Through my mission’s travels, I have experienced many different styles and experiences of worship. Some worship style involves really loud music, some no instruments at all and others include a lot of dancing. From a western church background, sometimes it can be unnerving and unusual, but still the same it is worship to God, and we can enter into worship along with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
It is God’s plan that worship to Him will be lifted up from all corners of the earth, in all languages, and in many different styles. God is bringing about the completion of the Great Commission in order that the world will worship Him. What we are seeing is a beautiful tapestry of praise to God, across the nations, all for the Glory of God.
The well noted quote from John Piper reads; “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the Church, Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate and not man.”
As we begin this series, we need to ask the question; what is worship?
Recently I was emailed the results of a survey that was taken amongst people looking for a new church to attend. Amazingly 74% of the respondents say they look for “style of service”. What does that mean? We use terms like; contemporary, traditional, seeker friendly, attractional and even orthodox. Obviously two of the major “style” considerations are preaching and singing. Does the preacher wear jeans or a suit? Does the preacher use relevant applications to the text? Does he use the text at all? Do we sing from hymnals or screens? Is there a choir, band, orchestra, and in many large churches today, you have to have laser lights and smoke machines?
Sadly; what it shows is that the worship service seems to be more about our preferences than what it really is about – worshipping God
Worship is by definition what we give worth to. We are all by nature worshippers, we all give value to something. We give value to many things; bank accounts, houses, land, family and much more. All of these things are not bad, but when we give these things more value than we give to our Heavenly Father, then we are guilty of idolatry.
Take some time to think about that, what would someone who knows you well say that you give worth to?
What would an outside observer of our church say that we give worth to?
The essence of the Christian life is giving worth to God above everything else. God is to be valued and worshipped above all else in our lives.
Jesus broke so many structures when he came to live here on earth. By his death on the cross and his resurrection he removed the Old Testament methods and rituals of worship. The veil to the Holy of Holies was torn and all people now have access to God through Jesus the spotless Lamb of God. Jesus spoke about this shift that was to come in the account of the woman at the well that we read in John 4:4-26.
Jesus was explaining to this woman that a new era of worship was being ushered in. In the Old Testament we know that there were strict instructions given in the Law that Moses received from God about the style and the format of worship. But as we read the New Testament, you will notice that there is a remarkable lack of instruction and format prescribed for the worship service of the church. In fact, the translated Hebrew word for worship is virtually absent from the New Testament. Why is that? The New Testament church that began in Jerusalem did not have a set of rules or Order of Service that we are instructed to follow.
The key to answering that question is in what Jesus said to this woman, in verses 23 and 24; “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Remember the words of Jesus in Mark 11:17; when he is chasing away the temple traders; “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”, quoting the prophet Isaiah.
Jesus was turning the focus and attention away from the outward acts of the Jewish sacrificial system and directing their focus towards a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father. Worship doesn’t have to have a building or a temple and a series of sacrifices, it has to have faith in the risen Lord Jesus Christ.
True worship takes place within; the Bible says that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). We do not go to worship, but we are to live lives that are constantly worshipping God. That means that worship must be happening before we go to church on a Sunday morning.
Sometimes we go about our day to day lives, we get so busy running the rat race, we drift further and further in our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Our lives grow cold to the things of the Spirit, then we come to church expecting to experience God and it feels dull and lifeless. My friends, the problem is not the church, the problem is that we are not worshipping God every day. The experience of the heart is the indispensable essence of worship.
Vaughan Roberts wrote; “Are you gripped by the mercy of God? If not, you will never worship Him. An understanding of God’s mercy to us is the fuel that energizes and empowers our worship in all parts of life.”
It is all about a relationship with God that fuels our worship, that relationship is only available through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the risen lord.
Do you know and worship God this way?