OUR DEBT, OUR WORSHIP
Does your worship reflect your gratitude?
by ERIC GEIGER
HOW DO YOU RESPOND when you discover a debt has been paid?
Martyn Lloyd-Jones has been credited with wisely articulating that you do not know how to answer that question unless you know how big the debt is.
Perhaps you have enjoyed the experience of someone unexpectedly picking up the bill at a restaurant for you. Or, maybe you have gone through the drive-thru at a coffee shop and reached into your wallet to pay, only to be told by the barista, “The car in front of you has already paid for your bill.” Pretty amazing experience, right?
But because the bill was relatively small, you likely did not bow down in the middle of the restaurant or chase the car down in front of you, pull the driver out of the seat, and pay him homage. You were grateful, but your response matched the size of the debt.
Of course, if someone paid the full balance of your mortgage or promised to cover your rent for life, your response would be different. The size of the debt dictates your response.
Words fail to capture the magnitude of the debt Christ paid for us. We committed holy treason against our holy God and rightly deserved the wrath of God. But Christ, in His great mercy, absorbed the wrath of God in His flesh in our place to make us right with God. He traded His righteousness for our sin and freely forgave us. Our debt, a debt we could never pay, has been paid by the One we sinned against.
The size of our debt must dictate our response. When we fail to worship the Lord, we are failing to remember who He is and what He has done for us.
When the Lord gave the command for Israel to worship Him and Him alone, He reminded them that the foundation of His command for them to worship Him was His rescue of them. God’s saving mercy served as the basis for His command to worship: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me” (Ex. 20:2-3).
Later, when the priests in Israel failed to worship God rightly, He sent a prophet named Malachi to confront them on their lackadaisical and dispassionate worship. Three thoughts emerge from reading the confrontation in the first chapter of Malachi.
- God will be worshiped. Because He is God, He must be worshiped. God will always be worshiped. His name will be great among the nations. “‘For My name will be great among the nations, from the rising of the sun to its setting. Incense and pure offerings will be presented in My name in every place because My name will be great among the nations,’ says Yahweh of Hosts” (Mal. 1:11).
Think about it. As you slept last night, another believer on the other side of the world was worshiping God. As that believer is sleeping now, you are reading and reflecting on the greatness of God. There is never a moment when He is not worshiped. Jesus said that the rocks would cry out if the people failed to praise Him. At all times, through all generations, God will be worshiped. God is in the midst of pursuing worshipers from every tribe, tongue, and nation who will worship Him. The scene in heaven has already been determined. There will be people from all nations worshiping Him through all eternity (Rev. 5:9).
God is pursuing His own worship because there is nothing greater than God for God to pursue. There is nothing more glorious, nothing more beautiful, nothing more holy. If there were something greater than His own glory for God to pursue, then He would cease to be God. But there isn’t. Jonathan Edwards wrote that God is “infinitely the greatest and best of beings. All things else, with regard to worthiness, importance, and excellence, are perfectly as nothing in comparison to him.” [The Works of Jonathan Edwards, A.M., Vol. 1 (John Childs and Son, Bungay)]
- We will worship. We don’t have to be taught to worship. We are always pursuing something to love, something to honor, something to give us worth and meaning. When the Lord confronted the people in Malachi’s day, He said of the sacrifices they were offering Him: “‘Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the LORD Almighty” (Mal 1:8, NIV).
The words could be applied, “If you offered your employer what you offered me, you would lose your job. If you offered your coach what you offered me, you would not be on the team. If you offered your spouse what you offered me, your marriage would not work.” God was observing worship among His people, but it was not worship of Him.
At all times we worship. We cannot help it. Our worship is often misdirected to temporary things that cannot satisfy, to lesser things that will not quench. When we worship something else, we worship something less.
- Thus, God’s commands to worship Him are gracious invitations. The Lord confronts His people through Malachi for not worshiping and honoring Him. “‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is your fear of Me?’” (Mal. 1:6).
While the rebuke is strong in Malachi, it is also loving and gracious. God’s command to worship is ultimately a gracious invitation. His commands to seek Him, to worship Him, and to honor Him are gracious invitations to worship the only One who can satisfy our hunger and quench our thirst. If He did not confront us in our misdirected worship of “little g” gods that fail to deliver on their promises, He would not be loving and gracious. If He did not demand us to worship Him, He would be allowing us to seek satisfaction in things that in the end will only deliver misery.
Because He has rescued us and paid our debt, He demands our worship be directed toward Him. Because He will be worshiped and you will worship, His commands for you to worship Him are good and gracious commands.
ERIC GEIGER serves as one of the vice presidents at LifeWay Christian Resources, leading the Resources Division. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including Creature of the Word and the best-selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.
This article appears in Mature Living magazine (January 2016). For more articles like this, subscribe to Mature Living.