Wanted – Worshipers
It is a mark of the incredible love of God that He invites sinners to worship Him and provides the way for them to come.
It’s not too difficult to find worshippers. Worship, in a broad sense, simply speaks of placing something as the supreme object of your affections and adoration. We worship, in a sense, whatever we value as being most important. All men are created with an awareness of a greater being. They have an awareness of the created world from which they understand invisible things, even God’s ‘eternal power and Godhead’ (Romans 1:20). The majority of people in the world regularly worship something they regard to be a Supreme being. Even those who deny the existence of God engage in a form of ‘worship’. Their hearts are occupied with something they value as of great importance. They live for some purpose or aim. We all find meaning in something. We praise those things we esteem. The atheist might live for family or money or pleasure or fame etc. They give their energy, time and money to those things and thus ‘worship’ them. Everybody has something, external to themselves, that guides how they live and the choices they make
Paul tells us that the unsaved ‘…changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…’ (Romans 1:25). It’s not difficult to find worshippers. The issue is who or what we worship. Only one being is worthy of our supreme love. Only one being is of such infinite worth to merit worship. There is only one true and living God; one Lord of heaven and earth; one Creator of the Universe; one Saviour of sinners. No created thing can command the worship of creation. Only the uncreated God is worthy of all our praise and adoration. It is God’s eternal purpose to seek out souls to worship Him. Christ speaks to the Samaritan woman: ‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.’ (John 4:23)
The Father seeks true worshippers by sending His Son to redeem sinners. Christ came into the world to live and die for the lost so that the lost would be found and when found would come to worship the one true God. The saved are described by Paul as those who ‘… worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) The conversion of the Thessalonian believers is also described in terms of worship. They ‘turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.’ (1Thessalonians 1:9) If we are to be true worshippers we must first be converted from our natural tendency to idolatry. True worship is only possible if we worship the true God. We will only truly worship the true God when we are born again by His Spirit. When we are clear that true worship is offered by the saved to the one living and true God then a number of things become very clear. At this point we’ll consider the narrower area of public worship in the gathering of God’s people. That is not to deny that our lives are acts of worship (Romans 12:1) or that worship is also a private exercise. However, the practice of public worship has seen significant changes in recent decades and so it demands a careful consideration by us all.
The Approach to God in Worship
Realising that true worship is to a God who is awesome and all glorious governs how we approach Him. We are not praising one who is our equal. He is the Creator, we are the creatures. He is the Saviour, we are His saved servants. By grace, we are given the entitlement to approach God with boldness, literally with ‘freedom of speech’. That boldness comes as a result of the access that we enjoy through the blood of Christ. (Hebrews 4:16 and 10:19) Some today point to the fact that the Spirit of God enables us to cry ‘Abba, Father.’ They point to the word Abba and note it is a term of familiarity. They observe the intimacy the Christian can have with God. Words are used in addressing God and musical genres defended on this ground. We must be so thankful for the access we have to God, in grace through Christ. However, familiarity and intimacy, have been emphasized to the omission, at least partially, of reverence to God. Our approach to God must reflect the One we are coming before in worship. He, in grace, bids us come but our coming must never be casual. We need grace so that ‘…we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.’ (Hebrews 12:28) Solomon’s wisdom is as relevant today as when he wrote it. ‘Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools… Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.’ (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2)
The Attitude in Worship
The Book of Psalms is God’s revealed worship book. As such it gives us examples of what our attitudes ought to be in true worship. Again, our attitude in worship is governed by the One we worship. In our worship, contrition for sin should be present. There should be thankfulness for God’s goodness and mercy. A prayerful dependence on God should be expressed. All these and more are revealed in God’s songbook. Yet a dominant emotion and attitude seems to be joy. ‘But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.’ (Psalm 5:11) This joy is not opposite to reverence. Indeed, in the true worshipper reverence and joy will coexist. The same Psalm speaks of coming in fear (verse 7). Psalm 2 contains the vivid expression: ‘Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.’ (Psalm 2:11) Our reverence for God should never quench our joy and our joy should not lead to a lack of reverence. The God who demands our reverence also causes us to greatly rejoice. (Consider Psalms 9:2, 32:11, 33:1, 35:9, 35:27, 63:5, 64:10, 68:3-4, 71:23, 90:14, 97:12 and 149:2 as a beginning!) We rejoice in God Himself and we rejoice in His grace towards us. These things never change. Our circumstances might change so that we may at times be happy and at times sad but God never changes. He is the source of our joy and hence our joy abides in seasons of tears as well as in seasons of cheer. It is unwise to seek joy in how worship is conducted in terms of the music and atmosphere. Joy in the heart should not be controlled by the circumstances of worship but by our knowledge of the God we worship.
The Actions of our Worship
When we appreciate that true worship is offered to the Sovereign, Supreme God we will be cautious as to what we do in worship. God did not accept the offering of Cain (Genesis 4:5). Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire to the Lord and paid the price with their lives (Leviticus 10). Our God is a consuming fire and we must worship Him only as He has commanded us. Concerning the parts of our worship, the true worshipper will be zealous to do only those things commanded by God. The offering of prayer and praise; the reading and preaching of the Word; the giving of tithes and offerings; the celebration of the ordinances all arise from clear Scriptural precept or example. We have liberty as to incidentals around these elements (i.e. we might sing 4 or 10 hymns; meet at 10am or 11am) but we have no liberty to the elements themselves. God does not seek our inventiveness in worship but our obedience. ‘Will worship’ (Colossians 2:23) is an offence to God.
It is a mark of the incredible love of God that He invites sinners to worship Him and provides the way for them to come. We are not worthy but we are accepted in Christ. What a privilege to come, pray and praise and hear from God’s Word. Yet, worship must not be entered into lightly or treated carelessly. Modern trends do not give justice to God’s majestic sovereignty but formalistic ritual does not reflect the joy that ought to be present in true worship. Let us worship the true God in truth.
Dr Stephen Pollock.