Worship that renews
One of the dominant themes of the Bible is that God continually brings renewal to His people, and to the world. For example, even though we usually think of the great flood as a form of judgment, it also was God’s way of renewing the world.
This theme of renewal is important to keep in mind as we think of worship.
Christians will sometimes debate what the purpose of worship is all about. Some will say it’s to praise God, while others will argue it’s focus is to be on teaching. There are also those who contend that worship is about reaching the lost, while still more will claim it’s about experiencing God and getting inspired.
All of these aspects surely play a part in faithful worship. But underlying it all lies this theme of renewal. God calls us to come into His presence for worship because He desires to renew us so we would be in a position to live for Him.
We can see God’s intent to bring renewal when we recall the Old Testament sacrifices. When God brought worshipers into His presence, three big sacrificial operations were involved: cleansing, consecration, and communion.
First, the sacrificial animal was slaughtered, and blood was splattered on the alter. This was to bring about cleansing and forgiveness for the worshiper.
Next, the animal was skinned, cut-up and arranged on the alter. This symbolized the consecration of the worshiper or setting apart his life for the Lord.
Finally, the parts of the animal were were consumed and transformed into smoke. In this way the identifying worshiper experienced God’s presence.
This pattern was repeated over and over through the Old Testament, and with it worshipers were brought from being on the outside to being taken up into fellowship with God. It’s the pattern God used to renew people for service.
Jewish Christians in the early church would have been aware of this pattern. But with the coming of Christ, there were some changes. Animals were no longer sacrificed, because Christ was offered once for all. This did not mean, however, that the idea of sacrifice disappeared. Now believers are to present themselves as living sacrifices who would serve God with their lives.
The problem, however, is that these living sacrifices like to crawl off the alter, so to speak, and serve their own agenda rather than the kingdom of God. As a result, God’s people continue to need regular renewal.
So, what does that process of renewal look like today? It’s built on the same basic pattern that saints of old followed.
First, God forgives our sin as He calls us to confess them and pardons us on the basis of what Christ has accomplished on the cross. Through this step, He cleanses us.
Next, God sets us apart once again as we hear His Word. As the Holy Spirit works on our hearts, the Word transforms us and consecrates us afresh for God.
Finally, God assures us of His peace and presence in our lives. He does this by bringing us into communion with Him at at His table.
Interestingly, confession of sin and observance of the Lord’s Supper are rare events in many of today’s churches. As a result, God’s people go home without the cleansing and genuine assurance they need to serve the Lord in strength.
Could this be why the church is so weak and ineffective today?
In a day when God’s people need to be restored and strengthened, we need worship that renews.
Thank the Lord that His intent to renew His people remains, and that He has given us a pattern for worship to bring this renewal about.