When a topic or theme sticks in your head and you write regularly for a blog, that just might be God telling you something.
This past week I read a blog post shared on Facebook about the tendency in our churches for people to not sing corporately. The article pointed the finger at many aspects of more “contemporary” elements in our churches. The comments on the post were angry and divisive. I felt so sad reading it.
And then just a few days later I saw our church’s worship leader make a very astute statement: “I’m beginning to think Satan has taken up residence in religious blogs.” He was noting how many posts incited anger, division and what I’ll call a Pharisee attitude. And again, I wasn’t angry, but my heart was grieved.
Message received, Lord.
What God laid upon my heart is that we (more specifically I) need to get back to the heart of worship in true humility.
The only way I know how to do that is to dive into something beyond my own opinions and feelings, and dig into the inspired, inerrant Word given to us. As I searched for scriptures and references from a previous Bible study I had done called “pure praise”, I noted several things God specifically tells us about worship.
- Worship isn’t about style. I can’t find anything scripturally that tells us exactly what types of songs to sing or the “style” in which we should worship. The Bible just tells us to worship and to praise the living God. So as long as we are in line with God’s Word in whatever style of worship resonates with how God made us, what a blessing it can be! Whether a resounding organ, a formal choir or a band resonates with you, God has blessed us with creative ways to express our praise. What an amazing God!
- Worship is a lifestyle lived to God’s glory. That’s two essential pieces – it’s something we need to do daily and should encompass all aspects of our lives; and it is about giving God glory. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says it nicely: “So whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
- Worship requires obedience and submission to God’s will. Psalm 33 tells us to “sing joyfully…praise the Lord;” it doesn’t say “if you feel like it, sing and praise.” This is where we often seem to stumble as believers…it becomes about our style instead of our submission, or our own objectives instead of our obedience.
- Worship involves sacrifice. Hebrews 13:15 terms it as a sacrifice of praise: “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
- We can’t truly worship if we are focused only on Law. Hebrews 10:1 talks about Christ’s sacrifice for us, fulfilling the law. The verse tells us how “the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming…For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” It strikes me that the division I see in these blog posts is often by taking a “Law” perspective instead of a “Gospel” perspective in worship and with each other.
- Worship can happen no matter the circumstances. In 2 Chronicles 20:1-30, there is a fascinating story of Jehoshaphat and worship in what I would not term ideal circumstances – an army was coming to try to destroy him and God’s people. But instead of cowering in fear, they worship. If Jehoshaphat can seek God, praise His name and give him thanks in circumstances like that, I have a responsibility to get over myself, my bad morning, my bad attitudes and whatever is bugging me and give God all of my heart in worship.
When we let our preferences, prejudices and sinful nature take over when we talk about worship, we are giving a foothold to Satan. Imagine what would happen if we were united in believing that God can be praised in many types and styles of worship (goodness, the Bible talks about dancing and tambourines….I’m not sure you want to see me dancing!). If we refused to let this divide us, how many more people might learn to truly worship, to dig deeper into relationship with Christ and then extend that love outward? What an awesome vision! Maybe it would be just a small vision of what the worship of the King might be like in Revelation 5.
Oh to be quicker to love God and others in worship instead of judging and dividing. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17
That’s my prayer for you today and this weekend – that you are led back to the true heart of worship: joining with your brothers and sisters in Christ to praise our God together, no matter the setting!
In praise to our God,
– Jen Clark