How do you know that you are worshiping God correctly? Before we can answer this quesion, we need to define what worship is. Worship is the purpose for which we were made. Worship is praising, exalting, delighting in, praying, and singing to the one true God. It is our response to the glory of God. All of life is worship because all of life is lived before the face of God and is to be done for his glory (1 Cor 10:31). We cannot cease to be creatures or cease to worship because we are by nature worshipers. To be a human being is to be someone created in the image of God and made for his glory. We are always worshiping someone or something. Worship is an identity before it is an activity. Will we worship God in everything we do by living a life that demonstrates that he is our treasure or will we live for ourselves? Worship is not just something we do on Sunday morning, but all of the time. That worship is all of life does not diminish the importance of worshiping on the Lord’s day as a church. Rather, the worship of the Lord’s day is designed to propel us to worship God throughout the week.
True worship is worshiping God in accordance with God’s revelation about himself in Scripture while false worship departs from the pattern of worship laid down in God’s Word. I have written on the regulative principle of worship before. But the purpose of this article is to give specific examples of true and false worship. One litmus test you can use to test the worthiness of a song for worship is if you can replace the names for God in the song with names of human beings and the song still makes sense, then it is a song unworthy of God. These are blasphemous “Jesus is my girlfriend” songs which are written to mirror the love songs of popular culture instead of the language of Scripture. We must sing songs that are uniquely Christian and make God the center of everything that is sung. We need more “Holy, holy, holy” and fewer wet sloppy kisses.
If the worship songs we sing can be sung by a member of another religion, then they are not Christian worship songs. Our songs should revolve around who God is and what he has done. They must be songs that are biblically accurate and communicate the redemptive narrative of Scripture. The best worship songs are those which follow the language of Scripture closely. As we pray the Bible to God, we should sing the Bible to God. When worship songs are modeled after the popular songs of our culture, we should not be surprised when the congregation responds to them the same way they respond to those songs. The leadership of the church in general has taught the congregation not to sing but to listen to the band that is playing. Musical instrumentation should never drown out congregational singing, but enhance it. The worship leader, rather than leading the congregation in singing, becomes a replacement for the congregation. Acapella, which does not need to be done all the time, forces the congregation to sing and not let the worship band do everything for them.
All worship songs should be addressed directly to God because he is the sole object of our worship. The models for our singing to God are the psalms of the Old Testament, the New Testament hymns to Christ, and the worship in the book of Revelation. Look at how God-centered the songs of Revelation are:
“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Rev 4:8).
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Rev 4:11).
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5:9-10).
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth” (Rev 11:17-18).
“Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev 15:3-4).
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure” (Rev 19:6-8).
We will worship and serve God for all eternity while evangelism is only for this life. Worship leaders will be needed in heaven while pastors and evangelists will not. For more on worship, see Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin.