Worship--A Pentecostal Perspective III
BIBLICAL KEYS TO WORSHIP
Sacrificial Nature of Worship
This is the third in a series of articles exploring worship from the standpoint of the classic Pentecostal. In the first article it was established that Pentecostal worship was not a cultural entity composed of certain musical styles. Rather, it is trans-cultural and trans-generational. Pentecostal worship is worship led and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This worship expresses itself in the culture of the worshipers but wherever it is found, it is distinguished by the power and demonstration of the Holy Spirit. The second article began an exploration of the biblical foundations of worship. The "spirit and truth" teachings of Jesus were examined as a revelation of the human need to worship and the Divine desire for worship. The Lord's response to our worship is found in Psalm 22:3: He inhabits our praise and He is enthroned upon our praise. Through praise and worship, we draw near to the Lord. He is always faithful in His response--He draws near to us.
In this article we will turn to two more Scriptural underpinnings of the worship experience: Romans 12:1, 2 and Hebrews 13:15, 16 - The Sacrificial Nature of Worship. These truths build upon those we have already presented. Because worship is our purpose in life and because God seeks our worship and responds to it, we must understand the essential spiritual nature of the expressions of worship and how they should be presented to the Lord.
The Sacrificial Nature of Worship
Romans 12:1,2 / Hebrews 13:15,16
Worship is a spiritual sacrifice. In Old Testament times, worship was also a physical sacrifice, but King Jesus was the final lamb. Now we offer to the Lord sacrifices of thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and commitment. The Apostle Peter makes this clear.
As you come to him, the living Stone-- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Pet 2:4-5(NIV)
These sacrifices are unbelievably important. They are vital to us because through them we encounter our Lord. They are important to God because through them He reaches into our hearts. This is why worship was so important to our twentieth century Pentecostal fathers and why it is so important to the church today. The renewal we all seek will come when we make Jesus our Lord and when the Holy Spirit has access to our hearts. Worship crowns Jesus King and makes the heart connection for us.
But, do our people think of worship as a sacrifice? Or do they think of it as just a song service or a warm-up for something more important yet to come? When we think of worship as a sacrifice, we move beyond the cultural sounds and appearance of the expression of worship to the essential spiritual nature of worship. I often tell worship leaders, "Don't let the worship be about the songs. Let the songs be about worship." A worshiper who is led in a song he doesn't like will worship anyway if he is offering a spiritual sacrifice to the Lord. The person who is just singing songs, on the other hand, will slacken his effort or even stop because the music is not to his liking. What a difference! Let's explore the sacrificial nature of worship.
Worship is a living sacrifice.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Rom 12:1-2(NIV)
The seemingly endless procession of sacrificial animals finally terminated at Calvary. Jesus' sacrifice was once and for all. Animals sacrifices have ceased but spiritual sacrifice continue; thank offerings, praise offerings, offerings of adoration, offerings of commitment and devotion are the lifeline of the church.
How does Romans 12:1,2 help us understand these sacrifices? First we see that the sacrifice is physical in nature: "to offer your bodies as living sacrifices".
* It is the presentation of our bodies to the Lord. In its simplest form we might think of this as just showing up. Getting to church is an act of worship that the devil fights in every way he can. Just getting to a rehearsal, or a workday at the church, or being faithful to private devotions can be a great victory.
* The flesh also cries out against worship. A battle is joined every time we set out to present ourselves to the Lord; the flesh must be disciplined to present a sacrifice of praise. Our people need to understand this so they can win the battle for their private devotions and public worship.
* Also, the sacrifice of worship is the presentation of our voices to the Lord. The voice is part of the body. It is vital that we sing out and speak out our worship. Inward contemplation is important, but thanksgiving, praise, adoration, and commitment need to be expressed. Song is God's chosen means of corporate worship expression. Through song we can all give the same thanks, express the same praise, confess the same adoration, pray the same prayer.
