I was sitting in church this Sunday morning enjoying the worship when the time of corporate singing came to an end and Pastor Daniel said something along the lines of “To cap our time of worship, I want to direct our attention to the Scriptures.” This was the introduction to the message. Pastor Daniel has been preaching out of the book of Revelation lately; his first message remained mostly in Revelation 1 where John sees the glory of Christ. Something that I can’t help but appreciate about Pastor Daniel’s preaching, no matter what passage he is in, is the fact that he tends to attempt to exalt the glory of God and not to harp on issues or trends.
As I was thinking about Pastor Daniel’s introduction, I thought about the fact that I have often heard and have generally believed myself that corporate church worship should emphasize the preaching of Scripture. Everything should be streamlined to point to the time when the Scriptures are opened and the Word is preached. Pastor Daniel’s introductory comments this Sunday portrayed the sermon as the capstone of the corporate church worship experience, which, I believe, it should be. But why? I don’t think I have often asked why. I think the answer to this will come from several observations having to do with the definition of worship, and the role that corporate assembly and specifically preaching plays in the definition of worship.
I have found my definition of worship to have changed over the last seven years. In our compartmentalizing evangelical society, many Christians have tended to leave worship as the activity that takes place on Sunday and maybe for 30 minutes or so in personal devotions every day. It is primarily an activity, but nothing more. I propose that worship is not primarily an activity; it is to be an addiction.
Let me illustrate my point. Since Ephesians 5 uses this illustration, it seems appropriate. There can be two types of drinkers. On the one hand, there is the social drinker who occasionally indulges at a party or at a romantic evening meal with his wife. The consumption of an alcoholic beverage is an activity that takes place occasionally for this person. On the other hand, there is the alcoholic. From early in the morning, this person craves drink. He drinks as soon as possible and spends the rest of his day doing so. Even if he can put off the activity, he is constantly aware of his “need” for a drink. Society tells him he has a disease because every part of his being is affected by this drive. It is a consuming passion that controls his every activity. He is addicted to drink. Worship is to be an addiction, not an activity—a lifestyle, not a social event on the weekends.
What I mean is what is urged by Paul in Romans 12:1-2: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer you bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Paul is saying, "be addicted to worship." Paul has spent this book talking about salvation and sanctification. The life that is sanctified by the power of Spirit control as outlined in Romans 8 is the life that is spent offered as a living sacrifice to God. This is worship.
So my definition of worship is, living every moment of your life, in the grip of the grace of God and controlled by the Spirit. Worship is no longer an activity, it is an addiction—a consuming passion. Worship is no longer a once a week happening, or even a once a day event in my devotions, but it is the essence of sanctification…living life being changed into the image of God through the power of God. Worship is grace—living my life in obedience to God not by my ability but by God’s ability. I am changed into the image of God by God’s power in this; this is sanctification. Worship is sanctification.
So how does this play into the emphasis of preaching in the corporate assembly? Let me explain. For this I must turn to II Corinthians 3:18, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” We find the glory of God in the unveiled Scriptures, and we are changed into the image of Christ (sanctification/worship) by this exposure to the glory of God. Note that we are not changed by doing a bunch of ‘good’ things, or by getting our all-important ‘issues’ straight, we are changed by exposure to the glory of God. These other things detract from the glory of God and therefore detract from true worship. They give us reason to boast in our own ‘glory.’
The corporate assembly functions as the time when believers can come together and worship by encouraging each other to worship every day of their lives. II Corinthians 3:18 states that through beholding the glory of God, one is changed into the image of God (sanctification/worship). Thus, when we spend time exalting God’s glory together in song and then someone enters the pulpit and exalts God’s glory through examination of His Word, we are encouraged to spend all of our time, every minute of our day, fostering our worship-addiction. This is an addiction that overcomes any sin-addictions one may have, but it does so by focusing on what is right, the glory of God and a right relationship with Him, not on what is wrong.
I must conclude from this that the corporate worship assembly must be organized to center around exposing Christians to the glory of God. God gave Scripture to reveal His glory, so expositional preaching must be central to the corporate worship assembly. I must further conclude that preaching must only be designed to expose the listeners to the glory of God. Preaching with any man-centered motivation is contrary to worship.
Gracious Father, I love the glory of the cross of Christ which has been the means of my relationship with You. Please help me to constantly seek to be exposed to your glory through every minute of the day. May it become to me as necessary as breathing. May I be addicted to worship and not to sin; may I be addicted to a relationship with You and to nothing of this world that I would idolize. In my striving to expose others to Your glory, may I never exalt myself or anything of man, and may I be true to Your Word.
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