(this appeared 3 days ago on Pastor Mark’s blog)
“Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.” Psalm 96:9
Although it is still some weeks away Christmas is already on my mind. It may be on yours also. Accompanied as it is with beautiful traditions and much activity, the Christmas observance is a joyful time even in the midst of all the running around and folderol, which, in spite of all our protestations and lamentations, is about to overwhelm us once again!
At the same time I suppose it’s a good idea to remind ourselves that Christmas is only a day, arbitrarily marked for an observance centuries ago. And it can be, and is, observed by many without any Christian reference point whatsoever. Although it is only a day, the Christian knows that the reality of Christmas is always with us. That, after all, is the point of the great Church festivals. They point not only to the historic moment but also to the living present.
One of my favorite Christmas hymns is ‘O Come, All ye faithful’, with its’ refrain, ‘O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.’ I like this refrain because in a simple line it captures something essential about worship – adoration. I once came across ‘O come. let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.’ carved into a beam over a church door. They had the right idea. To adore the Gracious, Living God is the point of worship, every Sunday, every day.
The sincere desire to worship is the chief sign of a living faith. For the faith that makes the heart alive in Christ can do no other than marvel in wonder, humility, praise and adoration at the depth of God’s love for sinners. The character of Christian worship, therefore, is always tempered with humility because worship is not about us. Worship is not for giving ourselves back to one another.
This is hard for us to take, of course. We want everything to be about us. Which is why, I suppose, it is so easy for many to turn the worship of the church into a tacky entertainment venue or the occasion for slick lectures on self-help. As one person put it with alarming frankness,
‘Worship has to be good for something. It has to be relevant. It has to be comfortable. I have to leave worship feeling good about myself, affirmed, inspired and uplifted.’
Wait a minute. I thought you came to worship in praise and thanksgiving for One who in love for you carried a Cross and shed His blood? You know, Him, the One who created you, the One upon whom you are utterly dependent for every breath, every good. The One to whom you belong and to whom your life is finally accountable. I thought you came here as one deserving nothing, yet overwhelmed that by His grace, freely extended in your baptism and in His Supper, because of Christ, God has chosen to call you His child, forgive your sins and raise you from the dead? I thought you came here to be in the living presence of the God whose Word reaches to the depths of your soul, continually exposing your sin, saving you from yourself and at the same time freeing you for His promised future?
I thought you came here to adore Him, Christ, the Lord?
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
It seems then that living faith, which originates with God and is freely given to me, carries the idea that I am primarily, even exclusively, passive in worship and God is active. God gives through his gospel, I receive. God teaches me through his Word, I learn. Is that right?
I think you are right . God is the One who acts, and we receive, through the conduit of faith. And in that receiving we gain confidence and so forth, and the cycle repeats itself.
“Conduit” is the right word. I know that as an evangelical, I thought “faith” was something exercised or a decision made. But still, it wasn’t a work. Or was it a different category altogether? It was confusing!!
I think it is confusing for many. it’s always good to look at what the Scriptures say about these matters of faith. And there we see that it is all God’s work…for us.
I really appreciate the way Pastor Mark unpacks the Scriptures using illustrations to accentuate their truth.
And I appreciate your comments and perspective, as well, Curt. Thanks, friend.