What an exciting word we heard yesterday, as Hung walked us through the Biblical foundation for the Call the Worship and its significance in refocusing our hearts and minds on GOD as the center AND the initiator of our worship. In this week’s blog, I want to turn our attention towards how the Call to Worship and the practice of this rhythm fits into our daily lives as well as the outward forms of praise that accompany our response to it. In order to do this, I think a quick recap of where we’ve been thus far in our series would serve us well…
On week one, we began with one of the foundational truths of our confession: that worship is indeed the chief end of man on this earth. If it is then an inherent part of our very nature to worship, we come to the conclusion that it is not if we worship, but what we offer this ultimate worth to in our lives. This is a daily battle for us all, as in our fallen state we can so easily make anything other than God our #ultimate. But thanks be to God who delivers us from these bodies of death! (Romans 7).
Through Jesus Christ and His work on the cross, we can live on the other side of the grave, as new creations, daily offering our bodies as living sacrifices to our God (Romans 12). THIS is our worship. And how do we do this? By not being conformed to this world through the renewing of our minds.
In the everyday.
Here, we see the truth that fuels the importance of recognizing and responding to God’s call to worship on a daily basis. The Greek behind that word renewal in Romans 12:2 carries with it the idea of making something fresh or new, accomplished only by God’s power. My mind immediately connects the gospel narrative here. In order to live a life of worship, we must be daily renewing our minds in the good news of the gospel, much like what we do on Sunday mornings in our worship gatherings. And as Hung spoke on Sunday, that story begins with GOD. GOD initiating. US responding. From creation to the fall, from redemption to send – this is the rhythm of the gospel. And each part of that story elicits a response (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and consecration).
One of my favorite descriptions of worship comes from the Danish Philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. He describes it as this constant dialogue between us and God; our lives living out, in a sense, acting out the drama of worship before an audience of One each day. This is where beginning with passages that call us to the worship of our God are so important for this process of renewal. We are called to turn our hearts and minds away from this world and its distractions and back to who God is and what He has done. To be still and know that HE is God; it is He that made us and not we ourselves (Psalm 100). We are called to return to this perspective of living out our lives in constant response to God. And unless we begin here, by seeing Him high and lifted up (and responding in adoration), we will not come to the place of truly seeing ourselves in light of who He is. For when we truly see Him, we truly see our poverty of spirit and our great need for a Savior. Like Isaiah, we are undone before the King (Isaiah 6), and we move forward in responding to the story of the gospel, step by step. But to get there, we must start at the beginning. And as we daily push that ‘reset’ button (and let’s be real, most days we need to on an hourly basis…), we are truly seeking to walk in line with the spirit – to live ad coram Deo, before the face of God. I want to urge us to begin thinking of worship in this way: as our chief end – the goal we are striving for, as the rhythm which we orient our lives around, as the way in which we walk. If we do so, we cannot help but train ourselves to be hungry and thirsty for this rhythm in our lives. It will be our lifeline.
The nature of our outward response.
It’s important to understand that our response is not just intellectual. Though it heavily involves our minds, we are called to follow this element of worship by responding with various outward expressions. Why?
1. It is because this is how God commands us to respond. He has specifically told us what our outward response should look like – whether it be singing, shouting, clapping our hands, dancing, bowing down, etc. These are mentioned all throughout Scripture and are not just suggestions, but God, in his infinite wisdom and through these inspired words is urging us to participate with all of creation in these heart, soul, mind, and body expressions of worship – will we respond in obedience? Many of us feel so uncomfortable when we gather together joining in and responding to these calls because we have no experience responding this way on a daily basis in our own lives. Many of us also fear the emotional aspect of worship to a fault, excluding it all together, only engaging when we can truly be sure we are not responding to feelings alone. Yet God calls us to respond with our whole person to who He is and what He has done. And not just when we gather together.
2. These physical expressions of worship are truly how we offer and express worth to what we deem worthy. They are how God created us to interact with our senses; they are universal forms of praise that unite us not only to God but to each other. To borrow from Tolivar’s blog last week, “ when we like what someone has to say or want to congratulate a job well done, we applaud someone, give verbal praise, or even shout. When we are so enamored with love for another or so filled with excitement, we break into song or movement. Is our God not deserving of these? Is His Word not perfect? Are His commands not good? Is His ENTIRE work throughout history not the most excellent? Is He not the One we desire to love to the utmost? Is there any higher reason to celebrate? How good is our God and how could we not respond accordingly? And the true beauty here, is that when we respond in obedience to His call by giving Him the praise and honor that is due His name via the ways He has instructed, we experience renewal, encouragement, and are filled with joy. For as we have briefly discussed and will see in greater detail next week, responding to this call is the starting block for gospel-centered worship and renewal.
But what if we don’t feel like it?
What if one finds themselves in the midst of a season of suffering, grief, doubt, depression, or apathy? It is true that we will have these days, even seasons, in which it takes effort, maybe even feels like a fight against our flesh, to be able to respond with our whole beings in worship. Yet the truth remains that even when we do not feel like it, our God is worthy. There may be times when like the Psalmist we must say to our souls “AWAKE” and “hope in God.” There may be days when that is the prayer we cling to. But I believe that it is in this process of being faithful to respond even on the days we don’t feel like it, the days of being vulnerable yet obedient, that God does the hard work of sanctification within us. These are the days of striving to live faithful to the end (Hebrews 3). It’s in that process of faithfulness where God meets us, and we are made more like Him. Let us be a people that is not only willing, but faithful to come – trusting in what Christ has done.
May worship be the way in which we walk.
To close, I want to give us some practical ways to engage:
Engaging with the Call to Worship in the Everyday:
• Begin your personal times of worship with a few verses from the Psalms. After you have taken time to contemplate their meaning, read the text out loud and respond accordingly. If the text tells you to shout, then shout. If it tells you to lift your hands in praise, lift them. If it tells you to sing and dance, then put on the praise music and celebrate the Lord freely through song and movement, and so on. If the text does not specify, then respond freely to the Lord in whatever way you choose! Let this usher you into gospel-centered rhythms of worship this week.
• Set aside 5-10 minutes this week to spend responding in adoration to God’s call via song. Find somewhere where you will not be disturbed and do not fear others hearing or seeing you/etc. Play a few songs you know the words to and can participate in singing along with. Spend this time glorifying and enjoying God freely. Truly seek to remove all distractions and engage with your whole being in worship.