February 25, 2012
Lately on this blog I’ve been going through and highlighting thoughts on personal worship from the book Worship On Earth As It Is In Heaven: Exploring Worship as a Spiritual Discipline. It’s been a very healthy call to really make worship beyond just a Sunday event that I attend, and discover what the pattern of a worshiper should look like beyond the community worship we experience Sunday by Sunday. Honestly, we expect a lot from the church worship gathering. We need it to be this refugee of holy peace, and an escape from the noise of everyday life; we expect to commune our hearts together and to hear the intimate voice of God, and it needs to all happens within the confines of a specifically allotted one hour time. However, a worshiper lives a life of devotion beyond Sunday morning. And this book thus far has challenged us to make worship a priority, and to schedule a regular routine of it in our lives.
This leads us to another challenge: surrender. We need to let go of the idols that compete for our time and attention. Idolatry is often easily dismissed as an antiquated image. In our minds we imagine some ancient tribal people group dancing ecstatically around a fire, late at night, bowing down to some carved wooden face, or other kind of statue. In the Bible we think of the golden calf, or of asherah poles, and idols like the baals of the ancient Canaanites. We don’t participate in any overt ritual action like that and so we think idolatry is not an issue for us. But idolatry as theologian A.W. Towzer said is simply “worship directed in any direction but God’s, which is the epitome of blasphemy.”
Worship is anything that is more important to you than God. It can take the form of many things, whether possessions, relationships, a job, a social cause. It can really be anything. I actually have this picture in my mind of the character Linus from the cartoon Peanuts. He’s a very mature, articulate, and well adjusted young kid, but for some reason he’s very attached to his blanket. It causes him great anxiety to part with it. It goes everywhere with him. That’s kind of how we attach ourselves to idols, and it is an unhealthy kind of attachment. Idols can be the things that set us off emotionally, that give us a sense of peace and security, and cause us great anxiety when they are taken away.
The thing is, as Christians, holding on to an idol is an insult to God. In the first two of the Ten Commandments God says we are to have nothing above him, nor are we to worship anything else. Exodus 20:3-5 says: “You shall have no other gods before me.“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God…” (NIV). God tells us very clearly there is no room in our lives for anything above him.
And neither can anything replace the satisfaction of placing God first in our lives. Only God can make our future secure and guide us to true lasting satisfaction. The Psalmist understands this when he says:
You make known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 16:9-11 (NIV)
And so worship in our personal lives needs to be expressed in full devotion to God. We need to be careful to live our lives free of idolatry, and to spend our time enjoying the presence of our God. If there is anything that hinders us or tempts us away from Christ, we need to examine ourselves, and flee from it. This will continue to transform us as a congregation when we come together to worship.
Associate Pastor of Music & Arts