Theocentric worship begins with God and is about God; it does not begin with us nor is it about us. Worship that is Theocentric is also Christocentric and Trinitarian. It is through Christ that we are able to worship God the Father. Christ is the very image of God incarnate who has made knowing and worshiping God possible (John 1:1-5; 14). Theocentric worship is also Trinitarian meaning that the Holy Spirit enables our worship (John 4:24) and the filling of the Spirit empowers our worship. It is important to note that congregational singing and praise is empowered by the Holy Spirit.
See Paul’s argument in Ephesians.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.Ephesians 5:18-21
What is Theocentric worship? Theologian J. I. Packer argues:
The history of the word gives us our answer. The noun worship is a contraction of WORTHSHIP. Used as a verb, it means to ‘ascribe worth’ or ‘to acknowledge value.’ To worship God is to make recognition of his worth or worthiness–to look Godward and acknowledge in all appropriate ways the value of what we see. The Bible calls this activity glorifying God or giving glory to God. It views this as our ultimate end and, from one point of view, our whole duty. ‘Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name’ (Psalm 29:2; 96:8). ‘Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).J.I. Packer, Knowing Christianity, 135-6.
God’s glory and worth deserve our praise and honor. This is why the focus must be on God in our worship. True worship begins with God, not with us. In our worship services at Wilkesboro Baptist, we begin with Scripture (revelation) and then move to songs of praise and adoration. The very majesty and worth of God deserve our worship and invite us to respond to God.
I’m writing these posts for those who are believers. My audience is primarily made up of Christians and church attenders, but note the following observation by Eugene Peterson on the desperate importance of Christians centering their lives on God.
In worship God gathers his people to himself as center: “The Lord reigns” (Psalm 93:1). Worship is a meeting at the center so that our lives are centered in God and not lived eccentrically. We worship so that we live in response to and from this center, the living God. Failure to worship consigns us to a life of spasms and jerks, at the mercy of every advertisement, every seduction, every siren. Without worship we live manipulated and manipulating lives. We move in either frightened panic or deluded lethargy as we are, in turn, alarmed by specters and soothed by placebos. If there is no center, there is no circumference. People who do not worship are swept into a vast restlessness, epidemic in the world, with no steady direction and no sustaining purpose.Eugene Peterson, Living the Message, 74.
Here are some observations about our Christian lives regarding Theocentric worship.
- When God is not the focus or center of our lives, we will fail to worship properly. This is the single most unfortunate reality of human experience. Sure, people worship many things besides God. The problem is that only God deserves our worship; only God is worthy of worship. Worship in our temporal lives is merely a tune up for worship in our eternal lives. Forever, we will either worship in the presence of the only One worthy of worship or we will be damned to ourselves, our idols, and our demons in eternal torment. It would be wise of us to worship now in preparation for worship then.
- When God is not the focus or center of our worship, we will trend toward the preferential and self-absorbed. There is nothing wrong with having personal preferences in life, Christian experience or even worship. But God does not receive more or less glory because of how our worship experiences feel to us or whether or not they affirm our preferences. That God is Savior of the nations and the peoples of the world means that he receives worship in a vast variety of languages, songs, styles, and methods. Christian, the next time you are at church and the song, sermon, or structure of the service is not your preference, pause to remember that if what is said or sung is true, then it is glorifying God. God’s pleasure, not our own, should drive our worship.
- When our worship is Theocentric, Christocentric, and Trinitarian, we are able to reset our daily Christian experiences to be satisfied only with God. C. S. Lewis once observed that our problem is not that we are satisfied with too much, but with too little. Peterson’s observation above reminds us that without proper worship our fears and temptations drive us to restless lives and unfulfilled purpose. Is this not the reason for so much despair that surrounds us? Beloved, we need God, and when we find and experience him, we must and will worship.
Would you make plans to gather with God’s people this week and worship? When you do, would you pause before you enter your worship space and remind yourself that the gathering, the songs, the sermon, the structure, the giving, and all else are all about, for, and to the One Living God? Would you let your private and your public worship reset your heart on the God who is worthy?