The Worship Jesus Wants
1. reverent honor and homage paid to god or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred.
Why do worship leaders carry guitars? How did Christians get the notion that God wants to hear all three verses of “Open the Eyes of my Heart?” Do the worship wars between traditionalists and contemporary fans even have a “right” side? How does the definition of worship translate as “sing songs?” Every major religion in the world incorporates music into its worship, but do Christians do it because Jesus told us to, or because we enjoy doing it?
I have heard it said that we sing in church because in the Old Testament, the people of God sang in the temple. This is true, the Hebrew people did sing to God as part of their worship, but a much bigger part of their worship was animal sacrifice. Why don’t we still do that? Sacrifices were much more important to Old Testament worship than singing. True, the prophets did condemn how corrupt the sacrificial system had become. They argued that God wanted obedience more than he wanted sacrifices, specifically in his commands regarding care and love for others. The prophets criticized the singing too though, proclaiming that it is easy to praise God with our lips yet still disobey him with our hearts and actions. The New Testament records people singing in church, but was ordered or spontaneous? There is certainly no command for Christians to sing, and Jesus never seemed all that interested in the subject. So why do we do it? Do we believe that God wants our songs? What does Jesus want from our worship?
Worship is what we do to show God that we honor and love him. Some may describe it as simply “loving him back.” If this is the true purpose of worship, shouldn’t God be allowed to tell us what he wants?
When Jesus walked the earth, there was never a period of time when humanity heard from God so clearly. Jesus spent a lot of his time explaining things to us that we hadn’t quite grasped. We thought we weren’t just supposed to kill people, but we could hate them all we want. Jesus said we needed to love them. We thought we were a special group of people that God would saved just because he liked us the best. Jesus told us that God loves the world so much that he was going to sacrifice himself for it. Jesus also told his followers that he wasn’t going to be around on earth forever, that there was a time coming when we would be left here to live without him speaking directly to us, telling us what to do. For sure he has not left us, but he remains here through the Holy Spirit, but the Spirit does not answer all our questions about what we are supposed to do in a way that all can see. Jesus did give his followers some instructions before he left though. He gave his followers some things to do while he was away.
Jesus told his followers to be obedient to his teaching. He also summed up the entirety of that teaching by telling us to love God with all that you are, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. He said that that one command encompassed all others. It seems that what God wants from us today is the same thing he had always said he wanted from us, that we love him in all we do and we love the rest of his children. The prophets of the Old Testament seemed to understand this to mean that we care for God’s children. It makes sense, since if someone I loved went away, the least I could do is watch his or her kids. When Jesus talked about his return to earth, he spoke about separating people into the groups that love him and those who don’t. The ones who loved him appear to be the ones that cared for him throughout their lives, by feeding him, nursing him, visiting him in prison, etc. Those who he rejected at the end of time are those who did not care for him. Both groups though point out the obvious, that neither ever saw him while they were doing (or not doing) those things. He explained that when you do it (or not) for others, you are really doing it for him. This is what Jesus seems to want from us. So when we package up our worship for him, does this look like the gift?
Why do worship leaders carry guitars? Shouldn’t they being carrying a lunch box and first-aid kit? What if this week we save the singing until after we are done worshiping?