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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.”

There is a reason this makes no sense to you, Mr. Pitt.  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).

Don’t mean to be harsh in that assessment, but it explains why 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 this guy talks about religion. Someone asked him why God wants us to worship Him.  He 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, and he thought he was being pro-God.

He should spare God the compliment.

Without knowing this fellow, just from this I’d say he’s another one who just doesn’t get the business of 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–

“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?

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” (John 4:23). He adds, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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 spirits, not just our bodies, are involved. Our innermost being is how He put it in John 7:37-38. 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 “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 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.

Sound familiar?

The fault is not with the preacher and the others.  God has not equipped them 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.

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, one more. I suppose that would be….

f.  We worship poorly and always will in this life.

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.



Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry at JoeMcKeever.com.

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Greg Crocker

commented on Feb 5, 2014

Good thoughts

Michael Westwood Carr

commented on Feb 5, 2014

Ps 22:3 states that God dwells in the praises of Israel, likewise the spiritual Israel, and when dwells there he reigns as king, and does kingly things like heal, restore and liberate, can't get much better!

Richard Scotland

commented on Feb 5, 2014

Good article. I think that one of the main points is to build each other up. Basically we can (and should) worship God in our 24/7 lives outwith church, so when we gather together we ought to be encouraging one another in our walks with the Lord.

Troy Heald

commented on Feb 5, 2014

Amen Joe....

Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Feb 5, 2014

I am a Lay Preacher in the UCA in Australia and I can understand the dilemmas of some of the people Joe is talking about. I try and bring a message that God has helped me to put together to a congregation. If he has helped me and Jesus lives in me then what I say is of use to SOMEONE and not necessarily everyone. So blame me if you wish but if you do, you blame God as well. So don't be so selfish. Come and worship God and support others who have come for the same purpose and perhaps you will find a blessing in that.

Jeff Strite

commented on Feb 6, 2014

As always from McKeever... this was very helpful and insightful. I saved it to my files for future reference.

Benson Awhinawhi Of The Redeemed Christian Church

commented on Mar 9, 2014

Amen! Mckeever, and Bless you. It will be reference for me for long while.

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