A Recipe for Worship
When I was in seminary, I had Wayne Grudem for a Systematic Theology class on “God, Man, and Christ”. Our texts for the course were photocopies of the pertinent chapters on the issues being discussed from the Systematic Theology book (Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine) he was writing at the time. Having a copy of the book now, I often think back to specific classes and discussions when I consult different chapters.
The most memorable part of the class, for me, was not wealth of great information Dr. Grudem presented; it was the humble and God-centered/Christ-centered way he presented it. More than once Dr. Grudem stopped us in the middle of discussion and encouraged us to pray out prayers of adoration and worship to the God we were discussing. We began and finished each class by exalting God in song.
More than a theology class, the three hour, weekly course was a time of worship. Dr. Grudem refused to let the study of God become mere information. A deepening knowledge of God HAD to result in praise, adoration, worship or it was wasted time. It was a wonderful reminder that knowing God – or more precisely knowing about God – is not enough. Knowledge of God must lead us to worship. It must lead us to deeper faith, greater love, purer adoration.
We are in the middle of a series of messages on worship at AIC. (I encourage you to listen to the first two if you haven’t already. Links to the podcasts are available at http://www.ammanchurch.org/) Worship is defined in so many ways – many of which are not helpful. Jeff Townsend suggested a great definition of worship this past Saturday. He said: “Worship is the heart response to the supreme worth of God, expressed in all we say, think or do.”
That definition may seem too broad to some. There has been a tendency to define “worship” as singing or the singing portion of a church service. Certainly music and song can be worship. But the New Testament specifically and the Bible as a whole seem to have something bigger in mind. Worship is our whole-life response to God. He is our creator and sustainer. He is our Lord and redeemer. He is our rock and our fortress.
Paul wrote in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Some translations say “reasonable worship” instead of “spiritual worship”. Paul’s point is that in light of all God has done for us in showing mercy through the cross, the only reasonable, spiritual thing we could possibly do is offer ourselves back to him. All we are and all we will become…everything…should be offered to him. Our heart response should be to offer our lives to him who gave his life for us.
A.P. Gibbs in his book, Worship, suggests four ingredients that should go into our worship. The first is remembrance. We need to remember who God is, who we were by nature, and who we are now by God’s matchless grace (Ephesians 2:11, 13). Reflecting on God’s greatness and on his redemptive work in our lives will help us stay in a spirit of worship.
The second ingredient is gratitude. As we remember all that God is and all he has done, our hearts should respond. We ought to be thankful for this loving God who has done for us what we could never do for ourselves. Socrates said that gratitude was the greatest of all virtues and ingratitude was the worst of all vices. Having thankful hearts will help us to have worshipful hearts.
The third ingredient is reverence. As we gaze upon our Lord over and over, our soul begins to understand – even just a bit – how majestic, how great his divine character really is. We live in a cynical, flippant age. God is our friend, a buddy. And while he is Immanuel and he is always close and may even consider us friends, we cannot escape the fact that he alone is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable…he alone is God. We need to come to his Word daily and ponder his majesty. “Familiarity with God can never produce contempt, for those who know Him best, love and fear Him most.”
The fourth ingredient is amazement. “He who ceases to wonder, ceases to worship.” As we think of the wonder of God’s person, his creation, his son, his love, his salvation, his grace…how can we help but be filled with wonder!
How is your life worship these days? Do you need to add any of these ingredients? Let’s open our eyes to God who is all around us and invite him to teach us to see and respond to his greatness in all we say, think, and do.