Dear Friend in Christ:
We deeply appreciate your friendship to this ministry and pray all is well with you. Let’s look together at why worship is an essential part of our lives. We were created by God to worship Him and enjoy fellowship with Him forever (see Westminster Catechism, 1647). Worship is not a music style, but it is a lifestyle. I believe worship is life lived in joyful adoration, submission, and service to God. It is posturing ourselves before Him in such a way that we can receive His life into our lives.
I’ve heard it said that “worship is ascribing ‘worth-ship’ to someone or something.” Who, or what, is worthy of praise and adoration? I’ve also heard our dear friend, songwriter and Bible teacher Gerrit Gustafson say, “Worship is a token of a life laid down.” Worship is an act of surrender: “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
When we talk about a “worship service,” we need to understand that worship is more than music and service is more than gathering. Our walk with God is based upon His grace, His Holy Spirit, and His Holy Living Word, which draw us into a living relationship with Him. We see in Scripture some important patterns for how best to relate to Him … to know Him, to hear His voice, and to follow Him (see John 10).
Regular, prayerful, intentional, thankful study of Scripture leads us into wisdom and revelation. Remember, whenever you read the Bible, you are communing with the Author of the Book! In these times, we began to behold the Lord and His ways more clearly. As we behold Him, we are transformed and changed from glory to glory. We see more clearly Who He is and Who He called us to be. We hear His voice and understand His calling on our lives. He reveals to us our purpose in this life and in this world. One of the most consequential passages of Scripture for me is found in Isaiah 6 … “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’
And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: ‘Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.’ Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me’” (Isaiah 6:1-8).
Isaiah’s encounter with the Lord provides a pattern in worship for us today. Isaiah, who sought the Lord, is given a revelation of the Lord in His glory. Isaiah understands, by the Holy Spirit, that the Lord is indeed King of all the earth. Then Isaiah hears the song of heaven declaring that the whole earth is filled with God’s glory—His goodness and His mercy. The power of this revelation literally causes an earthquake, and Isaiah is overcome with a sense of reverence and a holy fear of the Lord. Isaiah recognizes that in the midst of God’s majesty, purity, and holiness, that Isaiah himself is an unclean man with impure lips and that his countrymen and neighbors are also unclean. He is grieved by his own unworthiness and humbles himself before the Lord.
At this point, the Lord initiates a healing of Isaiah’s uncleanness. An angel of the Lord takes a live coal from the altar of the Lord and purifies Isaiah’s lips. The altar of the Lord is that place where the fire of God touches the sacrifice of the praises of His people.
Sometimes, we find ourselves in “a fiery place,” and we wonder what we’ve done wrong, or we’re squirming and trying to get out of it. However, what may be happening in our circumstances is that God is purifying and perfecting us for praise and service. If we will allow Him to do His work, we will see that He’s not trying to hurt us, but He’s trying to bless and heal us.
The angel announces the Good News to Isaiah: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” When the Lord touches us, we are cleansed. He takes our sin and casts it as far as the east is from the west (see Psalm 103:12). He chooses to remember our sins against us no more (see Hebrews 10). In Christ, there is therefore now no condemnation (see Romans 8). God’s Word, received in worship, annihilates the accusation of the enemy!
Why does God deal so thoroughly with sin? Because sin is a communications inhibitor and a relational block. God loves you and doesn’t want anything impeding His fellowship with you. He doesn’t want any confusion in His relationship and communication with you. His aim is not to condemn us for sin, but to wash and heal us from it so that we can get up and moving forward in the mission that He has for our lives; to refresh us by His Spirit and renew our joy.
When the Lord forgives you, then you are forgiven. There is no need to doubt, question, or look back. Faith is restored. Vision and hope return. We learn from our mistakes, but we don’t need to continually meditate on them. If you have asked the Lord to forgive and cleanse you, then you are free! And those whom the Son sets free are free indeed (see John 8:36). Let me say as graciously as I can that 2022 is time to get on with the purpose for which you were created.
Did you sin against someone else? Go to them in humility. Repent. Ask forgiveness. Don’t equivocate. Do whatever you need to do to make things right. It may take commitment, accountability, and work. Having done all before God that you can do, commit the relationship into God’s hands, and ask for healing. Our prayer is that everyone will be free from the curse of sin and shame. Regular times in worship–personally, daily, and also regularly with others—keep us clean before God and with one another. As we behold Jesus more clearly, our relationships with others are clarified.
When we come into His presence in worship, he shows us His majesty and His mercy. We recognize
our sin; His grace allows us to humble ourselves before Him. He takes His holy fire and purifies,
cleanses, and heals us. Then He announces the Good News to us that we are cleansed and forgiven.
Now once we have beheld His glory and been touched by His fire, and freed—not only from slavery
to sin, but also from the condemnation and guilt of sin—then something very wonderful happens. His
voice begins to resonate in our ears and in our hearts. Instead of walking in dullness and confusion, we
can hear and recognize His voice! We hear His call: “Whom shall I send?” From Isaiah, we see what
the response of a true worshipper is: “Here am I! Send me!” Worship leads to hearing which leads to
sending and going.
Worship is a journey. It is not just emotions that feel good to us. It’s not based on our mood for the day. Worship is based on Who God is …
• Creator and Sustainer and Ruler of the Universe
• King of kings and Lord of lords
• Father, Son, and Holy Spirit … the perfect, blessed Trinity
• Savior, Redeemer, Healer
• Lion of Judah
• Lamb once slain for our sins, now Risen in glory
• He is good and His mercy endures forever
• His reign is eternal and He is worthy of praise
Jim Dethmer once said, “Worship is responding to all that God is with all that we are.” It’s not just singing to God or talking to God. It’s allowing His Spirit to take us on a journey to a place where we can behold Him and hear His voice. It’s about being changed and prepared to do His will. True worship transforms us into Father’s likeness and sends us into Father’s will.
True worship provokes change in our hearts. If you go out of a church gathering just the same as when you went in, it can be asked: have you worshipped the Lord in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24)? When I sing and pray, my heart is being prepared to hear … and then obey His voice.
If we can leave church without a sense of mission and going in God’s purpose, have we truly worshipped? If we walk out hating our brother or sister–or, for that matter, the “sinners” in our town—have we truly worshipped? If we can truly see and receive what God has done for you in Jesus Christ, then we will understand that a life laid down in worship and service to Him is our only reasonable response. Paul gives this message to the Romans in chapter 12 … “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Our minds are renewed by the purifying power of God’s Presence and Word and the washing that happens in fellowship and worship with other followers of Jesus. We are transformed in this process … change happens. This is contrasted with the conformity that occurs when we fall in love with the ways of the world; drink from the wells of the world’s philosophies; surround ourselves with people chasing after the dreams that the world offers.
The message presented by Paul and Isaiah is clear: God is looking for those who are willing to go with Him and for Him. You don’t even have to think you are able or qualified. If you can just be willing, then God will make you able. He will cleanse you and purify you and give you equipment, wisdom, and power.
RETURN TO YOUR FIRST LOVE
Remember, our annual in-person CSM Gatlinburg Leadership Conference is happening May 10-12. Bishop Joseph Garlington will be our special guest speaker. You can register at csmpublishing.org or call our office: (251) 633-7900. Our theme is: “Return to Your First Love” and we are looking forward to seeing you there! Please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving this month. We face ongoing challenges, but also wonderful opportunities to share the Gospel worldwide in 2022. We are praying for you and thankful for you!
Scripture references: John 10; Isaiah 6:1-8;Psalm 103:12; Hebrews 10; Romans 8; John 8:36; John 4:2324; Romans 12
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.