Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A People-Scented Worship (Part 2 of 2)

TITLE: A People-Scented Worship (Part 2 of 2)
Written by: Conrade Yap
Date: 31 May 2011
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1)

MAIN POINT: While it is true that worship is all about God, the condition of the worshiper is also crucial. The quality of our worship to God hinges on two elements. Our inner spiritual well-being and our outer relationships with others. 



Worship is all about God. It is also about the quality of our worship. The Psalmist cries out:

"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." (Ps 51:10)

Each time we come to God, we need to be reminded of this. No matter how hard we try, we can never cleanse ourselves. We can never redeem ourselves on our own strength. We need God's help.

In this second part of worship, I shall talk about the quality of the worshiper's heart. This is what I call being 'people-scented.' Scented from within. Scented from without. Both needs to be strung together with a scent of thanksgiving.



A) People-Scented Worship in FORGIVENESS (From Without)

For me, people-scented worship is an awareness that we need one another. We need restored relationships with each other. We need to be forgiven, and to forgive. We need to love one another as Christ loved us. We need essentially to practice the grace of Christ on one another, just as we have received the grace of God ourselves. Three things make worship acceptable unto God.

Firstly, forgiveness. A people-scented form of worship is filled with the fragrance of forgiveness.
"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift." (Matthew 5:23)
I know of a believer in Christ who has trouble going to the same Church with another member. The 'hello's are shallow because the grudges are deep. It impacts their worship so much that Sunday becomes a dreaded day for them. For them, forgiveness takes time. In fact, I believe the longer they allow the grudge to fester, the more difficult it is to resolve. They will need to initiate reconciliation by recognizing that worship without forgiveness is not pleasing to the LORD. The great 19th Century American  preacher says it well:

"I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note--torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one." (Henry Ward Beecher)

That said, we need also to be forgiven ourselves, for the erroneous judgmentalism we unconsciously carry. For example, when we criticize the person upfront for the selection of songs, ask God to forgive us for our lack of grace? Ask God to forgive our judgmental behaviour when these people have sacrificially volunteered their time and energy to put the worship session together; for working hard while the rest of us are busy doing our own things? Ask God to forgive our lack of encouragement. Ask God to forgive our harsh words of critique. Ask God to help us season our words with grace.

Sometimes I feel we take our worship teams for granted by letting negative feedback loose too easily, and holding back positive feedback. It takes a forgiven self to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. It takes a gracious person to overlook 10 shortcomings, and to highlight one thing the servants of God have done well.

B) People-Scented Worship in OBEDIENCE (From Within)

Secondly, obedience. A people-scented worship is cleansed with waters of self-examination. This is done through bathing ourselves in obedience.

For worship to be acceptable to God, obedience plays a huge role. For King Saul, the price of such education is his throne, his family and his own life. It may come as a high price, but such is the folly of disobedience in the first place. What is there in worship is there for us to obey? I believe that any act of sacrifice that we want to make must begin with a series of self-examination questions:

  • What sins do I have to confess today?
  • What are the good deeds that I could have done but failed to do last week?
  • If we are given a second chance, what are the things I need to do or re-do, in the light of honouring God with our actions?
  • What have I left undone?
  • Am I serving by the grace of God, on the promises of God? Or are we serving our own selves, and working things out on the premises of our own strength?
  • Have we obeyed our parents, and supported our leaders? Living in a culture of skepticism and criticism, have we obeyed those having authority over us with gladness rather than grumpiness?
The failure to practice obedience is a devastating blow to one's spiritual health. Dr D. A. Carson warns us to be wary of the dangerous drift of the sinful human condition toward the grime of unnatural behaviour:
"People do not drift toward Holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated." (DA Carson, For the Love of God Vol II, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999, p23)
Being people-scented means we consistently shower blessings of grace upon one another, triggered by obedience to God. Our acts of serving one another is one that is primarily of obedience to God, not solely the experience of self.

C) People-Scented Worship (Thanksgiving Always)

Thirdly, being people-scented means we serve out of a thankful heart. We recognize that by ourselves we are nothing. We need God. We need one another. Acts of love and grace are emanated from a thankful and grateful heart. One of my favourite songs is Don Moen's "Give Thanks."

GIVE THANKS
WITH A GRATEFUL HEART
GIVE THANKS
TO THE HOLY ONE
GIVE THANKS
FOR HE'S GIVEN
JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON.

AND NOW LET THE WEAK SAY
I AM STRONG
LET THE POOR SAY
I AM RICH
BECAUSE OF WHAT
THE LORD HAS DONE
FOR US
(X2)
GIVE THANKS...
Being thankful is not simply saying "Thank You." It is LIVING it.

D) Enter Expectantly, Exit Excitedly

What is the true measure of a worshipful experience? I still think it has less to do with the 2 hours of worship time on Sundays, and more to do with what happens AFTER the worship. In a huge survey of 7000 pastors in North America, Stetzer and Rainer identifies key elements in transformational churches. On worship, they discover that:

".. people gather with the expectation that something amazing will happen. In many churches - too many churches - the leaders and people gather without such anticipation. They have grown accustomed to the service beginning at 11:00 sharp and ending at 12:00 dull. In a TC (transformational church) the people arrive with expectancy and leave with excitement." (Stetzer & Rainer, Transformational Church, B&H, 2010, p160)
I believe that one of the reasons why we fail to come to worship with an expectant heart is because our hearts are not ready. We have not forgiven well. We have not obeyed enough. We have failed to be grateful to the best of our ability. For all these, when we come to God, let us seek that God cleanse us, to forgive us our debts, as we forgive those our debtors.

  • Do not come to worship with a spirit of resentment about your brother or sister in Christ.
  • Do not approach the throne of God with dissent, thinking that you have depleted of choices.
  • Do not enter the Church with a descent unto thanklessness. 

Instead, enter the Church with a heart ready to forgive self and others, to obey God and God's leaders, to be thankful always. For God is merciful. Amen.

Thought: "Worship at a TC focuses more than a mystical presence of God. Because of an intentional emphasis on presenting the claims of Christ and His Word, a TC expects God's presence to be real and transformative in their worship experiences. Knowing this, they look for and ask for people to change because of God's gift of mercy." (Stetzer & Rainer, Transformational Church, p160)


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