I have been thinking about worship recently and it occurred to me that for some people worship is about describing and focusing on who God is whilst for others it is about meeting with and encountering God.
Sometimes, these two views are talked about like they are opposites that are mutually exclusive but I think that the reality is that we need both elements in worship.
For those who emphasize worship as a description, you need to realize that knowing who God is must lead to the conclusion that He wants to be in a relationship with us. God describes Himself as our Father, Jesus says He is with us always and the Holy Spirit lives inside every disciple of Jesus. As we emphasize who God truly is, it should drive us to want to encounter and to have a genuine and real relationship with Him.
For those who emphasize worship as an encounter, we need to be sure that we are connecting with who God really is. The church is described as the Bride of Christ, but do we see ourselves in a relationship with God where we are committed ‘for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health’? Do we see our intimacy with God as being in a committed relationship or is it more like a one night stand (or a Sunday morning stand?) where we seek intimacy on or terms to get what we need? Are we willing to encounter the real God rather than just the bits of him that we like?
Jesus said ‘true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way’ (John 4.23).
Focusing on the truth of who God is and also the truth of who we are and how we are in relationship with Him is the other half of what Jesus described as true worship.
God wants us to know and encounter Him but He wants us to know the real Him. He isn’t like Father Christmas who just gives us good stuff once a year, He wants to help us to grow in our faith and as human beings. He isn’t just a divine bodyguard who will always keep us safe from all harm, sickness and suffering. He isn’t a vending machine that we approach to push buttons to get stuff.
God wants us to know who He is. He is a relational God who created humanity to know Him but He is also the all powerful creator of the whole universe! He is described as Holy which literally means set apart or different and He lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6.16). When we understand how far above us and far removed from us that God is, it makes His relationship with us all the more meaningful and amazing! The God who wants to know us but who was too far removed sent his son into the world to take on flesh. While Jesus was here on humanity sacrificed Him on the cross and God used this act of sacrifice and death to destroy the barrier between us and Him. We can approach the unapproachable God because of what Jesus has done!
So what is worship for you?
Is it about describing or encountering God?
If it is strongly one or the other, how will we go about becoming true worshipers as we focus on both.
Oh, and in case you think I am just talking about singing in church you can think again. The Bible teaches us that the offering of the whole of our lives is a spiritual act of worship (Romans 12.1). As we live for Jesus in the real world, we need to know who He really is and we also need to know His presence guiding us.
Sometimes Christians get disappointed with God in life because our experience doesn’t match up with the PR spun god who is sometimes presented to us in worship. As we live life in the world, things go wrong and we feel pain but in these moments we can know that God is still good and that He is with us. In these moments of confusion and disorientation, we need to seek God that He might be at work in and through us more powerfully which is what He wants to do in every situation.
True worshipers encounter God through the Spirit but they also understand the truth of who He is.
Graeme Ross – Minister, Orchard Baptist Church, Colchester