The Heart of Worship – Part 2 'Why' Changes Everything
What is a movement? What happens when human spirits and minds march in step as a single beating heart? What is it that causes a person to take everything they are, and throw it over a cliff into an ocean of wonder, excitement, passion, and energy?
In Acts we read, "there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them." That day, one hundred-twenty people became the first church, a movement, three thousand people who ate together, experienced truth, revelation, and community. They even sold belongings to come up with money to give to the work of God.
I believe a great worship movement will look like family because God is a Father. It will look like healthy relationships, brokenness healed, and lives restored. Each of us singing our own, new, unique spontaneous songs to the Lord, and coming together as one body to encounter Jesus and Holy Spirit can be some of the most transformational, pivotal and unforgettable moments we have in this life. As priests, ministering to Him and He to us, worship is one of the highest callings and most joyful experiences the Lord wants for his children.
So, Why Worship?
"Pure worship is about ministering to the Lord. It's about the sacred relationship of love between God and man."
Since OT times worship has had high value. The Levites ministered to God by 'standing before Him and blessing His name.' They declared the truth about God back to Him. David established over 8,000 paid singers, musicians, and gatekeepers to minister to God by keeping the worship sanctuary in Jerusalem as their main vocation (1 Chr. 23:5 25:7).
4And he [David] appointed some of the Levites [singers] to minister before the ark of the LORD, to commemorate, to thank, and to praise the LORD…32They were ministering with music…and they served in their office according to their order…37to minister before the ark regularly, as every day's work required… (1 Chr. 16:4, 32, 37)
As part of the New Covenant, worship takes an even greater place of influence in our lives than in the old testament - it's in our DNA. In Ephesians it says that "thanksgiving is our dialect." It's literally what we were created to do, prophesied about in Psalms and fulfilled in the finished work of the cross.
Walk with me through this…
"Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord." Psalm 102:18
Since creation in Genesis, God hasn't 'recreated' humanity, right? He created the first humans and we procreated after that. When we fell in the garden a very real spiritual death occurred. "The day you eat of this tree surely you will die." Did Adam die? He did in the most important way - spiritually.
His spirit, the eternal part and the truest thing about him was dead. Every human that's followed in his line was born with the same affliction and with the same side effects: sin, brokenness, pain, confusion, loss, and separation from the presence of Father. We became orphans. The real bummer is there was nothing we could do about it ourselves. For how does a dead thing bring itself back to life?
The only way for us to 'come to life' and no longer be the walking dead was for God to do what we couldn't - send a new Adam (1 Cor. 15:45; Rom 5:17*). Jesus was the 'first born among many' and he made it clear that we would also need to be reborn to enter the kingdom. We needed to start over as something new, something fresh, something that hadn't yet existed. We needed to be recreated and that's exactly what God did. (2 Cor 5:17) But not only did he make us new, he created us to praise:
"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9
If we're not worshippers of God we forfeit the reason we exist.
Yeah, but why did God create us to worship?
That's an excellent question. I'm glad you asked. I think there are lots of reasons**. But here are a few of my favorite:
Praise is the decree that invites him to come and do what otherwise might not get done
Worship sets the captives free. Back in Psalms 102 we find an answer.
18 Let this be recorded for future generations,
so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord.
19 Tell them the Lord looked down
from his heavenly sanctuary.
He looked down to earth from heaven
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to release those condemned to die
There are so many people being held captive by so many things. There are strongholds in their lives, patterns of thinking, addiction, physical pain and disease. God wants worshippers for breakthrough and freedom.
Praise is the way to personal strength
Psalms 8 says, "Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger."
In Matthew 21 Jesus quotes this verse but expands on the meaning of 'established strength', "have you never read, Out of the mouth of babes and infants you have perfected praise?" He ties strength directly to praise. Interestingly, the word he uses for praise in Matthew 21 actually means 'story.' In New Testament worship we are unpacking the complete story of God's goodness in decrees of truth.
We're not just brokers of a message, we carry a person.
Scripture tells us that God is enthroned upon, or some translations say he "inhabits" the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3). We'll be singing a song together next Friday that says:
We've come to join the song
Sung long before our lives
To raise our voice along
Heaven and earth alike
Be enthroned upon the praises
Of a thousand generations
You are worthy. Lord of all
Unto You, the slain and risen King
We lift our voices with heaven singing
Worthy, Lord of all
This gives us a glimpse of the truth that we don't need to get the energy up to worship, or feel like it, or try to create something on a Sunday morning. We're joining in a song that's gone on long before us, and will continue into eternity.
Worship sets our attention on the right things
In Exodus, God did not speak to Moses until he had his attention: "When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am.""
Eugene Peterson says, "Worship is the strategy by which we interrupt our preoccupation with ourselves and attend to the presence of God." Agree with this and will add, it creates space for us to recognize that God is attending to us. I believe Holy Spirit is always, always speaking to us. But we don't always hear. Worship leads our hearts where our minds won't fit.
Worship Reminds us of home
"The journey homewards, coming home. That's what it's all about - the journey to the coming of the kingdom. The purpose of the work be it story or music or painting is to further the coming of the kingdom, to make us aware of our status as children of God and to turn our feet towards home." Madeline L’Engle
The term 'Apostle' means 'Sent One'. It was a word take from the Roman Army. The Romans would send a military leader into an area that had already been conquered along with architects, language specialists, and city planners. They would begin to redesign this newly conquered city architecturally, the way the roads worked, the way the city functioned and its business principles, even the language (they would teach the people the language of Rome.) They would continue to do this until this city that had been conquered was now transformed and actually looked similar to Rome so when the emperor would come he would feel at home.
Everything in Heaven is connected to one thing – the presence of God. So when we pray "on earth as it is in heaven", we can't desire that any more than we are devoted to it in worship. Worship is a prophetic declaration of truth that reminds that we aren't from around here. One day we're headed home.
This is only scratching the surface. Ministering to God could easily be studied as eternally as he is eternal.
I can't wait to experience worship with you on Friday!
"We are changed more by songs than our sermons. The Gospel is driven deeper into your heart by our songs than by our sermons. It is through our songs that you have the word of Christ dwelling in you. That is how you are filled with the Spirit." - Tim Keller
*Actually, just read the whole chapter….it's a good way to change your life.
**More and more, I’m discovering than I can deconstruct in 3 measly blog posts. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew.