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How Do We Worship Rightly?

Posted By Silas Sproul, Director of Worship On Thursday, April 26, 2018

Matthew 27:46

About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”)

If I could summarize in a sentence what the single most important thing we as humans can do, it would simply be this: to know God accurately. An accurate and an intimate understanding of the character of God is radically transformative and fundamental to our spiritual formation and maturity. Knowing God in this way demands that we worship Him – it’s what we were made to do! John Piper offers wonderful insight to what biblical worship is: “Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship.” Similarly, Piper identifies the following as the root issue of worship: whether we know and love the will of God. Truly, knowledge and love for God’s will go hand in hand, and this truth is at the very center of biblical worship. 

But even when we can find common ground in this theology and philosophy of worship, we Christians are very good at polarizing over the “do’s and do not’s” of worship through song. In some of our worst distortions of worship, we have a new holy trinity: right style, right external form, and right location. Exhibit A: Formal attire, hymnal in hand, stoic demeanor, sitting in pews in a beautiful chapel with stained glass windows. Exhibit B: Casual attire, hands reaching high, expressive demeanor and voice, standing amidst a crowd of thousands worshipping with a 20-person live band playing and singing flawlessly with state of the art sound gear, a light show, and volume levels that are sure to knock a few years off your ears’ lifespan! The kind of person that prefers one of these environments to the other might go as far to say that the other is wrong in their worship. They have made style, external form, and location the basis for biblical worship. 

Sometimes I learn something about our Savior that leaves me defenseless to my “righteous” preferences, and without cause for assault on someone else’s preferential beliefs. The words of Matthew 27:46 do just that when I consider what it means to worship rightly. Jesus’ words in this passage seem to be indicative of doubt – of failing to know and love the will of his Father. I would suggest that, while these words are saturated in pain and anguish, there is no doubt in his cry. As Jesus’s arms were stretched out, body exposed, bloody, and broken (to the extent that the very sight of him was despicable) hung on a Roman cross in the presence of his persecutors, Jesus was shouting out the first lines of Psalm 22 – a song of praise. There was nothing in style, external form, or location that our present-day worship battles would consider to be “good,” but in this moment Jesus references a song that ends with the very description of what we, the bride of Christ, are to do in our Sunday morning worship services. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it! I believe that when we worship our Great God, the right way is to first look to Jesus as our Worship Leader. It is only because of him that our worship is even considered acceptable to God, and because of the Son, our worship brings joy to the Father! When we sing, the basis for our worship service is understanding that God has served us, and so we sing about that –the Gospel! We respond to God’s revealed Word and sing through the themes of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, assurance, and commitment to answering the call of the Lord! I invite you to read the following passages, considering the one perfect Worshipper, the one true Worship Leader, Jesus; the Son of God. 

Psalm 22:1, 6-8, 16-19, 22-25, 27-31

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by everyone, despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads. “He trusts in the LORD,” they say, “let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.” Dogs surround me, a pack of villains encircles me; they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.  All my bones are on display; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment. But you, LORD, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows. All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive. Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn: He has done it!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you that we, your children, can gather together proclaiming the truth of your righteousness to this current generation. I know that I am still flawed in my offering of worship to You, but your Son has made my song acceptable and pleasing to You. Thank for Your overwhelming, unending, and entirely undeserved grace in my life. All praise, honor and glory belongs to You, God. Teach me to know and love Your will above all else. 

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