Keeping our focus on God when we worship
by James Suderman
“For the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods …” Psalm 95:3
More and more people today are approaching worship as consumers. George Barna’s research shows that most Americans expect worship to satisfy or please themselves, not to honor or please God. “Amazingly, few worship-service regulars argue that worship is something they do primarily for God,” says Barna. “A substantially larger percentage of attenders claim that attending worship services is something they do for personal benefit and pleasure.”
In other words, we often come to church to “get blessed” by God rather than to focus our praise, adoration and attention on the One who alone is worthy of worship. The writer of Psalm 95 brings us back to the “main thing” of worship.
First, we are called to worship. “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to him with psalms” (Ps. 95: 1-2, NASB).
Four times in the opening verses we read, “Let us….” The psalmist states that worship is designed to be congregational, not merely individual. There is a benefit to corporate worship that cannot be found elsewhere.
Next, we have cause to worship (vv. 3-6). The sovereignty of God is given as a basis for our worship. Verse 3 says, “For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.” God is the sovereign Lord of the whole creation. There is absolutely nothing that happens in the universe that is outside of God’s influence and authority. As such, we should worship him in the reality of who he is.
Finally, we are given a caution in worship (vv. 7-11). “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, ‘When your fathers tested me, they tried me, though they had seen my work’” (vv 8-9, NASB).
Psalm 95 ends with a reminder of some disappointing episodes in Israel’s history. Meribah and Massah are two places that the children of Israel hardened their hearts and even chose to question and rebel against the Lord. God asks in verse 11, which will it be, my wrath or my rest? We either give attention to the voice of the Lord or we harden our hearts to his voice.
Are you obediently listening to God’s Word or stubbornly hardening your heart? Perhaps the best way to gauge your heart is to examine your attitudes in the area of worship. Whether slow or fast, modern or vintage, keep the focus where it belongs—exclusively on God.
Pastor and author Sam Storms sums it up well: "If you come to worship for any reason other than the joy and pleasure and satisfaction that are to be found in God, you dishonor him …. God's greatest delight is your delight in him.”
James Suderman is pastor of New Hopedale Mennonite Church in Meno, Okla.
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