an important subject: worship

(Before I begin, I will refer to a man named John Piper. He is a common theme in most of my posts simply because I believe he is right on when it comes to many issues pertaining to how life should be lived according to the Word of God.)

What is the goal of the church?

I personally think that John Piper answers this question in a very satisfying way:  

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship does not. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever…The goal of missions is the gladness of the peoples in the greatness of God. ‘The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!’ (Ps. 97:1). ‘Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! Let the nations be glad and sing for joy!’ (Ps. 67:3-4)…Where passion for God is weak, zeal for missions will be weak. Churches that are not centered on the exaltation of the majesty and beauty of God will scarcely kindle a fervnt desire to ‘declare his glory among the nations’ (Ps. 96:3). Even outsiders feel the disparity between the boldness of our claim upon the nations and the blandness of our engagement with God.

I could stop here and say no more, but I think that we must define a few things in order for these series of statements to really sink in and be understood.

To begin with, church is not a building. Rather, church is fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, wherever that may occur. Matthew 18:20 says 

 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.  

If two believers meet for lunch to fellowship together, that is church. Therefore, when you GO to ‘church’ on Sunday, you are participating in a larger version of church. The goal of this gathering, Piper hypothesizes, should be to worship the creator of all things and to bring everyone into the same “white-hot” worship of their creator. I completely agree with him.
But what is true worship and what does it look like?
Something that I have recently been convicted in my own life with is the showy-ness and public display of ‘worship’ manefesting a ‘holiness’ for others to see. I know that I am not the only one who struggles with this (the next few thoughts are addressing worship through song, one facet of many forms of worship). I hope that what I say next will spawn change and thought and conviction, rather than offend. I don’t know man’s heart like Jesus Christ does (But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ -1 Samuel 16:7), but sometimes I can’t help but wonder what really is going on in peoples’ minds when they are closing their eyes, swaying back and forth during a song, arms fully extended as they try to touch the ceiling.  Personally, when I experience this going on around me, it REALLY distracts me from focussing on what I’m singing. Why must it be done? Does it ‘feel’ more worshipful? Worship should NOT be about a feeling, but rather, it should be about seeking to glorify and lift up the name of Christ.  I went to Hume Lake last summer, and the speaker made a most excellent point concerning worship.  He said that if you base your relationship with Christ off an experience you had once, your relationship will not last because experiences do not last. I completely agree. Again, does it create an experience that you can feel; feeling more worshipful? It certainly excludes everyone around the person, in that they are shutting off cooperate worship as a body of believers. The raising of hands and closing of eyes can be done in secret. God will reward you for that! Why? Because there is no one else to please in the room but him. You can have a very worshipful experience with God that way, but when you are with other believers, isn’t the point to fellowship in song with those around you? Otherwise no one would be there, right? Let me say as graciously as I can that raising your hands and closing your eyes is not a bad thing at all. What are out true motives when we ‘worship’ though? True worship is not a physical portrayal of glorifying God. In fact, in the OT & NT God rarely EVER mentions outward forms of worship. Worship can be outward, however; all forms of worship start in the heart and are portrayed through our actions. If that worship is portrayed as hands lifted high and eyes humbly closed, then praise God! I have been quite convicted in this area of my life for quite some time and struggle with humility often. Am I being to showy as I worship the one who fearfully and wonderfully created me? (I’m getting so far off the subject, but that’s ok). In a book called ‘The Screwtape Letters,’ C.S. Lewis dilineates a perfect scenario of the humility and pride issue: 

Our patient has become humble. Have you drawn his attention to this fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at a moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection “By jove! I’m being humble,” and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother his new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt – and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this for too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed.

So I guess the question that must be asked as we worship is this: Who are we displaying our “worship” for? Are we caring for the sick and hungry…and telling everyone about it? Are we closing our eyes and making sure we are in a place where everyone can see us? Are we questioning our motives as we glorify God?

Lord, please give us a heart of worship that only seeks to praise you and display glory for you alone!

