EL CAJON, Calif. – Many of us live in cities where sunsets and mountain horizons have become distant memories. The majestic stars are blacked out. Just as our capabilities in cities have grown exponentially, our capacity for wonder seems to have withered.
Before we can say anything about worship, we must come to grips with this idea of wonder. For worship can never be the sole work of the rational mind. In the presence of Almighty God, as the Apostle John discovered, the sense of wonder comes naturally and leaves us changed. But without the capability of awe, where we stand at the edge of ourselves and gaze beyond, we will never come into His presence.
Experience vs. event
Since the days of our first parents in the Garden of Eden, worship has walked a tightrope between lifestyle and liturgy. When God walked in the Garden with His first children in the cool of the day, Adam and Eve worshipped Him as we should – without interruption. The Creator and His creatures experienced a continual, ongoing exchange of provision and praise. God provided everything Adam and Eve needed, and they responded with praise – with gratitude, reverence, honor, submission, and holy fear.
Yet the experience of worship was soon transformed into an event. Adam and Eve sinned, their state of worship was interrupted, and they were expelled from God’s presence. The next thing we see is their sons engaged in an act of worship – the bringing of offerings to the Lord. Instead of worship being the uninterrupted experience of man, sin necessitated the scheduling of worship to a time and a place (Genesis 4:3-4).
Appointed vs. perpetual
Reading the elaborate and detailed plans God gave to Israel by which they were to worship in the tabernacle illustrates the legitimacy of appointed times and places of worship. And yet as a backdrop to the appointed times of worship were the perpetual acts of worship which went on before the Lord day and night (Exodus 30:8; Leviticus 6:12; Leviticus 24:5-9).
But when we get to the New Testament, we find something different. Christians are the new temple and priests of God (1 Timothy 3:15; 1 Peter 2:5, 9). Like the priesthood of old, we are to worship at appointed times as well as to worship perpetually.
Here are some important reminders:
- Be regular at appointed times of corporate worship. It has become increasingly popular in our culture for Christians to exempt themselves from corporate worship. Not only is this unbiblical (Hebrews 10:24-25), it has the same effect as pulling a log out of a fire. The personal fire for worship of God burns bright when fueled by the worship of many.
- Be regular at appointed times of personal worship. It has also become widespread for Christians to plan time with God while driving, showering, exercising and mowing the lawn. I am convinced that this practice should not be a substitute for a personal “quiet” time with God. Distractions do just that – they distract. Make sure you are setting aside priority time daily to be alone with God in prayer, Bible reading and worship.
- Cultivate the practice of unscheduled worship. Everyone has times during the day when discretionary minutes present themselves. Instead of turning on the television, flipping through a magazine, calling a friend, or dozing off, get in the practice of redeeming the time to focus on the Lord. Communing continually with God throughout the day and night is the experience of worship (Psalm 16:7; 63:6; 119:48).
- Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God. This is an exhortation in the strongest of terms from the Apostle Paul (Romans 12:1). When we make the transition in our thinking from offering a sacrifice of worship to becoming a sacrifice of worship … we are moving toward reclaiming the experience of worship which we have lost. We offer our sacrifice of worship – time, talent, and treasure – but we are the sacrifice God desires most.
Living every moment in the wonder of worship will change the way you live every day.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, visit www.DavidJeremiah.org. This column has been approved by Turning Point for redistribution in Baptist state newspapers and in Townhall.com. For permission to reprint it, contact Myrna Davis at [email protected].)