Friday, October 26, 2012

Worship IV: Worship Defined

You should probably read Worship I, Worship II, and Worship III before you jump to part IV. Just click here, scroll to the bottom, and read in order.

So far we've taken a look at the most important thing...what God is looking for in worship. In this post we want to come up with a "working definition" of worship.

First, worship is a verb, an action. Worship is something we do…it’s a response. Worship is not a feeling, it is not a "thing," it’s not something you watch or something you attend, it’s an act of response.

We don't have to look any further than the book of Psalms to see this clearly spelled out. It's there we are told to "sing, clap, dance, give, speak of Him, lift His name, tell of his might, meditate, glorify Him, magnify Him, praise Him, walk with Him, bow down before Him" and more.

Among many other things;
  • Worship is a truth teller and truth revealer. 
  • Worship is a safeguard for our heart. 
  • Worship is a weapon to fight sin, and a defense against temptation. 
  • Worship is passionate, and worship is disciplined. 
  • Worship is spontaneous, and worship is planned. 
  • Worship is for the intellectual, and worship is for the emotional. 
  • Worship is joyful and worship is sorrowful. 
  • Worship is loud, and worship is silence. [pause] 
  • Worship IS music and singing, and yet worship is so much more… 
  • And perhaps most importantly, worship is not about us. Worship is done by us, but it is not about us, or for us. Worship is about Him, God, Jahweh…worship is for God, to God, and because of God. And God says "you worship me by worshipping Jesus."
Darlene Zschech, the worship/music leader at Hillsong church defines worship this way; "Worship is our life's response to the grandeur and magnificence of God."

So what's our working definition of worship? I like this one that I’ve pulled together from many others (Dave Williamson, Jim Kress, Louie Giglio, Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, and more)...

"Worship is all that you are, responding to all that God has revealed Himself to be; who He is, what He has done, and what He will do."

In this definition we capture three important truths;
  1. We capture Spirit's all that we are 
  2. We capture Our place in Worship: We don't initiate, we respond... 
  3. And we capture Truth Worship: Truth worship is a response to who God has revealed Himself to be...
    - Who He is, (He is worthy of our worship simply for existing)
    - What He has done, (in history, and in our lives), and…
    - What He will do, (His promises that await including/not limited to, heaven) 
God reveals, we respond and that response is worship.

As Matt Redman, author of many of the songs we sing, puts it; "The key to a life of passionate and powerful worship comes from seeing God. The more we encounter Him, the more impacting our lives will be."

If this is true, that worship is a response to God’s revelation, then it would follow that the most important thing in worship is not worship at all, but God. It all starts with Him…and what we think and know about Him will drive our response.

Coming next - Who is God?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Worship III: Worship in Truth

Stop: Make sure you've read Worship I and Worship II before you proceed.

We all worship, all the time, all of us are worshipping. But does our worship matter? Is it seen, heard and felt in heaven? What is God looking for from us in our worship? The answer is found in John 4:23-24 where Jesus tells us what God is looking for;

"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

We looked last at Worship in Spirit and today we take a look at the other side of the coin; truth. It is not enough to worship with passion and fullness apart from worshipping in truth. Not only is he looking for spirit-worship, but worship that God accepts must be done in truth, with correct “theology." Theology is a big word, but all it means is "our study and understanding of God." That's it. Which means that we are all theologians...every single one of us has a certain view of God and who He is. Whether or not that view is accurate is another matter.

A.W. Tozer reminds all of us; “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. A right conception of God…is to worship what the foundation is to the temple; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.” 

Our theology fuels our worship, and our worship reveals our theology. In other words, how we view God and what we believe about Him will fuel and drive our worship. And how we worship God reveals what we believe about Him.

Question: Are you (and I) worshipping in truth? Do we have a right "theology" of God? Are we responding to God as we have made Him out to be, or as He has made Him out to be?

I believe this is the number 1 thing most fiercely fought over in the spiritual realm and on earth…who is God? There’s a giant smear-campaign going on by Satan and all his minions…to get us to buy into an incomplete or in-accurate view of God.

So who is He and how can we make sure we’re worshipping in truth? Fortunately for us, God helps us answer that question…He gives us His Son, His Word, His Sprit, and His Creation. And it is incumbent on us to constantly measure our views of God against His full revelation.

Spirit and Truth…two sides of the same coin, and the coin is worship. You cannot worship God with Spirit only - you'd be full worshipping, but who or what? Nor can you worship God with Truth only - He doesn't accept worship that is not given from our inward self. God accepts and is in fact looking for worshippers who worship him fully sold out to spirit and truth. Not a balance of both, but fully both.

