Worship GOD!

I begin with Revelation 22:9 not because I want to do an exposition of it today, but because I want us to  hear the simple command, “Worship God!”  The angel said to John, when he fell down at the angel’s feet, “Do not do that.  I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God.”  In others words, don’t worship angels, worship God!  Don’t worship nothing, worship God!  Don’t neglect God or despise God, worship God!  This is the last chapter of the Bible, and this is the last duty of man:  worship God!

—John Piper, “Worship God” (sermon)

Of Planes and Pews

People on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common. All are on a journey. Most are well-behaved and presentable. Some doze, and others gaze out the window. Most, if not all, are satisfied with a predictable experience. For many, the mark of a good flight and the mark of a good worship assembly are the same. “Nice,” we like to say. “It was a nice flight/It was a nice worship service.” We exit the same way we enter, and we’re happy to return next time.

A few, however, are not content with nice. They long for something more. The boy who just passed me did. I heard him before I saw him. I was already in my seat when he asked, “Will they really let me meet the pilot?” He was either lucky or shrewd because he made the request just as he entered the plane. The question floated into the cockpit, causing the pilot to lean out.

“Someone looking for me?” he asked.
The boy’s hand shot up like he was answering his second grade teacher’s question. “Well, come on in.”

With a nod from his mom, the youngster entered the cockpit’s world of controls and gauges and emerged minutes later with eyes wide. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “I’m so glad to be on this plane!”

No one else’s face showed such wonder. I should know. I paid attention. The boy’s interest piqued mine, so I studied the faces of the other passengers but found no such enthusiasm. I mostly saw contentment: travelers content to be on the plane, content to be closer to their destination . . . content with a predictable, uneventful flight. Content with a “nice” flight.

And since that is what we sought, that is what we got. The boy, on the other hand, wanted more. He wanted to see the pilot. If asked to describe the flight, he wouldn’t say “nice.” He’d likely produce the plastic wings the pilot gave him and say, “I saw the man up front.”

Do you see why I say that people on a plane and people on a pew have a lot in common? Enter a church sanctuary and look at the faces. A few are giggly, a couple are cranky, but by and large we are content. Content to be there. Content to sit and look straight ahead and leave when the service is over. Content to enjoy an assembly with no surprises or turbulence. Content with a “nice” service. “Seek and you will find,” Jesus promised. And since a nice service is what we seek, a nice service is usually what we find.

A few, however, seek more. A few come with the childlike enthusiasm of the boy. And those few leave as he did, wide-eyed with the wonder of having stood in the presence of the Pilot himself.

—Max Lucado, Just like Jesus, 77-79

God’s View

If we honestly compared the amount of time in church spent thinking about what others think or might think with the amount of time thinking about what God is thinking, we would probably be shocked. Those of us in congregational leadership need to think deeply about this.

Often the “eyeservice” [Ephes. 6:6] that occurs in present-day church services comes in the form of trying to “move” people. “Wasn’t that a great service?” we often say. But what do we mean? Are we really thinking about how God felt about the service?  What is the correlation between God’s view of a great service and the human view? We need to be very careful about this, or the rule, “Truly, they have their reward,” may apply to us.

—Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God, 202

Simple Questions

The doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation for several criteria that can be used to evaluate and prescribe liturgical practices in many contexts. These criteria can be phrased as simple questions: Does liturgy speak of God with reference to particular actions in history recorded in Scripture? Does corporate worship in a particular congregation rehearse the whole of the divine economy? Are its liturgical actions carried out as means for a personal relationship and encounter with God? Do these actions acknowledge the example and mediation of Jesus Christ and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit? Does the community itself model the kind of intimate fellowship or koinonia that is central both to divine life and the Christian life?

One strength of these criteria . . . while they are certainly formulated in a very culturally specific way, they are the kind of transcultural criteria that are useful for contextual ministry on any continent.

—John D. Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” 18

God Acts

In the economy of the gospel, everything is turned upside down—including and perhaps especially our worship. Theologically our worship is not what we do. It’s what God does from the past in the present toward an explosive future. In the Word God in Christ addresses us. At the table God in Christ is the host.  In our worship God comes to us as God promises. God takes what appear to be our actions, turns them upside down, and acts.

—Paul Westermeyer

Preaching as Worship

The aim of preaching, whatever the topic, whatever the text, is this kind of faith—to quicken in the soul a satisfaction with all that God is for us in Jesus, because this satisfaction magnifies God’s all-sufficient glory; and that is worship. Therefore the mission of all preaching is soul-satisfying, God-exalting worship.
—John Piper, “Preaching as Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation,”
Trinity Journal 16:1 (Spring 1995), 33

The First and Last Word

The hymns of Israel stand in service of the central theological claim of the Old Testament, that the Lord of Israel alone is God and requires the full devotion of all creation. The expression of praise was the glorification and enjoyment of God, the true measure of piety and the proper purpose of every creature. So for Israel the first and last word of faith was “Hallelujah!”

—Patrick D. Miller, Jr., “‘Enthroned on the Praise of Israel’: The Praise of God in OT Theology,” Interpretation 39 (’85):19