Most Christians will admit there are Sunday mornings when they awaken and wonder whether it’s even worth getting out of bed. Surely God doesn’t need our worship? We’re not serving on the set up team this week. No one will notice if we’re not there. We can perhaps read the Bible ourselves a bit later, pray from the comfort of the couch, pop on some Christian music over coffee. So why bother with corporate worship?
The answer is found not so much by searching the Scriptures for commands to gather—though those commands are certainly there. Rather, we need to look at the God who calls us to worship. I didn’t marry my wife because someone explained the duties and responsibilities of a husband—though those responsibilities are clearly presented in the Bible. No, I met, got to know, and fell in love with Georgina. So we’ll focus on just two truths about God that help us to understand why we worship and what blessings come as a result.
The God Who Deserves Everything
Creatures are made to worship their Creator. When anyone, be they human or angel, turns to think about who God is and what he’s done, the right response is worship.
Unlike bleary- eyed Christians on a Sunday morning, those already in heaven see God clearly and react instinctively to encountering him. To give just one example, in Revelation 4 we meet four strange creatures who live before the throne of God. What do they spend their lives doing? “Day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!’” (Rev. 4:8). These heavenly beings spend every moment in worship: it’s as if it never occurs to them to do anything else. Here they praise God for who he is. He is holy, he is all-powerful, he is eternal. Seeing God’s character and attributes leads to an outburst of praise.
It’s the same when the twenty-four elders, perhaps symbolic of the redeemed people of God, respond to the creatures’ song: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev. 4:11). This time the focus is not so much on who God is but on what he has done: he has created all things and sustains them moment by moment. Regularly in Scripture, worship emerges from a worshipper’s reflections on the wonderful deeds of God. The Psalms are full of this pattern. Take Psalm 147, which begins with the classic exhortation “Praise the Lord!” The whole psalm then piles up reasons to praise him.
The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names. (Ps. 147:2–4)
As the psalmist reflects on God’s kindness to his people—his building of the church and his willingness to deal tenderly with the brokenhearted, even as he is also the one who flung stars into space—he can’t help but worship.
In the New Testament era, it’s no different. As we return to the heavenly throne room, we meet the elders and creatures who are combining their voices to praise Jesus for all he’s done: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev. 5:12).
We could multiply examples almost endlessly. Worship ultimately is what we do when we draw near to God. It is his due. Everything we are and have comes from him, so it’s right that we respond in humble thanks and praise.
The Joy of Worship
But we mustn’t think this is mere duty, the kind of reverence shown by terrified citizens who are called to bow before the image of a despotic dictator. Rather, to worship God is our greatest privilege and joy. Perhaps the most famous lines ever to come from a Presbyterian pen are the question and answer that open the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Glorifying God is not a separate activity from enjoying him forever. Notice the question isn’t “What are the two chief ends of man?” but what is our one, singular “end” or purpose. Incredible though it may seem, God has created us for joy—to share with us the greatest gift he could give: himself. And the way we experience that delight is by worshipping him. This is why the Psalms are so full of joy.
In your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God. (Ps. 43:4)
With joy and gladness they are led along
as they enter the palace of the king. (Ps. 45:15)
Worship is not just a duty but a delight. We are built to worship, to give ourselves in wonder to something—or rather Someone—who is awesome and worthy. In fact, in the Bible’s understanding everyone is a worshipper. The question isn’t whether we’ll worship but who we’ll worship. In Romans 1, Paul’s critique of humanity isn’t that they stopped worshipping but rather that “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). Stop worshipping God and we’ll start worshipping something else. To put it another way, every human being on earth will be worshipping next Sunday morning. The only question is who or what they’ll worship: the triune God or Allah, Baal, comfort, golf, family, or any of the thousands of other idols we give ourselves to. And from what we’ve seen already, this switch is not just evil but foolish. It’s to swap pure spring water for filthy sewage, a king’s banquet for rat poison and arsenic.
God deserves everything; he deserves all our worship.
Editor’s Note: Excerpt taken from Jonty Rhodes, “Chapter 2: The Purpose of Worship,” Reformed Worship.