Wednesday, August 21, 2019
WORSHIP THAT PLEASES GOD
The confession of Marty Sampson, the Hillsong worship leader, that he is disillusioned with Christianity and considering renouncing his faith, should be a wake-up call to the charismatic church. What has happened to worship? At least in some sectors, the quality of worship is gauged by the expertise of the musicians, and a necessary qualification for a worship leader is being a talented musician with a good singing voice.
Now, I have nothing judgmental to say to Marty himself. I believe our response should be that of Jesus to Simon Peter just before Peter’s public denial of Him. Jesus said to him, Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail . . ..
I pray that Marty Sampson’s faith will not fail, but I also want to look critically at the concept of worship in today's charismatic church.
Who is it For?
I was alerted some years ago that there was a problem as I sat in a meeting and noted a troubling in my spirit during the praise and worship. Outwardly, everything seemed great. The musicians and singers were superb. The congregation was enthusiastic, and some danced in the aisles while others waved banners.
As I prayerfully pondered the troubling in my spirit, the question was posed to my mind, Who is this for? As I looked around, the answer became clear. This was for them. They were having fun. They were reveling in their own excellence and feeling good about their expertise in “worship.” They were more enamored with their act of worship than with the object of worship.
This experience reminded me of God’s rebuke to Israel for their self-centered worship. Through the prophet Zechariah, God said,
During those seventy years of exile when you fasted and mourned, was it really for Me? And even now in your holy festivals, you don’t think about Me but only of pleasing yourselves (Zech. 7:5-6, NLT).
True Worship Encompasses All of Life
The English word “worship” comes from the old Saxon word weorthscipe meaning “worthship” and referred to any activity utilized to recognize or describe the “worth” of a person or thing to which homage was being paid. Worship is thus synonymous with the whole of a reverent and devoted life.
Most Christians have segmented their lives into the sacred and the secular. When we go to church and lift our hands and sing, that is sacred. But when we are sitting around the dinner table or when we are working at our job, that is secular. This dichotomized approach to life has hindered us from becoming true worshippers of God.
To the contrary, we must see all of life as sacred, lived for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom. As 1 Cor. 10:31 says, Therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Listening to God's word can be an act of worship, or even hoeing one's garden.
Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden one hot afternoon when a friend passing by stopped and posed a question. “Francis,” he asked, “What would you do if you knew that at sunset you would be standing in the presence of Jesus Christ?” Francis replied, “I would finish hoeing my garden.”
Francis’ answer revealed that, for him, every act was a sacred act done for the glory of God. Even the hoeing of his garden was an act of worship. We must get beyond the idea that worship is something we do for a half hour on Sunday morning.
One mistake we have made as Spirit-filled believers is equating music and singing with worship. Did you know that some of the great revivals in history did not have “worship teams” and “praise bands?” Frank Bartleman, a participant in the Azusa Street Revival, wrote,
In the beginning in Azusa, we had no musical instruments. In fact, we felt no need for them. There was no place for them in our worship--all was spontaneous.”
Don’t get me wrong! I am a musician and I love good music. Anointed music can be a wonderful means through which we express our hearts in worship to God. True worship, however, is a lifestyle and encompasses all of life.
It’s About Jesus
Several years ago, Matt Redman wrote a song entitled, “I’m Coming Back to the Heart of Worship.” For Redman, the heart of worship was Jesus Himself, expressed in the repeated phrase, It’s all about you Jesus.
The third line of the song says, I’m sorry for the thing I’ve made it. What have we made it? We have made it a performance. We have made it a show. We have made it a religious exercise limited to restricted time frame on Sunday morning or some other designated time.
We have shifted the emphasis from the condition of the heart of the worshipper to the expertise of the musicians, singers and dancers. My heart trembles when I think of it, but I am afraid that what we call “worship” is more about us than it is about Him.
Here’s What Impresses God
In Exodus 20:24-25, God instructed Moses that when the children of Israel made an altar on which to offer their sacrifices to Him, it was to be a very, plain altar of earth.
If they built an altar of stone, they were not to cut or hew the stones but to merely pile the stones, for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. The altars--the means of their worship--were to be plain and simple. Why?
God was giving guidelines to protect Israel from the human tendency to become enamored with that which is outward and sensory. The means of worship must never eclipse or obscure the object of worship. This does not mean that God puts any premium on ignorance or crudeness in worship. It does mean that He looks on the heart and is not impressed with our pomp and circumstance.
What impresses God? Isaiah 66:2 says, This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Many churches today would do well to dispense, at least for a time, with their elaborate means of worship and emphasize, instead, the inward condition of the heart in worship.
Simplify the means of worship and emphasize how all of life should be lived as an act of worship. Focus the attention, not on our act of worship, but on the majestic splendor of the Object of our worship. The fire of God will fall. His Presence and Glory will come. After all, worship is not about us, but about Him.
He is the only ground for our faith and the only One worthy of our worship!
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, revivalist and Bible teacher. His latest book, Complete in Christ, is a devotional commentary on Paul's letter to the Colossians and is available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.