What is the heart of worship? A simple answer would be: the centrality of our worship is grounded in Christ alone. Through Christ and in Christ, we were given the privilege of access to worship God with the utmost humility, reverence, and devotion. Indeed, even Apostle Paul reminded us, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1).
In the passage of Ephesians 1, thrice in verses 6, 12, and 14, Paul had emphasized that everything that God has done for us to redeem us, adopt us, and love us were all “to the praise of his glory.” This truth urges us to worship God for his glory. Truly, our main purpose in life is to glorify God. Even the nature worships God, in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the expanse proclaims the work of his hands.”
Our problem nowadays is that worship is being taken for granted by “religious consumers.” They are the one who ask, “Did I like the music?” or “Was the service good for me?” These are people who have the customer mindset who thinks that: customers are always right. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us that “we enter into that common life [ie. corporate worship] not as demanders but as thankful recipients.”
To that, I propose a Christo-centric approach of worship: Christ and Us (reverence), Christ with Us (co-heirs), in Christ (communion), through Christ (access), of Christ (finished work), to Christ (exaltation), and for Christ (purpose).
Remember that worship is a privilege only given to God’s children. Only Christians can offer true worship to God. Our object of reverent worship is God in Christ and subjectively applied by the Spirit to make it possible (John 3:5-8).
Learning from our dear brothers in Christ from the past, J. I. Packer said, “[Worship] is essentially doxology, a giving of glory, praise, honour, and homage to God.” For Stephen Charnock, “God is a Spirit infinitely happy, therefore we must approach him with cheerfulness; he is a Spirit of infinite majesty, therefore we must come before him with reverence; he is a Spirit infinitely high, therefore we must offer up our sacrifices with deepest humility; he is a Spirit infinitely holy, therefore we must address him with purity; he is a Spirit infinitely glorious, we therefore must acknowledge his excellency… he is a Spirit infinitely provoked by us, therefore we must offer up our worship in the name of a pacifying mediator and intercessor.”
Finally, early church father Basil the Great, one of the Great Cappadocian Fathers, who solidified the nature of the Holy Spirit, also taught several significant doctrines of the Trinity, when he was arrested and threatened to be exiled, tortured, or even be killed for preaching said:
May we all share the same attitude when we come to worship our holy and glorious God. A character where we are ready to give up wholly our life for God. This trait is the true and proper worship.
Charnock, Stephen. The Works of Stephen Charnock, ed. Thomas Smith. Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864. (1:298)
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. Life Together, trans. John W. Doberstein. New York: HarperCollins, 1954.
Packer, J. I. A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan Vision of the Christian Life. 245-57. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 1990.