Summary: A vision of worship. In the OT, God was untouchable. Now we are invited into His City. The result is thankfulness, awe, and reverence.
Becoming A Festival, pt. 1
February 8/9, 2003
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
The question and answer get to the heart of why we were created – we were created to worship God – to “glorify” God to use the exact word – and to “enjoy him forever.” Have you ever noticed that the first four of the ten commandments have to do with worship? 1. no other Gods. 2. no idols. 3. don’t take the name of the Lord in vain. 4. the Sabbath is Holy. Here God lays out the 10 Commandments by which He desires His children to live, and 4/10 have to do with worship.
Over the next few weeks, I want to explore together what our vision for worship is at Laurier. We are going to search God’s Word, and we are going to attempt to practice some of what we learn. The prevailing image as we talk about a vision of worship is the picture of a festival, which I think accurately portrays what we should be doing as we worship.
Defining our terms:
To begin a conversation like this, it is probably a good idea to define our terms: what does it mean to “worship”?
A.W. Tozer: What is worship? Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven.
James Packer: sixfold activity: praising God for all that he is and all his achievements; thanking him for his gifts and his goodness to us; asking him to meet our own and others’ needs; offering him our gifts, our service, and ourselves; learning of him from his word, read and preached, and obeying his voice; telling others of his worth, both by public confession and testimony to what he has done for us.
William Temple, the renowned archbishop of Canterbury: quickening the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God
After several hours of research trying to find a simple, articulate way to define “worship,” I gave up trying to find how someone else defines it and decided to try to write my own definition. Synthesizing some of that research, I’ve concluded that a simple definition of worship is, “how we respond to that which has the most worth in our lives.” (repeat).
It begs the first question – what has the most worth in your life? That will be what you worship. It might be money – that is the big one Jesus talked about much of His time on earth. It might be power. It might be the pursuit of your own personal pleasure. It might be a relationship with another person. What has the most worth in your life? The way you respond to that is your act of worship.
Ralph Waldo Emerson hit the nail on the head when he said:
The gods we worship write their names on our faces, be sure of that. And a man will worship something —have no doubt about that, either. He may think that his tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of his heart—but it will come out. That which dominates will determine his life and character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.
And this is where God gets exclusive. He demands our worship – our complete, undivided worship. The Bible teaches that God is jealous for our worship, and that we cannot attempt to “work Him in there somewhere” without risking His wrath. Have you ever stopped to consider why God might make such a huge demand? It is because He knows this is the best thing for us. Everything else – money, power, pleasure, even relationships with other people – are only temporary and will leave us disappointed and rejected and empty. But when we recognize that glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is our “chief end,” the purpose for which we were created, we come to a point of worship which brings the most richness and blessing to our lives. And we discover that richness and blessing not in the pursuit of it, which leads us in a circle of pursuing ourselves, but in the pursuit of God.
Worship as lifestyle and as event:
If my definition of worship as “how we respond to that which has the most worth in our lives.” is even close, it leads us to understand that worship is not merely an activity we participate in on a weekly basis. It encompasses our entire lifestyle, it is reflected and tested and proven in how we live. After laying out his entire theology in the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul urges us with the strongest language he can, to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” The rest of Romans details how we should do this, how we should live in such a way that our lives are acts of worship. And in contrast to the OT, where the general emphasis on worship was an event, the theme of worship in the NT is one of living an obedient life to God. That is the NT emphasis in worship.