The world is filled with manuals for almost everything imaginable. We have manuals for vehicle repair, lawn equipment operation, and computer usage. So, when it comes to the worship of God, we have a sufficient manual in the sacred Scriptures that we call the Word of God. If the Word of God is the central hub in the worship of God—what does it accomplish in the lives of God’s people? How does the Bible shape or affect the worship of God?
The Word of God Informs our Worship
We are called to know God. The journey of faith is not merely centered upon rituals of worship. If all of life is for the glory of God—that means that we are called to worship God on a daily basis. In Deuteronomy 6, we find the prescription for discipleship in the home where parents are to teach their children in the morning, along the way throughout the day, and before they go to bed in the evening—from the Scriptures. Knowing God in general through creation is a beautiful thing, but it’s simply not enough. God has given us the Word—the sacred text in order to make himself known in a special and intimate manner.
The Word of God is sufficient to communicate truths about God’s character. The attributes of God reveal his omnipresence, his omniscience, his omnipotence, and his immutability. These grand truths are not recorded in the Bible so that we can have material for seminary classes or doctrines for debates within evangelical circles. They are written in order that we will know God and love God.
When we sing “Amazing Grace” as a gathered church, we are not singing empty words. The verses contain doctrine about our God that originate in the pages of the Bible. Such knowledge about the wonder and beauty and love of God should lift us to the heights of praise. It’s not the arrangement or the crescendo that should stir our emotions but rather than mind and the heart being moved by the truth about the fact that a sovereign God has chosen to save a people for his glory through the blood of his Son—who were saved by the mercy of God alone—not the worthiness of the rebels.
The Word of God is like a fire according to Jeremiah 23:39. It’s like a hammer that crushes according to the very same verse. The Scriptures are like a sword that pierces according to Hebrews 4:12, and yet the Psalmist declared that they are sweeter than honey in Psalm 19:10-11.
Furthermore, the Word of God provides us the manual of worship. In other words, there are right ways and wrong ways to worship God. We do not have the freedom to invent new and fresh ways to worship God. In the Scriptures, we find the ways that God has demanded his people to worship him, and to deviate from that plan is to engage in sinful worship that’s fleshly, man-centered, and that which doesn’t glorify God. In Deuteronomy 12:4, the LORD gave the Israelites a clear command stating, “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.” In other words, God expects worship to be carried out in a specific manner—unlike the pagan worship of the world.
In the New Testament, that same pattern exists. We find Ananias and Sapphira being judged by God for inappropriate worship in Acts 5. We see the church in Corinth experiencing God’s judgment for perverting the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 11. God has a standard and a plan for the way he desires his people to worship him, and it’s not to be left open ended for the imagination of man to decide. The Word of God informs our worship.
The Word of God Reforms our Worship
It is the goal of Satan to deform anything that God has created. He began this work of deforming the created order in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3). He has sought to deform the relationship between God and man. He has sought to deform the family structure. He has sought to deform marriage. He has long attempted and been successful in deforming worship. God desires for his people to honor, praise, and glorify him in worship—yet Satan desires to deform worship to rob God of glory.
In modern times, we have watched the downgrade of worship within evangelical circles. Church services have been rearranged to satisfy unbelievers and it has given rise to the entertainment model of worship that’s centered on the satisfaction of the human heart rather than the glory of God.
In recent years we’ve seen examples of this downgrade in church services such as North Point Community Church led by Andy Stanley where the band opened a worship service with a pop song from the 90s with lyrics such as, “Love the way you turn me on” and “You’ve got the right stuff baby.” The contemporary Christian music world has likewise drifted way off course today where we have songs that could be focused on the relationship of a man and his girlfriend as opposed to a believer singing to his God. If it’s so watered down that we can’t find proper theology—it’s not God honoring worship. Sadly, the church has drifted along the currents of culture and it has led to a downgrade of worship that is entertainment based as opposed to worshipful and worshipper engaged.
This is not a new development. Years ago the worship of God was so perverted by the Roman Catholic Church that the Scriptures were concealed, congregational singing disappeared, the traditions of the Catholic Church took priority over the Word of God, and the worship of God was dark and lifeless.
It was through the movement known as the Reformation that the Scriptures were brought out of the dungeon and elevated to a primary place in the life of God’s people. Modern translations brought the Bible to the people and it reformed the worship of God that had been long deformed by satanic influences and man-centered ideologies.
That’s why we have a saying that emerged from the Reformation that says, “Semper Reformanda”—always reforming. It comes from a longer Latin phrase ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (the church reformed, always reforming) that first appeared in a devotional book by Jodocus van Lodenstein in 1674. Day-by-day the worship of God, the pure doctrines of God, and the life that brings glory to God will be deformed. Sometimes it seems as if it’s only a slight movement and then suddenly it picks up pace quickly, but the agenda never stops. Satan has a desire to deform that which honors God. We must be constantly reforming our worship to get back to the straight and narrow path that glorifies God.
It’s not about being “old-fashioned” or “traditional” in our worship of God. It’s about being biblical. It’s about honoring God in the way that he has specified. The Word of God not only informs our worship, but as we continue to read the Scriptures we continue to make necessary adjustments in order to reform what Satan has deformed. Even when we think we have the external functions in their proper place and regulated by Scripture, there is a need for the church to be always reforming the heart to guard against becoming like the Pharisees that Jesus once warned when he said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8).