Biblical Worship Is Christ-Focused

God is accessed through the work of Jesus Christ:

  • “When he (Jesus) had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him . . .” (Luke 24:50-52a).

  • “In Christ we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).

  • “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Worship is Spirit-Empowered. True worship is always and only energized by, through, and in the power of God’s Spirit. It is “. . . the Spirit (Who) motivates and equips believers for ministry to one another in the congregation and for service in the world,” writes theologian David Peterson. The Apostle Paul points believers in this same direction: “For it is we who are the (true) circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh . . .” (Philippians 3:2-4).

It is wondrous to recognize the marvelous mingling of Christ’s work and the Spirit’s work in the mystery of God giving people access to His worship: How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve (latreúein) the living God! Note the term here is translated “serve.” Another rendering of this term would be “service-based-worship” or “service-filled-worship.”

Worship is God’s-Word-Centered. All practices, experiences, or fruit of one’s worship must find their foundations and affirmation within the perimeters of the Word of God, the historic Christian Scriptures. Whether personal worship or public worship, if those worship endeavors are not founded on, and referenced to the Canon of Scripture of the historic Christian Church, then those worship endeavors, no matter how sincere, are not in fact true worship.

Romans 10:3, and 2 Corinthians 11:4 and Galatians 1:6-9 clearly affirms this contention as a “different gospel” and as such is not acceptable: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”

Proper worship emerges from a growing knowledge of God. God’s-Word-Centered worship sets the stage for one to place worship into two general categories: 1) Generic Worship. This is the reality that all humans in general worship something or someone; and, 2) Scripture based worship. This is worship that is founded on the teachings of and realities revealed through God’s Word.

In general, worship at its root—in human experience—has to do with the heart of a person; the core of a person’s being. For it is at this human “core”—the heart—that connection is made between the person and whatever that person worships. The heart of a person is also referred to as the spirit or will of a person. It is the person’s center of being. It is the place from where all worship comes.

Dr. Dallas Willard writes: “Human beings have only some small element of spirit—unbodily, personal power—right at the center of who they are and who they become.” And then, with reference to worship, he points out, “It is . . . this spirit (or will), that must be reached, cared for, and transformed in spiritual formation. The human will is primarily what must be given a godly nature and must then proceed to expand its godly governance over the entire personality. Thus, will or spirit is also . . . the heart in the human system: the core of its being.”

Two principles about generic worship should be considered:

FIRST, one can define generic worship as a core heart conviction that expresses great value for someone or something.

SECOND, real worship—an inward-heart-expression—always translates outwardly as deep admiration and deep desire. These twin forces of admiration and desire then naturally flow into actions of pursuit and service of the “one” or “thing” worshiped. So, in broadest terms, “worship” is anything or anyone a person admires, desires, pursues, and serves.

It is important to understand that worship of any kind occurs at the core heart of a person. It is this kind of love and worship that God is looking to receive from those He created. This is because worship is at the center of everything—living, loving, and serving.

Four scriptures support the notion that God is interested in the heart-focus of people:

  • “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).

  • “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

  • “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man ‘unclean’” (Mark 7:21-23).

  • “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).

These are but a few examples of Scripture repeatedly declaring the fact that God’s concern focuses primarily on the heart of a person or a community.

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