You’ve been there. Racing down the road, hoping the coffee stays in the cup, telling the kids not to mess up their good clothes. It’s the Sunday morning ritual. As you find your seat, you try to collect your thoughts. Frankly, it’s been a tough week.
It’s a little difficult to worship today.
I’ve been there—standing at the threshold of a prayer time or worship service, feeling far from worthy—or even ready. That’s when it’s time to call in five words that put it all in perspective: “It’s all about You, Jesus.”
We’ve sung these words many times. Still, we often approach worship as if it were about us. We get hung up on our failures, weaknesses, and performance-oriented efforts to win God’s favor with our worship. But the bottom line is: it’s all about Him, not us.
The Old Testament contains three major symbols of worship: the temple, the priest, and the sacrifice. Christ fulfills each of these symbols. He is the temple, the one in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. He is the great High Priest, interceding between us and God. And He is the perfect sacrifice, who paid for our sin once and for all.
But Christ’s centrality and sufficiency does not mean there is nothing for us to do! Because Christ is the ultimate temple, priest, and sacrifice, the believer also becomes those things in Him. We are called God’s temple in a corporate sense as the church (1 Cor. 3:16), and we are called the temple of the Holy Spirit in an individual sense as believers (1 Cor. 6:19). We are called a “royal priesthood,” charged with proclaiming the praises of God (1 Pet. 2:9). And we are to offer our “bodies as living sacrifices,” as our spiritual act of worship (Ro. 12:1). Peter captures all three images when he writes that we, “like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
Christ-centered worship does not diminish our role as worshipers. Instead, it defines it. As we seek the preeminent Christ, we discover the wonder and joy of true worship. Our worship becomes meaningful and authentic only when it’s all about Him. Think of what is actually going on as we pray and worship:
An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God: God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God—that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying—the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on—the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. So that the whole three-fold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).
Does that ordinary man need to understand all of that in order for his prayer life to be effective? Yes and no. A person can eat healthy food without a sophisticated understanding of nutrition, and the food will still benefit him. However, if that person wants to live a healthy lifestyle, some study and knowledge is necessary. Similarly, a Christian may approach God in prayer and worship without fully understanding all that makes it possible for him to do so. But in order to break the unhealthy habits of legalistic or performance-oriented worship, a deeper knowledge of Jesus is required.
Too often, we give up on worship or prayer because we feel unworthy. We cannot get up early enough, pray consistently enough, dance freely enough, shout loudly enough, or live well enough to be accepted by God. The truth, however, is that God’s grace invites us to share in Christ’s communion with the Father, and that is what sets us free! In Christ, God has come to do for us what we could not, and through us what we cannot.
So, next time you’re rushing into church or trying to start to pray, remember that worship and prayer—indeed all of our encounters with God—begin and end with Jesus. It is only then that the personal disciplines and expressions of worship—like early morning prayer or Spirit-led dancing—become joyful and grateful responses to God’s grace rather than attempts to earn it.
When it’s clear that it’s all about Jesus, duty is replaced with delight, and joy springs forth from the hearts of worshipers and intercessors.
Glenn Packiam is an Associate Worship Pastor at New Life Church and the Director of New Life School of Worship in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He is also the worship leader and Associate College Pastor for New Life’s college ministry, theMILL, and one of the founding worship leaders and songwriters for the Desperation Band.
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