* In addition, worship involves the hands, the posture, and other physical expressions.
Those who fear the use of the body to worship must see the next phrase. This is all "holy and pleasing to God". God has designed us to worship Him with body, voice, soul, and spirit. Peter says that these spiritual sacrifices are "acceptable to God through Jesus Christ". Our offerings are made pleasing to God by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. We worship the same way we are saved---by grace! Some preach that sacrifices have to be acceptable to the highest standards of men (by that they usually mean the classical music of Western Europe) to be acceptable to God. But the finest music man has ever produced is paltry in comparison to the music sounding around the Throne of God. It takes the grace of Jesus to make any of our sacrifices acceptable to God, no matter how lofty or how lowly man's assessment of them may be. God is listening for the sincere song of the redeemed. Be it great or poor music, if it is a heartsong of His loving child, God hears it.
Paul goes on to say, "this is your spiritual act of worship." Other translations render this "your reasonable service" or "Your service of spiritual worship". Years ago I had a Greek-speaking secretary who translated it "Your logical service of worship." All of these renderings are helpful. In the heart of God, there is no distinction between worship and service. We have separated these things so completely we even have it posted in our churches: "Enter to worship. Exit to serve." Paul is telling us to put these things back together. The Bible truth is: When we are worshiping God we are serving Him and when we are serving God we are worshiping Him! Like the Old Testament priests in the Tabernacle or Temple, we New Testament priests are ministering to the Lord as we perform our acts of service to Him. Paul expressed this beautifully in his letter to the Colossians church.
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col 3:16-17; 23-24 NIV
The Old Testament Tabernacle/Temple provides a logical pattern to the expression of our sacrifices of worship. We begin at the Gates of Thanksgiving and proceed through the Courts of Praise. We offer ourselves to the Lord in humility and repentance at the brazen altar. We enter the Holy Place to make petition (the altar incense) and receive the Word (the table of shewbread) in the light and power of the Holy Spirit (the Golden Lamp stand). Then we proceed through the torn veil and wait in the awesome stillness of God's presence in the Holy of Holies. This is the reasonable service of worship.
Thanksgiving is a most logical starting place for it focuses us on God and His excellent record and humbles us. Praise is the natural outgrowth of Thanksgiving and reveals God's glory. Humility comes from this revelation of His glory. Now we are ready to pray and receive the Word as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers. Now we are prepared for intimacy with God in the Most Holy Place. In our hurried world we want to hot-wire the whole process and grab some holy glow in the Holy of Holies and be on our way. God is not impressed with our hurry. He still responds to the pattern of heaven--the reasonable service of worship.
The results of this worship are powerful. The influence of the world upon the individual is broken. "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world," the NIV says. Phillips says "Don't let the world squeeze you into its mold." Through regular worship, both private and public breaks the power of worldly thinking--the pattern of this world (isolation, oppression, death) is replaced by the pattern of the Kingdom of God (inclusion, freedom, life). This happens because worship renews the mind. Paul says, "be transformed by the renewing of your mind." As we live in this world the mind of the believer is constantly bombarded by the impurities of modern life by almost every medium around us. If we do not regularly worship, our minds become laden with the pollution of the world around us, but as we worship the waters of life cleanse us from this pollution.
A college professor of mine told me of a airplane pilot who was trying to climb over a thunderstorm. His instruments told him he was climbing steeply at great speed and power. His instruments were wrong. He was experiencing vertigo and was actually flying straight toward the ground at full power. The crash left nothing but little pieces. Believers are like that. Spiritually we have a sort of inner instrumentation (the Word of God, our natural wisdom, instinct, common sense) that helps us evaluate everything that comes our way. We decide by this instrumentation what things deserve our attention and what things to let pass. Without constant interaction with God (worship and the Word) these internal instruments can get out of adjustment. We can find ourselves majoring in minors, building mountains out of molehills, or any of several other clich