People often comment on whether they enjoyed the worship on a Sunday morning. But have you ever stopped to consider whether God enjoyed it? How would you even know whether God enjoyed it? Does He like hymns or choruses? Is He into guitars or organs? Does He like it quiet or loud? In the Old Testament, there are descriptions of trumpets, harps, tambourines, flutes and cymbals used in worship. But when you get to the New Testament, there aren’t as many clues. There are no descriptions of choirs, instruments or liturgy. It’s not likely that God wants to dial down the worship now that the Messiah has come. But it seems that the form is not His concern. Instead there is something more fundamental. Luke records that “awe came upon every soul” (Acts 2:43). There was a powerful sense that God was at work in their midst and the people responded with reverence and wonder.
Sometimes, it was the incredible miracles God performed that stirred the people’s reverence (Acts 2:43). There were remarkable answers to prayer and demonstrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. Other times, it was God’s judgment of sin that struck fear into their gatherings (Acts 5:9-13). When God judged the hypocrisy of Ananias and Sapphira, it says that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). Those who had treated the things of God lightly, even frivolously, did so no longer. There was a new reverence toward God. Still other times, preaching would lay bare the people’s hearts in conviction and convince people that God was in their midst (1 Cor 14:24-25). While the means vary, it’s clear that God expects this awe to characterize His church. God enjoys worship that is marked by awe. So how do you know if you have it?
1. Is there anticipation about worship in your church?
We all have plenty of things we have to do. And there’s no shortage of entertainment to enjoy. So, if I just see worship with other believers as another item in my to do list, my expectations aren’t going to be too high. But if I have an awe for God and I believe He reveals Himself in the worship of the church, then I prioritize this time above everything else. I arrive with expectation. I anticipate God and my thoughts are focused on Him.
2. Do people focus on what God is doing or what people are doing?
There are so many things that can rob our attention on a Sunday morning. Someone sat in my seat. The coffee’s a little off. The guitar’s a little loud. I don’t like the new arrangement of that old hymn. Before long, our entire focus shifts to what people are doing or not doing and we lose sight of God. I’m convinced that you can have a well-organized church with professional musicians and a pastor who delivers a ‘great sermon’ and God will still be tired of it if people’s focus isn’t on Him.
3. Is God given the prominence He deserves?
The church is a spiritual family and it’s supposed to be relational. So, it’s healthy for us to connect and talk and relate. But worship is focused on God. And if there is to be awe, God must be given the prominence He deserves. Prayers should reflect His priorities. Worship lyrics should be uniquely focused on His character and works. The message should be controlled by the Scriptures. There should be an overwhelming sense that this is God’s time.
Awe isn’t something that we can program or schedule. But there is something we can do to encourage it. In Psalm 22:23, David wrote, “You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!” The word “glorify” means to “give weight to.” I’m convinced that when we give weight to God, when we treat Him as heavy and substantial, we begin to enter into the kind of worship that He likes. Weighty thoughts toward God drive away trivial attitudes that make light of Him. And when God is given the weight He deserves, we’re beginning to see the world as it really is.
This Sunday, bring God the kind of worship that He’s worthy of. Bring Him awe and glorify Him for who He is.
In awe of Him,