Posted by: Veroni Kruger | December 29, 2009

God seeks worshippers

ESSENTIAL ASPECTS OF THE CHURCH
This is an excerpt from a book on the Church that I am working on. Let me know what you think

WORSHIP

The whole life of the believer is an act of worship towards God. Every thing we do ought to be directed to God, and should be intended to bring glory to Him. There is also a liturgical sense of worship. The whole church service should be directed to God. There is another, specific sense of worship and that is the one that I want to pay attention to now.

Perhaps the best way to show clearly what I mean by worship in this sense, is to give a definition.

Worship takes place when those who are born again come by faith into the presence of God in love, respect and wondering amazement with the exclusive desire to please the Lord.

This definition presupposes that the person who worships will not have any fear of the Lord in the negative sense, because that person will have experienced the forgiveness of sins. It also presupposes a great degree of gratitude, for the same reason, namely that the person’s sins have been forgiven through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

I found the following remarkable statement in a very old book that has been republished many times. Torrey, in his book What the Bible Teaches, (Torrey, 2004) in an unacknowledged quote, makes the following distinction: “in prayer we are occupied with our needs, in thanksgiving we are occupied with our blessings, in worship we are occupied with (God) Himself (parenthesis mine)”.

What Torrey refers to as being “occupied with God Himself”, as compared to focusing on our blessings (i.e. our fulfilled needs), is what the last part of my definition covers: “with the exclusive desire to please the Lord.” This, in turn, will increase our “wondering amazement”. Contemplating God’s grace in making it possible for us to be reconciled with Him, and being born again to become his children, necessarily generates love and respect as well as amazement. Our awe at Him increases as we focus on Him entirely, without considering our needs.

The difference between focusing on the needs of people, whether our own or the needs of others on the one hand, and focusing entirely on God on the other hand, is the difference between earth-centeredness and heaven-centeredness. It is what Paul is talking about in Colossians 3.1-3: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Ultimately, it is the difference between self-centeredness and God-centeredness. This should be the principle of our lives, i.e. to be God centered, rather than self-centered. Worship is the focal point in the application of this principle. It is an opportunity for us to practice the principle by which we live, in a concentrated manner. At the same time the interaction between ourselves and God when we worship in this manner gives us a foretaste of that blissful state to which we look forward, when “God will be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15.28).

Let us now look at some examples from Scripture that illustrate this. The obvious place to start looking is the Psalms.

A comparison between Psalms 103.1-5 and Psalms 95.1-7 demonstrates clearly the distinction I am talking about.

Psalms 103.1-5
Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

It is quite clear that the focus in these lines is on the person who is pronouncing them. This is clearer in the original, and clearly so indicated in other translations by the repetition of the first person pronoun. Here is one example (underlining is mine).

He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He keeps me from the grave
and blesses me with love and mercy.
He fills my life with good things,
so that I stay young and strong like an eagle.
(Psalms 103.3-5, TEV)

Compare now the different focus of Psalms 95.1-7.

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
For the LORD is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the LORD our Maker;
for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.

Clearly, the emphasis is on God. In all prayer, praise and worship, the persons of the worshipper and God are the two main participants. But it is obvious that there is a difference in the prominence of the two, between the examples from Psalm 103 and that of Psalm 95. In literary criticism, the term “foregrounding” is employed to describe the kind of prominence that is given to the person of the “worshipper” in Psalm 103. In Psalm 95, that foregrounding belongs to God.

This is the difference between the kind of focused worship I am talking about, as compared to the self-centered thanksgiving and praise that we often equate with worship.

Torrey, R. A. (2004). What the Bible teaches. New Kensington, PA, Whitaker House.

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Responses

  1. sometimes we need to stop and reflect, i have the privilege to walk my dogs at boys high twice a day and its my time of reflection. this time of the year its very quite and i have come to realize that this has been an extremely difficult year and my tendency has been to be self and people focused and this message above made me realized what an amazing God we serve that even though we are so self centered he bless and provide for us always. God is great and so far above our human fears and understanding , this coming year my prayer is to worship him with my whole being

  2. I like where you’re going here and I think this is a message that we and our churches need to be reminded of. Worship today has become a preponderance of Psalm 103 type focus — about what we are doing and getting out of the relationship with God, and then sadly leaving out a Psalm 95 focus of pure emphasis on God and His greatness. Unfortunately the seeker-sensitive movement is teaching Christians (new and old) that Christianity is all about us and our needs. We need to recapture the awe and amazement of what the cross means and what has been accomplished for us without any work on our part. That is a God indeed worthy of worship!

  3. God is worthy of the greatest awe and worship. When I seem to forget this more often than I wish, and realize that God has been left out and I am only asking for favors, then the guilt of my omissions points out the sin in my life and I am miserable. Transported to the foot of His holy cross, confessing my transgressions, praising Him for dying for me and all mankind brings me to worship my King that He would even care about sinners and love us without condition. Entering into worship brings me to a place where God just seems to really shelter me under mighty wings; then the Holy Spirit truly indwells. Praise Him!

  4. Thank you for reminding me once again that it is about God himself. It is NOT just about me all the time. Sometimes my request list is so long that I seem to forget the greatness of who he is, no matter what my (the world’s) circumstances. In his presence my problems seem to get smaller and smaller. What a blessing that we sinners, can worship him;can be in his presence. What an awesome God and King we serve! I needed this reminder.

  5. This was helpful and insightful. I’ve always spent time praying, which meant, to me, giving thanks for the day and the wonderful people in my life. That was it. You reminded me that communicating with God is different than communicating with a neighbor or a friend to whom we are grateful. From now on, I’ll think more about the wonderment of God and make sure that I am really worshipping – and not limiting my worship to daily prayer.

  6. thanks Veroni for this focus on the meaning and essence of worship… for God alone…. all of us for him and his glory… good stuff!! Keep writing… may God really inspire you as you write!
    Alexander


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