Again, MacDonald puts it this way: "Therefore, those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. There must be no sham or hypocrisy. There must be no pretense to being religious, when inwardly one’s life is corrupt. There must be no idea that in going through a series of rituals, God is thereby pleased. Even if God instituted those rituals Himself, He still insists that man approach Him with a broken and a contrite heart."

True worshippers MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth…and we will spend a few going deeper into "worshipping in truth" - namely, we'll look at how God has revealed Himself to us. Next up - worship defined.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Worship II: Worship in Spirit...

(Read Worship I first)

We all worship. Worship is what we were created for. Everyone worships. Whether or not you call yourself a Christian; whether or not you call yourself spiritual or religious, you worship. As pastor Louie Giglio puts it, "Every day, all day long, everywhere you go, you worship. It's what you do, it's who you are." Simply put, "worship is our response to what we value most." (Giglio). Which begs the question, who or what do you value most?

At the end of the day, there are only two things we worship. We are either worshipping self, or we are worshipping God. Any worship apart from God is simply gratifying our own desires...worshipping self. Or look at it another way...we are either worshipping the Creator, God, or the created (which includes self). Everything in existence falls into two categories; God, and created things. So if you're not worshipping God, guess what...

Any message on worship must start with John chapter 4. Why? It's there that God lays out for us exactly what He is looking for in worship and from a worshipper. It's there we read the following words from Jesus;

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)
This passage is ultimately about Jesus correcting a Samaritan woman’s mis-understandings of worship...and I think he is also correcting ours.

First, worshipping in spirit means it’s not about where you worship, but how…he wants whole-hearted worship. Second, you no longer have to “go somewhere” to worship God, because His Spirit now indwells all believers. You don't have to go to a temple, find a priest, and offer a sacrifice. You and I ARE the temple, Jesus is our priest, and Jesus is our sacrifice. And as we will learn later, not only is Jesus our sacrifice, but our whole lives are to be a living sacrifice as well...but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The big point about worshipping in spirit is this; God is far more interested in how you worship and the spirit in which you are worshipping than where you are worshipping or what you are doing. In other words, Jesus is overturning “outward worship” and instituting “inward” worship…not worship of self, but worship of the heart...and "from the heart" isn't referring specifically to emotions, but "heart" is referring to your entire being...everything that encompasses you including your heart, but your intellect as well.

William MacDonald, author of the Believer's Bible Commentary puts it this way;

"The Jewish people had reduced worship to outward forms and ceremonies. They thought that by religiously adhering to the letter of the law, and going through certain rituals, they were worshiping the Father. But theirs was not a worship of the spirit. It was outward, not inward. Their bodies might be bowed down on the ground but their hearts were not right before God."

In Isaiah we see God’s heart on this matter; The Lord says: 

"These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13) 

Again, the point here is that we not fool ourselves in our worship. It is all too easy to do the right things, sing the right songs, focusing on our actions and "what we do" thinking we are honoring and worshipping God. However, He is far more interested in what's going on inside of us.

Spirit worship holds nothing back be it joy or sorrow, be it brokenness or fullness. Worshipping in spirit is all about bringing all that you are to the cross. It's about the widow who gave all she had...two copper coins. To put it as simple as I can, worship in spirit is to worship in complete and total honesty and transparency. This is what God is after. Don't pretend, don't wear a mask, don't try to hide from Him, but bring all that you are to Him in worship.

But that's not all...coming next, the other side of the coin...worship in truth.

BACK! Worship I: Intro

"Where have I been?" you ask? A few weeks ago I had the privilege and responsibility to preach on worship. All of my study time was focused on that message...but I am back and planning on using this blog to continue to write and think about God, worship of Him, and how impossible it is for words to capture Him. In the coming weeks I plan to write and post segments from that message simply because it encompasses so much that I believe about worship.

As we I prepare, I must make it clear that my thoughts are not wholly mine...they are a culmination of thoughts I have gleaned from so many. From my mentor and friend, Jim Kress, to other worship leaders  I know well like Dave Morgan, to pastors and worship leaders who have led me from a distance like Darlene Zschech, Matt Redman, Louie Giglio, and A.W. Tozer. My philosophy and thoughts on worship have been influenced hugely by so many and I pray that I continue to learn. My hope in these posts is simple to pass on to you what I have learned in hopes that together, we might be inspired to worship the only thing worth worshipping; God, through Jesus.

And so it is that we move forward, together. Trying to wrap your arms around worship and God is like, as Josh Wilson put it, "trying to fit the ocean in a cup." Nevertheless that is my self appointed assignment. Together, let's wade into the deep.