“A CALL TO WORSHIP”
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIV)
Peter, remember him - the disciple who denied Jesus three times? He says to us that we are “a chosen people, a royal priesthood,…God's special possession... called" to DECLARE God’s praises!
Worship! That’s what Peter is talking about.
Worship is perhaps the “thing” that is closest to my heart as a “Jesus-girl”. I didn’t come up with that description of myself; it is how some of my non-Christian friends refer to me.
When I asked them what they mean by that, I was told that all I do is “worship” Jesus (in their minds anyway). And that was not them being kind; at least I didn’t get that impression. However, I wish that their portrayal of me was completely accurate because I know that I frequently fall short and that, in fact; it is what we were created to do. We were made to worship.
What does that really mean and where does it say so in the Bible?
Much like a designer has a specific purpose in mind for any tool that he / she designs, so too did God when He created us. It is often possible to use the tool for other purposes though it's never quite as effective as for its intended application. I submit that the same is true for us; our lives are the most rewarding when we are living in daily worship to our Creator.
Woven throughout the Scriptures, we are told repeatedly that we were created for worship. I absolutely love it when we can find Jesus speaking directly on a topic right in the pages of our Bibles as in this case about worship. It’s even more fascinating that Jesus made His primary statement about worship in the conversation He had with the woman at the well. Do you remember that interaction?
It is Jesus’ longest recorded conversation with anyone and it’s with this female outcast! Imagine that! For that reason alone, it renders this as one of my all-time favourite passages though I’m amazed that the exchange is only found in the Gospel of John. And that is one reason why I have definitely come to appreciate John’s comprehension of worship and his deep revelation of the Magnificence of Jesus Christ!
Here’s part of the exchange from John 4:20-24 (NIV):
"Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” "Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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. God is spirit, and worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (emphasis added)
I love that! True worshipers! Are you a true worshiper? I’m not talking about lifting or clapping hands during a worship service... though that’s good & the Bible actually tells us to do that.
But worshiping in the spirit and in truth! I’m talking about the heart; the overflow of which infuses everything you do!
Here's an interesting fact: the New Testament says very little about corporate worship. Sure there is mention of the believers gathering together on many occasions (1 Corinthians 14:23), and of the early church attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes (Acts 2:46). In fact, Hebrews 10:25 tells us to not neglect meeting together. That does not amount to a lot. Even so, within the narrative of these gatherings, there is not much said about worship – well, not the way we may think about worship. When we see “worship” in the Gospels, it predominantly refers to people who would bow down before Jesus. Admittedly, the Book of Revelation mentions worship multiple times – 21 to be exact, and those mentions have to do with what was revealed to John as taking place in Heaven with the elders and the angels bowing down before God.
Paul, who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament talks about worship as a “heart-thing” and I believe that is significant. In several instances, he mentions worshiping in the spirit and in truth which is the same language that Jesus used to the woman (see e.g. Romans 1:9, Philippians 3:3). In fact, in Romans 12:1-2 Paul urges us as Christians to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God which is our “true and proper worship”.
Back to the John 4 account of Jesus’ encounter with the woman: the crucial sentence is found in verse 23 which says that “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth…”
Jesus is telling this woman (and us) that worship is not about an event or a venue; that it’s not about being in the Temple or at a specific place but it is an inward thing, not outward! Notice too how this woman was fixated on a place for worship and Jesus is redirecting her thinking, not once a week at the temple, but every day.
Is Jesus redirecting your thinking about worship today?
Here’s what one of our modern-day theologians, A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), had to say about worship way before the advent of lights, and worship teams, and elaborate music. Don't get me wrong; I love a great worship service experience as long as we understand that it's more than all the trappings, more than the "show".
“To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the “program.” This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Could it be that “in the spirit” has to do with what the Holy Spirit is doing in us as we surrender ourselves in worship and “in truth” is referring to our right view of God?
“Worship,” Tozer explained, “is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven.”
― A.W. Tozer, The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship
At Christmas time more than any other time, it is crucial that we have the right view of God and of this season because culture has so much to say in deep contrast to the truth.
Can I urge you to revisit the Christmas story this year with fresh eyes, “Experiencing the Miracle of Christmas” (our church's Advent message series) as a “Jesus-girl” and allowing it to renew your heart for worship?
Would you be willing to share your experience and expressions of worship in a comment below?
For me, music is a natural way of entering into worship as it helps usher me into a reverential time with God. As such, I’d like to share this fairly new worship song that I believe does a great job of setting our hearts right as we enter-in and anticipate what God has in store for each of us. Enjoy the acoustic version (that is without the lights, stage and arrangement) of “Here as in Heaven” by Elevation Worship. Perhaps you can allow it to play while you re-read this post.
Yolande Knight – firstname.lastname@example.org