Last week I was ranting a little about trends in ‘worship’ that seem to me to be unhealthy. In the words we sing we petition (that feels better than ‘invoke’) God to please show up in power. And we keep singing. And singing… while we wait for something to happen that will make us feel… well, feel something!
We sing words like:
“God of Heaven come down. Just to know that you are near is enough [but is it really?] God of heaven come down...” which (as much as I do like the rest of the song) does sound rather bossy, and contradictory besides).
Or we tell God to “Arise, take your place, be enthroned on our praise, arise”, as if He is obligated, because we are singing, to make Himself known to us in some mysterious way.
This feels backwards to me and here’s why:
I can tell my dog to ‘Come!’ and once-upon-a-time I trained my toddler(s) to come when I called because I’m the boss and they’d better or else. A child should not be giving orders to his parents anymore than a soldier would his captain. Remember the Roman centurion? (Mt.8) He desperately wanted his servant to be healed but he approached Jesus with utmost respect—“I am not worthy that you should come to my house”. He understood the way authority works and he knew that in His Position Jesus could do anything, even from a distance. Jesus marveled at his faith (and didn’t hesitate to meet his need).
God is no reluctant judge doling out justice only in the face of abject and incessant pleading. He delights for us to know Him; after all, it was His design in the very beginning! And ever since the Cross, we are invited to ‘draw near’ to His throne, to come right in to where He is and present our requests. Then why the need to ‘coax’ Him to do our bidding? I think of wide-eyed Peter out in the storm at sea, hanging on to the edge of the boat looking out at Jesus (‘could it really be Him?’) and I love his words “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” (Mt.14:28) Other versions say, ‘command’ me to come. And of course Jesus said, COME!. Now that’s the command going the right direction…Other instances that come to mind are:
‘Come to me all who are weary; I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28)
‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ (Ja.4:8)
‘Come follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.’ (Mt.4:19)
Jesus is clearly in the position of authority. He invites us to come to Him. That seems straightforward to me.
How does this apply to worship then? Well, if He is our God and we are His people—actually His wild and crazy, not too brilliant, sheep—our position is one of humble sheephood. We don’t need anything He’s not glad to supply. Our posture need not be one of bleating pitifulness (ple-e-e-ease bless us; pet us; hold us; love us). If we’re not satisfied with some aspect of His care, it’s not His doings. Maybe we’re the ones that have wondered off into a bramble bush thinking the berries looked mighty tasty…In which case there’s a little something to say to our Shepherd before we start bleating our self-centered, conditional praises and “please’s”’, something I see as a missing prerequisite to worship. This is “something” even the E-how writer seemed to know about. His third step for ‘praying to invoke the Holy Spirit’ was:
Confess wrongdoing in order to become a humble vessel. Those who are too proud and not meek in their hearts can not be told differently than what they believe. Confessing your sins to the creator will allow you to step into his presence with a clean heart. When you ask for forgiveness, you are also admitting guilt and imperfection. This can be a tool to humble and signals that you at least acknowledge that you are not the omnipresent deity.
If God seems far-away, who moved? (And who needs to ‘Come’) [Hint: He is the Omnipresent one, and the Omnipotent One…]
I wonder if we get so caught up in begging, pleading and trying to manipulate God to meet our perceived needs as we ‘worship’ that we fail to recognize He is standing at our heart’s door, knocking and asking, “Can I come in?” (Rev.3:20) This verse is not about salvation but repentance. “Those whom I love I rebuke.” It’s about God at my door wanting to come in and share a candlelit dinner with me! That’s possible only as I agree with Him about the state of my ‘room’ and invite Him to take charge. “Yes, Lord, you’re right. I’m wrong…” and now I can appropriately say, ‘Come in! make yourself at home, You are welcome here!’ It’s no longer about demanding Him to meet me where I’m at with no questions asked, but about coming His direction with a heart confessing His Lordship, worshiping Him from a whole and satisfied heart.
“Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are His;
we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise…”
Oooo—this is where I want to be in my heart. Let it not be said of me: “this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Matt.15:8,9)
There’s no denying the God of Heaven will come down. Jesus said: “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city…” Rev.22:12
And we rightfully respond, “Even so come Lord Jesus”. But let it be with joyful, faith-filled singing, not discontented pleading. For we know that He is not slow regarding His promise but patient with us, and not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance…(IIPet.3:9)
“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…”(IIPet.3:14)
Let’s be found worshiping, not whining. Adoring, not begging. Let our worship be about Him, not us. He is worthy.
If you have made it through to here I thank-you for trying to follow my thoughts. And if any ring true in your situation I would be really tickled to know—via ‘comment’ or a quick e-mail.
If you’re interested in more (and better) reading on this topic may I point you to Timothy Ralston’s well thought out article examining the Holy Spirit’s primary importance in worship entitled:
The Spirit's Role in Corporate Worship
And for the really determined here is an article from a different denominational point of view than I am but one well worth examining. It is dotted with brilliant gems of insight and a well-constructed discussion of many aspects relating to the way we worship. Read with a highlighter in hand! To peak your interest here’s one of my highlights:
“Waiting for the Mediator to return from the heavenly summit, we fashion golden calves of our experience to assuage our impatience.”
from the article:
Heaven Came Down: The Mission of Christ
by Michael S. Horton