I honestly see worship music primarily as a gift from God to us. It’s more of a blessing to us, for our edification and joy, than an offering to God or as “spiritual warfare.” It is more about receiving from the Lord than about giving to Him.

This is reinforced in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” That verse indicates that the singing serves to teach and admonish the singer and those around them, to build up their faith and therefore their joy and love.

I recently came across a sermon by John Piper on “The Inner Essence of Worship.” Among other things, he points out that it is fine to seek happiness in God during times of singing worship:

There are millions of Christians who have absorbed a popular ethic that says it is morally defective to seek our happiness, even in God. This is absolutely deadly for authentic worship. To the degree that this ethic flourishes, to that degree worship dies. Because the inner essence of worship is satisfaction in God, experiencing God as gain.

Therefore I say to you that the basic attitude of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with your hands full to give to God, but with your hands empty, to receive from God. And what you receive in worship is God, not entertainment. You ought to come hungry for God. Come saying, “As a deer pants for the flowing springs, so my soul pants for thee, O God.” God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God.

Recovering the rightness and indispensability of pursuing our satisfaction in God will go a long way to restoring authenticity and power of worship.

What might happen if worship music is more about “our gift to Him” than “His gift to us”?

If the focus shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that subtly it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Are our instrumentalists playing with quality fitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself onto the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts.

Reflecting on our Lord’s character, and the overwhelmingly merciful things He’s done for us, is a gift to us. It moves our hearts toward His, which is heavenly joy.

Ted Slater
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