Sunday, September 23, 2012

Book Review: Worship the Ultimate Priority

Worship: The Ultimate Priority. John MacArthur. 1983/2012. Moody. 192 pages.

I would definitely recommend John MacArthur's Worship: The Ultimate Priority. It might be easy to assume that this is a book about worship styles in church services, an argument about what kinds of songs should be sung by congregations. But. That is NOT what this one is about at all. It is a basic book, an essential book about faith, about one's relationship with God. It is about how to live life seven days a week, how to honor and glorify God with your whole life, your whole being.

Here are the chapter titles which might give you an idea about what this one is about:

  • What the World Needs Now
  • How Shall We Then Worship?
  • Worship is a Way of Life
  • Saved to Worship
  • God: Is He? Who Is He?
  • The Unchanging, Omnipotent God
  • The God Who Is Everywhere--and Knows Everything
  • Holy, Holy, Holy
  • A New Era Dawns
  • This Must Be the Place
  • Worship the Father
  • Worship in Spirit and In Truth
  • Glory to God in the Highest
  • How To Glorify God
  • Worship As It Was Meant to Be

I just LOVED the emphasis on the gospel. I loved the focus on God, the exploration of his attributes, the study of his character. I loved the focus on Jesus Christ, the explanation of who He is, why He came, how (and why) he saves us. I loved the discussion on the old and new covenants. I thought he did a great job in talking about why it is important to recognize (and worship) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. How the Spirit is essential in worship. And he made some good insights into contemporary Christianity, churches and "modern" worship music.

The main message of this one is that we need to know God before we can worship him. It's not enough to worship our own idea of who God is. We must worship the God who is. We must worship in truth, we must have some understanding of who He is. By seeing God as He is, we can grasp who we are as well. By seeing God in his magnificence, his holiness, we see our sinfulness, our dirtiness, our unworthiness. One point MacArthur makes is that confession of sin is one way to worship God, to glorify God. It is the first step, in a way, to our worship of God for without confession and repentance, it is hard to worship with sincerity and humility.

I thought the book was very practical, very accessible.

Favorite quotes:

Worship is any essential expression of service rendered unto God by a soul who loves and extols Him for who He is. Real worship therefore should be the full-time, nonstop activity of every believer, and the aim of the exercise ought to be to please God, not merely entertain the worshiper. (10)

Music can be an instrument for the expression of music, but there are other spiritual disciplines that come closer to the essence of pure worship--activities like prayer, giving, thanksgiving, and listening to the Word of God as it is proclaimed and expounded. It is significant that Jesus spoke of truth, not music, as the distinctive mark of true worship. (11)

Worship cannot be isolated or regulated to just one place, time, or segment of our lives. We cannot verbally thank and praise God while living lives of selfishness and carnality. That kind of effort at worship is a perversion. Real acts of worship must be the overflow of a perpetually worshiping life. (43)

The most basic truth in worship, then, is the worshiper's understanding of God. (82)

A human being is wise to the degree he understands the true God. (94)

God is with us now as much as He will be with us in eternity. (98)

When we see God as holy, our instant and only reaction is to see ourselves as unholy. Between God's holiness and humanity's unholiness is a gulf. And until a person understands the holiness of God, that person can never know the depth of his or her own sin. We ought to be shaken to our roots when we see ourselves against the backdrop of God's holiness. If we are not deeply pained about our sin, we do not understand God's holiness at all. Without such a vision of God's holiness, true worship is not possible. Real worship is not giddy. It does not rush into God's presence unprepared and insensitive to His majesty. It is not shallow, superficial, or flippant. Worship is life lived in the presence of an infinitely righteous and omnipresent God by one utterly aware of His holiness and consequently overwhelmed with a sense of his or her own unholiness. (114)

Worship is what takes place in our hearts as we adore the God whom we are singing about, praying to, and obeying--the God whose Word the preacher proclaims. Worship is the proper spiritual response to those activities; not the activities per se. That is why true worship cannot be stimulated by gimmickry, entertainment, or emotional manipulation. Those things might draw crowds, but they don't have anything to do with authentic worship. (140)

We don't often think of the confession of sin as worship, but it is. When we confess our sins, we are humbling ourselves before God, acknowledging His holiness, experiencing His faithfulness and righteousness in forgiving us, accepting any chastisement He may give, and thereby glorifying Him. In fact, confession serves the dual purpose of being an act of worship itself and of preparing the repentant sinner to worship. (178)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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