To visitors, we are in a series exploring the nature and mission of the church. Our theme is "the church with good NEWS." We are studying four essential aspects of church life-- nurturing the spiritual journey, evangelizing, worship, and serving. Today's study is about worship. The church is a worshiping community. We find our identity in our shared worship. We only count worship attendance. We judge faithfulness on corporate worship attendance. We judge a church on the same basis.
With so much emphasis on worship, we lack clear understandings. How do you define worship? Literally, one of the better known Greek words means "to kiss toward." I want to know that worship is purposeful inclination toward someone or something in order to ascribe honor. It is similar to service, and one Greek word is translated both worship and serve. More practically, and in more contemporary words, worship is encounter, self-abasement, self- abnegation, even self-denial. Yet it is more, worship is adoration and praise. The Spanish word is adoracion.
I desire meaningful worship for this church, for our visitors, a fresh encounter with God. God is working mightily in our world today to draw people to himself. Worship is the acknowledgment that God has drawn us. He is working to purify his people, to exalt his Son Jesus Christ. He is breaking down barriers, calling people into missions service, claiming his own.
But the Bible doesn't say much about NT assemblies. How would our worship assemblies look if we were seriously reaching out to pagans, what if pagans came to our assemblies? Are we so interested in scriptural form that we have overlooked or ignored scriptural purpose? Therefore we must ask, Why are we here? What is the purpose of assembly? In 1 Cor. 14:22, if there are unbelievers in the assembly, they should see power of Christianity. Worship connects us. The world will buffet us all week, we do not need more buffeting when we assemble for worship. Worship is uplifting, encouraging.
There is much that could be said about worship. We will not say everything in this sermon. We can say some right and biblical things. Our text is Psalm 95. (There are many other great worship texts in Scripture--I was tempted to read much of Nehemiah 9 in our public assembly.) Psalm 95 says worship is remembrance, reverence, and response. Here are the 3 R's-- not readin, ‘ritin' ‘n' ‘rithmetic, but the rudiments of relationship with God.
Worship is response.
Worship is no better than our awareness of God. Is God a part of your life--alive, active, important? Have you ever wanted desperately to know and do God's will? The simple process of coming to God is the process not only of salvation, but of joining God in his mission to reconcile the lost world. Worship is the acknowledgment of joining, sharing, and mutuality. Worship is submission, but God has far more in store for our lives than simply doing something for him. He wants us to experience an intimate love relationship with him that is both real and personal. Worship is the acknowledgment of this relationship.
1 Cor. 14:26 suggests that everyone brings a song, psalm, hymn, prayer, thought, scripture. What have you brought to worship today? What response will you make?
Worship depends upon relationship.
We have already introduced this idea. Worship is relationships--both vertical and in the context of corporate worship, horizontal.
First, the heart of eternal life and the heart of Christianity is to know God and to know Jesus Christ whom he has sent. This knowledge of God, relationship with God, is not a program, study, or method. This knowing God is through relationship with a person--through an intimate love relationship with God. We are proclaiming in worship that God's love for us generates our love for him. I love you, Lord.
The vertical aspect of worship enables the horizontal. Because God has sought and made possible relationship with him, we accept that relationship him, we recognize relationship with one another. In worship, we encourage one another (Heb. 10:25ff). These relationships say that we are here for God, that he is spectator, we are performer. Therefore, worship is not for us, but for him. We must find encouragement, effort, energy, God at work in us. Worship must include times of thoughtful introspection.
Do our assemblies say, we are community, cultivate virtues, share vision. Not just in the sermon, but in all we do, in our announcements, prayers, and songs. We sing to one another, and to God. We must learn how to select praise songs, find encouragement, know wide repertoire of songs, songs for various occasions. If preacher suggests certain song as appropriate, will the song leader know it, be able to sing it. If I have to choose between good preaching/bad singing and good singing/bad preaching, I will take the latter.
Worship leads to rejoicing.
The words of Psalm 95 are words of rejoicing--sing, shout, come with thanksgiving, extol. Many Christians are frustrated because they know in their heart of hearts that God has more in store than we have experienced thus far. We earnestly desire God's directions for our lives, ministries, service to him. We want to make sense of our tragedies, but we stand bewildered in the midst of broken lives, and we do not know what to do, where to turn. The Psalmist also wrote, weeping endures for night, but joy comes in morning.
Worship enables rejoicing. In worship, we hear God, listen to God.
Worship is repentance--rethinking, reorienting.
This awareness accentuates that worship is real.
This is the real world, this is the reality of life, this is the eternal. What might we learn from a comparison of low church and high church? Where can one find excitement, enthusiasm, God is in us, God is among us, the sense that this is devoted to God? In the reality of worship.
Worship recharges us spiritually.
In worship I am reminded of my dependence upon spiritual resources outside myself. Seeing all of the above, we are undone (Isa. 6). I am not independent, not self-sufficient. I am incapable, but God is able.
Worship is our experience of God. Worship declares God.
Because you can never be satisfied in your relationship with God, with simply knowing about God, worship must be more than this sermon. Worship requires you. Your thought, your meditation, your contemplation, your communion, your sharing. God has revealed himself to those who are looking for him. Because you have seen God in the past does not mean he is visible or obvious to you today. You must re-see him daily. This is worship. God takes the initiative to reveal himself to us in his actions, his word, his will, his people, nature. As we come to know him, we want to express our praise, gratitude, and worship to him. We acknowledge his presence, his power, his person/nature, his promises, his people, his purposes, his protection, his provision.
What is everyone looking for? Ask anyone? They say, happiness, peace, freedom, clear conscience, stability, security. But all of these are to be found in hope that comes through Jesus. The Christian who appears on the scene with even a minimum of these qualities will stand out as a light in the dark (Eph. 5:8). People are attracted by our hope. Worship expresses our hope.
As others come closer for a better look, our love may disarm them, removing barriers and judgments. Our loves thus bears, believes, endures, makes bonafide relationships possible. And explanations of hope may lead to faith. What makes the Christian stand out? It is our worship--let us recommit to being a church with Good News--worshiping in spirit and truth.
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