I don’t mean to herald myself as a prophet (because I’m not!), but exactly a year ago, I made a prediction that tomorrow morning will come true. (I know what you’re thinking… “that’s AMAZING! Who could have ever made that prediction?”) My prediction will stop traffic in the streets, will have people people sleeping on sidewalks, huddled around makeshift campsites, and will inevitably a create mob scene, and most likely induce violence in some (it’s a sad reality) and euphoria in others (also a sad reality). What could possibly cause such a global meltdown? If you read my prediction closely, you’ll notice I even named it correctly (WOWZERS!). It’s crazy how our hearts are so inclined to want the next best thing. We thought the iPhone 5 was big deal… Apple has said that they are way behind on pre-orders for the iPhone 6, because the demand is MASSIVE, with pre-order records being broken left and right.
So I want to draw our attention back to the heart of worship.
I recently read this regarding worship: “Week by week Christians need to hear the demand of God to live holy lives. They need the Word of God preached in order to be challenged to grow in love and obedience. Such preaching will not enhance our self-esteem before God, but will convict us of our sin and our need for a Savior.” 1
A couple thoughts:
1. Who or what are we worshipping?
John Calvin said it best when he wrote: “The human heart is a factory of idols…Everyone of us is, from his mother’s womb, is an expert in inventing idols.” Does the iPhone expose this heart of ours? We demand to have the latest and greatest, because “I deserve this.” However, this is exactly opposite of what the Bible teaches us. We don’t deserve anything but the wrath of God. Ephesians 2:3 says: “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
This idol factory transfers into our understanding of corporate worship. Often, people come into a worship service, expecting to be fed. I pray that they are fed wherever they go, for the Word of God must be preached and it never returns void. But, is our own desire to be fed the goal of coming to worship? If you think about it, that can harvest an attitude of worship towards God that is self-serving, and in the now famous words of Victoria Osteen, “You’re not doing it for God, you’re doing it for yourself.”
2. What’s the point of Worship?
What struck me about the earlier stated quote by Robert Godfrey was the fact that corporately gathering for worship is not about an emotional song, it isn’t about spending time with like-minded believers, it really isn’t even about learning theological doctrine. All those things are of absolute importance, but the worship that is pleasing to God, is really about humbling ourselves and recognizing the gravitas of the Gospel upon our lives. We understand this in the light of God’s Word, not a song. God’s Word convicts us of sin, and humbles us. “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).
Worship (and I’m not just talking about the music, but every aspect of the Worship Service), should be informed by the Word of God, and should challenge us, as Godfrey states: “to grow in love and obedience”. We shouldn’t walk out of the service the same as when we entered it. We should love the Lord our God more deeply, and we should have His Word more clearly directing our steps (Proverbs 16:9). The preaching of the Word of God should change us. We gather together, so that we can fulfill the command to “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). This sets into motion a corporate responsibility that extends past the Sunday morning gathering.
Finally, worship always reminds us of our need for a Savior. I love the way the Lord responds in Job 38:1-41 – by reminding Job of his smallness. When we recognize truly how wretched we really are in light of God’s holiness, we realize how desperate we are in need of a Savior. What a blessed reality that that Holy One, is also the same One who died in our place and bore our sin upon His shoulders. And we have life, because of His resurrection. “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:10-11). “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
- W. Robert Godfrey, Pleasing God in Our Worship (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1999), 31. ↩