    • Janie
    • October 14th, 2008

    I agree that some people choose to use the “worship time” at church or other functions to bring attention to themselves through their outward actions. But, as you said, there are some who really are selflessly worshiping God. We can’t see the heart, only God can. I am on the opposite extreme — I can sit with my arms folded and no expression on my face whatsoever during a Christian concert or worship time, and be completely worshiping God. I’m sure some would think I’m completely dead spiritually by looking at me! We are all different, and your article is a good reminder that we all need to examine ourselves to see if pride, or selfishness is rearing it’s ugly head. Thanks for your words of encouragement, Miles. Well said.

    • Sara
    • August 10th, 2010

    You sound like Michal, David’s wife, when she saw him dancing before the Lord.
    I disagree with you that the Bible rarely ever mentions outward worship, it shows all different ways we worship and not just in private.
    Here are some different ways to worship and verses to back it up:

    Psalm 141:2 May my prayer be set before You like incense, may the lifting of my hands be like the evening sacrifice..
    Psalm 63:4 I will praise You as long as I live and in Your name I will lift up my hands.
    Psalm 92:4 For You make me glad by Your deeds, Oh, Lord, I sing for joy at the works of Your hands.
    Psalm 95:1 Come let us sing for joy unto the Lord.
    Psalm 47:1 Oh, clap your hands all you peoples; Shout to God with a voice of joy.
    Acts 3:8 And with a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, jumping and leaping and praising God!
    2 Samuel 6:16 Then it happened as the Ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord…
    Psalm 47:1 Shout to God with a voice of triumph
    Psalm 105:43 He brought out His people with rejoicing, His chosen ones with shouts of joy.
    Psalm 100:1 Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.
    Psalm 145:6 They will tell of the power of Your awesome works and I will proclaim Your great deeds!
    Psalm 106:2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare His praise?
    Psalm 20:5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God!
    Psalm 30:11 You turned my mourning into dancing…
    Psalm 149:3 Let them praise His name with dancing…
    Psalm 150:4 Praise Him with tambourine and dancing…
    Psalm 95:6 Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our God our maker…
    Ezra 10:1 Now while Ezra was praying and making confession, weeping and prostrating himself before the House of God…

    • Hi Sara,

      I wrote this quite a long time ago, so for all the errors in here, I am truly sorry. The quote that I believe you are referring to is this:

      “What are our true motives when we ‘worship’ though? True worship is not a physical portrayal of glorifying God. In fact, in the OT & NT God rarely EVER mentions outward forms of worship.”

      I made a mistake… obviously there are multiple forms of worship throughout the entire Bible. It’s silly to think otherwise, no? What I meant to say, but forgot to mention in the hurriedness that this post was written, was that worship, or rather, what it “looks” like, changes from the OT to the NT. OT is in fact more saturated with external forms of worship (keyword: more). Even considering the sacrifices, which were acts of obedient worship, and David “[becoming] even more undignified than this,” as he tore his clothes in the streets, exposing himself in public for the Lord. I’d like you to scan the NT for these external forms of worship. They are not there like they are in the OT. In fact, what you find is quite the opposite. This is a more detailed conversation, but that’s all I’m really going to cover. Feel free to respond!

      In his most famous sermon, Jesus says three times within a matter words, “And your father who see what is done in secret, will reward you.”

      “It is not the outside of a man that makes him unclean, but what is on the inside.”

      “The man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

      And it’s over and over again.

      To reconcile our two viewpoints, I did say right after this quote, “Worship can be outward, however; all forms of worship start in the heart and are portrayed through our actions. If that worship is portrayed as hands lifted high and eyes humbly closed, then praise God!”

      I don’t think we disagree, Sara. I think my viewpoint, or emphasis rather, was misunderstood. Often to address an issue, hyperbole is employed to raise eyebrows and provoke thoughtfulness instead of passivity.

      Thanks for taking the time to read my rant, though! =]


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