True worship must be Christ-centred
So far, we’ve seen that worship is, simply, giving God His due. For worship to be worth anything, it needs to be God-centred. Anything else misses the point.
My next claim, then, might at first glance seem to be a little unnecessary:
True worship must be Christ-centred.
We’re an Evangelical, Trinitarian Christian Church. We preach and confess that Jesus Christ is God. So, surely it’s enough to say that worship is God-centred and I’ve already included Jesus as the second Person of the Trinity, right?
Yes and no.
Yes, Jesus is fully and completely God. He deserves equal praise to Father and Holy Spirit (although already our language is starting to fail in its ability to properly talk about ONE God who exists eternally in THREE persons).
But it’s precisely the way Jesus enables us to relate to the Triune God that, in a sense, singles Him out as particularly vital to God-centred worship. There’s so much more to say on this than can be put into a single post, and we’ll probably look at some of this in more detail later on. For now, let me try to give a few bullet points for why Christian worship should be Christ-centred. We might even say that Christian worship should be Christ-focussed:
• Christ’s work evidences His right to be praised. As eternal God, Jesus does already deserve praise, but the labour of His incarnation, sacrificial death and the vindication of His resurrection show how much He deserves our praise. If you could add to perfection, this would be it. The particular work of Jesus demonstrates where our worship ought to be directed (see, for example, Revelation ch.5).
• Christ’s work is what enables us to worship God without fear. All creation exists to worship God (see Psalm 19). Every man, woman and child should worship God, but our sin cuts us off from him and makes it impossible*. But because of the work of Jesus in washing us clean of our defilement and in giving us His righteousness and sanctifying us (making us Holy), He enables us to worship God without the threat of His Holiness burning us up like a fire. Christ is central to worship being able to happen at all!
• Christ is our Great High Priest.** So often, when we’ve sung a hymn badly, or the person leading the service has tripped over his tongue and said something accidentally appalling or inadvertently hilarious, we find ourselves kicked out of a reverent and serious state of mind. With the worries of life; our propensity to misbehave in thought and deed; let alone the distractions in any chapel on a given Sunday, we might despair that we can make appropriate and acceptable worship to our Holy and almighty God. Christ’s High Priesthood is something which puts our minds at rest: We’re sinners and we know it. But Christ our great High Priest is actually the one who offers our worship to God. It’s helpful to us when public worship is smooth, orderly, sober and harmonious. But even when it isn’t***, we are guaranteed that the offering will be accepted when the one making it is perfect: Christ is the one who qualifies us to worship, and He’s the one who offers perfect worship on our behalf.
For all these reasons and more, it ought to be obvious that True Worship is not only God-centred, but specifically Christ-Centred; specifically, Jesus-focussed.
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds, in a believer’s ear…
John Newton, 1725-1807
* Our sin also removes our desire to worship God. We mustn’t get the idea God has cruelly commanded duties we’re incapable of performing. As created beings, we’re obligated to worship our creator, but rather than sin preventing us from doing something we want to do, sin is the rebellion that causes us to worship absolutely anything and everything except our Creator.
** There’s a lot on this in the letter to the Hebrews, but all this is in fulfilment of the whole priestly order in the Old Testament
***Here I’m talking only about where the intention is to give praise and glory to God, but our human frailty gets in the way (When we sing out of tune because we’re not trained singers; when the pianist fluffs a note; when the person praying trips over their tongue, etc). I’m not saying, “Anything goes and God will fix it in post-production.” As I’ll say in a later post, worship needs to be according to the commands God has given us.