Worship [is not about singing] part 1

April 29, 2008

What makes you feel valued – of worth? Gifts? A phone call? Has anyone ever sung a song for you (Happy Birthday, per chance)? Better yet, has anyone ever WRITTEN a song for you? Music is powerful – SINGING IS POWERFUL. I’m serious: guys, if you know you are ugly, and you want to get married one day, buy an instrument NOW! But, music – and singing – is not enough. What if someone wrote you a song, but then hit on your best friend? Wouldn’t be quite as cool, would it? In fact, you’d probably despise that song, and turn the radio station any time it came on. There is more to feeling loved – to being praised- than simply being sung about, or to. This is an important point: WORSHIP IS NOT – at least not in any ‘ultimate’ sense – ABOUT SINGING, and, in the most important sense of the term, I am not your “worship leader”.

Sure, I may lead people in song, and on my best days (or, hopefully, MOST days) I encourage then to sing to God, but that’s not necessarily ‘worship’, and at best that makes me a ‘lead worshiper’ or a ‘song-leader’, not a worship leader. My ‘official title’ here at the church, at least the one on my job description, says “Associate Music Director”, which is very appropriate, I think, and Biblical.

I know what some people THINK we worship leaders are trying to do. I’ve heard it. Haven’t you ever heard someone who was really into a corporate worship service say of the so-called ‘worship leader’; “he really led me into the presence of God”? Or were you the one who said it? Now, I think I understand their heart, and what they’re TRYING to convey, but they were absolutely wrong because NO worship leader today can do that! I can’t do that – I was never MEANT to do that! But, someone else was, and DID!

You see, Me, leading you into the presence of God makes no more sense than if I were to drag a corpse to church – I honestly can’t do it, and if I could it wouldn’t do him, or you, a bit of good.

So, for fear of confusing everyone with an even longer introduction, let me re-iterate these two important points, before I begin painting a portrait for you of what worship IS…

ONE: In the most important sense of the word, I am not a worship leader because I cannot lead you into the presence of God

TWO: Worship is not at all about Singing

Let’s take a better look at the ‘big picture’ so you can see what I mean: God. God IS. God always was, but not really, since God thought up the concept of “time”, so “was” – the past – didn’t exist until God created that, nor did “will be” – the future – those are BOTH God’s ideas, and He invented them when He spoke this vast Universe into existence at some point the Bible called “the beginning”. So with the creation of Space & Time by our infinite God we got “before” & “after”, and before that there is only “IS”…and only God.

So, why did He make us? Some people say He was lonely, so let’s destroy that myth from the get-go. God is love, right? What does that mean? It doesn’t say that God is LOVING – some sappy mush-pot of sentimentality in the sky – but that, BY DEFINITION, He IS LOVE. Love is far more than a mere emotional. What is Love at it’s core? RELATIONSHIP.

Let’s look for a few hints here: “Let us make Man in OUR IMAGE” – now, we were made in the image of God, right? So, when God decides to do that He says “OUR Image”? What might that be a reference to? Were God & the Angels having some strange ‘Art Class’ in Heaven on the day humanity was made, or was it something deeper? It was something far deeper: the Trinity! God is LOVE by definition because LOVE is relationship, and God is a PERFECT RELATIONSHIP – 3 in 1 – God, the Father, who perfectly loves God, the Son, who perfectly is loved by the God, the Holy Spirit…and it’s…well…PERFECT! So let’s put out of our minds any thought that God might have created us out of loneliness. God was NOT lonely.

Yet, though I don’t EXACTLY know why God created us (I suspect it somehow fits under the heading “For His Glory”) – I think there is an important hint of truth in this: Noel Due wrote, “He creates, and that which springs into existence…WORSHIPS.”

But, what is worship? The English word “Worship” is a combination of the words “worth” and “ship”, combined the word works much like “Lordship” or “Internship”; it means to proclaim or display the great value of someone or something. However, the word we translate most often as “Worship” from the Bible is a word that literally means “to kiss the feet of”. I think you can see the difference between me speaking very highly of someone, which could fit our English definition, and me actually bowing to the ground and kissing their feet when they enter the room. The first doesn’t cost me much. The second costs me my pride, and nearly everything else along with it: it represents me throwing my whole self out before them – not only telling them that they are my everything, but presenting myself to them for their service.

