The Risk of Worship

God is changing the lives of people in universities, the marketplace and in churches and He’s doing it through worship. He is answering a desire to know His presence and be connected, with Him and with one another. This is a blessing and gift to each of us.

But there is a risk for us in this gift from the Lord – this wonderful gift of worship, relational connectedness and the internal presence that comes with the Spirit. Worship exclusively expressed in praise songs can become like the manna given to the Israelites who were given specific instructions and could gather just enough for each day. When they focused upon their own agenda and forgot God’s provision and instructions, the manna rotted and developed a terribly foul smell. What began as a gift became misused and finally worthless. What a gift we have to be able to worship, and to worship with abandon.

In Ezekiel 33 the Lord speaks to the prophet, saying,

“As for you, son of man, your countrymen are talking together about you by the walls and at the doors of the houses, saying to each other, ‘Come and hear the message that has come from the Lord.’ My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they express devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words, but do not put them into practice.” (Ezekiel 33:30-32)

When we worship the God of heaven, we come into His presence, yet He has boundaries. He defines Himself. His response to Moses when Moses wanted to know His name was simple, yet it was certain and precise: “I am.”

God frees the Israelites from slavery and forms a nation around Himself as the centerpiece. He institutes the tent of meeting, the Ark of the Covenant, worship and sacrifice. He creates boundaries. But both records of God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses also record God lamenting, “Oh, I wish they would fear me, because if they feared me, they’d obey the commands.” (Deuteronomy 5:29) With the gift of worship comes the responsibility of obedience. We, too, risk becoming too familiar with God, forgetting boundaries, and flippantly singing our beautiful songs without acting, without humbly submitting, without allowing God to change our hearts and answer our deepest of needs.

Real worship will involve integration, a process of aligning our lives more and more with the character of God. Otherwise, worship without this kind of integration will eventually be bankrupt. Our worship of God will be hollow and meaningless if we are not at the same time conforming ourselves to Him, be it intellectually and emotionally or simply in relationship to Him. This, too, this integration, is an act of worship. As we truly worship God, He will integrate our lives more into his character and we will be people of love for we experience His love. We will live shalom, in harmony with God’s design for us.

Though we are relational and enthusiastic about worship, these in and of ourselves are not true worship and I fear we can use outward worship and activity to be “in the closet” about where our convictions truly lie. I fear that in the Christian community there are a lot of closet relativists, people who say with their lips, “There is one God, one Lord for everyone” but deep inside hold the conviction that, “that just isn’t the case. To say that truth is true for everyone feels terribly arrogant and not something I want to be a part of.” We’ve breathed in from our culture this internal sense of doubt that anything is absolutely true for anyone. There is a temptation to worship alongside other brothers and sisters with passion, only to lay low and drop our convictions about Jesus when away from the haven of Christian fellowship. This is a danger. This prevents us from true worship of God and hinders any kind of effective and bold witness, preventing us from taking God’s mission for the world seriously.

So we must become like David, calling all nations to worship:

“The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all. Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, O my soul.” (Psalm 103:19-22)

This call is absolutely necessary for the good of the nations. As we champion this call to worship the God of Israel, our lives must reflect the reality of such worship. We must conform to God’s holiness, His will, and His character. So let us worship with abandon, certainly in spirit, but also in truth.


~ by carlomer on September 2, 2010.

One Response to “The Risk of Worship”

  1. Insightful write up Doc… keep on sharing 🙂

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