First Love: Our Self-Centered, Modern Worship (?)

You don’t have to go far on the internet these days to find an article questioning or criticizing modern worship.

One of the frequent criticisms is that this generation’s worship is far too focused on us, on our need for God, and what God has done or can do for us, instead of Who and What He is – that our worship is too self-centered and instead should call attention to the greatness and grandeur of God Himself.

To that very last phrase, I would say, Yes.  With all my heart, yes.  Whether or not He ever does another thing for us, isn’t God worthy of our worship, simply based on Who and What He is? Doesn’t the fact alone that God always has been, and always will be, make Him worthy of any praise we could utter?

So yes, I believe God should indeed be worshiped on the simple basis of His greatness.  There should be room in our day for recognizing what an awesome and powerful God we serve.

And yet…

What is it the angels sang the night Jesus was born? Anyone remember the reason they gave for His glorious appearing?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” ~ Luke 2:13-14

Much, if not all, of the goodness of God, so widely proclaimed, is toward us, His creation. And while He would be good whether we existed or not, He has chosen to be good to us – has good will toward us – loves us and plans good for us – because He is good.

So here is my humble,  non-Biblical scholar opinion: 

It is never self-centered to worship God because of His goodness toward us, because that was what was proclaimed by the angels from the sky on the night Jesus entered this world in human flesh, to fulfill His purpose toward us:

Peace on earth, good will toward men. THAT is the proclamation of the Gospel, and the Gospel is indeed a legitimate reason to worship.

I think that in our efforts to treat God with the reverence and respect He deserves, we sometimes forget we worship a tangible God – a God who broke the barrier of our sin – sent His Son to make us holy – so that we could once again have intimate fellowship with Him.

Not only did Jesus come to make us holy and to restore us to fellowship – He came to show us WHO and WHAT God is:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. ~ Colossians 1:15

Jesus…. the compassionate, kind, gracious, patient, forgiving, gentle, humble, attentive, hospitable, merciful, supportive servant of all, who himself was touched by our pain and tempted in every way we are…  this Jesus is the image of the God we worship.  He is the relate-able, touchable, full-of-good-will-and-tender-mercies heart of God.

Question: if I was drowning, and someone risked his own life to save mine, how would I thank that person?  How would I feel about him?  Would my worship and adoration be based on that person’s magnificent qualities, or what he did for me?  Do you think that person would like to hear a run-down of how great his personality is, or a great big “THANK YOU!”?

Even Jesus expressed a desire to hear “thank you,” when the one leper ran back to thank him for healing him, and Jesus said, “Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17)

“Thank you,” blesses His heart, and He comes even closer, because He wants to be close to us.

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. ~ James 4:8

What He did for us is how we initially relate to God – He is our redeemer – He rescued us! He is God Almighty, yet He adopted us as children, so that we could cry out to Him as Daddy God.

…but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” ~ Romans 8:15

Our relationship with God is based entirely on our need for and dependence on Him.  We should never be afraid to be intimate with Him in worship and in fellowship – we are communing with the One Who desires our fellowship and meets our every need.

Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:16

So honor Him, reverence Him, maintain a healthy fear of the majesty of all He is, and above all be obedient to Him… because the more we dwell on His grandeur and majesty, the more we are awed and humbled by the thought that He would even take time for us…

But be careful.  Be careful not to forsake your first Love – we must not become so religious about our reverence that we forget the passion we have for Him based on what He has done for us because of His great and undying love for us.

In Revelation 2, Jesus commended the church of Ephesus for their hard work, their dedication, their determination to erradicate sin from among their midst.  Yet, in spite of all of this, what did He say?

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ~ Revelation 2:4

Later on, to the church of Laodicea, He says,

“I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” ~ Revelation 3:15-16

What does this tell us about the heart of God?  It tells us that He desires fervor.  He desires a deep and abiding love for Him, expressed by the things we do and say.  And who did Jesus also say would have the greatest love for Him?

The one who has been forgiven much.  (Luke 7:36-50)  He who has much to be thankful for.

He is not a far-away God. He is near, He is personally involved in our lives, and He loves for us to acknowledge His goodness toward us personally.

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name – for the Lord is good!  His love is everlasting!  And His faithfulness endures to all generations!  Psalm 100:4-5

And finally, what did Jesus say was the greatest commandment?

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. ~ Matthew 12:30

That, my friend, is a passionate kind of love.  And of that kind of love and worship, our God, our Abba Father, is well worthy.

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