Worship As Response

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I have always been fascinated by the dichotomy found among the lives of Christians. Some lives seem to be filled with wonder, passion, and conviction while others seem to be indifferent, idle, and complacent. What is the inconsistency between these two responses to the faith? As we work through a portion of Romans we will discover that there are three explicit truths which have fueled responsive worship throughout the centuries. Our worship is always a reflection of our view of God and our view of self. A higher view of God results in a heightened worship of God. The opposite is also true, a higher view of self unfortunately results in a heightened worship of self. Just as there are fuels for worship there are suppressants to God-honoring worship. Simply put, every life is a catalyst for worship; worship of God, worship of self, or worship of something else. The best way to gauge our view of God is to examine the depth of our worship. Ronald Allen defines worship writing, “Worship is an active response to God whereby we declare His worth. Worship is not passive, but is participative. Worship is not simply a mood; it is a response. Worship is not just a feeling; it is a declaration.”[1] If worship is appropriately defined as responsive. The question must be asked, to whom or to what is it a response? There are three truths highlighted in Romans that fuel this type of responsive worship. It is my prayer that these truths would consume our hearts and minds fueling a life of wonder, passion, and conviction leading us to a sustained life of rich worship. Fuel 1: Worship is Response to God’s Nature.

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?”  “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. –Romans11:33-36

A.W. Tozer contended, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”[2] Why? Because our thoughts about God provoke a response to God. The greater our thoughts are of God, the greater our worship will be of God. It has been said, and echoed by many, that a biblical theology will lead to a robust doxology. The purpose of theology is to lead the heart and mind into greater adoration and worship of God. Worship of God is central to man’s purpose. John Piper writes, “Mission exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.”[3] More specifically, worship will forever remain because God is forever to be praised. This is why the hymnist can sing, “The love of God is greater far, than tongue or pen can ever tell.”[4] Worship that is meaningful is full of meaning. The hymnist appropriately concludes that man could exhaust his resources and intellect and still fall short in describing the greatness of God’s love. Consider all the other wonderful attributes and characteristics of God which have caused us to respond in praise. If one attribute exhausts our resources and intellect still falling short, imagine the short-fall in our praise when we compile the list of God’s nature as it has been revealed in Scripture! This is why hymn writer John Newton appropriately concludes that after ten-thousand years of praise we will have no less days nor any less reason to respond to God in worship.[5] Worship at its very core is a response to God’s nature. [quote]Worship at its very core is a response to God’s nature. [/quote] This means that God is the recipient of praise and His nature provides an endless source for which we respond to Him in praise. This fuel, when liberally dispersed, is sufficient to cultivate a life of endless praise as it is in direct response to our Eternal God.

Suppressant 1: Idolatry- Idolatry is the greatest enemy to a high view of God. As such, it becomes one of the greatest enemies to robust worship. A. W Tozer describes the danger of idolatry writing, “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no over act of worship has taken place.”[6] Suppressed worship of God flows from a cheapened view of God which always results in a heightened view of self. Paul opens the book of Romans highlighting the peak of idolatry, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking…and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-23).

Fuel 2: Worship is Response to the Gospel

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. –Romans 12:1

What is implicit throughout the rest of Scripture becomes explicit in this text. The life of the Christian serves as a catalyst for worship and this is accomplished, “by the mercies of God.” All creation stands as a witness, testifying that God is rich in mercy. God made His victory over Satan, Sin, and Death a public event, disarming the rulers and authorities, putting them to open shame by triumphing over them in Christ (Col. 1: 15). All of creation stands as witnesses to the fact that through Christ the “record of debt that stood against us” has been cancelled (Col. 1:14). It is because God is rich in mercy that our lives can serve as a catalyst of worship, for it is through his mercy we have been reclaimed as worshipers. Here in Romans, Paul plainly teaches this truth calling this response to the Gospel a spiritual act of worship. This truth is twofold. First, it is through the cross that God’s mercy has been made known to us, reclaiming us as worshippers of Him. Second, as worshippers who have been reclaimed by the cross our lives serve as a demonstration of God who is rich in mercy. God’s mercy was displayed on the cross and is on display through our lives. A greater understanding and appreciation for the Gospel results in increased praise. It is only through the Gospel that we can truly present our bodies as living sacrifices for apart from the Gospel we were dead in our sin. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men” (2 Cor. 3:2)

Apart from the redemption through Christ our worship will always be misdirected. Misdirected worship can never be fully enjoyed or bring satisfaction as the object to which worship is directed is not worthy. Worship can only satisfy the worshipper so long as it is in response to the only One who is worthy of worship. For the Christian who has been redeemed, worship is response not only to God but to the Gospel which has reconciled him to God.

