True and proper worship - extract from foundation module: Gospel Community
Here is a short extract from our Gospel Community module for you to enjoy.
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We are a new people with a new life and a new future, who have seen God’s amazing mercy. What kind of people does this create? What activity does this generate? The answer is worship: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).
This is altogether appropriate because worship is where it all went wrong. In Romans 1:25 Paul said: “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is for ever praised. Amen.” We did not trust God and so we did not worship God. Our desire was not for God and his glory, and we pursued our own selfish desires and our own proud glory. But now we have seen God’s mercy so know that God is good and kind and generous, which enables us to live for God’s glory. So immense is God’s mercy that our true and proper worship is to give nothing less than our bodies as a living sacrifice. True worship is an entire life lived for God’s glory.
To worship someone is to acknowledge their worth. To worship God is to say that God is worth more than anything else. We do this when we sing of his worth, and commend him with our words. But it requires the sacrifice of all we have and are for him. The proof of God’s worth for us is what we are prepared to give up for him. Let others look at your schedule and your bank statements and they will be able to tell you how much worth you attach to God. Hebrews 13:15-16 says: “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” How do we worship God? With the fruit of our lips and with the fruit of our lives.
What, then, is the role of corporate worship?
Hebrews 10:24-25 tells us to meet together, and it tells us why we meet together: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” This includes singing, as Paul makes clear in Colossians 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” The same point is reiterated in Ephesians 5:18-20: “be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ …”. Paul is not writing to an individual but a church and telling a church to be filled with the Spirit. And he lists four ways of doing it:
Speaking to one another through songs
Singing in our hearts
Giving thanks to God
Submitting to one another.
All through the week the world around us says other things are more worthy, more important, more beautiful. All the time we are being drawn away from the worship of God. We don’t offer our bodies as living sacrifices because we think those sacrifices are not worth making. Every advert tries to persuade us not that ‘God is worthy’, but ‘I am worthy’. The voice of the world around is loud and often it drowns out the voice of God. But for a few hours each week Christians come together and join voices to drown out the voice of the world. Together we cry, ‘You are worthy,’ and in so doing we join with the voices of heaven and sing:
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things.’ (Revelation 4:11)
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation,’ (Revelation 5:9-10)
In corporate worship we are re-tuning our hearts and re-aligning our affections. We come together to remind one another of God’s worth and call one another away from false priorities. This is far more than an intellectual exercise. When Christians come together, part of the purpose is for affections to be captured for Christ. It is an important aspect of our discipleship to encourage each other with heart-felt praise, which means that not singing is not an option.
In view of God’s mercy, it is our privilege and responsibility to encourage one another with heart-felt prayer and praise. Notice again that it is with our bodies. This is not prescriptive, but it does mean that in some real sense it is a physical, embodied activity, and so more than merely an intellectual or emotional exercise. We are to sit up straight, take a deep breath, stand tall, get hands out of pockets and throw ourselves, body and soul, into worshipping God. Why? So that we go out into a hostile and seductive world with our hearts captured for Christ, with a new determination to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice and with a renewed sense that he is worthy.
What drives all of this is God’s mercy. Romans 1-11 is the springboard to Romans 12. God’s mercy is the springboard to life in community. It is by keeping it in view that our shared life will thrive. A failure to keep God’s mercy in view will mean our shared life will be something to be endured rather than enjoyed. If life in community does feel like hard work it is probably because you have lost sight of God’s mercy. Without God’s mercy, life in community will feel like a goal to achieve. Because of God’s mercy, life in community is a gift for you to enjoy.
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