Reformed worship majors on the indicatives of the Bible not the imperatives. By indicative, I mean that worship is primarily about God and what he has done. Worship, therefore, is primarily a proclamation. Imperatives are commands, which is something about us, what we must do, and this is mostly what you get in contemporary praise lyrics (e.g. I will worship, I will bow down, with all of my heart). Reformed worship flips this contemporary paradigm on its head and centers worship on God. I know someone will respond, but the Psalter has imperatives, yes but they usually follow the indicative (i.e. He drew me up from the pit of destruction…[therefore] I will proclaim…).
In Worship, God calls his people to himself. He has the first word, in which he declares his awesome attributes, “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure” (Psalms 147:5). God stands at the top of Mt. Zion, a mountain that cannot be touched by sinful hands. So the psalmist asks, who can ascend the mountain of the Lord, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully” (Psalms 24:4). Many wrongfully take this verse as referring primarily to self, “I must have clean hands and pure heart.” Go a head and try (imperative), or look to the Christ of this psalm, who climbed the hill on our behalf (indicative). Take the former and your worship will be man centered. Most praise is man centered, because the doctrine behind it is man centered. Their theology is focused on imperatives, what we need to do, and our morality, how shall we live. Martin Luther called this the theology of glory. Reformed worship along with our theology is Christ centered. Luther called this the theology of the cross. How you worship effects what you believe and how you live. Worship merely reflects the theology of one’s church. The way we worship is the way we live. It is no wonder so many in the church today suffer greed, depression, and doubt for you cannot climb that hill.
But having Christ ascend God’s holy hill in our place, we, “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant” (Heb. 12:18–24). In true worship, the sinner comes freely into the Holy of Holies. Instead of receiving wrath we receive pardon. In our sinful bodies, we approach an awesome God in His temple. We, therefore, should do so with the right attitude. We must come with reverence and awe (Heb 12:29). This means that worship must be dignified and majestic. As God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28), with reverence and awe, the fruit of coming before such a God, there should be a certain formality in worship. Formality is just a way that humans show reverence and awe. All one has to do is go to a wedding, sit through a funeral, or attend a presidential inauguration to see it on display. The church is a family, but a fallen family that should approach its Father with a healthy dose of reverence and awe. Even our emotions should be mixed with fear—Christians worship with reverence and awe (or at least they should). As we do so, not only is God glorified, but our souls are also nourished and refreshed. With proper worship comes proper believing and living. Depression, doubt, greed, etc. fades away as we behold the free grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord and respond in gratitude with reverence and awe.