God made you a worshiper. This doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out: watch any group of people watching their favorite sports team… heck, watch me at a U2 concert, and see if you can honestly say that my whole LIFE during those 2 ½ hours does not get poured out into enjoying and proclaiming the greatness of U2!

Back around 2000 I went to see Paul McCartney live – yes, THE SIR JAMES PAUL MCCARTNEY, formerly of the Beatles. I thought, “this is cool” before the show started – I mean, he is so cool that he wrote a classical piece, with ballet dancers, to be performed by an orchestra, and used it as his opening act! HOW COOL IS THAT?! But I thought I was simply going to enjoy a show. Paul walked out on stage – and I thought he’d be doing his solo stuff, which I enjoy just fine – but he broke into “You say ‘yes’, I say ‘no”…and I’m embarrassed to say this, but I squealed like a little schoolgirl – I was so excited that I CRIED. In a large sense, that was worship. I clearly proclaimed Paul’s greatness to all around me in that crowd. I was MADE a Worshipper! Worship flows from me – it is basic to my very nature.

Here’s the deal, though – like the musician in me is prone to worship Paul McCartney more than I worship God, we all are Satanists. That’s not to say that we consciously choose to worship Satan, but we did all choose to worship like Satan worships, which looks like this story of the Fall of Man from the book of Genesis. In the Garden of Eden the Devil made a 3 prong attack upon man, converting all of us to his form of worship.

One: “Did God really say that?” – doubting God’s Word.

Two: “I think God’s holding out on me” – doubting God’s goodness.

Three: “I think I’ll make my own rules” – making ourselves out to be gods.

That is Satanic, at heart, as it is as much the devil’s message today as it was thousands of years ago when that beautiful angel with an ugly heart was first booted from his Heavenly home. And we bought the lie, and that lie locked the door between us and God, barring us from the Garden, and God’s presence.

Life after the Fall; I like to illustrate it as much like me picking up a new car off the lot, then driving it into the ocean, and then complaining to the automobile’s maker that it’s not running properly. We were created for a specific purpose. We turned from that purpose, and then wonder why things go so wrong. And THAT is why I could never lead you into God’s presence. You are spiritually dead – disconnected from God, and not even allowed in – at least not as you are.

One online blogger, Ched, worded it like this: “(God) commanded your love and obedience and you failed on both accounts. You are condemned, not just because you have sinned, but also because you are by nature a sinner. Sin is breaking God’s laws and valuing (WORSHIPING) anything else above Him. You do this NATURALLY.”

That’s the bad news, ya’ll, and we have to hear and be reminded of the bad new if we expect the good news to make an ounce of sense.

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” – Hebrews 10:19-23

There is a LOT I could explain in this verse, but I will only bother with 3 points.

What I notice of 1st importance here is that we have a ‘Great High Priest’. Most of you are probably thinking, “I didn’t know I NEEDED a ‘Great High Priest’, so what’s the big deal?” Stick with me here.

This fall I get attend a worship conference called WORSHIP GOD ’08 – it’s hosted by Sovereign Grace Ministries, and I’ll get to meet face-to-face some Godly men who I find to be very encouraging and inspiring to me: authors, songwriters, bloggers, and fellow worship leaders. Needless to say, but I’m EXCITED! Since the conference is in Washington DC, I may just go and visit the Oval Office! You know, I’ll march right up to the White House, fling those doors wide, then kick the door of the Oval Office wide open and offer ole’ George W. one of my famous prank handshakes, and probably get shot all to pieces by the Secret Service in the process. In all reality, that just won’t happen – why? Not only because I don’t have any interest in visiting the Whitehouse (it was just an analogy, folks), but I don’t have the security clearance to get in if I wanted to! Who am I?! Just imagine, “Mr. President, Shannon Lewis is here to see you, sir.” And the president says, “Shanna-who?” I simply don’t have authority or relationship to walk right in on the president of the United States!

That’s the job of our ‘Great High Priest’ – a priest in Biblical terminology is a mediator: someone who stands between you and another FAR greater – particularly, GOD – whom you have no right or authority to talk to, especially given that you present relationship status regarding him is something on the order of “Ex”. However, I know people who are friends with the Presidents daughters. What if I befriended one of the Bush girls, and was then escorted by them into the presence of their father. My standing before Him would have significantly changed, as would my degree of access.

