What Exactly Is Christian Worship?
In Search of a Biblical, Theological, and Practical Definition for the Practice of Worship
What Exactly Is Christian Worship? © 2006 by Bradley Robert Berglund. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address:
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Part 5 of 8
(For earlier chapters, click on my name next to my picture above)
By the Power He Provides
Worship recognizes the miraculous ability of God and then responds to that energy in total surrender. The most humbling aspect of worship is this: worship finds its origin in God, not man. The ability and the capacity to worship is absent from one who is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The Bible speaks of believers as temples of the Holy Spirit. In Solomon’s time, the presence of God turned Solomon’s beautiful structure into God’s temple. When the people turned away, that temple eventually became an empty shell of religious fervor. As the spirit-filled Christ called Himself a temple (John 2:19), so, too, the believer is called a temple (1Cor 6:19).
Because it is special, the creation of man is given in detail. Man was physically fashioned from the elements of God’s creation. When all of the mechanics of life were present, God breathed (“inspired”) into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Three elements (spirit, soul, and body) were united into one being. Without the human spirit, there would be no human life.
Likewise, without the Holy Spirit, worship becomes cold, mechanical, and lifeless. Such was the worship that Jesus condemned in His day. “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me (Matthew 15:8).” Worship, no matter how well it is planned, can become an empty corpse of religious fervor. No where is this more evident than in the current American two-flavor options: “traditional” and “contemporary” worship. Neither adjective describes the character of divine worship because if worship is about God and if God is eternal, then He can be neither “traditional” nor “contemporary.” These words do not describe the heart worship, but rather they describe the mechanical frameworks erected by man to allegedly engage in worship. Adjectives that describe the soul of true worship would be “sacred” and “holy,” words which offend the natural man.
Jesus’ statement is a quote from Isaiah 29:13-14. In that context, traditional worship was taking place, but the people were asleep. Around them was all the purity of their fastidious worship. The temple was not desecrated, nor was the word of God compromised. The priest and king were reasonably reverent. Essentially, everything looked orthodox from man’s perspective. Still, while all the mechanics were right, the spirit of life was missing. The faith of the people had been reduced to confessions and creeds. They were truthful and faithful words, but they were only words. Their actions were not motivated by a genuine fear of God. Instead, they set up a list of minimal standards of faithfulness. While the list appears to express genuine concerns and righteous solutions, the heart of the people was far removed. Within a shell of traditional orthodoxy Isaiah found no spirit of life. Jesus discerned the same situation in Revelation 2:1-7. Mechanical orthodoxy is not an acceptable substitute for genuine worship. Contemporary worship is quick to judge traditional styles as dead formalism. Sometimes their assessment is true, but not always.
While there is a great deal of talk about the Spirit and the liveliness of “contemporary” worship, in reality, it may be as dead as the system it ridicules. In Revelation 3:1-6, Jesus describes a church that has a reputation for being alive when, in reality, it is on the threshold of death. Contemporary Christian philosophy suffers from one great flaw in its logic: it views contemporary American culture as being vigorous, yet spiritually neutral, capable of reformation by inserting God into the arts of modern society. Borrowing its patterns and reforming its content is acceptable because cultural expressions are amoral. In reality, America is a society consumed with fornication, lasciviousness, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings (and much more, see Galatians 5:19-21). Americans are looking for the next party, the next drink, the next TV show. Creating a Christian “party” where people get high on Jesus may be “real” in contemporary American culture, but it is not real worship. It is a reflection of the spirit of this corrupt age rather than the character of the Holy Spirit (1John 4:1).
Jesus was given a similar two-flavor question (John 4:19-24). Jesus rejected both shells as the faithful instruments of true worship. The content and the character of true worship must be both spirit and truth. True worship is energized by the Holy Spirit. The goal of the worshipper is to be exclusively filled with the Spirit. There is no room for any fleshly or false spirit.
For other messages and illustrations see Pastor B archives