This is the second part of a two part unpacking of a definition for Christian worship. See Part I here. Then continue here:
It is important to recognize that worship is only accepted by God when the worshiper is in covenant with the Father, through the Son, and by the Spirit. It is within the redeeming covenant with God that a relationship exists between the worshiper and the Father, enabling the worshiper’s response to be accepted. One cannot offer worship without the help of a priest, and the Son, Jesus of Nazareth is our great high priest. It is through him that our worship may be laid at the feet of the center throne found in Revelation and the worship is pure.
Covenant is a critical vocabulary word to understanding the Bible. In a covenant, there is an agreement between two parties in which one or both parties make a promise to perform or refrain from certain actions that are arranged beforehand. For ancient Near East times, covenants carried the form of suzerain/vassal. It was a treaty between greater and lesser powers. The suzerain was the greater power and the vassal the lesser. In the case of both Biblical covenants, God is the suzerain, he is the one who writes the covenant, and we either accept or we do not enter into a covenant with him. This is a lost understanding in the American church. We need to recapture this idea that God has already ascribed how the relationship will work, and no other terms will be agreed upon.
In her book The Worship Architect, Cherry Constance recalls an encounter her mentor Robert Webber had with one of her students. Her student asks, “How do you know if you have worshiped?” Webber responds, “You know you have worshiped if you obey God.” (Cherry, 31) What Webber was saying is that transformation takes place after you have worshiped. As a result of God initiating an encounter with us, if we respond appropriately, transformation must occur. The key indicator of transformation is a growing level of obedience. And this is important to note, that this growing level of obedience and therefore transformation, occurs over time. As we continually encounter the Creator, we are called towards him, and we either pull away from that draw, or we move in and respond appropriately, which is through obedience and compliance to the covenant that we may enter.
This idea of transformation is critical to understanding worship. Worship, just as any other event or activity, has its outcomes. How does one understand, or even measure, spiritual formation? Matthew 7 provides some strong insight. “[Y]ou will know them by their fruits.” Fruits may reference the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This would make sense. These attributes do not occur naturally. They require inward transformation, which only the Spirit can create and sustain. The other kind of fruit that may be referenced here is the fruit of the work the Father has called us each to do, as a person as well as a community. If we are truly doing the work that he has called us to do, seeking justice, giving mercy, walking humbly, fruit will come about. Now, it may not always be noticeable, but he is faithful even when we are unfaithful, and he is faithful when we are faithful. It is by this standard that we know whether people are worshiping the triune God. If transformation is not taking place, then worship is not taking place.
To God Alone be the Glory
Finally, worship is for God’s glory, and his glory alone. He is the Creator, Redeemer, he is the suzerain, and we are a redeemed people. It is not about any of us as individuals, smaller communities, or any larger community. This is about God and his creation and who he is. “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry.” (ESV, Luke 19:40) In other words, God is going to get his due glory. It is because of who our triune God is that we are redeemed. It is his very being to bring his creation back, because of the defining love we so often talk about. The spotlight is on him, not us. This story is not about us.
Jason Palmer is the Editor of TalkingWorship.com. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry with a Worship Arts Major and Music Minor. He has lead worship for evangelical churches for 7 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.