Recently I began considering what do we hope to accomplish each week in our corporate gatherings as dispersed local churches. Likewise, I am curious how that activity ought to be related to our individual lives throughout the rest of the week. I have chronicled elsewhere how it is I like to revisit books I’ve read, things I’ve learned as a sort of refresher course on any subject. Therefore, staying true to my habit I took another look at a book to help put my thoughts in order. What follows is a combination book-review and lessons learned report on the subject of Worship.
In Worship; The Ultimate Priority pastor-teacher John MacArthur provides for the reader an update to the work originally released as The Ultimate Priority in 1983. In this updated edition MacArthur teaches the reader the foundations of worship to the true and living God of the Bible. He does this by providing an introductory definition of worship; Worship is honor and adoration directed to God (p. 43).He unpacks this definition by stating, “Worship is our innermost being responding with praise for all that God is, through our attitudes, actions, thoughts and words, based on the truth of God as He has revealed Himself” (p. 165). The journey between these two definitions stretches across fifteen chapters and one appendix addressing the attributes of God, the Trinity, and the life of the individual believer. Pastor MacArthur concisely explains what are at time heady subjects and then lays out the implications of the same in the life of the believer. In this way he makes it clear that every aspect of one’s life can be, should be, and is an act of worship…the question is whether or not it is acceptable worship.
There are three areas of my thinking which have either been strengthened or challenged by this book; the importance of the ministry of God’s Word, the purpose of the gathering of believers to worship, and the purpose of redemption.
I have long been convinced of the importance of the teaching of God’s Word to His people. However, until recently I had not considered the sermon to be a component of worship; whether it be the preaching of or listening to the sermon. I only considered this to be part of the equipping ministry of the church for the saints. I now know, and this book has strengthened my understanding, the instruction the believer receives through the preaching and teaching of God’s Word is worship. This instruction enables the believer to actually know how to glorify God.
The preeminence of preaching God’s Word naturally supports the purpose of the corporate gathering. Believers gather in order to worship God by being equipped for the work of ministry. Furthermore, the ministry believers engage in touches every aspect of life regardless of whether it is in the corporate service, home/family life, at work, school or leisure; the life of the believer is a life a worship. Additionally, each believer should be engaged in utilizing all of these instances to take the Gospel to the lost people they may encounter while living this life of worship. It should also be pointed out that I have been encouraged by Pastor MacArthur’s insistence the necessity for believers to gather corporately for the use of each one’s spiritual giftedness, instruction, and, if needed, admonition. The Christian life of worship is not a life lived in a bunker or isolationist mentality; it is a life lived in a Christian community and among a perishing world.
One area MacArthur challenged me in, I had not meditated upon very much was the purpose of our redemption. Pastor MacArthur very succinctly points out God ultimately redeems every believer for His glory. Or as he put it “we have been redeemed so that God may receive worship – so that our lives might glorify Him.” (p. 54). I always understood only believers were capable of worshiping God as He commands. Salvation and true worship were opposite sides of the same coin; however, I had never considered we are saved for the express purpose of glorifying God for who He is. With this new understanding, I am even more excited to be engaged in the equipping of the saints and the evangelism of the lost, as both of these activities rightly glorify God.