“. . . to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mark 12:33).
IF WE SEEK GOD DILIGENTLY, WE WILL FIND WORSHIP TO BE ONE OF OUR LIFELONG CHALLENGES. Even when our desire is to improve the quality of our worship, it is not easy to get the emphasis in the right place and keep it there. We tend to lose our balance.
One mistake we often make is presuming that God will be honored by anything we choose to define as worship. Unfortunately, our age is characterized by a bold, self-centered approach to worship, one that feels free to offer God whatever is currently fashionable in religious circles, however devoid of scriptural precedent that may be. But God has always retained the right to say what honors Him and what does not. It is urgent that we regain the kind of reverence that will bow before God and wait for Him to tell us the actions by which He desires to be worshiped. True worship centers on the perfect glory of the King, not on the changing tastes of His somewhat rebellious subjects, and we dare not try to create God in our own image.
But having said that, we must hasten to say this also: even the scriptural actions by which God has instructed us to worship Him mean virtually nothing if they don’t proceed from a heart of true love. And here is where we quite often fail, despite our sometimes scrupulous attention to the details of worship. We see worship simply as a set of respectful motions God has required us to go through, and we forget that it is our heart He is really after. If our hearts are not warmed by gratitude and love, our worship will fall short of real reverence.
Even in our human relationships, we understand that the highest kinds of honor are those where respect is combined with love. We may appreciate the respect of casual friends, but we’re much more deeply touched when it comes from the heart of those who know us best and love us most. In the case of God, He not only loves us; He desires to be loved by us. What He seeks from us is perhaps best described by an old word that we don’t hear much anymore: adoration. Our praise grows toward perfection when the King before whom we bow is also the Father whom we love.
“I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love” (Henry Ward Beecher).