Right Worship

God is jealous for His own honor and He rightly seeks His own honor. He says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God” (Ex. 20:5) and “My glory I will not give to another”  (Is. 48:11).  Something within us should tremble and rejoice at this fact. We should tremble with fear lest we rob God’s glory from Him. And we should rejoice that it is right that God seek His own honor and be jealous for His own honor, for He, infinitely more than anything He has made, is worthy of honor. The twenty-four elders in heaven feel this reverence and joy, for they fall down before God’s throne and cast their crowns before him singing, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created”  (Rev. 4:11). When we feel the absolute rightness of this deep within ourselves we then have the appropriate heart attitude for genuine worship.

—Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1005

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I think when you’re in church and a worship song is played (provided it’s not heretical), you have two choices:

1) Worship
2) Criticize, evaluate, and engage in pompous elitism.

I think what we need to do is just worship. When we got to church yesterday (we were very late) I didn’t feel like worshipping, for various reasons. And I may not have liked every song that was played.

But that’s my problem. None of the songs were heretical, and just because I wasn’t inspired to lift up Jesus, it doesn’t mean that the people around me were wrong to do so. In fact, they were right. I was wrong.

I think what’s needed in the worship wars, ultimately, is humility, thankfulness for what we have, and a renewal of the desire to worship God in spirit and truth. Worship, like grace, does not find an easy dwelling in an agitated, proud, critical heart.

—”Bill,” thinklings.org

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The all-encompassing criterion for acceptable sacrifice before God in the Old Testament was the posture and the attitude of the person making the sacrifice. Jesus affirmed this truth when He watched worshipers making their offerings in the temple (mark 12:41-44). He pronounced His benediction on the widow who offered her two mites, the smallest measure of currency. Jesus pointed out that her gift was more costly for her than the offerings of the men of great wealth, who dropped the equivalent of $10,000 in the offering plate. He said that because He was able to read her heart when she gave her sacrifice.

—R. C. Sproul, A Taste of Heaven: Worship in the Light of Eternity, 28

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You see, I love the use of music in church worship, and I have a special appreciation for the classic hymns of the historic church—I love the beautiful harmonies, the wonderful sound of the organ, the poetry of the lyrics. Unfortunately, the church I attend makes frequent use of two songbooks: one excellent hymnal that contains all of my beloved hymns of the faith, and another (a paperback!) that contains what I considered shallow, musically simplistic, “politically correct” (whatever that means), more modern (post-1960s) worship songs. It wasn’t that the songs in that dread paperback songbook were theologically incorrect or somehow inappropriate for a worship service; I just really didn’t like ‘em.

For a long time, I would cringe each time during the Sunday worship service that I had to haul out the Modern Praise Book; I’d roll my eyes at each repetitive chorus, and I’d ruthlessly document how much worse it was than my favorite hymns. I’d subject my wife to rambling diatribes about Modern Worship Music on the car ride home from church.

But at some point in the last year, I realized that I was spending more time snootily picking apart the songs than I was actually singing. And I realized that my overly critical attitude was completely distracting me from the act of worship. It’s hard to get much out of a Sunday sermon when you’re mentally agitated over the praise song used earlier in the service. That was a problem, and I knew deep inside that the problem was more with me than it was with the church’s choice of Sunday music.

Since that moment of realization, it’s been as if a weight were lifted off my shoulders—I still prefer good old-fashioned hymns, but I’m finding that it’s much more pleasant to just participate in worship than it is to sit back and continually critique it. My wife still has to put up with the occasional music-themed rant from me, but over the last few months I’ve even caught myself starting to appreciate some of the Modern Praise Songs I used to complain about. Who cares if the lyrics aren’t quite as clever or poetic as I would’ve preferred? I don’t think St. Peter is standing at the Pearly Gates handing out awards to the snarkiest church music critics.

All this to say: sometimes you just have to shut up and worship.

Andy Rau, “Shut Up and Worship: Confessions of a Church Music Snob”

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Music and liturgy can assist or express a worshiping heart, but they cannot make a non-worshiping heart into a worshiping one. The danger is that they can give a nonworshiping
heart the sense of having worshiped.

So the crucial factor in worship in the church is not the form of worship, but the state of the hearts of the saints. If our corporate worship isn’t the expression of our individual
worshiping lives, it is unacceptable.

—John MacArthur, The Ultimate Priority, 104

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We must beware of the naïve idea that our music can ‘please’ God as it would please a cultivated human hearer. That is like thinking, under the old Law, that He really needed the blood of bulls and goats. To which an answer came, mine are the cattle upon a thousand hills’, and ‘if I am hungry, I will not tell thee.’ If God (in that sense) wanted music, He would not tell us. For all our offerings, whether of music or martyrdom, are like the intrinsically worthless present of a child, which a father values indeed, but values only for the intention.

—C. S. Lewis, “On Church Music” in Christian Reflections, 98-99