Rethinking Why We Worship

This goes along with yesterday’s message about rethinking life from the ground up. In the book God’s Passion for His Glory, John Piper makes a comment about worship:

“The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though he needed anything (Acts 17:25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God. And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God.”

That’s an interesting comment John Piper makes. So often we’re talking about how we’re doing with respect to the worship service. How well did the choir sing? How good was the offertory special? Did the preacher deliver an inspiring message? Did the congregation respond? These are all questions about performance. They are questions which ultimately center on how good we did. In other words, they are an attempt to measure what we have brought to God. Now I’ve written before about the quality of our offering. He deserves our best in all that we do. That’s a given. But the point that Piper makes is that worship is not so much about us bringing something to God as it is us coming to be filled by God. We should come hungry. And the verse Piper quotes, in context, is this:

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ – Acts 17:24-28, NASB

This is from the sermon on Mars Hill given by Paul. Paul’s point is that He doesn’t need what we bring. Rather, He gives us what we need to survive and He has created us so that we might seek after Him. I love the word that Paul uses when he says, “if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him.” This gives the impression of reaching for something that isn’t easily grasped. Think about hanging off the side of the cliff and throwing your hand over the side, groping for anything that you might use to hold on to and pull yourself up with. If you were in that situation, you’d be desperate to grab that handhold that saves you. So should we be with God and worship. In other words, we’re to be desperate to find God. That’s what Piper says worship should be about. A parallel verse to what he cites is this very familiar one:

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. – Matthew 5:6, NASB

Think about how worship might be different in our churches if we came desperate to find and be filled by God. What if worship time wasn’t about personal and group performance? What if it was about a group of people gathered together hungering for God? That’s what it’s supposed to be about. Too often we’ve traded that in for what we bring. And we’re wrong every time we do so. Because what we have done is we have so subtly shifted the focus of the worship service off of God and onto the people who have come to worship. We’ve got to get back to entering into worship yearning and crying out for God’s presence and in-filling. After all, that’s why we were created: to grope for Him and find Him.

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