Saturday, January 16, 2010

Worship (updated)

There are many ways to serve the Risen Christ in this world. We can witness and give and help and all sorts of manifestations of His love and care. Preachers preach, ushers serve, singers sing, teachers teach, men help with parking, and a host of other things that are dedicated to serving Christ. But even in service our souls long to meet their Maker and connect with Him Who has given them life eternal. This life we have is not just some sterile gift meant to elongate our existence. This gift is Christ, and it is Him Who we worship.
In this age of self the gift and gifts have replaced the Giver. We spend so much time with our gifts and an embarrassing little with He Who has given us everything. Worship takes its place on the order of service pamphlet and sure enough it comes and goes with the same predictability as it did last week. The constraints of time and order choke any hint of the Spirit’s control, and many of the pew dwellers let their eyes dart around the room as they sing the songs projected on the screen or written in some song book. This, my friends, is not worship.
There are songs of praise that are filled with vocal presents rising up to showcase the Savior framed by lofty words that attempt to capture His Person and fill the air with His glory. There are songs that speak words of gratefulness for all the God has done for us and for all creation. There are songs of celebration that release exceptional expressions of joy and effervescence because of Who He is and what He has accomplished on our behalf. All these and more are a part of a gathering of believers as they meet with their Redeemer and seek to please Him.
But then there is worship. A believer cannot get up on Sunday morning and spend the time getting his body ready to go to the gathering and expect to worship God. If you enter the building unprepared you will miss out on many things God would have for you including a deep and profound worship experience. And if you portend to worship without an experience, you have not met the Risen Christ. We do not need less experience – we need more experiences with Christ Jesus. And by the infinite grace of Almighty God He has allowed us to worship Him even though we were once His enemies and our rebellion demanded the death of His Son.
We do not worship 24 hours a day. Our lives are cluttered with all sorts of activities. Some are germane to normal life; some are germane to self indulgence; and some that are germane to directly serving Christ. But true worship is different. Worship calls the spirit away from those things. It prepares the heart to meet its lover, its redeemer, its Creator Lord. It leaves the good of the kitchen and sits or kneels at His feet.
Worship opens the windows of the soul to experience the fragrance of God’s presence. It presents the worshiper as a branch, willingly bending in the wind of the Spirit to both experience His glory and to be changed by it as well.
Time goes without notice and worries disappear. The inward divine presence of Christ soars, and the One before Whom you worship burns within you as well. There will be time to witness and time to serve, but at that moment you are transfigured within and becoming transfigured without.
As Paul says, you come to present your bodies a living sacrifice and your spirits as purchased worshipers. There is no greater zenith for a redeemed sinner than to bow before Him with faith, hope, love, and worship. It is a glimpse of heaven, and in that moment we are in concert with the spirits of just men who are worshiping Him in heaven that very moment. Do not think that worship, true worship with the whole heart, can have any competition. The things of this world, both good and bad, must give way to undivided worship that sees nothing but Him in all His glory and wonder.
There will be time to serve Him, but when you come to worship, you must come with nothing in your hands. You must hear and obey the call to come before Him, which in some ways is a trial run for an event that can never fully enter the human mind until that day appears.
But until that day comes, we can and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth. I cannot imagine the natural strength it takes for people to get up Sunday after Sunday and sit in a meeting without personally meeting and worshiping the Risen Christ. And yet here they come, expecting the same as last week and seeing their expectations fulfilled. Does the Spirit never desire to break open the alabaster box of God’s presence and perfume the entire room with the presence of Christ? Is the Spirit content with the process of duplication that changes no one and actually never changes even the service order or length?

We have become quite content to meet each other and imitate some form of worship.
However if we ever allow the Holy Spirit to manifest Christ in our presence, the demonstration of worship may just authenticate the reason we profess to be there.
When we encounter the Risen Christ in worship, what drives us to tears? Or to kneel? Or to wonder? It is His recognized presence. It is not enough to be in the presence of Christ, all men live in the midst of His omnipresence. But we as believing followers must seek to see Him and His face (or presence). Is it possible that men can rise Sunday morning, spend most of their time preparing their bodies, drive to a building, meet with other professing believers, drive home and change clothes, and claim they have just met with the Lord of Lords but have no discernable alteration in their beings? Is that possible?
As much as we attempt to define worship we can only go so far. The act of worship is a sacred mystery, but true worship has an effect of those that worship. Emotion is residual, but always residual when worship is taking place. The Beloved Apostle had rested upon the chest of Jesus, but when he encountered the Risen Christ he fell at His feet as though dead. Who John saw had to change him; what John saw overwhelmed him as it would any mortal. This act we call worship has been so maligned, so redefined, and so diluted that many times a church service appears no different than a meeting of an Irish American club where fellowshipping and singing are the hall marks.
See people, supposedly worshiping Christ, looking around the building or following the song leader like a sing along with Mitch gathering. And in our doctrinal statements we say that Christ actually lives inside the believers in that gathering, and added to that He is meeting in a mysterious yet powerful way with all of them. And we say we ourselves are actually meeting and encountering the Creator King and Redeemer of our Souls and yet we show more emotion at a football game, or at a birthday party, or even while watching a sad movie. I can never believe that.
So I am left with only two general options. I must believe that worship is so unremarkable both in practice and in effect that the redundant ritual that takes place on Sunday mornings is actually what God had in mind when He allowed us to worship Him on this earth. Or I must conclude that because of time restraints, the need for organization and control, and a palatable fear of the Holy Spirit, the church has slowly but surely navigated the act of worship into an ecclesiastical compartment so confined and so powerless and with so little awe and mystery, that the gathering comes together with infinitely more ritual than spiritual worship.
When I became a Christian in 1975 I would climb Garret Mountain many nights and sit before my Savior. Sometimes I would shout, sometimes I would sing, and many times I would cry. There was no praise music and it was just me and Jesus. There have been times where I have gone to and even preached in church services where I came out the same and had not experienced anything during the “allotted” time. In those times I did not meet the Resurrected Lord. But there have been many times where I was broken or revived or brought to tears and repentance and a litany of other effects that were made manifest in me. I submit to you, brothers, that I have no inside information on worship, but one thing I do know, when a saved sinner worships God something happens, sometimes something great and sometimes something small, but something always happens.
The fear of excess and the fear of false doctrine are legitimate concerns, but so many times that fear imprisons us and keeps us from deep and penetrating worship of our Lord. We must not seek emotion and experience, but if we are truly seeking Jesus, both of those will be present.
I say again,
We do not need less experience…we need more.

No comments: