“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
When our kids were younger, we would occasionally help them buy Christmas gifts for each other. We would also help them by gifts for my wife and me. Other years, there were a lot of homemade gifts. The kids did not work and so they, of course, did not have money of their own to buy gifts or the materials to make gifts. My wife would go with them to buy gifts for me and each other. I would take them to buy gifts for her. The kids enjoyed this, I think. They were able to pick out something special for each other or for us, even though they really had no resources of their own to do so.
As we progress on this journey together, I will be discussing several foundational principles which I feel are essential to worship that is biblical. These ideas do not originate with me. For one, I would hope that principles for biblical worship would be, well, biblical – grounded in Scripture. That would seem to make sense. In addition, I have had the privilege of listening to and reading the works of godly people through the years. As they search the Scriptures and seek God’s wisdom, these wise individuals have helped me grow in my understanding of worship. Or, as the case may be, grow in my understanding of how much I don’t really know. Either way, I don’t claim that these will be my original concepts or ideas on worship. I just hope to faithfully share what God has taught me.
One of the foundational principles for biblical worship is that it is to be God-centered. This may seem obvious. In theory, yes, this may be true. However, as we live this out, I think if we evaluated our worship, we would often find it more self-centered than God-centered. If we consider all of the attention and money focused on preferences related to styles of worship, worship marketing, and catering worship services to appeal to certain demographics or target audiences, it would seem that God and the gospel can get lost in there somewhere. I am not saying that styles or target audiences are unimportant issues, but they are not foundational. They come further down the line in importance and should flow from a solid foundation of worship built on biblical principles.
In the story I shared at the beginning, I provided an analogy of a God-centered approach. My children were given the opportunity to buy a Christmas gift for me. However, they were using my money to buy me a gift. They received from me in order to give back to me. It was through the resources I had provided for them that they were able to offer something to me. So, in the end, they were giving something to me that was already mine. It had never really been theirs in the first place. Yet, in the process, they were able to experience the joy of sharing and giving because of the resources I had provided to them.
Romans 11:36 is a great snapshot of this God-centered worship. From Him: He is our great provider. He is the creator of all things. All power and wisdom come from Him. All that we have belongs to God. He gives to us according to our needs. Through Him: He is the sovereign God. He is our refuge and sustainer. Christ is author and finisher of our faith. He is our mediator before the Father. He enables us to serve and worship Him. To Him: He alone is deserving of glory and praise. He is the recipient our praise and we reflect His glory back to Him through our worship.
In other words, our worship all begins with God, is enabled by God, and is for God. He provides all that we need to know and worship Him. He makes our worship possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As believers, we come into His presence clothed in the righteousness of Christ. He quenches our spiritual hunger and thirst. He enables us to find in Him the greatest joy available in the universe – knowing Christ. As we go through the next few weeks, I will expand on these to try and help us get a better picture of what this means in our lives and worship. For now, let us remember that if our focus in worship is on what we can produce, that is all we will get. If our focus is on God and what He offers to us, we will receive from Him a greater and lasting joy.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” 1 Peter 1:8
Together for His glory…