How do we worship God?

Giuseppe Passeri - <em>The Cleansing of the Temple</em>
Giuseppe Passeri - The Cleansing of the Temple

And [Jesus] said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. Mt. 21:13

How important is the worship of God to us?

Ask the Puritans. In 1662, 2000 Puritan pastors were ejected from their pulpits for refusing to use the English Book of Common Prayer. This book contained a liturgy which prescribed a form of worship which they deemed unbiblical and unhelpful. Now I think a lot of people today in the church would look at the Book of Common Prayer and wonder what all the fuss was about. They might even think the book is an improvement over many of the forms of worship which abound in the church today! But I think one of the reasons why we might have such a hard time understanding the stand the Puritans took is that we don’t have the kind of conviction that they had when it comes to the worship of God. For them worship was so important that they were willing to become impoverished and ridiculed and persecuted for the sake of the pure worship of God.

Instead, in our day, we are faced with a total lack of conviction when it comes to worship. It’s not that people don’t think it’s important, it’s that they don’t think God cares how we do it. As long as we’re sincere, and as long as we feel good about it, as long as something positive comes out of it, it must be all right. And just as we don’t comprehend the stand the Puritans took, the Puritans would have no category in which to put our lack of conviction.

But forget about the Puritans. Our Lord’s example in cleansing the Temple unmistakably demonstrates that God is concerned about the way we worship him. He demands reverence on the part of all who approach him. It is not a light thing to worship God – irreverence in the Temple brought down the swift reprisals of our Lord. It is important that we worship God and it is important how we worship God.

You see importance of worship in Paul’s words to the Romans. In 12:11, he writes, “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (ESV). Or, as the NEB translates it: “With unflagging energy, in ardour of spirit, serve the Lord.” In other words, our worship – part of our service to the Lord – is not meant to be something that we have to drag ourselves to. It is something that we ought to be excited about. It ought to be something that is very important to us.

Or as our Lord put it in those famous words to the Samaritan woman at the well: “The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:23-24). Worship is so important that the God of the universe is seeking worshippers. But the way we do it is also important (note his words in 4:22 – “ye worship ye know not what”), for we must worship him in spirit and truth. Our worship is to be genuine, birthed and moved in us by the work of the Holy Spirit. And our worship is to be a reflection of the reality of who God is, for it is to be done in truth. Our worship must be both formative and informed: formative in that it should make us more and more into the image of Christ, and informed in that it should be guided solely by the written word of God in Scripture. May the Lord give us more and more such a reverence for him that we show it in the way we worship him!

By: Jeremiah Bass