Wednesday, April 4, 2012

True worship

In a few days we'll be celebrating Jesus' resurrection from the dead here at Trinity, as will tens of thousands of other churches around the world. For many congregations, Sunday will be an opportunity to create a worship performance to dazzle the senses. I've been thinking and reading recently about worship - true worship as Jesus Himself defines it.

Though the Bible strongly emphasizes the importance of gathering together weekly in order to remember the gospel through the preaching of the Word, prayer, fellowship and the sacraments (Acts 20:7, Hebrews 10:24-25, I Corinthians 11:17-34, I Timothy 4:13-15, 2 Timothy 4:1-2, Revelation 1:10), true worship in the Bible rarely has anything to do with a worship service. Rather, it has everything to do with the Object of our worship at any given time or place.

Jesus makes clear in His encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 that worship which is biblical must center on His pleasure, not ours. "But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship Him." (John 4:23-24)

Pastor Scotty Smith rightly remarks on Jesus' comment, "Though it has become an accepted part of our contemporary worship-speak, only God has the right to say, 'Awesome worship!' or 'I didn't really get anything out of the worship today.' After all, He's the Evaluator of worship, not us. That we experience joy and pleasure in the worship of God is appropriate and a profound privilege; but it is God's pleasure that we are to be most concerned about." (Restoring Broken Things, p. 166).

When I was a child, I loved Easter Sunday service because of all the pageantry and traditions. I loved singing the same, traditional songs every year accompanied by remarkable musicians, a large choir and a brass ensemble. I loved the sight and smell of Easter lilies and stained glass and a vaulted ceiling and everyone dressed to the 'nines'. These are the elements which made for 'great Easter worship' for me as a child. What will make it great worship for you this Sunday? In fact, what will make for great worship for you this afternoon or evening or tomorrow when you're far away from church? Gathering weekly to remember Christ's resurrection is important, but let's not forget that 'worship' in the Bible most often has nothing to do with music and gatherings. 'Worship' most often equals obedience to God's commands flowing from a heart that's been captivated by Christ's grace. That's what the woman at the well discovered in Jesus, and she didn't have to wait around until Sunday to become the kind of worshiper our Father is seeking.

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