Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Worship Defined

For the past several weeks, I have been preaching through the 10 commandments. For me, this has been a very enjoyable series, and in some ways a surprising one. It has been surprising to me how much I talk about worship as I discuss these verses. This past week I discussed worship somewhat in-depth as my introduction to the third commandment. This week, I will offer my definition of worship, drawn largely from the various teachings of Martin Luther, Mark Driscoll, and various other mediums.


One of the best definitions that we can find for worship can be found in the book of Romans, chapter 11, beginning in verse 36.

Romans 11:36 - 12:1 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen. 1Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

So worship is three parts, glory, dedication, and sacrifice.

Glory is that we hold something or someone in a position of prominence, preeminence, significance or centrality. This is the center of your life; this is that thing that drives you to get out of bed every morning. This is what drives you life and governs your heart. Whatever that is, that is what you have glorified in your life. And whatever it is, whoever that is, you have placed them in a position of highest praise and value.

We dedicate ourselves to those people or things that we have placed in a position of glory. That’s what Romans means by presenting our bodies, or dedicating our bodies to that which we have glorified.

Whenever we dedicate ourselves to something, we give it our devotion. We follow it; we know everything about it. Its schedule dictates our schedule, literally our entire life revolves around this object of glory that we have dedicated ourselves to. When we dedicate ourselves to something it is essentially like letting everyone know what team they’re on.

We see this with bumper stickers. If you’re going down the highway, and you come up on somebody driving a hybrid Prius with a bumper sticker on the back that says PETA – people for the ethical treatment of animals – you know what team that guy’s on.

In the same way, if you’re going down the highway and you come up on an old Ford truck with a gun rack in the back and that you can hear from a mile away and on the back of this truck you see a bumper sticker that says PETA – people for the eating of tasty animals – then you pretty much know what team that guy’s on too.

That’s the dedication, you dedicate yourself to this object of glory and they announce that devotion – you say this is my group, this is my team, my political party, these are my friends, these are my values, this is what hold a place of glory in my life. This is what I value and cherish above all other things in my life.

And when you devote yourself to this thing of glory, you begin to make sacrifices for it. Because I don’t care who you are there are limits in your life. You are limited by the amount of time you have. You are limited by money, and energy, and desire and everything else.

And so your sacrifice is that you don’t devote your time, energy, and money to certain areas of your life that may need it, because you have devoted all of those things to this thing that you glorify, that you worship, in your life.

And that is worship – that is, at its very heart, exactly what worship is.

That being said, we are all worshippers. You’re a worshipper, I’m a worshipper, the guy down the street that wont give God a second thought is a worshipper, we’re all worshippers. The only question is what will we worship, what will we place in that place of glory over our lives?

We’re all worshippers, which is a good thing because we were created to worship. The Bible tells us that true worship happens when the creation – you and me – places the creator, God, in that place of glory, we devote ourselves to him, and make sacrifices for Him.

However, because of our sin nature, because we are sinners, we have this natural tendency to invert worship. Where we elevate creation over the creator, and we devote ourselves to created gods, devote ourselves to something of our own making, and sacrifice the worship of God for that thing of glory in our lives.

Now, you might say to me John, you know you have been harping about worship an awful lot for the past several weeks. This is a series on the 10 commandments, what does worship have to do with these passages?

Well, I think Martin Luther had it right – when he was teaching on the ten commandments, he said that the first two commandments had to do with the worship of God. And the rest of the commandments dealt with the implications of what happens when we get the first two wrong.

The 10 commandments tells us don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t covet your neighbor or his possessions. And so you say OK, how do I go about obeying these commandments. You obey these commandments by getting the first two commandments right. You realize that there is only one God, and you only worship that God.

So what Martin Luther would say is that if you only worshipped the one true God, then you wouldn’t have problems with coveting. Because when we worship God and God alone, we will not look at our neighbor’s wife and say: you to me are an object of glory. Therefore I will dedicate myself to you and I will make sacrifices of my own integrity and holiness and purity to be with you and have pleasure with you.

If you have a problem with lying, Luther would say that you lie because you have placed your own glory at the center of your life. And so you have become devoted to your ego - to this image of yourself that you have in your mind, and you sacrifice the truth to maintain this image. And so your problem is that you have placed your glory over God’s glory, and you have placed your image over God’s image. You problem with lying is a problem with worship – you lie because you are an idolater. And your idol is yourself.

So Luther rightly writes that if we never broke the first two commandments, then we would never break the other 8 either.

And so, I don’t know what kind of sin problems lurks within our hearts in the blogosphere. I don’t know what specific sins you are dealing with in your lives. Maybe its anger or greed or an addiction to porn or alcohol abuse. Or maybe you don’t have a problem with those things and so your secret sin is pride – you see yourself as holier or better than those people with more blatant sin problems. Whatever it is the sin problem you have is not a problem of being unable to keep God’s law.

Our problems with sin are worship problems.


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