One thing that I have done on just about every round of holidays that I have taken is visiting a different church each Sunday morning. But I’ll always remember a particular holiday for the variety of churches we went to. What follows occurred in February 2015.
The first church we went to was a ‘Baptist’ church just of Chapel street in Melbourne near our hotel and of course, we went along thinking that it was a Baptist church in style as well as theology.
Boy were we wrong.
What we found was a Baptist Church that was maybe slightly less liturgy based than a mass at St Peter’s Cathedral! Seriously, for a second there I thought they would do some responsive chants in Latin….and yet…
it was worship.
Then, 24 hrs after arriving back in Perth, we went to a Charismatic church, which (and I apologize for these generalizations) you might call a ‘mini hillsong’, complete with LED stage lighting, professional musicians and (ooohhh I’d love one of these) a perspex lectern. And yes,
it was worship.
Lastly, on the final Sunday we ended up at a recent church plant, meeting in a hired local hall owned by the council, no air con, barely enough room, no real layout and we essentially sang off Christian music CD’s. The preacher was standing on the same floor at the same level everyone else was sitting on. But..
it was worship.
Each church was enormously different. But each church had a worship service. Each Church worshiped God in different ways and yet (and here comes the point;) -you could also say that they all worshiped in the same way.
How so? You may ask, simple: the worship continued long after the service was over in that: at all three churches, members of the congregation showed genuine concern for Alycia and I as visitors. They didn’t just ask us where we were from and talked about the weather with us, but they wanted to know how we were really going. These were people who wanted to apply their faith to real life.
Meanwhile, Paul says Romans 11:33 – 12:2 33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I think this is a good bible passage on worship for 3 reasons:
1. It’s not one that you would normally associate with the topic of worship. When someone says: “let’s talk about worship in the Bible,” my first thought is “great, so which psalm are we looking at?”
2. I like it because it crosses-over the chapter break. When you do that, you notice that all of a sudden there is an all-important THEREFORE right smack in the middle of it so it means that What comes in chapter 12 is directly linked to chapter 11. Which brings me to my third reason,
3: Paul has just been talking about the doctrine of election, which is precisely the doctrine that seems to cop flak for ‘encouraging Christians to sit on their hands and wait around for Jesus’ so-to-speak, but Paul applies the concept in an unavoidably practical way.
Let me make the briefest of summaries of Paul’s argument flow: God, not you is in control of salvation, including yours. The more you understand and celebrate that in your own journey, the more you’ll stop at nothing to celebrate it even more. This will invariably work out in the most practical of ways.
I particularly like how Eugene Petersen renders the same few verses in ‘the Message’:
“Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out. Is there anyone around who can explain God? Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do? Anyone who has done him such a huge favor that God has to ask his advice? Everything comes from him; Everything happens through him; Everything ends up in him. Always glory! Always praise! Yes. Yes. Yes. So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Amen!
Isn’t that awesome? Isn’t so wonderfully clear and simple?
You can also use this principle to diagnose the question: Why am I not worshiping? There are only two possible answers; 1: I don’t know Jesus at all. 2: I know Jesus but I have started to take his grace for granted.
How do you solve the issues? Faith. Just quickly, If you’ve got problem 1, take the leap of faith, do what Abraham did, go straight to God and say “how do I know?” (Gen 15:8) ‘God, I have heard of you, but I need to see you for myself, please show me.’ It takes time and it takes a decision to bother to talk to God but if you’re serious, he’ll do something, because…
God’s always looking for more worshipers and he can make worshipers out of anyone.
This also means that God is more passionate about the completion of your salvation that you’ll ever be. I’m not sure we ponder that anywhere near enough.
But if you’ve got problem 2? It says; “focus on God and you’ll be changed from the inside out.” Ask yourself, “How much time do I spend letting the society I live in shape my identity compared to how much time do I spend allowing myself to sit in the presence of God?
Why is this so important? I once heard Don Carson quoting another preacher’s sermon on pornography say this: “at its most basic level, you have worshiped you way into a porn addiction (bowing down to graven images), you can only worship your way out, (bowing down to the king of kings.) He’s right, and you know what, it works for any Sin. Why? Because Worship is WAR.
Let me tell you, no other comment about worship has ever shaped my thinking about worship like that one.
I recently noticed that early on in the Old Testament, whenever the Israelite’s marched out to battle, it was the tribe of Judah (Judges 20:18) that marched out in front. That might not sound like much but the name ‘Judah’ basically means ‘The Lord be praised.’ So as a tribe, Judah was essentially the ‘worship team’ and they were the ones first into battle.
Worship is the breaker. It breaks the enemy, it puts a crack in the granite wall of the impossible and it has been known to level cities without a single arrow being fired.
Why it matters…
A few months ago now, I was having coffee with a person who was describing to me a real struggle that they were going through in their Spiritual walk. They spoke of how disappointed they were regarding how far they felt they had drifted away from God and I couldn’t help but notice how many times they were using the word ‘should’ in what they were saying. It was all: “I know that I should be doing this, and should be doing that and that I should be acting this way… and so on.”
When they finished, I said something like this, “look, we are constantly preaching to ourselves so we need to choose our words very carefully. Now, I am not saying that as Christians we don’t need to obey Christ, being a Christian is not less than obedience but it is more, so with that caveat in mind, what if we changed the word ‘should’ to ‘can’? Instead of ‘what should I do,’ it becomes ‘what can I do,’ because when Jesus talks about obedience he’s really talking about seizing the opportunity to worship.’
Every moment becomes an opportunity to launch an ‘Exocet missile’ right into the kingdom of darkness.
Worship takes mere moments and turns them into opportunities.
Change the self-talk from ‘should’ to ‘can’ and live a life of opportunity. To do so is trust that God has done all that is necessary to save you.