Summary: Gratitude is required if we will worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.
"You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
"See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' This phrase, 'Yet once more,' indicates the removal of things that are shaken--that is, things that have been made--in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
Considerable energies are spent attempting to "worship" among modern church goers. Tragically, much of what is identified as worship appears merely to be efforts designed to gratify the personal desires of the worshippers. Worshippers are focused on how they feel rather than focusing on Who they are to meet. Worship is defined as the ascription of worth to One who is superior to the worshippers. Worship is not about me--worship is about God! Worship is ascribed to the Lord of Glory according to the Psalmist.
"Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness."
[PSALM 29:1, 2]
Worship is acknowledging the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me; it is rendering to Him the glory and honour due His Name. Only incidentally can we say that worship is about how I feel or even whether I enjoy the worship experience. After Job had met the Lord God, he confessed, "I despise myself" [JOB 42:6b].
I do not mean to imply that we must content ourselves with a dull liturgy and leaves us feeling empty; neither do I mean that we will be emotionless as we worship--we will experience a range of emotions; however, our feelings must not lead in worship! Meet the True and Living God and we will worship involuntarily! We will be lost in wonder at His majesty, stunned into awed silence in the presence of His glory and dumbstruck with fascination before His grace. Coming into the presence of the Lord our God, our senses will be excited as they could never otherwise be stimulated. Above all, we will experience reverential attitude, finding ourselves suffused with gratitude that we are recipients of unimaginable mercy and that He has revealed such marvellous love.
Perhaps that points to the reason so many worshippers fail to worship--we cannot worship without gratitude. The writer of the Letter to Hebrew Christians scattered in the Diaspora spoke of this very subject. It is appropriate on this day before Thanksgiving to consider what that ancient writer said, applying His words to our own lives today.