Saturday, May 31, 2014

What is Worship?

Colossians 3:11-17: 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Worship is more than a song. It is what we were made for. The ultimate purpose of our lives.The gathered church is God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved – here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, slave or free, Malaysian or African or American, male or female, young or old. These distinctions no longer separate us because Christ is all and is in all. So worship is not about me. Or my individual or cultural preference? It is not what I feel when I am by myself. Worship is all about Jesus. Therefore, we are all united in Him. The walls that divide us are broken down as we stand equal before God. It is our response to what God has done in loving and choosing and rescuing us. It’s about us coming together as a family to encounter Christ and be transformed by the Spirit.

Worship is God-centered. We give to God the adoration, honor, praise and glory that He deserves. Because He is worth it. The first letter in our SIMPLE DNA is “S: Seek and celebrate God”. Worship is the quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God, the feeding of the mind by the truth of God, the purging of the imagination by the beauty of God, the opening of the heart to the love of God, and the devotion of the will to the purpose of God. In worship we encounter God and all that He is – His truth, love, beauty and holiness. And we are changed by Him – all that we are, mind, will, heart and imagination (theology and doxology, mind and heart, in spirit and in truth). It is powerful means of teaching, modeling worship and spiritual formation. Happy songs and lamentations…

 Worship is corporate or communal. It is not a solo performance.  It’s personal but it’s not private. We worship as a family. When we worship, we assemble as a people belonging to Him. We are not just individuals who just happen to be in the same place at the same time. It is more important that we are in harmony than for our music instruments to be playing in the same key. It’s far more acceptable to have an instrument playing off beat than our hearts spiritually out of tune with one another. That’s why Paul stresses “forgiveness”, “love”, “peace” and “unity”: words that can have meaning only when we relate with other people.  He also calls us to a life of “singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in our hearts to God.” For God deserves the best music we can offer Him.

Our SIMPLE DNA: “By glorifying Him in creative, contemplative, heartfelt and celebratory worship, joining the global church through the ages”. That means when we worship, we do so in unity, in solidarity with true worshippers from different cultures, denominations, nations, languages across space and time. The global church is much bigger than we think. And we want to honor that inclusive diversity. Singing is an act of unity. Creeds, hymns connect us to the past. Bahasa songs connect us with our context in space and culture. A church without history is like a person without memory. Not only that, we need to be shaped by the story of God’s people in redemptive history when we celebrate the Holy Communion and enact the gospel.

Worship is gospel-driven

Worship is often understood narrowly as just the “singing before the sermon.” But again, the Scripture says worship is much broader: whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to the Father. All of life is to be an act of worship and thanksgiving. Worship also includes our prayers, our responsive Scripture readings, our silent reflections, our confession of sin/guilt, our tithing, our listening to the Word preached, the Holy Communion. Every element of a worship gathering is a tool in the hand of God to shape and mold us in His own image. 

How can it be meaningful so that even a guest will get to understand and experience the good news week in, week out? Our worship tells a story. We want to tell the gospel by the way we worship. It’s the simple yet profound story of creation/fall/redemption and restoration. When we practice this pattern of adoration, repentance, assurance of forgiveness and dedicating ourselves to God’s purpose, the gospel becomes a habit and guides us so that we do not just drift along with the leaders’ preference, or denominational tradition or what’s appealing to the surrounding culture. And we can see an inside-out movement in worship where having been gathered inside to encounter God and renewed, we are again sent outside to be salt and light in the world. The goal of evangelism is not just to save souls from sin (that’s true, of course). But the ultimate goal is so that people can enjoy and glorify God in fellowship with Him forever.

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