Modernity and the Spiritual Disciplines: Worship (Part 1)

Worship challenges self-worship. We are called to bow down to God as the ultimate good. In worship we see ourselves in relation to God – as created is to Creator, a necessarily humbling experience. Worship also challenges materialism as the people of God gather together in the presence the God through the Spirit of God.

As I mentioned in the introduction, worship, and here I mean what happens on a weekly basis in local churches around the world, challenges modernity on two fronts: self-worship and materialism. I will expand on each individually.

Self-Worship: Modernity/secularism does not use the language of “worship” since it is a religious term, so saying that modernity promotes self-worship at first seems like a misnomer. Yet, as others have demonstrated, everyone has a concept of the greatest good. In religious speak we call that “worship.” When you worship someone other than God, it is called idolatry. Paul, describing the depravity of man which stirs up the wrath of God says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.” (Romans 1:25)

Paul is likely describing the pagan idolatry prevalent at the time (… “and they exchanged the glory of God for images made to look like…”). Modern secularists no longer bow down to pieces of wood or stone but, make no mistake, we all worship something and it’s either the Creator or the created thing and, more than ever, our idolatry has turned to self-idolatry, to self-worship.

Our first task, however, is not to fight the idolatry “out there” but to ask ourselves, “who/what are we really worshipping?” For, in the end, we will see that our own actions and values demonstrate that we often fail in this regard. Praise be to God, the indictment of Romans 1 draws us to the grace freely given in Jesus, which allows us, weak as we are, to truly worship God in spirit and in truth.

The practice of regular worship (gathering together in a local body, singing songs of praise, hearing the Word), ought to do two things for us. First, it reveals to us the glory and goodness of God. Second, seeing the glory of God reveals our own finitude, weakness, and sin. This is necessarily a humbling experience, tearing down any notions we might have of self-worship.

In the above paragraph I said that worship “ought to” move us away from self-worship. Whether it does or not is based on at least three factors. (1) Does the local church practice Biblical worship that glorifies the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? (It is possible for churches to conduct worship in a way that actually promotes self-worship). (2) Do we, as the worshippers, come with open hearts? (3) Is the Holy Spirit really present? As for this third condition, thankfully, God really is present with us in our worship This third point also brings me to part two of this post…