“Desiring God” is a great title for a book! – In that book John Piper argues that to be preoccupied with anything less than God is to rob ourselves of our greatest joy and privilege. God tells us to praise him above all else because He knows that’s the place of our highest fulfilment and satisfaction. We are made for Him – to worship Him is our destiny! To not worship Him is to miss out on what we are on earth for.
Let’s focus on aspects of corporate worship …
To “enter His gates with thanksgiving ” is much more than “let’s wake everyone up with a fast one”! The first step away from God is that we don’t thank Him (See Rom 1v21) In the midst of all sorts of life distractions, therefore, it is so good to simply thank God and remind ourselves of his mercy, his kindness and wonderful nature. Such appreciation is our “gateway” into God’s presence.
An illustration – When we first married my wife was unmoved by the delights of, say, tennis, (along with most others sports!), however watching together, learning about scoring, tactics, angles and spins has gradually led to appreciation and even outburst of “WOW that was fantastic!” Praise grows with understanding! – (I have also learned, from her, to appreciate our rich history and legacy of historic buildings)
We praise what impresses us – and the more we learn of who God is and what He has done the more we will be impressed with that understanding and praise him. That’s why songs full of truth about Who God is and What He has done are so helpful!
We are not just praising a God but our God and Saviour. Our praise engages our emotions, as well as our minds, when we realise that We have a personal interest since “the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2 v 20)
IT’S HAS TO BE EXPRESSED!
Thinking warm thoughts toward my wife is not enough – Praise has to be expressed to really be praise. In all sorts of worldly settings praise is expressed through clapping, shouting, dancing, drumming, dancing … Wholehearted enthusiasm; maybe not very traditionally British but very Biblical. Watching Olympic fervour, or F.A. cup craziness could maybe help us learn to better express our praise to the One who is, above all else, amazing and genuinely wonderful!
We enter into worship to honour him but also to encounter Him. “Knowing you Jesus – there is no greater thing”! (Graham Kendrick) We are pursuing moments of love and adoration, encountering God’s presence and delighting in Him. “How lovely is your dwelling place, … my soul yearns, even faints … my heart and flesh cry out for the living God”. “Better is one day in your courts than a a thousand elsewhere” (Psalm 84)
“In the end the heart longs not for any of God’s good gifts but for God Himself. To see Him and be in His presence is the soul’s final feast”. (J Piper)