Summary: In the midst of all the 'worship wars', it is important to buld a biblical foundation for worship.
“The Word on Worship: The Great Engagement Party”
During my sophomore year in college I learned that worship – which was instituted, commanded, and ordained by God – could be a real battle ground. Stunned as I was, it was good preparation for the ministry! Now, over 40 years later, it is even more evident than ever before. In fact, we’ve given the conflicts a title: we call them ‘Worship Wars.’ Indeed, we battle over many elements of worship. Should the Pastor wear a robe, or not? Should worshipers dress up, or not? Should we use the creeds and Lord’s Prayer more, or not? Should we use only organ, only piano, or both? Should we use other instruments, even drums and guitars? Should we have a choir, or not? A Worship Team, or not? Or both? Should we sing only hymns in the hymnbook (and if so, what hymnbook?) or include more recent worship hymns and songs? Should the organists and pianists play classical music, favorite hymns, or gospel music? Should drama or dance or videos be part of worship, or not? Is applause appropriate during worship? Is the raising of hands during singing okay, or not? Are spontaneous ‘Amens’ acceptable, or not? Does worship need to be limited to an hour, or not? It reminds me of an older lady, who had no affinity for con-temporary worship, who was complaining about a particular song used in the worship service at her church. A fellow worshipper responded, “Why, that is not a new song — it is a very old song! David sang that song to Saul.” The older lady replied, “Well now, for the first time, I understand why Saul threw the javelin at him when he sang.” I think you get the idea. Most every one of us has engaged in the battle.
So we need to hear the Word – God’s Word – on worship. In our current series we are looking at the principles and guidelines for worship, from which such divisive issues can be addressed. So this morning we begin with fundamentals. It is important to build a biblical foundation for worship. From our two passages, which are representative of many others in Scripture, we find at least three foundational principles.
First, we discover THE PRIMACY OF WORSHIP. As early as Genesis we find God’s people at worship. God has created us in such a way that our wholeness and health are strongly tied to worship of God. WE ARE CREATED TO WORSHIP; IT IS OUR VERY NATURE. God made us to be worshippers. One of life’s main purposes is to worship. To worship God is the deepest desire of the human spirit. And God yearns to be in a strong, healthy relationship with us; His heart is charged with deep love for us. So passionate is His love that He gave His only Son to draw us to Himself.
In worship we come, like Isaiah, into the presence of this holy, majestic, loving God. To understand the primacy of worship is to recognize that WORSHIP IS ALWAYS AN ACT OF SUBMISSION. We come in submission to an authority greater than ourselves, in adoration of a love more powerful and pure than ours. We come to bless the Lord. To worship, in fact, is to bow down and acknowledge the worth of God. Perhaps this is why true worship upsets many people – we do not like to submit, to give up our perceived independence. Worship is best understood and appreciated by those who desire authority and proper relationships. Consider the book of Leviticus – it is filled with sacrifice, bowing, acts of humility and dependence. True worship is to surrender completely to our Superior – to the loving, holy, God who has saved us. That’s why the many Psalms of worship are addressed to the sovereign God who is in total control of His world. They go on to celebrate His activity. Total submission to the ways and will of God. That is worship.
We are created to worship; therefore worship is an act of submission and, second, ANY OTHER MOTIVE IS SIN. If we come to worship with any other motive, we sin. If we’re here out of habit, or under orders from a loved one, or here for the music, to get a good feeling, to feel better, to see how the worship leaders and tech people do, or because we like to touch base with friends – if we come to critique the service – we sin. If we come with any other motive we have the potential for being disappointed; if we come to submit to God, we can never be disappointed. As Bob Sorge wrote, “If we understand that the main purpose of worship is to bless and glorify the Lord, then why are we upset when the worship doesn’t seem to bless us? The question is not whether the worship service blessed me; the question is, did it bless God? It is not what I thought of the worship that matters – it is what God thought of it...Was He pleased with our ‘sacrifice of praise?’”