God-centered Worship?

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Reformed Christians have sometimes reacted away from the man-centered worship of much of the contemporary church, and they have lurched to another extreme, one just as dangerous. If you react away from a style of worship that seems to be saying nothing more than “gimme, gimme, gimme,” the temptation is to think that “God-centered worship” means therefore coming before the Lord in order to receive nothing at all. “We come to give glory to God, to focus on Him. We do not come in selfishness, like those others.”

But this is extremely wrong-headed. How did we get to the point where we came to believe that implicit declarations of our self-sufficiency, of our lack of a need to receive anything from God in worship, were anything but arrogant posturing.

But of course, Christian worship is a covenantal conversation with God, a matter of giving and receiving. In the act of giving, we receive. And we not only receive, but we receive our life—that which, if we did not have, we would all perish. We know we need it, and we should seek it.

The issue is not whether we receive in worship. Of course we do. We are creatures, after all. The question is whether we are to receive on our own terms, or whether we are to receive from God on God’s terms, in accordance with His promises.

It is not “selfless” to pretend that you need nothing from God, and that you come here only to overflow out of your bounty. It is not “God-centered” to be so theological checked-out that your worship is a mere recitation of all the stuff you already know. It is not really Reformed to thank God that you are not as other men, that you tithe everything, that you fast twice a week, and that you are not like that poor publican in the corner who obviously came to the Temple in order to get something. Those who react that way discover that the poor publican does get something—justification.

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