“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” (Matthew 15:9)
Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, confirms for us that it is possible to worship God in vain. It is possible to faithfully attend church each week and declare the name of the triune God using biblical words and forms yet waste your time and labor in vain.
True worship only happens after a person has received the gospel of Jesus Christ and been inhabited by the Spirit. Until that happens, we are simply reaching out to God and trying to justify ourselves through forms or words. Gospel-receiving corrects our understanding of worship by showing us the gratitude of a heart that knows God has instead reached down to us. Gospel-driven worship is a grateful response not a legalistic effort.
Most of this comes from an article written by Don Whitney and published in this month’s edition of Tabletalk Magazine. Whitney offers a helpful summary by stating, “People do not decide to become worshippers of God; rather, the gospel produces worshippers.”
Not only does the gospel initiate our worship, it guides and sustains it. We are not worshipping if we are not proclaiming the Good News. If we want to worship in spirit and truth we will preach, sing, and pray it each and every week as we come to know that there is nothing greater than what we have received. Love of the gospel and love of worshiping the God of the gospel are inseperable.
As a team of lead worshippers at First Baptist Belton, we try each week to proclaim and celebrate the gospel so that what we offer up might be a pleasing aroma to our God. That’s why we say that worship is “the overflow of being fully satisfied with God that results in the joyful celebration of God for the glory of God.”
Our worship begins with God, is offered to God, and finds its purpose in God — but only because God first came to us. That is the gospel. And that demands our worship.