Sunday, March 1, 2009
The Focus of Worship
This is an excerpt out of a book Im reading called "God's Passion for His Glory" by John Piper. What is the focus of our worship to God on Sunday mornings, or at times when the church is gathered together corporately? Is the focus man-centered in attempting to glorify God, or is the focus God-centered, glorifying Him at all times? The quote:
The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though He needed anything (Acts 17:25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God. And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God. We should come saying " As the deep pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O'God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God" (Ps. 42:1-2). God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God.
Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing - not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends - nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God. This convivtion breeds a people who go hard after God on Sunday morning. They are not confused about why they are in a worship service. They do not view songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or mere duties. They see them as means of getting to God or God getting to them for more of His fullness - no matter how painful that may be for sinners in the short run.
If the focus in corporate worship shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that subtly it is not God that remains at the center but at the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Do the instrumentalists play with a quality befitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord Himself onto the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts. Nothing keeps God at the center of worship like the Biblical conviction that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in Him, and the conviction that the trembling pursuit of that satisfaction is why we are together.
Furthermore, this vision of worship prevents the pragmatic hollowing out of this holy act. If the essence of worship is satifaction in God, then worship cant be a means to anything else. We simply cant say to God, " I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else." For that would mean that we are not really satisfied in God but in that something else. And that would dishonor God, not worship Him.
But in fact, for thousands of people, and for many pastors, the event of "worship" on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We "worship" to raise money; we "worship" to attract crowds; we "worship" to heal human hurts; to recruit workers; to improve church morale; to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; to teach our children the way of righteousness; to help marriages stay together; to evangelize the lost; to motivate people for service projects; to give our churches a family feeling.
In all this we bear witness that we do not know what true worship is. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife: "I feel a strong delight in you, so that you will make me a nice meal." That is not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view...
I do not deny that authentic corporate worship may have a hundred good effects on the life of the church. It will, just like true affection in marriage, make everything better. My point is that to the degree that we do "worship" for these reasons, to that degree it ceases to be authentic worship. Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that trajedy."
Posted by Anonymous @ 8:35 PM