What is more important than acknowledging, praising, and obeying the Creator and Holy God Almighty? What is the essence of His command to mankind? What is an everyday takeaway from Scripture that instructs, corrects, and redeems us towards righteousness, goodness, and purpose?
John MacArthur’s 15 chapters on the most important aspect of our lives in “Worship: The Ultimate Priority” is a must-read for gospel-minded followers of Christ. The following is part 1 of a quick synopsis of what the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Ca expresses in his book – Worship.
Worship defines us. Worship is the root of our joy, the extension of true kindness, the escape from selfishness, encouragement in adversity, and motivation in a sinful and fallen world. Worship is the response the world should see Christians express in all things. Our neighbors should see us groaning within ourselves to be set free to worship God unrestrained (Romans 8:23).
Worship isn’t optional and it is not subjective. God has given clear instructions on how He is to be worshipped. To do otherwise makes it about you and not about Him. Many have lost their lives instantly for a failure to worship God properly (Nadab and Abihu, Leviticus 10; Uzzah, 2 Samuel 6). Losing your life instantly seems harsh as it is very immediate and permanent; yet it is probably the most merciful consequence to our actions. Some who fail to worship God properly are tormented to roam the earth as an outcast (Cain, Genesis 4). Most likely, you are numb to (but not ignorant of) your disrespect towards God’s instruction of how He permits us to worship (Romans 1). The desires of the heart, the pride of life, and the flesh has hardened our heart. We willingly defy true worship, oftentimes in the name of ‘Christianity.’
“Those who offer self-styled worship are unacceptable to God, regardless of their good intentions,” says MacArthur. He goes on to describe four unacceptable kinds of worship: worship of false gods (Isaiah 42:8), the worship of the true God in a wrong form (Deuteronomy 4:14-19), the worship of the true God in a self-style manner (Matthew 15:3), and the worship of the true God in the right way, but with a wrong attitude (Hosea 6:4-6).
The result of false or improper worship is that God gives us over to our sin (Romans 1). That is why I would argue that it is better for a person to die instantly, at the mercy of God’s grace, rather than being given over to their sin and continually defiling God. That means we are all dead… yesterday. I’ve heard it described this way: God only gives you what you want. If you want to live a life of sin, He will let you have your way. If you want to worship stability, moral superiority, and comfort, He will let you idolize those false notions of peace, joy, and abundant life. He has created a place for like-minded individuals to share eternity with. However, if you want to live a life surrendering to His will, He will help you.
In Exodus 34:14, God is described as El Qanna, “For thou shalt worship no other god: for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” This characteristic of God saved us from ourselves. This is quality we often demonstrate as parents that denies our children temporary ‘fun’ for their overall safety, health and well-being. We do this on a daily basis when we make our kids nap, go to bed early, eat something other than french-fries, or prevent them running along the side of the pool. We, as parents, can see outcomes that they cannot. We love them so much that we are jealous for their safety, health and well-being. We will hurt our children’s feelings, offend family, or disappoint our friends in order to be jealous for our children’s life. The same is true of God only more so. He pursues and beckons us to repent and trust Him. He has given us the outcome, but our sin is so deceiving and ingrained in us that we lack understanding.
In reality, His patience with us costs Him His life. We abuse God’s mercy and kindness (Romans 2:4) all the time when we mistake His tolerance for weakness or approval (2 Peter 3:9). Yet any positive benefit we receive in life is only possible because God extended grace to us by transferring our punishment to His Son. Thank God that He is jealous for us and He won’t leave us where He found us (Ezekiel 16). His kindness and patience should lead us to repentance. “He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus,” records Paul in Philippians 1:6. Let us not grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) but love Him by obeying His commands (John 14:21; 15:14). To obey Him we must worship Him, to worship Him we must know Him, to know Him is to renew ourselves in His Word daily.