WE CONTINUE WITH THE BLESSINGS AND SPIN-OFF’S OF TRUE WORSHIP…
(4) Worship enthuses our spiritual disciplines.
Classic Christian disciplines include Bible reading, prayer, meditation, simplicity, frugality, etc [If you want to get to know more about these, I would highly recommend the writings of Dallas Willard, especially his ‘The Divine Conspiracy’ ]. Now, it’s one thing to know these disciplines and even to attempt them, but to do so with enthusiasm and joy is a different matter! The renowned French Christian mystic, Madame Jeanne Guyon (1648-1717) indicated that when ‘fervour and desire for God’ are present in our hearts, obedience becomes so much easier. Someone leading our weekly house church gathering recently reinforced this by quoting Ps. 119:32/KJV: ‘I will run the way of Thy commandments, when Thou shalt enlarge my heart!’ (KJV). Struggling with regular Bible reading and prayer, and the other disciplines?? Ask our good Father, not so much for his blessings, as his person and presence in your innermost being! Ask until it begins to happen. Ask others in the body to pray with you in this regard.
(5) Worship creates true fellowship. I have elsewhere mentioned A.W. Tozer’s comment on 1000 pianos: when tuned to a single tuning work, they are automatically tuned to each other (1). I’ve seen this principle worked out in reality again and again in Christ-centred gatherings, of whatever kind, and there’s just nothing like it. You see, God is a fellowship within himself. He exists in a loving, self-giving community made up of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because he is community, he creates community wherever he is received (Jn. 1:12). When we love the triune God, we spontaneously begin to experience loving koinoinia, and the world is forced to take note. This is why Jesus prayed, and continues to pray, that his followers ‘may all be one. As you Father are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’ (Jn. 17:21/NRSV). I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Jesus’ prayers have always tended/still tend to be answered! (2 & 3)
(6) Worship sustains us in our hardest trials. The Apostle Paul, amid his and Silas’ persecution by the Roman authorities and imprisonment in Philippi, are pictured in Acts 16:23-35 as singing hymns at midnight, albeit with battered bodies and hoarse voices! Their praises (and prayers) became earthshaking both physically and spiritually, bringing their miraculous release and the evangelization of the jailer and his extended family! The Apostle Peter, writing to the scattered and persecuted assemblies of Asia Minor, reminded them that amid their greatest sufferings, as a result of the Good News, ‘you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith … may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed…’ (1 Pet. 1:6ff/NRSV). Even today, the hotter the fires of persecution around the globe, the deeper believers’ worship and inexplicable joy! [Some years ago in several visits to China twice, I witnessed this personally among ‘underground’ communities]
(7) Worship carries us to heaven and makes us like Jesus. Paul writes about this so beautifully in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, as he outlines their call to ‘new covenant worship’: ‘The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets’ (3:7ff/MSG) can’t establish true worship and make us like Jesus, because those under the Old Covenant are still ‘veiled’ in their minds and hearts. ‘Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it… Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil… They suddenly realize that God is a living, personal presence… And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually become brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him!’ (v. 15-18/ MSG). The Apostle John wraps up this glorious thought: ‘Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is’ (1 Jn. 3:2-3). What a statement, what a hope! (4)
In conclusion, do we really believe that, by sheer grace and obedience, all the above is possible for us, even before we enter God’s new heaven on earth? Let’s ask Paul: ‘Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit!’ (1 Cor. 3:17-18/NRSV). [One of our house church teachers pointed out how the final verse of Charles Wesley’s hymn ‘Love divine, all loves excelling’ reads, ‘Changed from glory into glory, Till in heaven we take our place; Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love and praise!’ ] It’s not only possible but desirable! My reader, do you really believe this? Do you (personally) know anything of this?? It’s not for the special few, but any and every believer, according to the promise of God!
(1) Please take a look at Tobie v.d. Westhuizen’s outstanding post, ‘GOD’S LITTLE PEOPLE!‘ He blogs under naturalchurch.
(2) Douglas Banister, American theologian and author, has concluded in his book ‘God On Earth’ (and I heartily agree): ‘Likewise, the church is most like God when it abandons hierarchy, power, and rank and emerges as a parallel community ordered by mutual submission, self-giving, sacrifice and love… It means we should not structure our communities according to a corporate business model or a military chain-of-command model…’ [Ironically, as I write this, our city churches are once more promoting a well-known Global Christian Leadership Conference… I believe these conferences (I attended many, with my church leadership) have largely misunderstood the NT Ekklesia and promoted a corporate-business model, often with disappointing moral and spiritual results]
(3) Concerning the trinity, Banister summarizes (cf. 4th century Gregory the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus and Basil the Great) as follows, ‘while Christ submitted himself for a season to the Father for the purpose of his work on earth, this was not an eternal submission. There is no hierarchy in the trinity; there is partnership, interdependence, and mutual submission.’ He also cites the 4th century Athanasian Creed proclaiming that all persons of the trinity are ‘co-equal,’ ‘none is afore, or after other: none is greater, or less than another.’
(4) Having observed the institutional Church from the inside and outside for half a century, I honestly believe that many church-attenders (in my country at least) try to worship and serve God from an Old Covenant perspective only. I could name denominations (I have family members in them) – many of their members openly say they’re ‘trying’ to be Christians and appear totally lacking in that ‘blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!’ Even their faces say so. Somehow they seem blind to the superiority of Christ’s new covenant and the Spirit’s joy and gladness! (Heb. 8: built on Jer. 31 and Ezek. 36).
‘Send your Spirit, Lord, breathe on us all, let your fire fall!’