Worship and Public Policy (4)
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149.4
Worship as celebration
Why do Christians worship in the first place? What’s the purpose of worship?
In many pagan religions the purpose of worship is to placate the gods – to keep them happy and stay on their good side, lest they mess with, you know, the harvest or procreation or whatever. Worship is thus a work pagans do to earn the favor of their deity.
Christians don’t worship to placate God or earn His favor. We don’t worship to make God happy or bring Him pleasure. God is all-satisfied, all-happy, and all-pleased in Himself alone. We add nothing to Him when we come together to worship.
At the same time, as we worship, God adds Himself to us, bringing us into His presence and joy in ways that transform all we are, think, feel, value, say, and do.
Essentially, Christians worship for three reasons, and Psalm 149 glances on each of these. The first and most obvious reason Christians worship is to celebrate God. God is incomparably great and good. And He has done great and good things for us. When we’re in His presence, and especially when we’re together with other believers in His presence, we can’t help but break out in our songs of joy because of the greatness and goodness of our God.
In worship we celebrate God, declaring His many glorious attributes and virtues, boasting of His great works, and rejoicing in the privilege and pleasure of knowing and participating in Him. Worship is not worship that isn’t characterized throughout by the celebration of God.
Worship as inspection
But worship is also a time of inspection.Remember, God calls His people together for worship – as we symbolize in the “call to worship” that begins our corporate services. As we see in Psalm 50, God “musters His troops” as it were on the Kingdom green. He comes to inspect us thoroughly, to observe our outward practices in worship, of course, but even to look into our hearts, to search out our daily lives, to instruct, admonish, and warn as necessary, depending on what He sees in each one of us.
When troops assemble for inspection, they come dressed in all their best and stand straight and still, at attention, waiting on their turn under the scrutinizing eye of their commander. When God’s people assemble for worship we need to make sure that our hearts are cleansed and pure, that there are no lingering sins or outstanding debts of love which we owe to others. We need to make sure our minds are fixed on things that are above – and that we so value our time with the Lord that we are not allowing our souls to stray to other matters. As we come before the Lord of glory we sing with full hearts and boisterous mouths, praying and praising with urgency, and hearing the Word of God with every determination to obey.
In worship God inspects His people, searching us by His Spirit, to expose and expunge anything in any area of our lives that is not consistent with the salvation He has given us in Jesus Christ (Ps. 139.23, 24).
Worship as preparation
Finally, worship is a time of preparation.In worship we empty ourselves in celebration and stand up to the Lord’s inspection. And as we hear the Word of God and partake of Him in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, God is doing something within us. As our Psalm expresses it, He is beautifying our lives with His salvation. He is “suiting us up” with His great salvation in our times of worship – personal and corporate – so that we can go forth from that formal worship context to continue our worship of God in every facet of our everyday lives. Our salvation, in fact, amounts to an ongoing experience of worship, as the joy of the Lord transforms and equips us for daily living in all areas of life (Rom. 12.1, 2).
As we worship, therefore, we must listen carefully to hear God speaking into our souls and our lives. We should be eager to acquire new insights and ideas, to lay aside wrong affections and embrace new ones, to solidify God-honoring values and choices, and to discern the paths of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit for all our words and deeds.
When we have truly met with the Lord in worship, we will come forth, having been scrutinized by and beautified in Him, better equipped to serve Him with the power of His salvation.
As we live out the transformation we experience in worship, we become living examples of the saving grace and power of the Lord. We show Jesus to the world. We demonstrate grace, patience, kindness, and all the fruit of the Spirit. We evidence to one and all the tokens of love, the virtues of holiness, the warmth of understanding and compassion, and the uncompromised demands of eternal truth. We do not live like flotsam and jetsam on the ever-changing currents of a storm-tossed sea. We ride the Wind of God Who moves the seas, the earth, and everything in them.
And when, having celebrated the Lord and having been examined and transformed by Him in worship, we go forth into the world of work and things and people and responsibilities, we go with a changed countenance and demeanor. We show by our lives the hope of the Gospel (1 Pet. 3.15), a hope which speaks truth into all aspects of life, including the arena of public policy.
1. How does your understanding of worship compare with what was explained in this article?
2. Meditate on Isaiah 28.9-13. What role does corporate worship fulfill in this process?
3. Meditate on Romans 12.1, 2. How can singing and worship help to keep us in the presence of the Lord and His joy throughout the day?
Next steps – Transformation: Celebration, inspection, preparation: Do these ideas define your own practice of worship? In which of these areas do you need to improve your worship of God? Share your thoughts with a Christian friend.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.