The third in a 6 part series on worship. I was invited to speak on worship in church; to articulate in 30 minutes the breadth and depth of what I have long experienced and believed to be biblical.
Click for sections: 1 2 3 4 5 6
Wonky (defn) :
1. shaky or unsteady
2. not in correct alignment; askew
3. liable to break down or develop a fault
My assertion: Worship is one of the most wonky and misconceived aspects in the contemporary church!
3. The perceptions in worship
So, let's talk about worship. Two phrases have really struck me in recent years:
“God is a lover looking for a lover, so He fashioned me” [Misty Edwards]
“Do you take yourself as seriously as God takes you?”
This leads me to two fundamental considerations for worship:
1. What do you think of God?
2. What does God think of you?
I don't know if you've seen the recent Noah film ('a preposterous but endearingly unhinged epic'). I think it was bad acting (despite big names) with white actors playing middle eastern characters representing a bizarre distortion of the biblical story. Throughout the film God is portrayed as “the creator” who seems more concerned about restoring an abused physical creation without humans than he is about restoring a relationship with a broken people.
How awe-full is that God? Only in the sense of horror and fear.
Q1. What do you think of God?
This question is at the centre of worship, the heart attitude. To try and talk about this, I suggest the (idealized) human relationship as a simple representation of our approach to God.
I worship my wife, in that I value her immensely. I don't worship her as a goddess, but I ascribe her worth-ship. Now, in my relationship I do things for her (or should do – I'm far from perfect): I earn an income so she can do other volunteer activities, I write to her lots when I travel, I give her gifts, I hug her, etc. And I try and be creative … I'll sms her in the living room while I'm in the bedroom, I'll send her silly pictures, I'll tell her a joke even though she doesn't get my sense of humour. And there'll be special times when I'll plan a surprise. Bottom line is that I invest in our relationship because I value her.
Expression is fundamental to relationship – the specific form of expression is not important - and the expression shows the measure of value we hold of the other person. If I don't value the other person, I'll not put much effort into how I look, what I say, or even bother being on time.
The old testament is an example of a worship relationship through many external forms and functions, rituals, rules, and highly structured. By contrast, the new testament is about a worship relationship through God's spirit within us … but it's up to us to choose to recognize that. Sadly, much of the time we revert to ritual, because that takes little personal investment and only asks that we go through the motions.
Imagine if I conducted my relationships with other people through rituals only. What would that say about how I valued them?
Jesus says in John 4:23-24 "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” That's more than ritualistic actions ... our spirit needs to be engaged.
The first point to take from this is that worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit that values God. Since this is an individual action, it should be the normal state of affairs all of the time, regardless of place or situation. All the time God should be in consciousness, and in doing so our decisions and actions become conformed to his values. That is the first foundation of worship … NOT a church service, not singing a song … worship is first and foremost an attitude of spirit towards the values of God.
Paul says in Rom 12:2: "... be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." By this we understand God's values, and by knowing God's values we can know how to value what God values, and by doing so we are worshipping ... ascribing worth to God's values.
So for question 1 – "what do you think of God" – perhaps we should start with just the little phrase “think of God”. Once we're thinking, then we can explore what it is about God that we should think on. If you added up the time each day you spent thinking about God, I wonder how much would that add up to? For every minute you do, you are renewing your mind, and you are worshipping because you are esteeming God by thinking of him.
Perhaps that's why human relationships fail; we don't think about what the other person values, and we don't learn to value those things ourselves, and so we fail to value the other person.
Second to worshipping in spirit, we worship with a mind centred on the Truth. Jesus even prays for us in this, in John 17:17 he prays to the Father “sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” We're talking Truth with a capital "T" - not the relativistic situationally dependant mush that contemporary post-modernists spout. If you think there are no absolute truths, then life is meaningless.
So that's part 3. The second question "What does God think of me?" comes in part 4.