The bible scholar Christopher Wright wrote, … the goal of all human life is to love, worship, glorify and enjoy God. That is where our own deepest fulfilment and flourishing lie. (The Mission of God’s People) Allow that to sink in! The goal of all life is to worship God! The great commandment states, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5) Worship is an expression of our love! To love with heart, soul and strength is to triangulate love with a laser focus on God alone. As we express our love to God we become a worshipping community. To worship is to stand on holy ground. Perhaps we miss the point if we think on Sunday we are merely going to church, rather than being aware we are entering the presence of God who loves us. Jesus promised to be with us as we gather saying, “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matt 18:20) Jesus is in our midst, but perhaps we have become complacent about the nature of gathering for worship and we take God’s presence for granted.
When we ask what sort of worship God wants we find God has anticipated our question and answered this in the bible. We can learn about worship by looking at:
1) God’s call to the people of Israel. God sent Moses to tell the Pharaoh to let the people go free so they could freely worship God. The theologian Edmund Clowney points out that the first four of the Ten Commandments give instruction on worship. They a) direct who we worship, God alone; b) regulate how to worship: according to God's commands; c) prescribe when to worship: on the Sabbath; and d) in later scripture, God gave his people the content for their worship through the law, the prophets and the psalms.
2) the teaching and example of Jesus, who on one occasion taught the Samaritan woman God is Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23–24).
3) the early church who were devoted to the teaching of God’s word, to fellowship, and prayer. Acts 2.42
As we study worship in the bible we can identify the godly ingredients of worship. You find these in services of worship all around the world and throughout history. Gathering in homes, outdoors, and cathedrals meeting as God’s family. There is a Call to Worship, an invitation, to focus on God. Prayers of various kinds offered to God. An Offering giving to God from our lives and resources. Reading the word of God, listening attentively to the scriptures. Preaching a faithful explanation, exhortation and encouragement so we can understand God’s word. Singing of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sacraments in the celebrations of the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Sending as Jesus sent his disciples, we are sent with a blessing. These elements are wrapped together, expressed in the unity of our fellowship, so that we may worship God with one heart and one voice. Such elements of worship might strike you as odd or counter cultural – they are meant to! When a stranger comes to church for the first time it should strike them as different, as awesome, as focused on Christ alone. While they should feel the warmth of our welcome and love, more than this they should sense the presence of God in a way that cannot be experienced outside of the church.
Worship is a human response to the gracious presence of God who is worthy of all praise. The richer our gathered worship, the stronger our fellowship becomes, the more real our unity, the more effective our mission, the more authentic our love, and the more Christ-like we become. Our gathered worship creates community which is spiritually joined with all who gather around the world, throughout time and with the worship of heaven, all focused on giving glory to God. Through our gathered worship we say to the world around us, come, taste and see that the Lord is good, come, bow down before him and rejoice in him. So doing, God uses us to create a worshiping community in this time and place.
- Read Isaiah 29.13. Why is it important for us to pause and consider how we worship God?
- If God does not need our worship, why do you think he has created us with the ability to worship him?
- Read Romans 12.1 What do you think of Christopher Wright’s view, … the goal of all human life is to love, worship, glorify and enjoy God? If not already known by someone in your group, google the first question in shorter catechism which asks about the chief end of humanity – how did the reformers answer this question? Why do you think they gave this answer?
- Read Deut 6:5. What is the place of “love” in worship?
- Read Matt 18:20 & James 4.8 What do these verses tell us about the presence of God, and why is this important to the church?
- Read Exodus 20.1-11 What do we learn about worship from these verses?
- Read John 4:23–24 What do you think Jesus meant when he spoke of spirit and truth, and why are these concepts important?
- Read Acts 2.42-47 How do these verses help us understand the elements of worship found in the worship of the early church?
- How can our understanding of these things help us to create a worshipping community?
Rev John Malcolm