Monday, July 30, 2007
Worship ... What About it? ...
Worship is all about Him and not about us. When did this ever get so turned around? God made the regulations, who do we think we are for making the changes? Remember the incident when Moses was on the Mountain with God ... what were the Israelites doing? Why they were creating an idol made of gold. They danced all night to music, clanged cymbols, banged drums and made merry. Created their own kind of worship did they not? (And we thought the emergent/seeker sensitives were first ...) Then there is Lev. 10. Nadab and Abihu were struck down for offering "strange fire." Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs in his sermon on "gospel worship" cemented together for us the relationship between the regulative principle and the failure of the two brothers to observe it. (a good read here, too)
Since attending and becoming members of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church my worship on Sunday has become much more meaningful and focused on God. Never knew before but have been learning so much about why we do what we do and whom we do it for. Historically, Presbyterians have held to the "regulative principle of worship." This principle is defined in the Westminster Confession of Faith: "The acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture." WCF 21.1 It is rooted in the 2nd commandment according to the Larger Catechism 108 -- "the receiving, observing and keeping pure and entire, all such religious worship and ordinances as God hath instituted in His Word; particularly prayer and thanksgiving in the name of Christ; the reading, preaching, and hearing of the Word; the administration and receiving of the sacraments; church government and discipline; the ministry and maintenance thereof; religious fasting; swearing by the name of God, and vowing unto Him: as also the disapproving, detesting, opposing, all false worship; and, according to each one's place and calling, removing it, and all monuments of idolatry." We are told to put off "all devising, counseling, commanding, using and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of the, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed." Larger Catechism 109. Therefore when we go against the scriptural pattern, we worship in a way unacceptable to God. The WCF 20.2 also states that worship is to be directed by Scripture alone in order to preserve the liberty of believers' consciences. Our consciences are only safe when they are under the Lordship of Jesus Christ as directed by his Word and Spirit.
Presbyterians claim that God's Word serves to regulate our worship in such a way that our worship is based on what is revealed in Scripture.
Worship is Covenantal in that it means that worship involves a two-way movement between God and his people. Remember -- a covenant is a sovereign administration of grace and promise. in Ex. 6:7; Jer. 30:22; 2 Cor. 6:16-18; 1 Peter 2:9 = God the King, as an example of his undeserved favor, extends certain promises to his people, summed up in the great promise, "I will be your God and you shall be my people." The promises were made unilaterally, they were conditional on people responding by faith. (God set no distinction here, only those of faith.) Worship then becomes a movement back and forth between God and His beloved people, a movement in which God meets us in Word and sacrament (Lord's supper and baptism) and we respond to His presence with prayer and praises. God's covenant with us is renewed every time we set in worship before Him. In the preaching of God's Word, God declares to us His promises: to save those who come to Him through faith in Jesus Christ, to view those united to Christ as right with God and holy in His sight, and to continue the work of transformation into the image of Christ until the final day. We then go out into the world from the presence of God in worship to live our lives, languishing in the grace shown to us by God in Word and sacrament and serving others with our loving words and deeds.
Read Deut. 8:11-18 ... He asks us to constantly remember ...
11 “Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, 15 who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. 17 Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ 18 You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day."
Remember His providential care and His salvation. On this side of the cross God comes to us in Word and sacrament and re-presents, reminds, and recalls to us the story of redemption. His call summons us to worship, reminds us of His effectual calling in our lives, we confess our sin to God and it recalls our sense of conviction and our continuing need for repentance. God speaks a word of assurance, teaches us that our only hope, from the first to the last is to cling to the gospel by faith alone in Christ's finished work alone. In the Word and in the sacrament, the Christ-centeredness and gospel-centeredness of our faith is stressed for us. The preached Word drives us to take hold of Jesus Christ by faith, relying on Him alone for justification and sanctfication. WCF 29.1 states we have a "perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death" as well as "the sealing all benefits therefore unto true believers."
Holiness is not something that qualifies us to worship - holiness is the result of an engagement with the Holy God by the Spirit through the Son. The Trinitarian shape of worship.
What is our responsibility? To be sure and bring your Bible to church even though you did not read it all week? To just put in a face? To just be sure the kids are there? What about those who say, "Well I really don't get anything out of the messages anymore?" Beloved - we need to talk!
My first question is this - when was the last time you were on your knees before God? When was the last time you sought Him in His Word? When was the last time you left church convicted? When was the last time you shared what God taught you in His Word? Do you talk about the preaching on the way home from church, at meal time or are you just hungry and want to eat and go lie down, after all it is Sunday...
Let's take a look at my last statement - Why don't you get anything out of the message?
If worship is about Him and not us what are you doing to prepare yourself to meet your God?
First off prepare yourself the night before the Lord's Day.
Read the Word.
Listen to sermons.
Listen to worship music.
Pray. Pray for your Pastor, your Elders, your Sunday School teachers. Pray for an open heart and mind ready to receive the Lord's message. Rom. 12:2 - it is by renewing our minds that God does His transforming work in our lives.
Get enough sleep.
Get your clothing ready. If you have children bathe them the night before, get breakfast ready, Bibles and Sunday School materials laid out and ready to go.
In the morning again pray. Listen to worship music or sermons on the way to church. Take notes during the sermon with an expectant heart and eager mind. With an open Bible, pen, notepaper - what are you going to miss?
Be a Berean when you get home and during the week -- “that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts ; NKJV). Get out those notes and ponder over them. Ask the Lord "what do you want me learn here?"
Philip Ryken says this about listening to a sermon—"really listening—takes more than our minds. It also requires hearts that are receptive to the influence of God’s Spirit. Something important happens when we hear a good sermon: God speaks to us. Through the inward ministry of his Holy Spirit, he uses his Word to calm our fear, comfort our sorrow, disturb our conscience, expose our sin, proclaim God’s grace, and reassure us in the faith. But these are all affairs of the heart, not just matters of the mind, so listening to a sermon can never be merely an intellectual exercise. We need to receive biblical truth in our hearts, allowing what God says to influence what we love, what we desire, and what we praise."
With a soul that is prepared, a mind that is alert, a Bible that is open, a heart that is receptive, and a life that is ready to spring into action - this is the Christian walk to worship and away from it ....
Sunday worship is all about Him. Give Him the praise, glory and honor due Him.
What I am reading and what we are studying in Sunday School:
Jeremiah Burroughs - Gospel Worship (It is puritan and of course a very long and slow read)
DG Hart - With Reverance and Awe
Joshua Harris - Stop Dating The Church
Sean Lucas - On Being Presbyterian