The essence of worship is heartfelt, hope-filled joy in the God of mercy.
And the reason I say “essence” is because I know there are other emotions besides joy that are important components of corporate and individual worship. For example, the sorrows of confession of sin. “Weep you people with dirty hands,” James says. He commands them to weep! It’s not a command to rejoice.
So I know that other emotions are necessary to a full orbed experience of worship — especially corporate worship. However, I’m staying with the word essence for joy because those sorrows are not true worship unless they are sorrows for not experiencing joy in God.
You can have sorrows for all kinds of reasons that aren’t God-exulting and aren’t worshipful, that don’t show the worth of God. But if you have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, and you’ve lived most of your week as though money is good — and you come into a worship service and through a song or a reading or the simple work of the Holy Spirit, you are awakened to your idolatry, that you have found more pleasure in the world than in God, and you feel sorrow about that, the root of that sorrow is joy!
Therefore, joyful, heartfelt, hope-filled delight in the God of mercy is the essence of worship. Not the totality of worship, but it is the essence. That’s amazingly good news, that he would say the aim of the gospel is that the Gentiles would glorify God for his mercy (Romans 15:9). And I’ve unpacked “glorify” in terms of joy and hope and praise and song and exultation, just like Paul did.
And the reason that’s such amazing news is that we get the mercy, God gets the glory. We get the joy, God gets the praise. We get the hope, God gets the honor. Such a deal! This is the best of all possible worlds. That God would set up the universe in such a way that his praise and his glory and his honor would be a function of my joy and hope. Amazing.
So we are calling the nations to be glad! “Let the nations be glad” (Psalm 97:1)! And that’s not the opposite of “let the nations worship God.” That’s the essence of worshiping God, which is why the gospel is called gospel — euangelion [good news], not bad news.
It’s good news! It’s good news because of what I’m commanding you to do, namely, lay down all your idolatry and false worship to find your ultimate satisfaction in a God who finds his glory in your satisfaction. Such a world have we been given.
Read, watch, or listen to the full message: