Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Proper View of Worship

I had a great time this morning over coffee with a dear friend and brother in the faith. We were discussing the various differences between the baptist faith and the reformed/presbyterian faith and we came to the subject of worship. He said that he and his wife had looked at the order of worship from PCPCs website and his wife had an interesting reaction. She was a bit taken back by the thought of being "told" what to say in worship (responsive reading). I pointed out to my friend that worship is to be conducted according to how God has demonstrated that he must be worshiped, not according to our whims. Afterward, on my drive into the office, I continued to meditate on this. Time with Christian brothers is worth more than I can say...always challenging me and teaching me in every situation and conversation.

My thoughts went deeper into this idea of what worship is. There is so much that can and has been said...I don't mean to represent these brief thoughts as all encompassing. But it occurs to me that even more so than worship being prescribed by God and we, his covenant people, obediently worshiping him accordingly, is the microcosm of the Christian life that is worship. When we come to worship, it is not merely an act of proclamation. It is not just that God has said "do this" and so we do it. We, a sinful and stubborn people come to worship, in many ways formless and with nothing to offer. In worship, we find a mold into which we pour ourselves, conforming to the image of Christ, if only just for a few hours. We conform in worship in order to become what we know is true about us in Christ, but which we fail to exhibit in our daily lives. For this reason, we come to worship and should be asking, "How does God instruct us to worship Him?" Because in this question (and more particularly, in its answer) we find God's expression of His image. This is why worship is to be so completely committed to being Christocentric! Christ, in His person and His finished work, is what we aim at in worship. We not only proclaim it, but should model it as well. And since we come to worship asking this question, there should be some authoritative answer for us to latch onto. Presbyterians find this answer in the regulative principle; in the fact that God has answered the question clearly for us concerning how He is to be worshiped. What a wonderful thought and image...that we come to worship to be molded into Christ. To use a common illustration, we are, each of us, a mouth full of crooked teeth, in need of braces to bring us into conformity with the proper image of what a mouth of teeth should be. God is gracious, in that He condescended to His people, on the mountain with Moses, and ultimately in the person of Jesus Christ, to provide us with that pattern to which we must conform. And more so, even, to provide us with the very conformity itself.

In contrast, let's consider other forms of worship...particularly those forms that begin with the question, "How would I like to worship God?" or "What manner of worshiping God pleases me or provides me with the most benefit?" How silly does this seem? What orthodontist, upon examining a potential patient, says "I like to let the teeth decide for themselves where they will rest."? What jello, poured into a generic bowl, pops out conformed to the shape of a star or dog? How can we as believers, both as individuals and as a church, ever be conformed to the image of Christ when we come to worship declaring to God what we are pleased to bring Him...conforming not to the image He has provided, but the image with which we are instead most pleased?

Despite feeling as though I am part of a church that has historically understood this issue, I am humbled by the reality of not only my own past sin in this regard, but even my tendency to continue thinking in this way each week. Such meditation has been very fruitful for me this morning and I commend it to you, inasmuch as it seems right and true, to consider your own approach to worship. Will we be conformed to His standard, or bring instead what pleases us to the offering.

I feel a Part II coming on. I'll leave it for later after I have had a chance to reflect some more...

EDIT: I posted this on the forum... Faith and Practice ...and it is already generating some discussion. Feel free to drop by if you're interested.



M. Jay Bennett said...

Your understanding of the imago Dei with respect to worship in this post reminds me so much of Edwards's understanding of what it means to glorify God as explained thoroughly in End.

God can only be supremely and finally delighted in one thing: himself. Therefore, God is glorified in us when he sees himself in us.

Oh, and could you do me a favor and turn off the word verification for commenting. It's a pain in the rump.

Also, great metaphors! I was struck by the creation metaphor you employed earlier in the post. You said that we come to worship "formless." Just like creation was originally formless and void prior to the coming of light and order, so also is our worship. The order of worship? Scripture-defined. The light of worship? Christ himself.

Great reflections Matt! I am rejoicing that you are posting more frequently. I get back from vacation and find myself way way behind but I like it!

Matt Bradley said...

Thanks, Jay! This post was really fun for me to write. I put it together in my head while driving and so writing it out went very quickly.

I think this thought of being formed in worship is becoming central to my thoughts not only on worship but also the Christian life. I think the Christian life flows out of our worship as it is corporately expressed. It is of supreme importance that we think clearly and biblically about our worship and that we always be seeking to worship God as he has tauht us to worship him.