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Why We Worship Worship

It is no secret that people, as a general rule, are prone to make idols. The same nature that existed in the Israelites as they escaped from Egypt and created a golden calf to worship at the base of the mountain (where God was visibly present in the form of a cloud) exists in us.  We are quick to abandon God and replicate the worship of the one true God with a form of worship that is pleasant to us. We are quick to assign deliverance to a false deliverer, exalt what our own hands have created, and make worship an idol. Now we jump to today within the context of the modern day contemporary church. Like in the past, there are many who are worshipping worship.

God created us to worship – but He created us to worship Him.  What does worship look like? It looks like obedience. It is interesting to note the work of the people in crafting an idol to worship in Exodus.  They used everything that God gave them – even the wealth from the Egyptians, to make-up a God that fit their imagination. Just like Israel did in the wilderness, today the professing Christian often labors hard to fashion a god that makes no demands except basic belief.  We create, with the tools and the gifts that God has given us, a representation of something,  in the very presence of God.  So then, just like Israel, we too, are expert idol makers. Moreover, our ‘golden calves’ or ‘sacred cows’ distort other people from seeing and worshipping the one true God as revealed through His son Jesus Christ.

Why does worship have to be obedience? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Therefore, the assessment of true worship is obedience. Take for example the ‘sacred cow’ of modern musical worship.  In a sense, we can become people who worship worship music.  How does this happen?  First it happens when we relegate worship exclusively to a form of music that suits us well (fast, slow, traditional, contemporary, etc).  Second, it happens when we  sing songs to a God that makes demands of us yet we never follow through on what he  desires of us; chiefly, obedience. Instead, we sing what we like louder, and our lives are not affected since our lifestyle is detached from any sort of obedience inherent in the words we sing. Therefore, we worship worship. We have created an idol, and we have made that idol in the very presence of God.

I confess that I used to be a worshipper of worship. At one point in my life I had grown accustomed to one way to worship God in a worship service and had exalted that paradigm as the pinnacle of experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit. This elevated a particular formula or model of worship that became an idol. Soon, worship was not about obedience but it was about songs, sounds, effects, key changes, rhythms, and words that I liked. Worship began to be defined as ‘music’ and it became self -pleasing and self -focused – it became an idol. This slow drift was unnoticeable at first, but later became a stumbling block as I met and sat in church of people from other worship traditions. My idol was now a tool of judgement imposed on others to test whether or not they were really worshipping. I had made an idol of worship and I was forcing others to bow down to it. And, I did all this in the presence of God.

To a degree, all ministries follow a predictable form which helps people worship God. It can be 3 fast songs and 2 slow songs or whatever combination. Yet, when we refuse to change, we show that we are worshipping worship.  We hold on to the form above the function. And, most pastors will never change their order of service or order of musical worship songs. So, we worship worship by making it tame, predictable, and patterned after what we like and detached from a life of obedience.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Examine if You Are Worshipping Worship: 

  1. Is my life oriented in a responsive way to the words that I am singing in a church song? Does my worship look like obedience?
  2. Do I find that church music matters more than its content?  Do I place more emphasis on the sound (aesthetics) over substance (theology)?
  3. Can I worship God in a variety of church traditions with an array of worshipful ‘tools’ (liturgy, hymns, responsive reading, choruses, praise songs, scripture reading, meditative prayer, contemplative prayer, fasting) and moods (rejoicing, celebratory, solemn, contemplative, joyful, triumphant, etc.) and instruments (organ, elec. guitar, drums, sitar, piano, bass, trumpet)?
  4. Do I wrongly judge other people if they listen to other music beside ‘worship’ music? Do I find myself playing worship music all the time in order to keep my spiritual life from flatlining?
  5. Do I choose to use a song simply because it is popular, or is sung by a ‘big’ or ‘exciting’ church? Can I change my order of service and choose to add songs or other ‘tools’ that I do not like so that I may learn to worship with them?

What To Do When Money Is Laid At Your Feet

One of the many tests that the Lord allows leaders in His church to experience is the test of finances. As leaders, we pray and ask the Lord for provision to carry out the work of the ministry.  When the answer comes, it is both a blessing and a test. It is a blessing when the Lord, out of his benevolence, entrusts material riches to accomplish His purposes on the earth. Similarly, it is a test to the leader who might be familiar with the small gifts, but unskilled with the large contributions which fall into their lap as they are taking steps to achieve the great things that God has put into their heart.

