We hear a lot about glory in church, particularly God’s glory. We sing about it, preach about it, pray for it. But what does it actually mean? John Piper defines it this way: “God’s glory is the radiance of his holiness, the radiance of his manifold, infinitely worthy, and valuable perfections.” Or to use a simpler definition, also from Piper, it’s “the going public of [God’s] infinite worth…” In essence, God’s glory is what we perceive about God: how He displays His holiness; how He demonstrates grace in tangible ways; or makes manifest His steadfast love.
Only God is glorious; all contenders have simply usurped from Him. The sunset itself isn’t glorious; the Creator is. The power of crashing waves isn’t glorious; the Almighty God who controls them is. The gymnast’s perfectly executed floor routine isn’t glorious; the God in whose image she was created is. You get the idea.
God’s glory also cannot be increased or diminished. No word, action, or thought can detract from God’s glory, no matter how blasphemous it might be. When Scripture commands us to “glorify the Lord” (Ps. 117:1), we’re not being called upon to add to God’s glory. That cannot be done. His glory is perfect just the way it is.
To glorify God or to “make His praise glorious” (Psalm 66:2) means that we must ascribe glory to Him. We’re called to recognize and revel in His manifest glory.
If I am to make God’s praise glorious by ascribing worth and weight to God, my worship must be God-centered. This is where we so often go wrong. Our hearts gravitate so easily to selfishness that we might not even notice that it’s happening. To make my praise to God glorious, I’m going to have to jettison quite a few things.
Let Go of My Preferences
We all have a set of personal preferences for what the ideal worship service should look and sound like. Loud music or soft music. Classic hymns or contemporary worship songs. Piano or guitars. Dark or well-lit. And that’s just the music service. We have strong feelings about every other aspect of the service as well, from the length of the pastor’s prayer to the way Scripture is read to the formality of the preacher’s outfit or the temperature of the auditorium. When (not if) one of my preferences goes unmet on a given Sunday, my worship can quickly careen into the ditch of selfish complaining and grumbling, if only inside my own head. Suddenly, my heart is lifted up with pride, and concern for the glory of God has flown out the window.
A heart clinging to a set of preferences has a serious worship problem
Don’t Let My Emotions Drive
You’ve probably asked or answered the question when choosing a restaurant or a movie: “What are you in the mood for?” Action movie or romcom? Chinese or Tex-Mex? As Americans, we enjoy options: we can find food, movie, tv show, book, or any other entertainment choice tailor-made for our mood at this very moment. It’s easy to walk into worship with the same expectations. Our hearts are wired to believe that if I don’t feel like singing or praying or fellowshipping with other believers, I don’t have to. My worship should match my mood. Otherwise, it’s not authentic.
That might be true if worship were all about me. But it isn’t. Making God’s praise glorious is all about Him. To offer pleasing worship to the all-glorious Creator and to make much of Him, I must submit my emotions to His glory. If I really believe that God is greater than my feelings, I will sing even when I’m not that into it, pray though I’m not really in the mood, and receive the Word with humility even when I’d rather take a nap.
This couldn’t be more counter-cultural. We’re inundated daily with variations of the line, “Live your truth.” The world tells us that taking our feelings captive is inauthentic and hypocritical. I disagree. Emotions are signposts indicating what’s going on in my heart. They’re not meant to dictate my thoughts and actions. As I repent and lift my heart and head to God, my feelings will follow. The very act of taking my feelings captive and obeying despite my feelings is itself an act of worship. I have chosen to ascribe the weight to God, rather than to myself.
Don’t Get Caught in the Trap of Approval
Sunday mornings provide a plethora of opportunities to fear people rather than God. Satan loves to capitalize on these temptations to shift my worship from God-centered to me-centered in a millisecond. At any given moment during the service, one of a thousand thoughts might dart across my mind, all of which tie back to one question: “What do people think of me?” Did I wear the right thing? Did I say the right thing? Did I pray too long? Did I not pray long enough? Is she avoiding me? Why is she avoiding me?
Satan doesn’t care which question I’m asking, as long as I’m asking it. He knows that as soon as I wonder what someone else thinks of me, I’ve stopped ascribing worth and weight to God, and I’ve begun ascribing it to others. I cannot worship God with such double-mindedness.
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and [the approval of people].” (Mat 6:24)
So, Now What?
The solution to my me-centered worship is a simple one. I must change the center. If God’s glory is the public display of His majesty, to glorify Him I must endeavor to draw attention to that majesty. However, while the solution may be simple, it’s anything but easy. Our adversary knows how quickly we veer into the wrong lane when it comes to worship, so we must actively guard against this tendency. Thankfully, we’re not alone in the fight. We have been indwelt by God Himself who takes down Satan every time: “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Here are a few practical steps to help guard against our own me-centered worship this weekend.
- Repent. Where do you tend to get it wrong? Do you get irritated when your preferences aren’t met? Do you let your feelings dictate your worship? Do you tend to get snared by your own love of approval? Confess your double-mindedness to God and embrace His forgiveness.
- Prayerfully prepare. Now that you’ve repented of your selfish tendencies, prayerfully ask God to prepare your heart for worship. I am often guilty of getting to church like it’s just another item on the agenda. I don’t prepare for it any more than I do a trip to the library. If you have a minute before the service starts, try using Psalm 66 as a prayer to set the tone for worship in your heart.
- Talk about God’s character. As you interact with friends at church, look for God’s character in what they tell you about their week and then mention it to them. Or tell them about one way you saw Him at work in your own life during the past week.
- Just listen. Maybe you won’t be “feeling it” during worship this week. Or maybe the songs chosen will make you want to roll your eyes rather than lift them. Instead of giving in to selfishness, consider listening to the song instead of singing it. Let your church family recalibrate your heart to make God’s praise glorious. Focus on the words and the truths about God’s character and works that they communicate.
- Walk away thinking about God. When you get back in the car after the service, instead of critiquing the message or the music, choose an attribute of God that stuck out to you during the morning. Were you overwhelmed by His holiness? His kindness? His justice? Think about it during worship and talk about it when you leave.
Maybe you’ve got some action-steps of your own. Share them in the comments, please! My heart defaults to self-centeredness too, and I need all the help I can get!
 https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-gods-glory, accessed July 12, 2021