The Biblical call to worship is abundant. The Bible has so many explicit and implicit verses which call us to worship. But, don’t we have a choice in whether we want to worship or not? The Bible doesn’t ever ask us if we feel like worshiping, nor does the Bible say, “Hey, if you’re going to worship, you should worship God as I have shown Him to be.” Instead the Bible implies that we as humans will in fact worship/serve something or someone (Romans 1:18-25)
One of the most well-known examples comes from Matthew 6:24 (also in Luke), when Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” In this particular section of Matthew 6, Jesus is talking about laying up treasure in heaven and how we should not be so concerned with worldly treasures. The key verse to focus on here is actually verse 21 when he says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Jesus’ focus always seems to be on the heart more than anything else. Jesus has numerous conversations with people where he goes directly to the heart of the issue at hand. When the Bible talks about a person’s heart it is talking about a person’s “inner self.” Your will, your desire, your focus, your thoughts, and your worship are all part of or related to what the Bible refers to as your “heart.”
So, when Jesus says where your treasure is, there your heart will be also, he is saying that what you value most, what you give your greatest affections to, what you pursue with all of your strength is what you end up worshiping. That is why, when He is asked in Matthew 22 to give the greatest commandment in the Law He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Notice verse 40 says that the entire Law depends on these two things. Firstly, and most important, is to love the Lord with all your heart, and second, to love your neighbor as yourself will be a result of obeying the first commandment. Jesus is basing everything on our love for God. He is not leaving us the option of loving anything or anyone (including family, Mat. 10:37) as much as we love Him. If Christ is not our supreme treasure and reward, then our hearts are not His.
In Mark chapter 10, a rich young man comes to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Because we see the young man’s response to Jesus’ reply in keeping the commandments, we can assume that the young man thought that his actions were enough. Jesus, knowing that sin has created a chasm which human deeds and attempts at righteousness could never cross, instead goes to the young man’s heart: he tells the young man to sell everything he has and give it to the poor. Because the young man was very rich, he went away sad. Jesus knew that the young man’s heart was more in love with the treasures he had stored up on earth. The rich young ruler was also perhaps more in love with the reputation that “following the commandments” gave him than he was in love with God.
Jesus knows that we will always worship something or someone. We were created to worship and to marvel at the glory of God. Therefore, when Joshua says, “choose this day whom you will serve…” it’s not a coincidence that he didn’t say, “if you want to worship something or if you are going to worship something, choose today.” He said “choose” and so we must choose.
Inevitably though, we would never choose to worship anything or anyone who was not worthy of worship. Thus, our worship and our response to Christ is dependent on the depth to which we have been given eyes to see the glory of God in all redemptive history. We can never truly worship the only one who is worthy of worship until our hearts are more in love with and more in awe of Christ than with anything else in this world.
That is the point of Jesus continually pointing back to the heart. If we are more in love with the thought of God or more in love with knowledge of God or, to steal a phrase from John Piper, “if we are more in love with loving God than we are with God”, our worship is fruitless and meaningless. In other words, if we as a church are more in love with the act of worshiping God, whether it be in music and singing or in fellowship and good conversation, we are committing idolatry and our worship is not truly focused on God because we have decided that these things are more worthy of love and worship than God is.
Worship is our response to seeing the worthiness of God. If we have seen the glory of Christ and if we truly marvel at Him then our response is worship because that is the only legitimate response in the face of glory. We then become no longer concerned with lights and smoke and production. We also become much less concerned with fruitless numbers on a Sunday morning. Only then will we be concerned with giving praise to Christ. Praise that is full of truth and depth. Not praise that is superficial, shallow, and dependent on how I feel, but praise that is rooted in scripture, which is truth, regardless of how I feel.
This type of worship is the kind of worship that will continue through all trials and suffering. This kind of worship is joyfully rooted in Christ. Happiness may come and go, even joy that is based on other circumstances will eventually pass. But joy that is found in Christ and is received from seeing His true worth and glory will last for all eternity. Acts 16 gives us an example of this, Paul and Timothy are in prison and yet, we read that they were singing hymns. They are in prison, being persecuted for their faith and still the joy that they have in knowing Christ outweighs their physical circumstance. This is the type of worship our church should strive for. That which is wholly and completely focused on Christ and declaring His worth and glory. Then we may find that others will be called to an account and subsequently declare that God is really among us
(1 Cor. 14:24-25)
Only Christ is worthy of worship. We will, without fail, worship. Let’s pray that the Lord gives us eyes to see His glory and be so in awe of Him that our only response can be to worship Him alone.
For further reading on worship:
David Matthis: “Five Benefits of Corporate Worship”
Bob Kauflin: “Idolatry In Corporate Worship”
Bob Kauflin: “How Not To Worship Your Worship”