Why does God want people to praise him? I was recently talking with a skeptical gentleman about the greatness of God, but when I invited him to church he said, “I don’t get why a God that is so great would need me to come to church and praise him. How self-centered and egotistical could God be that he constantly demands people to praise him?” This gentleman is not alone. That is a very common objection to Christianity.
Many people throughout the centuries, including C.S. Lewis prior to his conversion, have wrestled with God’s constant insistence for our worship. All throughout the Bible, God commands people to worship him and him alone. Jesus even says, in so many words, “If you love anything more than you love me, you’re not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). So how can God continually point to his own greatness and desire you only worship him without God being self-centered and egotistical? This is no small question. It strikes at the very heart of Christianity and the meaning of life itself.
Worshiping God is the result of knowing God
Think of worship like this. A few of the most incredible artists are masters at sculpting and painting and enjoy their work, but their highest joy is fellowship with one another and praising each other’s work. One day they decide they want others to share in the beauty and joy of this experience. So they send out a public invitation for people to meet them and enjoy their artwork as well. They don’t need love and glory from others to complete them. They simply desire other people to share in it with them.
God is like that community group of artists. God is tri-personal. God is three persons in one being. This is critical to keep in mind because in Jesus’ prayer in John 17, you learn that there was already a mutual exchange of love, enjoyment and praise between the persons of the Godhead before creation. Later on in that prayer, Jesus asks that others would be able to know and experience it too. This means that God didn’t create you in order to get love and praise that he didn’t have; he created you to let you in on the joy of knowing him and his work, which can’t help but result in praise.
Worshiping God is the result of enjoying God
Why is it that if you use social media like Facebook, it’s almost never enough to see or experience something great on its own? You want to publicly post it, and you want people to like it and share it with others. Why is it more fun to watch a sporting event with others and high-five like-minded fans? Because public praise is the consummation of your joy. C.S. Lewis, in his “Reflections on the Psalms” explains that praising something not only expresses the enjoyment; it completes the enjoyment. So, publicly praising God and getting others to do the same is the culmination of your joy in God. You were meant to enjoy God. In fact, you’re commanded to. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4:6). This command reflects God’s goodness, because he’s calling people away from the many things that will never satisfy their soul to the one thing that always will.
Therefore, when God calls you to worship him, he is calling you to fully enjoy him. This means that the ultimate goal in wanting people to know God is because the choir is too small. You want more people joining with you in praising the great God that you enjoy. When you understand worship this way, it changes the way you view attending church. Going to church no longer is seen as just your Christian duty to check off; it’s seen as the consummation of your delight in God. Praising God is the flower of your joy in full bloom.
Worshiping God is the result of appreciating God
It’s only natural to praise someone for giving you a great gift. The praise is the spontaneous result of a heart filled with gratitude. Pride keeps people from praising God because pride sees every good thing in life as a wage instead of a gift. The more you appreciate the grace of God, the more you will praise him. Jesus laid aside his glory and became a man who died in our place and rose again so that you could be forgiven and welcomed into the joy of knowing him forever.
The more you realize that every good and perfect gift comes from above, you can’t help but appreciate and praise God. God-centeredness is the cure for the cancer of self-centeredness. As the old hymn-writer put it, “Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.” Worshiping God is the result of knowing, enjoying, and appreciating the God who is the source of every blessing in life, including life itself.
Jeremy McKeen is the Lead Pastor of Truth Point Church. Jeremy received his B.A. in Communications and Philosophy from Florida Southern College and his MDiv from Knox Theological Seminary.