If you were to survey even a small group of people, you would receive many and varied reasons for why we worship God. The root of many, if not all, answers, however, could be summed up with one core explanation: to ascribe the glory due to a praiseworthy God. Worship is expressed in a variety of ways, though sometimes, if not often, left at the door of the church each week. There is a transient idea that worship is isolated to the songs sung on a Sunday morning before the Word is presented. Worship, God honoring worship, however, is so much more. Beyond what we do, worship is necessarily a state of the heart. 1 Samuel 15:22 says “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams”. Additionally, Isaiah says in chapter 29:13-14 And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men…the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.”
Scripture has made it clear that our worship has less to do with what we’re doing, and everything to do with how we do it. Our worship, whatever form it takes, should be theocentric, meaning, centered and focused on God. When our acts of worship are formulated out of ritual, or worse yet, desires for temporal reward, our offerings of worship become a stench before God as they are conversely egocentric. The heart condition is the game changer.
What benefit can our empty song be to God? Or how needy is He of our money, or service? Has not God proven He is able to miraculously handle His work? Is it not true that all which exists already belongs to God? For He possesses the Earth and everything in it! So what’s left? What do we have to offer as worship? A humble and contrite heart. A heart that acknowledges the awesome character, nature, and works of our holy God, and turns, to become a living sacrifice. This is what God desires! He doesn’t desire our works, songs, or money, He desires our hearts!
One of my close friends has a method of sharing the gospel which he has termed ‘Know, Be, Do’. He first shares that the sinner must come to know two things, sin and Savior. Specifically, that we’re all sinners, and there is a Savior, Jesus Christ, who died for our sins. If they will know, and confess these two things, they will be saved. After being saved, the natural course should lead us to then to do something; this subsequent doing, is our worship to the Lord. Our worship is acknowledging that our time, our abilities, our schedules, our money, and our possessions are not our own, but are wholly God’s, to be used as He would direct us. To this effect, Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). Yet again, in Philippians 1, Paul says “…but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Where, then, does worshiping in song fit in? If worship is living to God, not singing, how does what we do on a Sunday morning fit in? I might be so bold to say that, worship in song is as much for our benefit as it is for God’s joy. Yes, it pleases our Lord when his children sing acknowledgements of his character, nature, and works, but we should be cautious in this thought lest we begin to think that God is a self-conscious pre-teen who needs our affirmation to be emotionally complete. Our worship offers the great benefit of focusing us on God’s character, nature, and works, continuously reminding us of who it is we worship. When we routinely remind ourselves of who God is, and what he has done, it draws us near to Him, and emboldens us to go out into the world and boldly proclaim Him. This might be seen as a form of spiritual strength training, conditioning us for the real worship that will occur outside the four walls of our church. This is not to say that what we do while in the church isn’t worship, but is intended to serve as an emphasis of the worship that goes on the other 86 percent of our week.
So, why do we worship? We worship to ascribe to God the glory due His name, in our actions, thoughts, and words, by way of a theocentric heart.
Ascribe to the LORD, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength! Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts!
– Psalm 96:7-8