My own merits before the father are this: I was made to be a worshiper of Him, but instead I chose Satan’s way of worship, which is to worship everything BUT God – primarily myself & my own pleasures. But Jesus Christ lived as a perfect servant here on Earth – He embodies perfect Worship – not a worship of SINGING but a Worship of true, selfless obedience to the Call for which he was MADE. With Christ at our side, we can enter God’s presence.

Not only that, but we can enter BOLDLY – ‘in Christ’ we are no longer just ‘tolerated’ by God, but loved as Sons. It’s like – to continue along my analogy (recognizing that all analogies break down at some point) – I married one of the Bush girls: my relationship to the President would then be as “Father-n-Law”. Because of what Christ did on the Cross, YOU ARE NOW HIS OWN – we are adopted into God’s family, and He relates to us as sons & daughters!

Our response, as a result, is to “DRAW NEAR”

Hebrews 4:16 also says “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace”

For me, to try to lead you into the presence of God would be pointless, because Christ has already done it, and it has absolutely nothing to do with singing, or clapping hands, or dancing about – it has EVERYTHING to do with a life lived all-out for God – Jesus’ life – and Christ giving that life so we would be able to do the same.

And NOW we turn the corner because – if you’ve got that, and ONLY if you’ve got what I’ve said above – THEN Worship is ALL ABOUT SINGING.

That’s just to say, True believers in Christ ARE “true worshippers”, and they worship in “Spirit & Truth”, which includes ALL of ourselves, including our voices. Confessing “Jesus is Lord” is not simply admitting that you are convinced academically – in your MIND – that Jesus was somehow God, BUT that here and NOW He is your owner, ruler, master, and KING! If someone doesn’t live this Lordship – which is Kingdom living – it doesn’t matter what they confess as some incantation: NO CONFESSION, AND NO AMOUNT OF PASSIONATE SINGING CAN CHANGE WHAT KINGDOM YOU ARE A PART OF! Kingdom living IS Worship! And at the same time, if you’re living the Kingdom life you cannot help but SING! So you’ve GOT to get the first part in order to get the second, because you can’t sing your way into God’s presence – you can ONLY get there through Jesus.

So, if you are ‘in’ God’s presence – if you are part of God’s kingdom, have been saved by Jesus Christ, and are an adopted son/daughter of God, I’ve got an important, but possibly confusing message for YOU, but just don’t tell those other folks who don’t get part one yet: Worship is all about Singing.

But I’ll get to that in part 2 of this 2 part teaching…


6 Responses to “Worship [is not about singing] part 1”

  1. Ryan said

    Whoa…long…you could probably have broken this up into two week’s worth of teaching 🙂 I’ll read it though, because I’m interested! 🙂

  2. heatlight said

    Hey, I preached the above in 30 minutes! I’ve been known to go as long as 55! You’ve been warned! 😉

  3. […] In part one, I explained in detail how worship was, ultimately, not about singing, but about a whole life – heart, mind, soul, and strength – given over to God. I explained how, in the most important sense, I was not a worship leader – that at least I was unable to actually lead anyone into the presence of God, for that is Christ’s job, and was accomplished by his work on the cross on our behalf. Lastly, our personal response to what Christ has done is simple: draw near. […]

  4. […] the written version. More recently, I have added to this ’series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part […]

  5. […] More recently, I have added to this ’series’ of worship sermons; WORSHIP [IS NOT ABOUT SINGING] part 1, & WORSHIP [IS ALL ABOUT SINGING] part […]

  6. Jess said

    Wow! Challenging, encouraging, right on!
    Also, I’d just like to contradict Heatlight’s and Ryan’s comments that this blog is too long… I think you should say everything that is on your heart that the Spirit leads you to communicate in as many words as the Spirit gives you. Why should we box the Spirit into 30 minute messages simply because that is what we are trained to prefer by our television? Couldn’t we learn to expand our attention span (like a swimmer expands his lungs)for the sake of hearing/reading truth?
    I say, preach it my brother! If the Spirit gives you 5 minutes of truth one day – great! If its 55 on another – great! Just keep faithfully speaking the truth that you are given.

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