Worship the King
by Joseph Wheat
Why are Americans so fascinated with the British royal family? Though I hate to admit it, I too share this fascination. I can still see in my mind the opulence of Charles and Diana’s wedding. I can also see a crumpled luxury car in a tunnel in France where Diana died. Now the focus is on Diana’s sons William and Harry. Why is there such enduring interest? Most likely, it’s our obsession with the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” But with the “royals,” it’s not just about money; they are also the stewards of so much history, tradition, and pageantry.
But the most interesting thing to me about these monarchs is that nobody has to obey them! Their lives have little congruency with their titles. The Queen, for instance, isn’t really the “reigning queen.” They role-play on a grand stage before a gawking public. It is the original reality-TV show.
The concept of “monarchy” is unacceptable to democratic, autonomous moderns. We wouldn’t accept one, but if we had to, the British “royals” are certainly the kind we would want!
Christ is a radically different kind of monarch. He really is King — over all. Even so, the question must be asked, “What is our true heart-attitude toward His kingship?” Many people intellectually agree to the reality of His dominion — but practically do not live that way. More to the point for this issue of Tabletalk: “How does our worship reflect the exaltation of King Jesus?” Worship trends in the church today make this question significant.
The subject of worship must always begin with God. Worship is primarily about God. It is something we render unto God. In the original languages of Scripture, “worship” almost uniformly has to do with revering, honoring, or serving God. He is the point.
Modern people have a tendency to worship as though it is primarily about us, or what God gives us. The Lord does delight in blessing His children. But God seeks worshipers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23–24). If we could only grasp this principle: that it is precisely in rendering biblically focused, heart-felt worship, that Jesus blesses His people. Believers have vital union with the victorious, reigning Christ. As the old hymn states, “I am His and He is mine.” The more focused we are on His wisdom, power, and love, the more secure we become. We realize anew that King Jesus is able to take care of our tiny lives! To exalt Christ is our proper response to Him, and also a source of great comfort and encouragement.
Jesus’ kingship is universal and absolute. You don’t elect Him or validate His reign. Nor is He a king whom you can ignore indefinitely.
Philippians 2:5–11 teaches that Christ was humiliated by taking up human flesh and suffering unto death. But then He was gloriously exalted by the Father.
The Father’s exaltation of the Son should lead us to exalt Christ in worship. Will we worship as though Christ’s kingship is real? Many Christians don’t. In seeking to find personal peace through a kind of “therapeutic” model of worship, they forfeit the greatest source of peace: complete focus upon our vital union with the victory of King Jesus!
What would you speak about with a reigning king if you were to enter his presence? Would you “go on and on” about yourself? Of course not! You would be careful to speak to him about his greatness. You would extol his attributes. And you would speak of his great accomplishments. Only after this would you discuss your personal situation. Your primary focus would be on him.
So much worship today amounts to going before King Jesus and focusing on ourselves and what we need. It can become man-centered. It is worship as therapy, rooted in what I receive, rather than what I render to the exalted Christ.
The late Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones used to say that the purpose of worship and preaching was to “convey a sense of God.” If that is true, it is paramount that we worship, both privately and corporately, in such a way that conveys who Christ really is.
As the redeemed, we should deeply desire to extol His greatness. We should be filled with awe at His splendor and majesty. We should spiritually bow before His authority and power. We should exult in His mighty acts, because their sum total is our salvation. These are the things we need to “go on and on” about in worship!
When this exaltation is prominent in our worship, something happens in us. We gain confidence and peace because the Lord Christ is our Christ. We become humble before His majesty and more open to His work in our lives. When the Lord becomes larger in our eyes, our problems become smaller. Each of us desperately needs the exaltation of Christ in worship!
It is not my position that everything about “contemporary” worship is wrong. The benefit of this movement has been a focus on intimacy with God. But must we lose our focus on the glory of Christ’s kingship to have such intimacy? Must we lose sight of the throne to gain a sense of His love? May it never be! Our Jesus, who loves us, must be worshiped as the exalted King. Anything less is less than true Christian worship.