December 8, 2011

Spiritual Worship

There's a great article (cover) in the latest edition of Christianity Today, The Good God Who Came Down. The basic point is that morality and religion could never bring us what Christ brought - salvation. As I read Michael Horton's thoughts and arguments, it brought another issue to mind that I believe greatly parallels and is incredibly prevalent in the Western Church. I believe much of what Christian culture describes as "worship" today - the corporate gathering of God's people - a "church" - to lift praise and adoration to Him in song - can be (and often is) merely a faint glimpse of what it could and should be. Much like we've been told we can only access a fraction of our brain's power, it seems that we're only tapping into a portion of the Spirit-filled worship that we're intended to experience. Allow me to explain.

In Romans 12:1-2, the Apostle Paul says,
"...present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."

In most churches across America on any given weekend, worship is much about the feelings we're overcome by as we sing praise to God. We feel elation, comfort, release, empowerment, conviction - a chasm of different emotions. And these emotions are not bad. In fact, they are often evidence that God is moving in our midst and in our hearts. But here's the thing: It can't stop there! If you re-read Paul's words, notice that he doesn't say anything about feeling, or experiencing, or even singing. But he DOES mention our "spiritual worship". And he exhorts us to do things like "present" and "test", and says that much of the transformation God desires to bring in our lives comes through the "renewal of your mind". All of this leads me to a conclusion: We are entering into worship much more focused and concerned with the emotion we feel than we are with the actions we're called to take beforehand. I've heard a lot of people say things like, "Let's not get bogged down in theology. We all love Jesus! Let's just find that common ground." That's fine and all, except that it's spiritual laziness! I understand where they're coming from. We can't let nonessential matters of theology divide the Body of Christ. Agreed! But if you and I claim to be worshiping the God of the Universe while simultaneously doing nothing to seek to know Him more and understand His Word, we aren't really participating in "spiritual worship". We're merely looking for something to stir our emotions.

How much of our worship includes "testing" and "discerning what is the will of God"? 
Have we really presented our bodies - which includes our eyes, our minds, our thoughts - to God as a "living sacrifice"? 

Much of the argument from science and academia against Christianity has been rooted in the premise that it's irrational and emotional - that it doesn't embrace logic and practical facts. While this argument or idea holds no water (because TRUE Christian faith, the Word of God, and much of evangelical theology is rooted in deep, weighted truths), many secularists have managed to patch some of the holes in their boat with the mindless faith of many who call themselves Christians. We aren't all called to be C.S. Lewis or A.W. Tozer - or to wear a corduroy blazer with patches on the sleeves and begin going by our initials - but we ARE called to engage our mind in our faith. Paul prayed for the Colossians (2:2-3) that "their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of the full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Does it sound like Paul was hoping and praying that their Sunday gathering would be powerful? Or that their pursuit of God would be relentless? That they might discover the deep mysterious treasure that can only be found in knowing Christ? I think it's evident. (When this happens, you can guarantee that what happens on Sundays will be powerful!)

Where am I going with all this? Simple: Don't check your brain at the door. Don't underestimate what God desires to do IN and THROUGH your life if you search the depths of His Word to know Him. Don't forsake that our calling to worship has much more to do with how we've lived our lives and presented them back to Him the other six days of the week than it does whether we sing loud and lift our hands on Sunday.

Be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of your mind!

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