Defining Worship 34

Any definition of Christian worship must be formulated within the framework of the Trinitarian nature of the faith.

Our worship must be God-centered. This should be obvious, but we often lose sight of it and focus our attention on people. If worship loses its God-centeredness, it ceases to be holy convocation and may become something akin to a common assembly, a rally, a theatrical performance, or an awards ceremony. This is not true worship. People should come away from a worship service with a fresh awareness of the majesty of God, with a desire to glorify God, and with renewed commitment to serve God.

Second, worship must be in Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world and brought salvation to us. Because He is the full revelation of the Godhead and the one way of access to the Father, He must be the focal point of worship. If He is not and we try to worship God without reference to the divine Son of God, then we have failed to follow God’s revelation through to its culmination in the plan of redemption. Believers should come away from a worship service with a renewed assurance of the grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, of forgiveness through his blood, of acceptance into his eternal kingdom. And with a fresh commitment to give him the preeminence (Col. 1:18).

Third, because the Holy Spirit is the one who enables all spiritual service, all genuine worship must be by the Spirit. Without falling into the error of denying the physical part of worship, we must recognize that worship is to be spiritual—inspired by by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, genuine and life-giving because it flows from the Spirit. And as this happens, the Spirit will not draw attention to Himself but will point to Christ, will not lead into error but into righteousness, and will not produce responses that are foreign or out of harmony with the Word of God but will empower the Word to produce fruit in the lives of the worshippers.  When worshippers come away from a service that is truly spiritual, they will come away with zeal to love and serve the Lord. It will not be contrived or forced, and it will not be momentary enthusiasm; rather, the Spirit will continue to work in them to produce godliness.

—Allen P. Ross, Recalling The Hope Of Glory: Biblical Worship From The Garden To The New Creation, 66-67

Love with Feet

Evangelicals often sing contemporary songs and choruses that celebrate the love of God but without reference to how God has shown this love in time and space. Subjective sentimental lyrics that reflect a generic affection toward a loving divine being are inappropriate for Christian worship. Hymns and songs that are purely subjective reflections of an undefined, disembodied divine affection unattached from the historical reality of the faith should be eliminated or at least minimized and given context in some way. 

—Robbie F. Castleman, Story Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History, 198.

Duty and Delight

Isaac Watts:

Praise ye the Lord! ‘Tis good to raise
Your hearts and voices in His praise:
His nature and His works invite
To make this duty our delight.

Duty and delight combine in this anticipatory attainment of “man’s chief end,” “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” and it is God’s being, character, and acts—“His nature and His works”—which evoke our praise.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, Worship with One Accord: Where Liturgy and Ecumenism Embrace, 22

Robbed of His Glory

The ultimate missionary compulsion is not simply that there are people who are dying without knowing Christ, nor is it that God has given us the Great Commission to go out into the world; it is that there are areas of the world, whether here . . . or to the ends of the earth, where God is being robbed of His glory. That why when Paul went to Athens, a missionary situation if there ever was one to him, and found people bowing down before idols (and don’t think for a moment they were old-fashioned, former-generation people; they are modern people), Paul had what in the Greek of the NT seems to mean a paroxysm—a cardiac arrest is how some people think of it. Why was he so upset? It was because God was being robbed of His glory.

My friends, we need to learn a little of a jealous concern for the glory of God, because this is what puts worship in its true context. And it’s so easy to be worshiping idols. . . . When we begin to have the test of worship what I get out of it, beloved, we are in the world of idol worship, and the idol is ourselves.

O for a passion for the glory of God!

—Eric Alexander, “Worship God!” (sermon on Revelation 19:10)