“You are fighting for their view of God.” I will never forget that quote from a professor of Biblical worship and Music back in seminary. Over and over, he would make statements like, “Right theology leads to right doxology” or “We are at war every Sunday service.”
I don’t think we see our churches’ worship services as warzones, but when you think about it, every part of the service is a means to equip us and shape our hearts according to God and His Word! That is the beauty of worshiping God together.
Who are we worshiping?
But what do we mean by “worship?” Based on Scripture, I define “Christian Worship” as “the Christian’s response of adoration, devotion and praise to the Triune God because of who He is and what He has done.” Notice how worship is at the core a response to the Triune God’s nature and actions. Worship doesn’t come from a vacuum. Rather it is always contingent on who God is and what He has done. Herman Bavinck, a 20th century Dutch theologian began the first chapter of his book The Wonderful Works of God like this: “God, and God alone, is man’s highest good” (1). In His written Word, God unfolds how amazing He is and all that He has done. We read how the Triune God, out of the overflow of love and glory, created all things (Genesis 1-2; John 1:1-4), how sin is an offense that demand’s God’s infinite wrath to be poured out on it (Genesis 3; Romans 1-3), and how at the heart of the works of God is the Gospel of Jesus Christ — God rescuing rebellious sinners through the perfect obedience, substitutionary death, victorious resurrection and transcendent ascension of Jesus Christ so that those who trust in His finished work and grace are saved (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 1:1-14; John 3:1-36; John 14-17; Romans 3-11; Ephesians 2:1-10).
Our Songs are teaching Theology
So, do you see what you and I are doing when we sing together? In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts the Colossian Christians to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (ESV). No song is never teaching something. In fact, every element of Sunday morning is telling us what the focus is for the Christian life. Is the focus on how great you are, an emotional buzz, a brand-new song or a novel trend? Or rather, are we focused on “the wonderful works of God” who is greater than we can imagine and yet has revealed himself and brought us to Him through His grand work of redemption?
Worship entails our entire lives
Did you notice how “worship” is not merely “singing?” In fact, Paul writes in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (ESV). Here and throughout the rest of Scripture, Worship is seen as our whole life response to God (which includes songs and worship gatherings). Doesn’t that sound like the Gospel? We don’t obey God in order to obtain righteousness, forgiveness of sin and eternal life. Rather, it’s because He saved us that we obey Him (Titus 2:11-14). So, on Sunday morning, we get the opportunity to grow in conforming our lives to the Gospel. Are you every Sunday morning taking in the realities of living in light of Gospel in a sin-broken world that needs the risen Lamb once slain?
Soli Deo Gloria or Soli (Fill in the Blank)
Two historic catechisms begin with this question and answer: “What is the chief end of man?” “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” At the end of the day, the question that we must ask is this: “Who is getting all the glory?” If our worship is fueled by our theology, then our worship leaders have a huge responsibility in showing through the songs and services who we are truly worshiping. As members of local churches, we have the joy of knowing God so that we can worship Him in light of who He is, teach one another with our songs and services, and leave Sunday mornings encouraged to worship Him in our everyday lives. But we need to regularly ask this question: “Do our songs, worship services, and our lives proclaim that ‘God, and God alone, is man’s highest good?’”
Joseph Yu is the worship pastor of Gospel Life Church in Sunrise, Florida. Abridged from an article from Joseph Yu’s personal blog The “Yu”ng Theologian (theyungtheologian.wordpress.com)