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Apr 2011

Sunday Rhythm | God Calls His People To Worship | Continuation of Worship

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. – Psalm 100:1-5

One of the things that defines who we are as a community of believers is that we want to be gospel-centered in everything we do. This goes beyond how and what we preach on Sunday mornings, and seeps into even how we choose to order our service on Sunday mornings. The basic rhythm, or order, of our Sunday gatherings is meant to mirror the rhythm of God’s action in our lives. Every Sunday we seek to answer the following questions through the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, and the scriptures we read: Who is God? What has he done for us in Christ? Who are we in light of that? How do we respond? The hope is that when we see who God is and what he has done for us in Christ, we are reminded of who we are, and the grace and mercy available to us in Jesus. In this we celebrate Jesus’ victory over Satan, sin, and death, and the payment for our sin on the cross. We then rejoice as we are sent out to live this reality in our daily lives through the power of His Spirit. Over the next few weeks, we will be taking time to look in depth at the different elements that comprise our Sunday gatherings, and how those help inform the overall rhythm (order) of our service. The first area we will focus on is what some call the “Call to Worship,” but what we have chosen to call our “Continuation of Worship.”

In Music Through the Eyes of Faith, Harold Best expounds upon the “Call to Worship”:

    There can only be one call to worship, and this comes at conversion, when in complete repentance we admit to worshiping falsely, trapped by the inversion and enslaved to false gods before whom we have been dying sacrifices. This call to true worship comes but once, not every Sunday, in spite of the repeated calls to worship that begin most liturgies and orders of worship. These should not be labeled calls to worship but calls to continuation of worship. We do not go to church to worship, but, already at worship, we join our brothers and sisters in continuing those actions that should have been going on – privately, [as families], or even corporately – all week long.

Many churches begin their time together with a “call to worship.” In one sense, we’re telling people to turn from worldly distractions and to focus all their hearts, minds, and actions on declaring, magnifying, and savoring the riches of God in Christ through song, prayer, and the Word. But are we only called to worship on Sunday mornings? Are we only called to worship when we are gathered corporately? Before we go on to understand “The Call,” it may help if we simply define what worship is. Harold Best, in another book of his entitled Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, defines worship as “the continuous outpouring of all that I am, all that I do, and all that I can ever become in light of a chosen or choosing god.” He goes on to say:

    Worship does not start or stop, despite our notions to the contrary. When we begin to put emphasis on specific times, places, and methods, we misunderstand worship’s biblical meaning. Worship may ebb and flow, may take on various appearances and may be unconscious or conscious, intense and ecstatic or quiet and commonplace, but it is continuous. When we sin, worship does not stop. It reverts back to what it once was, self-centered and idolatrous, even if only for an instant. Repentance, the turning from and returning to, is the only solution.

With this in mind, our Sunday morning gatherings then go on to become an obedient response to God’s invitation. The response of God’s redeemed people to His self-revelation that exalts God’s glory in Christ in our minds, affections, and wills, in the power of the Holy Spirit. A Christian’s worship is different from every kind of worship because it has been made possible through Jesus Christ. It is God who does all the work both outside of us and inside of us that enables us to worship Him. We are not the initiators of worship; God is. We may invoke God to bless our worship on Sunday mornings, and to make his presence known. But in a greater sense we cannot invite God to be present in our worship; He never left. We did! Rather it is God who invites us to worship. It is his Word that tells us to “Come, let us worship and bow down” (Psalm 95:6). Coming to God is not an option for Christians but rather our obedient response to God’s gracious invitation.

In his book, Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, author and pastor Bryan Chapell goes on to explain:

    The host of the worship service is divine. We do not invite him to be present. He invites us to “come before him” (Psalm 100:2). God calls us from all other preoccupations to join the people he has redeemed in recognition, praise, and service of his omnipresent glory.

Worship is, after all, all about God. Everything in worship is both God-centered and God-directed. It is not primarily about the lost, the saints, or even my experience. Christian worship will indeed have much to say to the lost, much that will edify the saints, and much that is experientially rich, but it is primarily about Christians corporately and publicly offering sacrifices of praise to God. Our worship is directed to God. Praise is offered to Him, confession is made to Him, prayers are presented to Him, and He addresses His Word to us. All of this has an impact on the lost and edifies the saints, but it is not “my experience” at which worship aims. A fulfilling personal experience becomes a by-product of God-centeredness in worship.

We have to also remember that coming to God in worship is God’s idea, and not ours. In fact, we need to recognize that all of our movement toward God occurs because God acts first. After all, it is God who created us; who made us with the ability to respond to Him as creatures to their Creator; who has revealed Himself to us through the pages of Scripture, through creation, and through his Son, Jesus Christ; who has given us salvation and drawn us into relationship with Himself.

In authentic, God-centered worship, we respond in praise to our God for the glory and greatness that He has revealed to us; we respond in thanksgiving to our God for the saving grace that He has lavished upon us; we respond in wonder and delight to our God for the relationship that He has initiated with us. And even our response to God depends not on our own strength, but on the Holy Spirit working in us. “Are you so foolish?” Paul asks the Galatians believers. “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3). The obvious answer to Paul’s rhetorical question is, of course not! We are saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, and there is no way that we are then going to be perfected through our own effort! As believers, we are in continual need of the Spirit’s help to grow in righteousness and, indeed, to do anything that is truly pleasing to God, including worshipping him.

The call to worship, being God’s call, is not merely an invitation, but an authoritative commandment. The call is a universal call, going out to all people, all the time, and there is no excuse for not heeding the call. The beauty of God’s call to worship is that He calls us, despite our fear and unworthiness. May we give attention to the importance of God’s call to worship Him, and do so with reverence and awe.

imagrs

8 Comments

Evette

May 6 2011 Reply

Shelby,
Thanks for taking the time to educate and teach us more about the worship of God and how to be gospel centered in our worship on Sunday and every day.

In his grace,

Evette

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