Indicators of skewed priorities in churches abound. Yet this morning’s newspaper contains a statement from a pastor of a “sound,” “evangelical” church that pinpoints the problems in too many contemporary American churches: “We’re really building a community center, more than we are a worship center.”
It’s rare to read or hear such an open acknowledgement that church today is anthropocentric rather than theocentric. But there it is. The modern church is more interested in prioritizing relationships with men rather than God. Today’s church prioritizes friendship rather than worship. Or, more correctly, too many churches worship men rather than God.
The American church is suffering because of a worship problem. And the problem is not that people are interested in worship. They do want to worship. The problem is that they are captivated by worship of the wrong things. Most want to worship themselves and worship of God is uninteresting.
We are created for worship. But, there is only One who will satisfy the worship longings of our hearts. We do well to go back to the Scriptures to remind ourselves that only God is worthy or worship and only worship of God will provide us lasting joy. Consider, for example, Psalms 148-150. In these final three songs in the hymn book of the Old Testament, there are multiple calls to worship:
- Praise the LORD!
- Praise the LORD from the heavens
- Praise Him in the heights! (148:1; nine more direct commands to praise the Lord are given in Ps. 148, along with 12 more implied commands)
- “Let Israel be glad in his Maker; Let the sons of Zion rejoice in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre.” (Psa 149:2–3)
- “Let the godly ones exult in glory; Let them sing for joy on their beds.” (Psa 149:5)
- “Praise the LORD! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse.” (Psa 150:1; in the other five verses of this psalm, there are 10 more exhortations to praise the Lord)
So here is a clear directive to the people of God: worship Him. Praise Him. Delight in Him. Find your joy in Him. Honor Him. Exalt Him. Hold Him in higher esteem than anyone or anything else.
What must also be noted in these psalms, however, is the motivation for worship. Just why should God’s people worship Him? The psalmist offers a variety of reasons:
- Worship God because He has created all things — and created all things for eternal existence. The implication of this, then, is that we have been created for Him and only worship that terminates in Him will satisfy.
“Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away.” (Ps. 148:5–6)
- Worship God because only God is worthy of worship. There is nothing else worth worshipping. And He has equipped and enabled us to worship Him, giving us words and affections that are only fitting for Him.
“Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. And He has lifted up a horn for His people, Praise for all His godly ones; Even for the sons of Israel, a people near to Him.” (Ps. 148:13–14)
- Worship God because God finds pleasure in our worship — and has saved His people to the end that they might worship Him and delight in Him.
“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” (Ps. 149:4)
- Worship God because it is an honorable thing for godly people to do.
“This is an honor for all His godly ones. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 149:9)
- Worship God because this is why we have been given breath.
“Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” (Ps. 150:6)
So as you go to worship services this morning and as you make your way to work tomorrow and as you shop and exercise and work in your garden and eat and visit with your neighbor, praise the Lord. He alone is worthy of all your desires and delights. Don’t buy the deceit of churches that propose that worship of God is less a priority than the care of man. We have been created to worship Him. Our most basic priority in life is to worship Him. So worship Him.