It is rather amazing that the evangelical Protestant world should presently
be locked in controversy about the proper focus of worship. Actually this conflict
is but a narrower expression of a broader conflict over the proper focus of
religion. Is religion about the Will of God or the desires of man? Albert Mohler,
president of the Southern Baptist Seminary, recently quoted with approval these
words of A.W. Tozer:
"It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend the meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God's professed children are bored with Him for they must be wooed to meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments." To this Mohler added: "This has influenced the whole pattern of church life and even brought into being a new type of church architecture designed to house the golden calf...
The striped candy technique has so fully integrated into our present religious thinking that it is simply taken for granted. Its victims never dream that it is not a part of the teachings of Christ and His apostles."
The question simply put is: Is worship about God or about me? This would seem to be a question with an answer so evident as to be beyond controversy. Who should be at the center of religion, the Creator or the creature? Whose will should be honored most, the One who knows all things in perfection or the one who knows little and that imperfectly? Who should be exalted in awe-struck reverence, the One who gives life to all or the one who is absolutely dependent on the Life-giver? Who should be praised and loved, the One who has in incredible grace redeemed a wicked and rebellious race or those who have been mercifully forgiven?
Yet all this not withstanding the history for humankind has been beset with efforts of the creature to usurp the position of the Creator. It began in the Garden of Eden where our forefathers were seduced by the thought that they could be as wise as God (Gen. 3:5,6) and it hasn't stopped since. It inevitably taints even religion which by definition is supposed to be about the worship of God and His Will but is turned by human cleverness into the exaltation of man and his wishes. It is the human inclination to serve God but according to their own judgments rather than God's.
The question "Is worship about God or about me?" does have another
dimension. From God's perspective everything is about us, not about our wisdom
or will or way, which are frail and fallible, but about us. We are the objects
of His eternal purpose (Eph. 1:4). He has poured Himself out on us in order
to bring us to glory as His very own children (Rom. 8: 28-30; Heb. 2:9,10).
The cost has been unspeakably great (Rom. 5:8-10; 1 Pet. 1:18-21) and has to
do with the "deep things of God" (1 Cor. 2:9,10). Even God's call
for us to worship Him and Him alone (Matt. 4:10) is not about Him but about
us. He does not need us to shore up His self-image with our praises. God knows
full well who He is. What is
essential for our own eternal well-being is that we know who He is and that we acknowledge it, for in knowing who God is we come to know who we are. We are not God but we are made in His image and destined for great blessings if we are willing to accept the grand purpose that He has in mind for us as His creatures.
From our perspective, however, worship must be all about God. It is through the greatness of God's power, wisdom and grace that we are drawn out of ourselves into the splendor of His infinite glory. Jesus taught us that the thing that will cost us our essential lives is to focus on ourselves. His cautionary warning to those who would be His disciples is clear: "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." The crucifixion of self is essential not just to worship but also to the whole of discipleship. We, too, like our Savior, must say and mean it, "Not my will but Yours be done." This being done we may experience even now the state described from Charles Wesley's hymn, Love Divine.
Changed from glory into glory,
Till in heaven we take our place,
Till we cast our crowns before Thee,
Lost in wonder, love and praise.
By Paul Earnhart in Biblical Insights, Vol. 6, No. 7, July 2006.
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