What the carnal mind will never get about worship

Can we talk about worship?

Here are a few quotes to get us started. I cannot vouch for the authenticity of any of them, having found them in that motherlode of fascinating quotes, real and imagined, solid and made-up-on-the spot, the internet.  Smiley-face goes here….

–1) From actor Brad Pitt:  “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it!’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”

First, you have misrepresented the Heavenly Father, Mr. Pitt.  And secondly, there is a reason this makes no sense to you.  The Apostle Paul put it this way: “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.  Nor can he understand them, for they are spiritually appraised” (I Corinthians 2:14).

I don’t mean to be harsh in that assessment, but this is the reason so many on the outside look at Christian worship and shake their heads. They just don’t get it.

Let me repeat that: They. Do. Not. Get. It.

–2) From a blog in which some guy talks about religion. When asked why God wants us to worship Him, the man answered,  Everyone likes being praised. It’s a huge ego bump, after all. But why does God need it? I mean, what kind of egomaniac needs millions of people all over the world praising his name? Isn’t that a little arrogant? Short answer: Yes.

He went on to make a case for God being egotistical.  Oh, really further, it turns out he thought he was being pro-God.

He should spare God the compliment.

Without knowing this fellow, from the evidence I would say he’s another one who just doesn’t get Christian worship.

–3) From a Catholic website…

While worshiping God changes us for the better, the primary aim of our worship is not self-improvement. In the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the liturgy used by many of the Eastern Rite Catholic churches, the priest at one point chants, “For to You is due all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto ages of ages.

While God doesn’t need our worship in order to be complete, our worship is still a duty—something that we owe to God. But it is a duty that we can perform cheerfully, knowing that, in doing so, we are participating briefly in the life of heaven.

Okay, this is thought-provoking. But it still seems to imply that we might be “adding value” to Heaven in some way, and that God is somehow diminished a tad when we fail to worship.

–4) From C. S. Lewis–

I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise…. The world rings with praise—lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game…. I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: ‘Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?’ The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value. I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.  

A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

By refusing to worship God, we detract nothing from Him. By worshiping Him, we add nothing to Him.

So what is the point? Read on.

–5) From our Lord Jesus….

An hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24).

All of this leads me to make the following observations about worship….

–a) When we adore something that is perfect and flawless in every way, we are simply showing our intelligence and good taste.  We watch someone spend an hour at the museum of art, pausing in front of framed paintings and sculptures to take in each detail, and we conclude this person is cultured, educated, wise, something like that.

When we bow before the God of the universe, we are doing a lot of things, but one is revealing ourselves to be a person of sense.  It makes sense to bow before the God who created this universe.

–b) God does not need our worship any more than the moon needs another crater or Mercury could benefit from a little more sunlight.

–c) We need to worship. God has built us so that when we bow before Him and humble ourselves, something happens.

–d) There are good ways and wrong ways to worship.  That’s why Jesus said in spirit and in truth. I take “worship in spirit” to mean that our inner spirits, not just our physical bodies, are involved. Our innermost being is how John 7:37-38 puts it.  And “worship in truth” involves the revelation from Jesus on God the Father, knowing Him, and being known by Him, such as in Matthew 11:27.

The Scripture is overflowing with teachings concerning bad worship, ways not to try to impress God. Psalm 51:16 and Isaiah 1:10-15 come to mind.

–e) We worship the Lord for the same reason we charge our phones: We need it.

Worship is “unto” God but it is “for” us.

That’s what the carnal mind of man cannot comprehend.

Not even all Christians get it.  Laymen in church will pray, “Lord, help us to get something out of the service today.”

That’s close, but still miles off.

Think of it as a paradox.

When we come to church–that is, when we come to “worship,” however and wherever and whenever it takes place–to “get” and to receive for ourselves, we will always leave empty-handed and frustrated.   We will walk out the door critical of the preacher and the choir and the teachers, all of whom failed to meet our needs.

That failure is not the cause of the preacher and the worship leaders.  God has not equipped our leaders with the power and ability to change your life and meet your needs.  You are asking from them what they were never intended to give, expecting what they cannot do–and frustrated because they did not do it.

The essence of worshiping is giving.  We give the glory and praise to the Lord, give Him ourselves, our time, our offerings, our prayers, our faithful obedience.  We “present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1).

We lay ourselves before Him in surrender, to the best of our ability.

And when we leave, we are charged.  We have touched the Lord and been touched by Him.

Oh, and one more…

–f)  In this earthly life, our worship will always be partial, inadequate, and incomplete, a shadow of the reality to come.

If we miss this, we leave out a major fact of our worship: It’s difficult worshiping One you cannot see and doing so in ways that don’t always make sense to us.

If we “see through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12), and “do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26), it follows that everything else we do in the service of the Lord will be incomplete and partial at best.  “I know in part and I prophesy in part” (I Cor. 13:9).

But we should not let that stop us from worshiping, or doing any of the other things He has commanded.

Just because I cannot do something perfectly should not slow me down from doing what I can.  I’m a parent and a grandparent; not perfect, mind you, but I’ve gladly thrown myself into these roles.  I’m a husband and a citizen, and probably doing both inadequately; but I’m still working at it.  Likewise, I’m a Christ-follower and a poor one. But this is who I am and I will continue by faith.

We live and serve and worship by faith. Because of our love and gratitude toward our Lord, we obey. We may or may not understand, but we go forward.

The Lord is under no illusion about you and me. He knew He got no bargain when He saved the likes of us.  (“He knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust” –Psalm 103:14)

And yet, for reasons known only to Him, He wants our worship.

How very kind of Him to accept this from someone like me.  And you.


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