“Lift your hands in praise!”
I lifted my hands.
Well, I didn’t shout, but I said it loudly enough I think.
“Come on and lift your voices!”
I love to sing, so this one is a sure win. I got this!
Sunday morning worship is beautiful, wonderful even, and if you do what others are doing, and follow directions from the praise team worship leader (which I frequently am, by the way), then you’re definitely going to seem like a worshiper, even if you have no idea what it means to worship.
One Sunday morning, mid-song, with hands semi-raised I thought, "Oh, look how Sis. Gigi is all in the Spirit. Wow, I need to be more like her, ‘cause honestly I just want to sit down right now.”
And yes, I sat down.
I sat down because in my heart I knew that something was inherently wrong with how I was thinking. It was not just that I was comparing myself to people who were more demonstrative than I was, it’s that I was looking for the ‘right’ or ‘acceptable’ expressions of this thing called worship.
When we think about worship we are usually concerned with how to do it, when to do it, if we are doing it right, if we are doing it often enough, and (if it happens to be a Sunday morning service) are we are doing it like everyone else.
This concern is rooted in a few things.
First, we see so many verses in the Old Testament where we are instructed to do something or bring something (other than ourselves) to worship. Two doves, one goat and some cash, don’t forget the cash. Got it!
Second, don’t worship anywhere you’re not supposed to. That hill over there? No, that will get you in trouble. This hill over here? Much better, you may proceed.
Third, we have read about what I call #worshipfail, those moments when worship went tragically wrong. Think: Cain's vegetable offering and the resulting rejection that ignited jealousy, murder and exile. Think: Uzzah absentmindedly touching the ark of the covenant during the praise parade and dropping to the ground like a lead ball, dead.
It's enough to make a sane person feel sketchy about this whole worship thing. It’s no wonder we want to do it just right.
From the beginning of biblical history, in the book of Genesis, man began to worship God (it is believed that this was in the form of prayer, praise, thanksgiving, and sacrifice). God consistently revealed himself to man, and with the leadership of his successive servants and he built a nation, a people that are called out from all other people, a people whom he dwelt with and they worshiped him in the way he prescribed.
We’ve been looking for the ‘perfectly prescribed way’ ever since. Some churches use instruments. Some churches do not. Some churches let you wear whatever you want. Some only let you wear your best formal dresses. Some churches require solemnity; others want you to dance the aisles until you faint. And why not be exact about this kind of thing? Wasn’t God exact?
In Exodus 24:1 God instructed Moses, Aaron and the others on exactly what to do. Is God just picky? No, God is God. And God is lethal. For him worship was always about closeness, not about form. He wanted to dwell, but the people were not inhabitable. God instructed them to worship with great sacrifice and at a distance, as a matter of safety. God is a holy consuming fire that both purges and refines, but he has always wanted to be one with us.
We, my dear friend, are in the wake of Jesus, and he changed things.
Jesus made it possible for God to indwell.
Jesus made it possible for us to be inhabitable.
Because of Jesus we are not confined to acts of worship with no life of worship. It's no longer an experience that happens exclusively on the outside, it now springs from within.
Just as his forefathers in the Old Testament, we see more than twenty references in the New Testament to Jesus engaged in prayer, thanksgiving, petition, praise and sacrifice. However, Jesus’ entire life declared, “not my will but thine be done” (Matt. 26:39). This is the worship we are made for, worship as a state of being.
So here is what I want you to remember:
As Craig Groeschel, author of Altar Ego puts it, “…when you know who you are, you'll know what to do”, and it will be glorious.