Disclaimer: this isn't normal for my blog. I just had to blog on this after church today. Tomorrow expect to be back to the regularly scheduled programming of book reviews and recipes.
Worship. Is it a production? Is it something we observe- where the minister does most of the speaking and the congregation just listens and occasionally sings? Is it something we observe- where the worship leaders talks to us, encouraging us with anecdotes and the praise team sings and plays away while we sit back and listen? Or, is Biblical worship an active, interactive, participation in God's word (Bible) and sacraments (as a reminder, the sacraments are Baptism and the Lord's Supper)?
John 4:23-24 says: 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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
If we look at Genesis 3 we see that God confronts sins and then clothes the sinners in animal skins. What's the significance of this? It is foreshadowing Christ- our substitutionary atonement, who was slain (the wages of sin is death) to redeem his people, and clothed in those bloody skin- (the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord)- so now God looks at His people through the sacrifice of His son. We are clothed in Jesus' blood and righteousness. We are found in Christ. Substance of worship in truth is Christ. We approach God through the blood of Christ. Thus who should be the center of worship- us, or Christ? Christ of course! Our worship of him must be in spirit and truth. The truth of His Word, the truth of His Grace.
Elements of worship help keep it centered on God's grace in the gospel. God's saving grace is found where? In Christ. What is the role of the spirit here? "Worship in Spirit and Truth"-- John 16:13-14: When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." We rely on the spirit then but not focus on it in our worship. Zechariah 4:6 says: "Then he said to me, 'This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.'" The spirit points us to Christ who is the front and center of our worship. The trinity is thus essential to our worship.
How should aspects of worship reveal Christ's grace?
Leader's words at the beginning should be a call to worship. Why a call? Because He called us. God's grace is found in Christ. Christ who called us to come to him for salvation- so we come to worship Him.
First song "of approach"- we respond to God's call. God uses this to minister to us. Saying or singing amen fits in perfectly here since it is affirming "YES! This is true!"and builds our faith in the Amen- Jesus Christ, who reconciles us.
Prayer (of adoration)- we adore and worship the God who saved us to glorify and enjoy him! We do this through prayer.
Affirm our faith- this is often forgotten today but the practice has been in Bible-believing churches since the very early days in church history. Only recently have we neglected this. Why historically have all churches and today do some still publicly make a statement affirming their faith during worship? We are declaring God's word and his promise of salvation is true. We are declaring this as a reminder to ourselves and a proclamation to others. God is the God of truth- truth keeps us from error. If we believe a gospel of error- how can we know we are saved?
If you don't have something solid that summarizes and affirms the truth of the Bible which is God's word, and state this is really what the Bible says, you or your children can begin to forget and you can get muddled- you can loose the ability to discern truth from error. Satan is a big fat liar and seeks to devour those who he can- those who can't discern the truth of God's word. Thus throughout history churches have had creeds- which are actually simply statements summarizing "This is what God's word, the Bible, teaches," in a few sentences that are easy to remember (so you can easily recognize error). Like this one
in God the Father, Almighty,
Maker of Heaven and Earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried;
He descended into hell (this means that he suffered the judgment and wrath of Christ that we deserve)
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
The holy universal church (this means you believe God has saved his people into him as a body of believers)
The communion (fellowship) of saints (believers)
The forgiveness of sins (referring to the atoning work of Christ,
The resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
See how that summarizes the New Testament? The Bible is the revelation of truth. Jesus Christ is truth. Thus reciting something like this points us to Christ and grace- and keeps us grounded in the essentials of His Word.
Going back to the 2nd century- right after the disciples and apostles died- is the Gloria Patri. People have sung this to different tunes in Bible-beliving churches from then until now. And often after doing something like reciting the Apostles Creed or some other creed (statement affirming the truth of the gospel and Bible). Why? Worship respoinding to God's truth and His incredible character. A heartfelt universal response of active worship.
Glory be to the Father
and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit
Who was in the beginning
and ever shall be
World without End.
Go is God from all time- today and yesterday and tomorrow. Both old and new in worship is important. When we do add in the ancient- or continue it- we are joining in with the Christians from all through the ages. Unity. Doesn't God require unity of his people? Unity expressed in His church in this way. That's why old things aren't necessarily bad. And just think- Jesus sang psalms. We can include those in our worship too!
Scripture reading in worship. Scripture reading lets us listen to the truth of God's word. God's word-the Bible- will stand forever. It reveals to us God and Christ. Why wouldn't we want to be encouraged by listening to the very words of our Savior?
Confessing Sin- ouch! Odd today! WHY do something so down and negative? I'm saved, right! Why stick this in the middle of worship. It's all about the gospel, that's why. We just affirmed God's word is true. Well, God's word says humanity fell into sin and needs to be saved. This reminds us of our need of Christ- reminds us why we needed to be saved. As it reminds us of Christ, it thus reminds us why we are worshiping in the first place rather than mowing our yard like Joe who never set foot in church. It also reminds us of where we are- we haven't magically become perfect since we believed. We're saved, fully and forever, yes! But who has lived perfectly this week? We all struggle with something- that's remaining sin. We are all sinners who still fall short of God's glory. We confess this, and we are humbled. See Psalm 51.
Also, 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sin He is faithful..." We are able to approach God through Christ, remember! We need to live clinging to Christ on the cross every single day, every single hour, every single moment of our lives. And it's the community of Christ- the community of sinners called out, saved by His blood and righteousness- that's worshiping, praising God together right now, for salvation so freely and completely given. We're gathered in praise and worship as God's saved/redeemed people.
Thus we don't just corporately confess we are sinners saved by God, the leader/pastor follows it immediately reciting Scripture- the very Amen (true) words of God in the Bible- reminding us of assurance of forgiveness in the saving grace of Christ. This assurance of pardon is nothing more or less than the gospel! Some Christians really struggle with assurance and need reminding that God's forgiveness is absolute through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The wisdom of the ages reveal Christ and allow us to more fully- as a body- praise Him for his marvelous grace in our worship.
He then said that the rest of the service- more singing, the offerings, the sermon, the Lord's Supper- would be covered next week. Unfortunately I won't be there.