God didn’t wire us to be “lone ranger” worshipers. We are made to worship
God in the presence of other authentic Christ-followers. Isaiah witnessed a community of mighty Seraphim worshiping God, and he was ushered into experiencing God in the context of that worship. The Bible also tell us that one day we will join with countless others in extraordinary worship centered around God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
We call the presence of two or more Christ-followers different names: “The Church,” “The Body of Christ,” “The Bride of Christ,” “Believers,” “Brothers and Sisters in Christ,” “Followers of the Way,” and more. The underlying reality of the Church is that the same Lord Jesus Christ who lives in other people also calls we who also know Him to join them in living and experiencing God together. The gathering of the church (God’s people) in worship is a God-designed thing. There is nothing better on this earth than when authentic worship takes place among believers (see 1 Cor 14:25).
As a leader I live for the moments when the church comes ready to give God whole-hearted, life-evidenced worship. In these moments I have seen hardened people softened, hopeless people found, wounded people healed, and the church set aglow by the presence of the Almighty God in our midst.
Even in our new nature as Christ-followers, we still struggle with our humanity, and so sometimes worship can become a dull, empty ritual. As we acknowledge this reality we need to own our part in it and remind ourselves that God’s “worth-ship” deserves much better than this. If we honestly evaluate ourselves we will see that at times we have let our personal preferences and attitudes infiltrate the collective worship experience of the church. This is the opposite of worship, because our needs become the real focus, not God.
Worship among believers requires a measure of sacrifice, especially among the more mature in their faith, so that God is supremely honored above our desires and expectations. This requires mature faith in God and a steadfast focus on His kingdom plans.
For example, consider your music preferences in worship. As a worship leader I frequently receive feedback on music selections and styles. This may be an appeal or critique regarding the selection of traditional hymns or current worship songs. While I regard this feedback as helpful, I often share this insight: Probably a third of the songs I lead are not my personal favorites. However, God has taught me I can offer these songs as my own “sacrifice of praise” because they are bringing someone else into the presence of God. When I began to practice this, God brought me a new depth of meaning and a new love for the songs that I wouldn’t necessarily choose on my own. It helped me recognize that worship is about engaging and approaching God with others.
One of the amazing paradoxes of worship is sacrifice. When we sacrifice something we cherish for God’s sake, we gain infinitely more: His very presence. Furthermore, worship and sacrifice are inextricably linked in the Bible:
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Hebrews 13:15).
The dictionary defines sacrifice as “the surrender or destruction of something prized for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.”
Baseball players know about sacrifice. They are often asked to give up a chance to get on base so that another runner can advance or score. They do this because the greater reward―winning the game―is more important than their personal achievement. Imagine how powerful the church would be if more Christians were willing to sacrifice personal preferences in the context of worship for the greater good of God’s kingdom. I am convinced worship would be off the charts filled with His presence.
“We bring the sacrifice of praise unto the house of the Lord” is an old song that has been a standard in many churches. I remember hearing and singing this song when I was young. One day, as I sang it, this thought occurred to me: “Do we really understand what we are singing?” Are we prepared to put to death our preferences and expectations for sacrificial worship that puts God first? Are we ready to give God sacrificial worship that demands a personal cost from us?
The primary question as we enter worship is this: “Who are we really here to please when we come to worship?” If the answer to this question is me, then any sacrifice is too much. If the answer to this question is God, then personal sacrifice in worship becomes our joyful gift to Him.
As you approach God in worship today, ask Him to create in you a heart that looks at sacrifice as a privilege to offer Him, in light of the enormous personal sacrifice God gave for you in Jesus Christ
God bless you!
I will be singing at the Legacy Fishing Retreat Banquet and Worship Concert event In St. Michael, MN on Saturday, February 28th. For more information on the event, please click on this link below: