Summary: If all of life is worship, what are the ground rules worship? If we know them, we know the ground rules for life.
Worship by the Book
Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI
Jan. 16, 2005
Last week Pastor Bob began a series on worship. In that sermon he taught us that worship is only worship when it is God-centered. If we come to worship with anything else in mind – if we come to a service looking for what we can get out of it, we have come for the wrong reason. We must come with our hearts settled upon God and his will. To say after the service, “I didn’t get anything out of it,” is to admit we do not have a clue about the heart of worship.
Rach and I have a friend who is a source of grief for us. It is not that he has done anything to us – he is quite dear to us actually. Rather it is what he has done to himself, what he has chosen to believe. About ten years ago, this friend began absenting himself from church. He was getting into diving and started to buy into one of the more heinous lies to come out of the pits of hell. He would excuse his absence by saying that he worshipped God by getting out into nature and appreciating the beauty and glory of creation. He would go diving instead of gathering with God’s people in corporate worship.
Now, why do I say that the idea of getting out into nature and worshipping God by appreciating the beauty and glory of creation is a lie of the devil? Don’t we believe that the glory of God is revealed in nature? Quite frankly, as people who believe that the Scriptures are the only true rule of life and faith, we have to believe that the glory of God is revealed in nature. Psalm 19 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” And there are numerous other Scriptures that point out God’s glory reflected in creation, Romans 1:18-25 for instance.
And if it is true, as Pastor Bob said last week, that all of life is worship – or at least should be – why can’t my friend justly say that he worships God as he marvels at the fishes and the crabs? Surely, even under the sea, when bone and sinew work harmoniously together to propel the human body through the water and the eye delights to the variety and wonder of creation, one worships God. In some innate, primordial way such physical effort reveals the glory of God’s workmanship, doesn’t it? Isn’t that worship?
It can be, but for my friend it was an idol. It became a snare that ripped him away from the protective embrace of the church. It led to a depleted spirit, because he was receiving no nourishment to feed his soul. Then, to a mulish stubbornness that refused all correction, that wallowed in self-deception believing all was well and communion with God could be done on ones own terms. Finally, it has led to a ship-wrecked life – a life that has accepted what he once believed unhealthy and wrong. He spiraled into a life of sin willingly, not even attempting to fight the downward pull.
How does that happen? How did this brother in Christ make such a mess of his life? To answer, let me return to something I just said. My friend began to believe that he could commune with God on his own terms. He began to trust how he felt, what he got out of something as a barometer for how his communion with God was going. The center point of his spiritual life began turn inward to self-fulfillment – in other words, what he wanted. In other words, he became selfish, spiritually narcissistic.
In the life of my friend we have a microcosm of the trouble with mankind in general. God reveals to us the way to live in his presence and we in turn try to negotiate the way we want God to live in our presence. We try to have a relationship with God on our terms. We ignore his holiness, his perfection, his exaltedness, his power and glory and try to approach God as if we do him a favor by believing he exists. My, how lucky it is for God that we come to church and sing songs of praise to him.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul addressed this bent in mankind. This fledgling church was beginning to show signs of trying to come to God on their own terms. He had taught them the Way – through Jesus Christ. He explained the necessity of the sacrifice and the inadequacy of our own efforts, but the urge to bend all things to serve the self is strong. Soon, the saints in the Colossian church began to combine their faith in Christ with the philosophies and beliefs they held as pagans.