Worship Coming and Going

Featuring John Telman Posted on June 4, 2009

Worship can be a legalistic activity that consists in outward acts seen at certain times and places. Actually one could argue that unless worship is done “in the Spirit of God", (Philippians 3:3) it is not real worship at all.

Paul the apostle gave a warning to the Philippians about those who were into the outward focus but were far from God. Paul even called them dogs! To them, it was what was seen that was most important. The contrast between a legalistic way of worship and what Paul was teaching was in their perspective of Jesus Christ.

In Philippians 3, Paul focused his readers on the glory of Christ Jesus. In fact he goes on to say that all his past legalistic ways and pursuit of the flesh were trash compared to knowing Christ Jesus.

It is worth noting that Paul, before his conversion, was very zealous about keeping the many, many laws prescribed by the religious order of the day. He was studious, driven, and sincere. He persecuted Christians because he believed he was stamping out a dangerous cult that was worshiping a rabbi that was crucified for teaching heresy. Paul was “found blameless” (Philippians 3:6) by others in regards to following the law. As a religious man, he was no slouch.

Sadly he was religious but did not know God. Jesus was speaking of Paul himself when he said to the Pharisees, “You know neither me nor My Father”. (John 8:19). The point was that a religious activity does not amount to much if we do not know and acknowledge God.

We must know God for worship to mean anything at all. The good news is that as we deepen in a love relationship with God, worship will be a constant activity. It won’t just happen on a Sunday morning but it will be something we always do.

Like Paul, I would caution all of us who lead others in worship, to know God more than we know chords, charts, and lyrics. We must focus our attention on Jesus Christ and we must turn others to see and know God. Paul said that there is a “surpassing value” to knowing Christ Jesus. This value is much more than the outward trappings of success and of religious image.

Here’s an idea: Instead of spending so much of our time on searching out the next great song, why don’t we spend more of our time searching out the great God who created all things, says that he “will never leave us nor forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5), and is exalted above all things. The activities that we are involved in are not bad unless they crowd out relationship and intimacy with God. Nothing can compare to who our savior is.

Some early manuscripts read Philippians 3:3 as, “worship by the Spirit of God”. It is relationship with God by which we worship. Naturally worship will be a continual state of our lives when we daily walk with God. It is something that happens coming to and going from church.