Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Principles of Worship: Reverence

In this series on principles for Christian worship from a Reformed and Presbyterian perspective, we have looked at why we worship as we do (the regulative principle), when we ought to gather for corporate worship (the Sabbath principle), what worship is (the covenantal principle), and who is worshipping in our Lord's Day worship (the corporate principle). The where of worship is not of much consequence in this new covenant era, as Jesus explained in John 4:19-24. God is to be worshipped in every place (Mal. 1:11, 1 Tim. 2:8). This leaves us with how God is to be worshipped, which I will answer by pointing to the attitude which ought to infuse all our worship: reverence. 

Hebrews 12:28-29 gives us clear instruction on our attitude in worship: 
"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
Perhaps you could say that both gratitude and reverence ought to be fundamental attitudes in worship, and I would grant the point. In fact, there are many attitudes and affections that we should manifest in worship, as we might see if we turn to the Psalms as a model. But I note reverence as a basic attitude for worship because it calls attention to the basic identity of the two parties in worship: the Creator and His creatures. Even in New Testament worship, the book of Hebrews reminds us that the God we worship is a consuming fire, worthy of reverence and awe. 

This reverence leads to the praise of God. It leads a person to take his sin seriously and and to not take his pardon and acceptance by God lightly. A Christian can approach God with confidence, but this is different than saying he can approach God casually and carelessly. Reverence keeps our joy from being superficial, it keeps our sorrow from being self-centered, and it keeps our love from being sentimental. It gives substance and weight to what we do in worship. It keeps our focus on God, in all His holiness and power, which makes His grace and compassion towards us all the greater. And this attitude of reverence and humility is what God desires. As God says in Isaiah 66:2,
"But this is the one to whom I will look:
 he who is humble and contrite in spirit
and trembles at my word."

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