and all of life, is His glory. Everything, including our lives, exists for the purpose of bringing glory to God. All things are to Him. When creates, it is for His glory. When He reveals Himself to us, it is for His glory. When He provides for us, it is for His glory. When He saves, it is for His glory. When He judges, it is for His glory. When he raises up or brings down individuals, groups, or nations, it is for His glory. When Christ came, suffered, and bore the penalty for all sin, it was for His glory. When Christ rose, it was for His glory. When Christ returns, it will be for His glory. All things exist to bring glory to the Almighty God. And He will not give or share His glory with anyone or anything (Isaiah 48:9-11).

All things are to Him. All things are for Him. All things were created and intended by God to bring glory to God. For many of us, this is hard to swallow. This seems highly self-centered. That is because it is. For us, it would be sin. For God, it is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it is the most loving thing He can do for His creation.

Where is the highest joy found? Our highest joy is found in God through Christ. Any other person, possession, or aspiration will fall short of bringing the joy that can be found in Christ. Therefore, the greatest thing that God can do for us is to glorify Himself and the work He has done. As we see the indescribable wonders of Who He is and heights and depths to which He has gone to purchase our salvation, what greater joy could be found in anything else in life?

God is jealous for His glory. He is also jealous for His people. He knows that anything less than His glory is robbing us of our greatest joy. Therefore, as we come to God in worship and as we conduct our times of worship together, we should give serious consideration to where we place our focus. Worship is for the purpose of glorifying God. When the focus shifts from God and His works to the abilities, performances, or preferences of the leaders or those in attendance, we are seeking to share or steal God’s glory, whether that is our specific intent or not. We should always be mindful of why we are doing something – are we seeking to glorify God or are we just serving and glorifying ourselves?

When my focus becomes being noticed or recognized for anything that I am doing in the worship service or the ministry of the church, I am stealing God’s glory. When I am pressing hard on some issue, I need to seriously ask myself whether this glorifies God or am I just trying to get my own way. Pride and selfishness can be deadly in relationships. It has destroyed many families and churches. God abhors it when it comes to His glory, His church, and His people. As I look back over the years, distant and recent, I wonder how many times I have glorified myself instead of my glorious Savior. As we live our lives and work together in the church, it is important to keep the glory of God before us at all times.

Thankfully, God is gracious. He is forgiving. His mercies are new every morning. He holds His glory up as a wonderful aspiration. As followers of Christ, we have the awesome privilege of declaring the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We testify to what God has done in our lives through Christ. We get to make God look great! That is what it means to glorify someone. It does not mean that we make Him look bigger than He is. It does not mean that we have anything to add to Who He is or what He has done. We just get to reflect His wonderful work in our lives, as He transforms us into the image of Christ.

We glorify God when we find our greatest joy and treasure in Him. It is why we were created. God knows there is nothing else in life that can bring us this kind of satisfaction. That is why He glorifies Himself. Everything else is a cheap substitute and robs us of the peace and joy of God. It can be ours throughout life’s journeys, joys, and trials. Though we will stumble and fall, He will pick us up and sustain us. As we draw near and glorify Him, He will feed and serve us, providing for our every need. He will teach and strengthen us, giving us a deeper understanding of Who is. And we, in turn, will glorify Him. And so it continues, as God continues to show us that He is our all in all, and that there can be no greater joy than knowing Him in Christ.

Together for His glory…