Worship is utterly and eternally unique in one critically important respect: unlike every other Christian responsibility or experience, worship is an end in itself. In other words, worship that glorifies God must be expressed in conscious awareness that this is the ultimate goal for which we were created and redeemed. We do not worship God in order to attain some higher end, or to accomplish some greater goal, or to experience a more satisfying joy.
Every other ministry or activity of the Christian serves some higher end. There is a “so that” appended to everything we do, except for worship. We preach, so that . . . We evangelize, so that . . . We cultivate fellowship in the body of Christ, so that . . . We study the Bible, so that . . . But when it comes to glorifying God by enjoying him and all that he is for us in Jesus, we can never say we do it so that . . . as if worship simply was a step on the path to something more ultimate, or as if worship were merely a door through which we proceed into something more important, or as if worship were merely one experience that we pursue for the sake of yet another, higher and more satisfying experience.
Worship is not simply one part of the church’s existence. It is the point of the church’s existence.
“But Sam,” you may be tempted to reply, “with what ultimate goal in view do you ascribe glory and honor and praise to God?” None! For there is no more ultimate goal than that.
“But Sam, what do you hope to accomplish by means of enjoying the majesty and perfections and goodness of God?” Nothing! Worship is not a means to the accomplishment of an end. Worship is itself the end accomplished by all other means.
This becomes evident when we recognize the pervasive testimony of Scripture that we were created and redeemed to glorify God by enjoying him forever. This is true of both Creation (Isaiah 43:1-7; 48:9-11) and Conversion (Ps. 106:47; Isa. 61:10-11; Eph. 1:6,11-14).
The worship of God is the end for which God created all things. Does that sound egotistical of God? Perhaps a bit selfish? Do you wonder how God can love you if he is first and foremost committed to glorifying himself?
Consider this. If God is to love my wife, Ann, optimally, he must bestow or impart the best gift he has, the greatest prize, the most precious treasure, the most exalted and worthy thing within his power to give. That gift, of course, is himself. Nothing in the universe is as beautiful and captivating and satisfying as God!
So, if God loves her he will give himself to her and then work in her soul to awaken her to his beauty and all-sufficiency. In other words, he will strive by all manner and means to intensify and expand and enlarge her joy in him.
So God comes to Ann and says: “Here I am in all my glory: incomparable, infinite, immeasurable, and unsurpassed. See me! Be satisfied with me! Enjoy me! Celebrate who I am! Experience the height and depth and width and breadth of savoring and relishing me!”
Does that sound like God pursuing his own glory? Yes. But it also sounds like God loving my wife perfectly and passionately. The only way it is not real love is if there is something for Ann better than God: something more beautiful than God that he can show her with which to captivate and enthrall her, something more pleasing and satisfying than God with which he can fill her heart, something more glorious and majestic than God with which she can occupy herself for eternity. But there is no such thing! Anywhere! Ever!
After reading Paul’s doxological outburst in Romans 11:36 (“For from him and through him and to him are all things”), you do not go to him and say, “Paul, to what end do we ascribe glory to God? For the sake of what or with what more ultimate purpose in view do you rejoice in the glory and majesty of God?” Paul would say, “I beg your pardon. You don’t get it, do you? Once I’ve said what I’ve said in v. 36, I’ve said all I can say!”
Worship, then, is an end in itself. Indeed, it is “the” end for which all other means exist.