The topic of worship is one that very much excites me, not just because I have been privileged to have been in music teams/choirs for over 20 years. Yep music and I have a very long and beautiful relationship, especially in the church. I make the point to be very clear to people that music is but a part of worship not all of worship and so even with the music team that I lead now, I am very careful to call it a music team, because we should be worshipping God in everything we do.
I learnt somewhere that praise is a response to what God has done and worship is a response to who He is. If that is the case then God is an all-encompassing omni-awesome being who is everything to us and thus deserves our worship in everything we do. Again, praise is not fast songs and worship is not slow songs. I can praise the Lord through fast and slow songs. Worship is not music, but music is a part of worship.
“Praise is a response to what God has done and worship is a response to who He is.” – Unknown
The Apostle Paul tells the Romans to “offer yourselves as living sacrifices” because this is their “reasonable act of worship” (Romans 12:1-3). This simple text is the foundational stone for our blogpost today. True worship comes from a dead vessel, a vessel not so self aware that it can submit wholly to the entity being worshipped. Our reasonable worship in churches or lives should come from a place of having died to ourselves. The Old Testament backs this thinking as well showing God has an affinity for things with no will of their own or things that have died. God says the Israelites sacrifices rise to him like a sweet aroma (Numbers 15:3, 7).
It is when Jonah dies to his own will, that God can then use him to give the message to Tarshish. When Joseph seemingly gives himself over to the plan that his brothers have (that God is working through) and lets himself die to his circumstance and allow God to work, he is later promoted to prime minister of Egypt. When Moses dies to his own doubts about his ability (although assisted by Aaron as spokesperson), God begins to use Him. When Abraham dies to his own desire for keeping his son, God applauds him and strengthens the covenant with him. The Israelites were to die to the Egyptian ways and then God would do miraculous things with them. The crescendo of all this is the ultimate sacrifice for sin on the cross of Calvary, Jesus Christ, who dies in our place. God uses dead things – things dead to their will, to their way, to their comfort. Because when God consumes the thing then in His fire, it won’t feel it. When the world takes and takes from it, it won’t feel it. The problem is that our worship today is predicated on how we feel. Worse off our musical worship.
Because we are in an African context, there is a parallel I would like to make that could perhaps disquiet some people, not because it is not true but because it takes away the Western mould of musical and other/life worship from our eyes. The reverence and musical worship that a sangoma and her initiates have for the ancestral is a marvel to watch. They will dance and sing to these entities for hours on end until the entities inhabit the very space wherein they are or even the bodies that they have – in order to do the work that is needed.
I read of few experiences in the Bible where this behaviour could have been copied from, where smoke filled the temple and the priests could not minister in their usual way (2 Chronicles 5:14, Revelation 5:18). Our musical worship has got to be an expression of the life-worship we give God on a daily basis. We ought to be giving God such thick worship in our everyday life that He has not a choice but to inhabit our shadows to heal people, to inhabit our clothes to heal people, that our touch would bring life to the dead, that our very presence would make demons to flee, that we could hear His suggestions for the problems and issues that people face in life. Yes, much like the sangoma we need to first allow the one we reverence to take over our everything then we will become functional in His kingdom – worship allows us to let Him speak through us.
We often read about possession by demons, but we never stop to think about what a human “possessed by the Lord” could do. The Bible uses the phrase “and the Spirit came upon him” to signify what I am speaking about. Samson’s strength came from that divine possession, Solomon’s wisdom, Elijah’s prophetic leadership, the examples are manifold. But one common thread is the availability of power to do the supernatural. This is bred in worship.
“The problem is that our worship today is predicated on how we feel.” – Pastor K. Mogase
Our experience of worship today is reduced to just a few songs on a day of the week and we think that that is enough to beckon God to come and enjoy our sacrifice? It’s not even a sacrifice because we all seem to be following a similar model. When was the last time we heard of a service where the presence of God was so thick that no one was able to move, let alone minister due to the worship that those people are giving? Leads me to think that the zenith of worship is actually silence and listening to God because He has arrived manifestedly in our presence.
Worship has the power to shake God to inhabit the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). Imagine that, God inhabiting your praise of Himself. Unfortunately, today the musical worship needs a tuning. People sing what we prefer to hear. Songs calling us to repentance and holiness and the grandeur of God, even when He says no to us are hardly as popular as songs that soothe our own ego and tell of God’s love for us. In worship today, the Christian is at the centre and not Christ – so we ought not to get amazed when our churches are full but not impacting the world, when raising the dead becomes a spectacle and not an ordinary occurrence for the Christian, when the false that is out there clobbers what is real because our focus is on the hand of God and not the heart.
But there is definitely hope, we can go back to being the kind of people that can make hell shudder and the devil to have a headache – not just in church, but in politics and economics and society. We can be a peculiar people in our worship to God so much that all of our lives are surrendered to God in reverent awe and we live worship-filled lives that keep God on the throne. It begins with dying to ourselves and our preferences and our ways of doing things. When God’s in charge, everything is open to changing – He is God afterall.
About the Author
I have personally felt challenged and encouraged to consciously engage in a meaningful worship that requires me to die to self and allow God to take over and use me.
Rea leboha Moruti!