What is the relationship between liturgy (how we worship) and holiness? The answer I want to propose is that a God-honoring liturgy produces holiness. We end up looking like Jesus because of how we worship Him. We want our patterns and forms of worship to shape us, and work habits into our lives that lead to less sin and more obedience to God. Over the next few weeks, I hope to explore how our particular way of worshiping is meant to further that work of grace in our lives. But before we begin, I want to explain why holiness is not the goal of liturgy, the supreme goal, the only goal.
Holiness is not the goal of liturgy, because the worshipers aren’t the goal of worship. Worship isn’t about us. Adoration of the Triune God is the ultimate goal of the liturgy, and it would be a worthy goal even it didn’t result in any benefits for us as worshipers. The old gods of the pagan myths were engaged in a sort of popularity contest, gathering worshipers by promising them blessings: the sea-god would promise to keep sailors safe if they worshiped him, and the war-god would promise victory to the soldiers. (This is exactly the kind of god men would think up, by the way: nothing but bigger versions of ourselves.) But the true God isn’t like that. He deserves worship because of who He is, and what He has done in creating everything, not just because of what He has done for you lately.
But there is a Christian version of this temptation: When we think that the main point of worship is winning God’s favor, or attracting His attention, or even making us more holy, we miss the deepest reason for worship. Even if we didn’t look any more like Jesus after a life of worshiping Him, He remains worthy of all worship, honor, and praise because of who He is. Even if we never experienced any change in our lives, any emotions, any joy or awe in God’s presence, even if we were never glad when they said unto us “Let us go into the house of the Lord”, our God would still be worthy of worship. Job understood this, and provides a great example: In Job 13:15, Job says this about God: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” It sure didn’t seem like Job was getting anything but misery out of serving God, but he still worshiped Him.
So adoration is the ultimate purpose of worship. Thankfully, that doesn’t rule out lesser purposes like our sanctification. In fact, the secondary goal serves the primary goal. When the liturgy produces greater holiness in people, their worship gets richer, fuller, and deeper. So we want our worship to make us holier, so that we can fulfill the supreme end of worship better.