**This post was originally published on my old site in May, 2014
About a year ago, I wrote a blog on worship, arguing that worship was an intelligible response to who God is, rather than a conjuring of “warm fuzzies.” I then wrote a follow-up blog balancing the scales, where I argued that the activity of responding to the nature and character of God will not only be an intelligible affirmation of truth, but an emotional celebration of it as well. I also wrote a blog on how wordsmiths elicit worship from me.
It has recently dawned on me that all these posts are on the theme of “worship.” This is an accident. When I started this blog, I had no intention of making it a “worship” blog; but that’s what this thing has turned into, and I think I know why.
I have a variation of the words from the Westminster Catechism of Faith tattooed on my left forearm: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Now, this is a little embarrassing, but it’s pretty much slipped my mind that this statement is describing one simple activity:worship.
For a while now, I have been pointing out that the truths in the bible are the stimuli for worship. Paul doesn’t start his letter to the Romans with, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! … For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” He spends eleven chapters unpacking heavy doctrine, and worship is the response. This much I have understood for a while now. But I have only recently (with the help of John Piper and John MacArthur) connected the dots by going in reverse order; not only does worship come about from comprehending truth, but comprehending truth leads to… wait for it… worship. I know, I’ve staggered you with my intellect; now compose yourself so we can move on.
The point is this; worship is not incidental. Not only is worship an end of comprehending the truth of God, it is the intended end of comprehending the truth of God! Worship is never, ever a means to an end; it must always be the intended end of everything we do as Christians. It’s purpose is not merely to serve as primer for the sermon, or to serve as a stimulus to evangelize. It’s purpose isn’t even to serve as a vehicle for repentance. Don’t misunderstand me, worship does all of these things at some point or another; musical worship can give us the opportunity to have our hearts open before a sermon so our soul can munch on God’s word, we can leave a worship service totally pumped to be all things to all men so that by some means we can save some, a worship song can be sung in an act of repentance (“Rock of Ages” is my best friend for this particular occasion)–but none of these things encompass the purpose for worship. In fact, the opposite is true.
Worship doesn’t exist for sermons, sermons exists for worship. Did you get that? Sermons are a means, worship is the end. Worship doesn’t exist to stir Christians up to evangelize. Rather, Christians evangelize as an act of worship, and the intended end of their activity is to make more worshipers!
None of this will make sense until we do away with the weird confined category we have of worship as being limited to musical expression. Christian worship is an activity that requires the entirety of a person; when your whole being attributes worth to God.
Thinking in these terms has really helped me to understand the gravity of sin in regards to worship. If worship only pertains to musical expression, I can worship while harboring unrepentant sin without a problem. But if worship requires my whole being, I cannot worship God while simultaneously harboring sin; there’s no room for unrepentant sin in true worship. In this way, repentance serves as a means to worship! This is why David has such an urgency in Psalm 51 to be forgiven and reconciled with God; you can almost hear the desperation in his voice, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! … Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Why does he want so badly to be forgiven? “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.” David understood that he could not worship God in spirit and in truth while he was defiled by his sin; he had the desire to live out his chief end, but between him and God was his guilt.
The greatest frustration that sin causes is the interruption of worship; aggravation of our supreme purpose. You can anticipate the gospel now, can’t ya? This is the beauty of our redemption; it gives us the ability to worship in a true way! The atoning work of Jesus enables us to offer acceptable worship to God. We are not redeemed to be redeemed. We are redeemed to worship.
Some day sermons will cease. Evangelism will cease. Repentance will cease. But worship will be present for all of eternity.