Suppressant 2: License and Legalism- License and legalism are two of the greatest suppressants that impact our affections for the Gospel which in turn fuel our life of worship. Both come from a faulty understanding of God’s nature as it pertains to His goodness and grace. The reality is one does not gaze upon God’s goodness and grace and walk away thinking more of himself and his works. Rather Scripture teaches that God’s grace is not without effect (1 Corinthians 15:10). Once again it is our biblical theology of God’s grace and goodness which lead to our greatest response- a life of worship. We do not summon God by our worship, but respond to God’s nature and grace with worship.

Fuel 3: Worship is Response to the Great Commission

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

God is not only central in worship but the central figure in all of creation and history. Unfortunately, because of man’s rebellious nature he errantly contends for this position of prominence. Even once we are regenerated by the work of the Holy Spirit, the saint wrestles with his sinful nature. “Like a dog returns to his vomit” the Proverbs ascribes, “So a fool repeats their folly” (Proverbs 26:11). Those who are saved from their sin still contend for-autonomy. This plea for autonomy is a rejection of God, the Gospel, and the Great Commission. God is relational by nature. It is the Gospel that restores our relationship to Him, and the Great Commission that extends that relationship to the corners of the globe. A heightened view of the Great Commission recognizes that community and relationship is what we are created for and where we function best. Cornelius Plantinga continues, “The Bible’s big double message is creation and redemption. Sin intervenes, but never as an independent theme.”[7] Paul recognizes this reality and does not divert his attention. He is quick to point his reader to the One who was victorious over sin that they might, “discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Those who once wandered around in darkness, groping their way through this world, clinging to anything that might provide momentary satisfaction, have been brought into a kingdom that is ruled by light. There is no longer a need to grope around searching for purpose, searching for significance, searching for meaning, rather one needs to fix his heart and mind upon the One who’s will and plan is perfect. This plan not only draws the believer near, but extends great purpose as he is sent out as an agent of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:20). This is the reality in which the Christian lives, he can know God which invites him to respond in worship, he can be reconciled to God which invites him to respond in worship, and he can make God known, multiplying those who respond in worship.

Suppressant 3: Autonomy- If believers were created to live in relationship and community fulfilling the missional calling of Christ, then autonomy suppresses one’s love of the Great Commission, ultimately limiting the Christians worship and impact. Tozer acknowledges, “Low views of God destroy the gospel for all who hold them.”[8] One of the reasons the Gospel is destroyed for those who hold low views of God is because it leads them to believe they can live an autonomous life. A life independent from the One who created and sustains the creation by the Word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Autonomy denies the fact that man not only is sustained by God, but was created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16). Autonomy is rooted in the soil of pride, thinking more about oneself than about the One who created himself. It is because of this reality the saint must renew his mind, elevating his view of God, his view of the Gospel, and his view of the Great Commission.

Conclusion

Those who have lifted their eyes to heaven, having been reconciled to the Almighty, discover that worship is a response. It is a response that breathes purpose into life and death, present and future, temporary and eternal. The faithful saints who have, in their last breath, declared praises to the King first learned that every breath belonged to the King. The reality is, worship has always been a response. Worship is a response to God, the Gospel, and the Great Commission which invites the entire person to bring glory and praise to the King for all eternity.

[1] Ronald Allen, Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel (Portland: Multnolmah Press, 1978), 16.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy: Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1961), 1.

[3] John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Missions: Let the Nations be Glad! (Grand Rapids: Crossway, 2010), 15.

[4] Fredrick M. Lehman, The Love of God. 1917.

[5]John Newton, Amazing Grace. 1829.

[6] Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, 3.

[7] Cornelius Plantinga. Not the Way it is Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 89.

[8] Tozer, Knowledge of the Holy, 3.

WorshipWill Forrest