Posted by: Philip Rushton | April 22, 2013

How Worship Changes Us

why-worshipWhen I was a youth leader back in college I had a middle school student ask me an important question. Why do we worship God? Do we worship God because he is insecure and wants our praise? Are there not more productive things we could be doing with our time – like serving the poor, or taking care of our families?

The purpose of worship has also come into question among the most recent wave of spiritual seekers in our western world. There is a lot of interest in spirituality today, but a decrease in interest in Christianity. A lot of people seem to be turning to forms of spirituality that are not focused on worship as much as they are focused on meditation. In an interview with Brian McClearan, scientist Dr. Peter Senge commented on why books about Buddhism have become increasingly popular while books on Christianity have declined in appeal to the broader culture. His evaluation is that “it is because Buddhism presents itself as a way of life and Christianity presents itself as a system of belief. So I would want to get Christian ministers thinking about how to rediscover their own faith as a way of life because that’s what people are searching for today. That’s what they need most.”

I think it is important for us to recover the idea that worship is a practice that is formative for us. Sometimes I think we associate public worship as an act of declaring our beliefs through song. While this is one aspect of worship it is not the whole story. I believe worship is a way of life that impacts how we live our life and interact with our world. In this way, worship functions similarly to the other spiritual practices of the faith like meditation and prayer.

One writer puts it this way. “Long looking with admiration produces change. From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanor’s and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.” In essence, we start to become like the people we worship. There is a reason why celebrities get paid big bucks to appear in commercials, and start carrying their own clothing lines. People wear the same clothes, purchase the same products, and sometimes even get the same kind of dogs (think Paris Hilton and chihuahua’s in handbags) as the “stars” they admire.

Alternatively, when we worship God we start to become more like him. Consider how worship transforms Isaiah in Isaiah 6:2-8.

1 I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. 2 Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. 7 The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!”

As Isaiah encountered God in worship it significantly impacted the direction of the life. First, it brought about conviction of his sin. As he encounters God’s holiness he recognizes his need to change his ways. When he reflected on the holiness of God it spurred on the desire for holiness in his own life. Secondly, this encounter resulted in him being called to go out to the world to be God’s ambassador and prophet. Worship, then, can profoundly shape who we are. When we worship God we start to become more like him. When we admire him and praise his attributes we start to desire those same attributes in our life.

Sometimes things become so routine in our life that we forget the purpose behind them. I think it is helpful for us to recover the importance of why we worship on Sunday mornings. When we truly bow before a God in worship, the only person who is truly worthy of our praise, life starts to change in profound ways.

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