On such occasions, we, as ministry leaders, are confronted with the question of what to do when money is laid at our feet.  Thankfully, we find the Apostles considering this same question in the book of Acts at the formation of the early church. From Acts chapter 4:32-4:37 we can note how these godly leaders handled finances and determined what to do with other Christians freely given resources.

  • Trickle-Down Giving Grows the Church (Acts 4:32-34). The definition of trickle-down economic theory states that benefits for the wealthy pass down to the poor therefore improving society as a whole. In the New Testament church, they practiced ‘Trickle-Down Giving’. Those who had more strategically liquidated assets in order to help the least. Therefore, the ‘big gift’ was common in the NT church. Nowadays, many churches claim they want to be like the NT church in all matters; all matters that is unless it relates to managing generous giving. In Acts chapter 4:34 we see that trickle-down giving grows the church because the gifts went to those in need within the body of Christ. (It did not go to buildings, projects, etc. but that is another blog for another day.) 
  • Steward Resources to People First and Projects Second (Acts 4:34-35). Why did the New Testament church community experience rapid growth? There are many factors that play into the answer to that question – such as God’s grace, persecution, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But, I tend to think a main contributing factor to the growth of the early church as unconditional love expressed in uncontainable generosity. The needs of the early church came before missions, building projects, and anything else. People are more important than projects. Surely, those outside the community of faith must have noticed the generosity of the NT church and its commitment to share, give, and provide for those who could not do so for themselves. Yes, projects are important, but ministry resources should be stewarded to people first.
  • Steward Resources to People According to Need (Acts 4:35). A very difficult thing in life is trying to accurately assess and gauge someone’s need against someone else’s need. In situations like this, God gives the Christian leader wisdom. As much as we want to provide everything to all who have need, we simply can’t.  This is because God is limitless but his provision is limited. Why is it limited? So we can learn to trust Him and walk by faith knowing that he will provide for our needs to do what he has called us to do. As leaders we learn to disburse God’s provision to other Christians until it is gone. Then God, out of his limitless nature, supplies more.
  • Generous Giving is Remembered by God (Acts 4:36-37). Great givers are remembered. They are remembered by unsaved people, the community of faith, and God. The end of chapter 4 shows a beautiful example of a giver. Here, the writer of introduces us to Joseph of Cyprus. The apostles gave the name ‘son of encouragement’ or ‘Barnabus’, to this man who sold a field and brought the money and laid it at the apostles feet. To all the ones who exhibit such uncontainable generosity, know that you are remembered. Your gift, just like Barnabus’s gift, is remembered by others on the earth and by God in heaven. As a leader, when money is laid at your feet by a ‘Barnabus’, you remember that person before God and thank them with sincerity for their heart, their generosity, and their timely encouragement to the body of Christ.

The Power of Presentation

Have you ever thought about the power of your presentation?  I am not just talking about how you dress, act, or speak, but instead the volitional act of giving oneself over to the Lord.  Romans 6:12-13a says it this way:

‘Therefore, do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness…’

Here Paul is talking about the power of presentation.  As a believer, we can choose to present our bodies to a defeated master – sin.  Sin is ready and willing to resume its reign in our life.  Worship and spiritual living is a matter of choice.  We can present our bodies to be used of sin (our old master), or to be used of God (our new master).  Romans 6:13b continues, “BUT present yourself to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness”.

Romans 12:1-2 demonstrates the same idea and usage of the verb ‘to present’.  Here, Paul says ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice, alive, holy, and pleasing to the Lord, which is your reasonable service.’   Because sin has been defeated by Christ, we have been set free from its mastery.  We have a choice – we can serve sin or serve the Lord.

The power of presentation is true consecration.  Like Paul, I encourage you to present your bodies to the Lord.  As you present your body to the Lord, you will find yourself being used as an instrument of righteousness rather than unrighteousness; walking with God instead of suffering under the rule of sin, which is an old, defeated master.

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