‘There is no fear of God before their eyes.’
Romans 3:18 sums up the world’s attitude. “We are so used to mercy and grace that we think God has no right to be angry with sin,” says John MacArthur. It is why we approach God with a ‘casual familiarity that borders on blasphemy.’ The person who understands that God controls our every breath does not rush into His presence ‘unprepared and insensitive to His majesty.’
MacArthur goes on to expand upon God’s majesty in the chapter entitled, “God: Is He? Who Is He?” John MacArthur explains several apologetics arguments for God’s existence: teleological, aesthetic, volitional, moral, and the cosmological argument. He then describes the character of God as revealed by God in the scriptures: Personhood, Spirit, Trinity, Omnipotence, Immutable, Omnipresence, Omniscience, and His Holiness. Holiness is something we hardly know how to handle, but leads to much devastation when inaccurately understood .
People had several responses when confronted with the Holiness of Jesus Christ. Jesus was characterized as intimidating as well one who spoke with an authority never heard before (Matthew 7:28-29). He was seen as divinely wise (Matthew 22:45) and bold in His claims (John 8:46). Some wanted to make Him a king (John 6:15), others wanted to accuse Him (Mark 3:2), some marveled at Him (John 7:15), some were convicted by His presence (John 5:8), others trembled before Him (Mark 5:33), many were brought to shame by His teaching (Luke 13:17), and whole towns implored Him to leave because they were frightened (Mark 5:17). Ultimately, His holiness was intolerable and they plotted to murder Him (Matthew 12:14). When you encounter the Holiness of Jesus, you either surrender in reverence and worship, or you reject Him and seek to dethrone Him. How often do we try to dethrone him because His Holiness will not allow us to indulge?
“The question is not why God so dramatically judges some sinners, but rather why He lets any of us live. God is gracious, but don’t confuse His mercy with justice.” God’s holiness is the standard. Our failure to live up to it is our condemnation. Surrendering our debt to the substitute of Christ is life’s only hope and the supreme cause for worship. “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)
“Redemption can be viewed, then, as the transformation of the false worshipper into a true worshipper. Thus as you examine your worship, you can understand whether or not you’re saved. Worship is the first visible expression of true faith.” I would argue repentance and continued repentance is the next.
You will often see a desperation in a new believer to share God’s glory with any and everyone. That is because a new believer realizes what they were saved from (Revelation 21:8), who saved them (John 14:6), why (John 3:17), when (Ephesians 1-2), how much it cost (2 Corinthians 5:21), and how much they didn’t deserve it (Romans 3:23). How selfish would I be if received access to eternal joy, everlasting peace, and a world without sin for free but refused to share that with anyone?
Conversely you will also see a new believer need help with, “Now what?” That ‘now what’ after repenting and believing is the pursuit of holiness in Christ through sanctification until the work is complete (Philippians 1:6). Worship causes us to pursue God’s holiness through sanctification… so that we can worship Him in fullness. For that reason discipleship is an essential part of a functioning church and another reason why church isn’t optional. It is a command, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.” That concept of baptizing in the Trinity takes place within a body of believers, not in your own ‘personal’ sphere of faith that lacks accountability, fellowship, and service.
Worship is more than singing, music, style, liturgy, and activities. It is the essence and substance of our existence. The danger is that these things ‘give a non-worshipping heart the sense of having worshipped.’ The crucial factor for worship in the church is not the form of worship for entertainment, but the state of the worshippers. Worship, like leadership, does not happen in a vacuum. We are responsible to God, fellow believers, our disciples (spouse, children), and our testimony. “Although it is intensely personal, there is nothing self-centered about genuine worship.”
“Worship is to flow from the inside out. It is not a matter of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right words, the right demeanor, the right clothes, the right formalities, the right music, and the right mood. Worship is not an external activity for which an environment must be created. It takes place on the inside, in the spirit.”
“Worship is our innermost being responding with praise for all that God is, through our attitudes, actions, thoughts, and words, based on the truth of God as He has revealed Himself.”
How do we worship? The deliberate, purposeful, action to glorify God for who He says He is (Leviticus 10:3), from a proper place spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically as decreed by His Word (Leviticus 20:26). John MacArthur lists several examples, the beginning of which start with ‘unwavering faith in God.’ Accept the testimony of God, acknowledge Him as God (1 John 5:10) and by grace, through faith, one can worship God by verbally praising Him, confessing sin, bearing fruit, praying confidently, suffering for the gospel, living a life of contentment, and proclaiming His Word with clarity. For the believer, the deliberate and purposeful action to glorify God from a proper place of humility is worship. Is Christ at the forefront of our heart, mind, strength, and soul in our daily activities or not?
William Temple (Nature, Man, and God) describes it this way, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” John MacArthur ends with Hebrews 10:22, a call to worshippers to be intentional towards God through sincerity, fidelity, humility, and purity, “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” “Worship always results in a transformation, and the church is edified by it. Edification does not mean we feel better; it means we live better.” As parents let us model worshipping habits: 1) repentance – seeing our sin as God sees it, turning away from sin, turning towards God 2) submission – accepting God’s sovereignty over us 3) devotion – worshipping God for better or for worse, rich or poor, in sickness and in health, until now and forevermore (see David, 2 Samuel 12:20; Job, Job 1:20-21; and Abraham, Genesis 22).
As a result, God will be glorified, believers are purified, the church is edified, and the lost are evangelized. To worship otherwise is to imagine God submitting his honor to our advantage, our timeline, our needs, our demands thus making ourselves more glorious than God.