Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Centrality of Worship

The Purpose of Your Life
You were made to worship. This is unavoidable. God has created you and he calls every person to worship him. Psalm 96:9 says, “Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” At any particular point in your life you are either obeying this commandment or you are disobeying and worshipping something else. If that is true, then understanding who or what you worship is the most important and practical thing in your life.

Since worshiping God is that important it would make sense for us to ask, what is it? Worship is the act of glorifying God in giving honor, adoration, thanks, praise, and service to him. Since God is our Creator and he has given us every good thing we have or experience, it is clear why we should worship him at all times, above all else.

This call to worship encompasses every aspect of our lives and we are to worship and glorify God in all that we do (1 Corinthians 10:31). In other words, our goal in everything – whether we are eating or drinking, at work or at play – is that God must be first in our hearts. This is what we will call informal worship. It is just your personal daily experience of using all God’s gifts as a stepping-stone to draw closer to him.

While God clearly calls us to worship him at all times and in all places, he also calls us to set aside a special time to put off everything just for worshipping him. This is what we will call formal, or corporate worship.

Formal worship is a gathering of God’s covenant people to hear from and receive grace from him, and for his people to offer themselves as living sacrifices in service to him. This is the main purpose of the church. In all other ministries of the church, even something as important as evangelism, drawing people to worship God is the goal. The worship of God, both formally and informally will still be the eternal purpose of the life to come in the new heavens and the new earth. (Revelation 7:15)

This is why meeting weekly on the Lord’s Day for worship is so vital to the life of a Christian. We see that worshipping and glorifying God is the very purpose of your life, and formal worship is where you encounter God in a special way. It is then the training ground to learn how to glorify God in everyday life in informal worship. Corporate worship is where God gathers his people to feed them spiritual food in word and sacrament. It is a place to be replenished, fed and energized to fight the spiritual battles of the coming week. Formal worship should be seen as a summons to meet with and even feast with the Lord Jesus, the King of Kings, the Lord of the Universe. When put that way, we begin to see that Sunday should be the most important day of the week.

Who is Worthy to Meet the King?
This is great news. God is the king of the universe, and I am talking about having a close, intimate relationship with this King of Kings - for that is what worship really is, it is a description of the way we are to relate to God. The question should be asked then, can anybody worship God? The question becomes more pointed when we factor in the fact that not only is God the King and we his subjects, but that we are guilty of high treason and the murder of the King’s Son.

While we were made for God, to worship and love him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, we have all gone astray. We have all replaced God with idols. You're most likely too enlightened to actually bow down to a literal statue idol, but idolatry is living for anything besides God. It is offering the worship due only to God, to something else. Many things can be an idol: sex, drugs, money, career; even things such as being a moral person, or being a good parent can become idols. Idolatry is saying to the King, "I want to take your authority and be my own king of my own world." So this compounds the problem, because God has issued a sentence to banish idolaters from his kingdom forever.

Let’s ask again, since the Bible puts everybody in the category of idolater (Romans 3:11-12), who is worthy then to worship God and so find true satisfaction and purpose in life? We see the answer in Revelation 7:9-17 where we get a picture of worship in heaven. In that passage we get a glimpse of an innumerable multitude worshipping around the throne of God. In verse 13 the question is asked, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” The answer, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple.” (Revelation 7:14-15) The blood of Jesus is the only thing that can atone for and take away hostility that God has toward treasonous idolaters. This is the answer then - only those who trust Jesus can be friends with and worship the King. They have been washed in Jesus’ blood therefore they worship him.

For the person that isn’t yet a Christian this answer is vital to understanding how to fulfill the purpose of your life. The first step is to be reconciled to God through the death of Jesus. The Christian, too, always needs to be reminded of the blood of the perfect lamb of God. The ability to have free access to God is something that many Christians take for granted and the death of Jesus is something that we tend to downplay as we go about our Christian life. Let me remind you, Christian, that the only reason you can have access to God on a daily basis, and why God is present in your corporate worship, is still and always will be because of the blood of the perfect lamb of God.

The Solution to Your Problems
So I ask, do you have problems in your life? When you do have problems, where do you go for your solution? When we aren’t happy or something is wrong in life we think to ourselves, “if only…” How do you fill in the blank? What are your common "if onlys"? Where do you go for comfort in times of distress?

In Psalm 27 King David expresses some of his problems and distresses. He says in verse 2 that, “evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh”; in verse 3 he says that "war has arisen against him". This isn’t creative writing or a figure of speech, people were literally waging war against David and were trying to kill him. Few people in America face trials like David is describing here, and fewer still understand the true solution to our problems like David did. So what is David’s solution? What is David’s “if only” in this time of distress? This is what verse 4 says:

“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”

David knew that everything would be alright “if only” he could dwell with God and worship him. Worship was the solution; communion with God was the solution. Unfortunately, when problems arise in our life our first tendency is often to blame or question God, not to desire more of him or to want to worship Him. We should learn from David and instead of making God our last resort, we must trust and long to worship him at all times.

Job, too, when faced with the destruction of his property and the death of his children knew that even then he must still worship God. “Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’” (Job 1:20-21)

Really then, worship must be central to your life because God must be central. In good times or in bad times, draw near to God through faith in Jesus and worship him. Worship is your purpose because God is your purpose. Worship is the solution to life’s dilemmas because God is the solution to life’s dilemmas. So I say with the Psalmist, “Come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.” (Psalm 95:6-7)