This past Sunday at Northside Baptist, we studied the cleansing of the temple story in John 2:13-25. We took note of several ways that Jesus challenges believers today, including challenging our self-centered forms of worship. The Jews in Jesus’ day allowed merchants and money changers to distract from true God-centered worship. Even though elements and styles of worship change through the years, there are some priorities of gathered worship that stay the same. These priorities help us differentiate between God-centered worship and self-centered worship.
Preaching God’s Word. The Bible is God’s holy, inspired, inerrant, and authoritative message to humanity. It tells us what we need to know about the world, ourselves, and most importantly God. The Scriptures inform and empower our worship; without them we have no basis for truth.
The Bible may be used in a variety of ways in worship, but the primary way it guides our worship is through expository preaching. Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix define expository preaching as “the process of laying open the biblical text in such a way that the Holy Spirit’s intended meaning and accompanying power are brought to bear on the lives of contemporary listeners.” This kind of proclaimation and explanation are essential for God-centered worship.
Praising Christ and Exalting His Name. In Hebrews 1:1-2, we find that Jesus Christ is God’s full and final revelation to the world. He is the “heir of all things” and should be the focus of our adoration and praise. The expressions of worship that we include in our times of gathered worship should all be intended for one purpose – to praise God’s one and only Son.
Music is a big part of modern worship and for good reason. Corporate singing allows congregants to participate in the service in an active way. But care should be taken to choose songs that highlight the objective nature of God and His redemptive plan for humanity in Jesus Christ. Some songs only talk about our subjective feelings as objects of God’s love. This second category falls short of the true nature of worship.
Engaging with the Holy Spirit. The Third-person of the Trinity is active in the worship of the church. In addition to salvation, the Holy Spirit is involved in empowering, illuminating, sanctifying, and bestowing gifts on all believers (Acts 1:8, John 14:16-17, Romans 8:2-17,1 Corinthians 12:4-11). The Holy Spirit makes His presence known as believers gather for worship.
There are other priorities that could be added to this. Specific expressions of worship like fellowship with other believers, observing the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and sacrificial giving are all valuable and worth noting. My goal has been to highlight the participation of all three members of the Trinity in God-centered worship. It is only when we pursue these priorities together that we avoid the self-centered alternative.
What priority would you add to the list? Feel free to add it below!