John Piper is famous for the quotation “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” As obvious as it now seems, when I first heard it, it seriously challenged my way of thinking about worship. Before I had the idea that God was most glorified when I did something I really didn’t want to but I did it anyway just because he wanted me to do it. Indeed, the motive of doing something for pleasure was frowned upon by many Christians.
Those who complained of dull worship meetings were deemed unspiritual, because worship is about glorifying God, not about how we feel. This way of thinking, if taken to its logical conclusion would result in us making our worship meetings as miserable as possible, so that by participating anyway we would somehow signal a greater commitment to God.
But John Piper’s groundbreaking book Desiring God changed all that. Suddenly it became clear that passionless worship could never glorify God. In fact it dishonoured him. Churches that were afraid of making their worship more lively or contemporary no longer needed to fear that somehow this was a capitulation to selfish desires.
Twenty years on from the publication of that book, and John Piper’s argument is commonplace in evangelical and charismatic churches alike. We seek after vibrant, enthusiastic (even ‘extravagant’ and ‘undignified’) worship, knowing that the more our joy in God overflows, the more glory we bring him.
But there is a danger. What happens if John Piper’s quotation gets abbreviated very slightly?
“God is most glorified when we are most satisfied.”
I reckon you could say this in many churches and few people would notice the missing words. But it is heresy! And it is becoming the way many are thinking. If this is our guide, then the only criteria for judging a worship service is whether we enjoyed it. Did people dance? Was the worship band on top form?
But God is only glorified if our delight is found in him. Were people’s hearts directed towards him? Was the dancing merely because it was good music or because people were literally overjoyed at the wonder of their salvation?
Let us therefore not be satisfied with people having “fun” in our worship meetings. Let us press in to ensure that our joy is found in God himself. True worship consists of rejoicing in his truth and delighting in his presence. Good music helps, but can never be a substitute for true worship.