What are we focused on when we worship? What should we be focused on? These questions are considered by my friend Josh Wood at his Worship & Lyrics blog. Here’s a taste of his thoughts.
So, let me reframe this a little. I’ve often asked people if they worship God because he’s God or because they believe he’s good. I ask them if they would worship a not-good god. It’s a horribly unfair question. Our God is exceedingly good. But I’ve often wondered of myself and, honestly, others (unnamed; generally speaking), if we worship God because it benefits us. Do we, as Piper says often, elevate the gifts above the giver? Do we worship God not because he IS good, but because he DOES good (for us)?
Also, hear the reasons many people cite for rejecting God: “If God were loving, he would…” “If God were loving he wouldn’t…” “I can’t worship a God who…” – All of these reasons cite an expectation that God ought to give us what we want and act in ways with which we are comfortable.
The problem with some of the current worship atmosphere is that we worship as if God is worthy because of what He does, rather than because of Who He is. It is certainly appropriate to express our thankfulness for all that God has done for us and blessed us with, but that isn’t what makes God praiseworthy. He is praiseworthy because of Who He is, we should praise Him because He is God, without regard for what He has done for us.
I’m still processing Josh’s statement that “we do worship a God who delights foremost in himself. We as worshippers should always be mindful to emulate that. Even for God, it’s primarily about God.” I’m not sure exactly how to take this. I think Scripture does make it clear that God didn’t need us, but created us to need Him. In that regard, I agree. Yet, for some reason it seems that this statement minimizes how much God desires to be in relationship with us. Is that primarily to make Himself feel better, or is it because He knows that it will bring us more true joy? I don’t think that Josh is calling God a narcissist, and I probably would agree with him if I understood him better. Maybe he’ll explain it to me in the comments. 😉
Either way, I encourage you to read his post, and to think about why you worship God.
Sam, I really appreciate you posting this. You see, I AM a narcissist 🙂
But seriously, I appreciate your honest feedback. Let me try to clarify the statement you’re struggling with. I, in no way, seek to minimize the passion God has for his people. I do not seek to minimize his relentless pursuit of those not yet “his people.”
Allow me to quote a recurring influence, John Piper, from his book The Pleasures of God, where he’s talking about God’s delight in Jesus being God’s delight in God:
“The original, the primal, the deepest, the foundational joy of God is the joy he has in his own perfections as he sees them reflected in the glory of his Son… At first this sounds like vanity. It would be vanity if we humans found our deepest joy by looking in the mirror. …we were created for something infinitely better and nobler and greater and deeper than self-contemplation. We were created for the contemplation and enjoyment of God! Anything less that this would be idolatry toward him and disappointment for us. God is the most glorious of all beings. Not to love him and delight in him is a great loss to us and insults him… God must love and delight in his own beauty and perfection above all things. For us to do this in front of the mirror is the essence of vanity; for God to do it in front of his Son is the essence of righteousness. Is not the essence of righteousness to place supreme value on what is supremely valuable, with all the just actions that follow? And isn’t the opposite of righteousness to set our highest affections on things of little or no worth, with all the unjust actions that follow? Thus the righteousness of God is the infinite zeal and joy and pleasure that he has in what is supremely valuable, namely, his own perfection and worth.”
So, it seems to me that for God to love us most, he must delight most in himself.
Sam, regarding this conversation, this was in my email today from an automated newsletter I get daily:
9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.