As mentioned in previous blogs, I’ve been thinking a lot about worship for the past month. In particular, I’ve been thinking about how we should worship God and how we are transformed by our worship. In terms of the former, Matthew 22:37 comes immediately to mind:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
From this, we see Jesus stating that worship can only be done properly when all of our soul is engaged. Worship involves the complete engagement of our affections, our emotions, and our mind. It requires full sincerity without any portion of hypocrisy. Yet I know that even in my best efforts, I cannot worship God as I should. I know that, even at my best, my offering of worship of God falls far short of what He truly demands and deserves. Despite my own frailty and weakness, the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen my heart and transform my affections so that I can worship God in full sincerity.
Ironically, my weaknesses and frailty in worship reminds me of the glorious hope of our resurrection, which stirs my heart for worship. This may seem like a contradiction, but I believe that this is the reality of every believer. Every believer wrestles daily with their indwelling sin. They know that they are set free from the guilt and shame of their sin because we are justified by faith. At the same time, we all wrestle with the reality of sin’s power. We know that we aren’t perfect and we know that sin’s power in our life prevents us from giving to God what we long to give him. As Paul says:
For I delight in the law of God in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Romans 7:22-23
This also means that we long for the day when all of the effects of sin and death are vanquished so that we may worship Him properly. We know that when Christ restores all things, we shall be like Him, but until that point, we groan in our earthly body, waiting to be fully clothed with our inheritance. As Paul says:
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened – not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:1-4
The hope of our future inheritance is not simply that we will have resurrected, glorious bodies, but that ALL of our weaknesses and frailties that come with our fallen humanity may be eliminated so that we may worship Him. Our redemption is centered on this purpose – the Church, just like the Israelites during the exodus, has been ransomed by God so that we may worship Him (cf. Exodus 5:1). This is our future hope, but through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we get a foretaste of it in our present lives.
In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul makes it clear that, as an apostle, he was called to mediate the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of the new covenant, which is promised in Ezekiel 36:26-27. To support this claim, he contrasts the ministries of the old and new covenants and shows how the Spirit’s work of changing the Corinthians’ hearts confirms the establishment of the new covenant. He concludes his argument by stating:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Here, we see how our worship (which is made possible because of the redemptive work of Christ) serves as a foretaste of our heavenly inheritance by transforming us progressively into the glory of Christ. In this passage, Paul compares the ministry of the Holy Spirit to Moses’ experience with the Lord in the old covenant. Just as Moses was able to enter into God’s presence without a veil (cf. Exodus 34:34), when we turn to the Lord in faith, the veil of separation from God is removed. The Holy Spirit is the one who removes our hard-heartedness so that we come to Him for justification. However, the Holy Spirit also gradually removes the hindrances in our heart so that we may behold His glory more clearly. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit, we have access to God and can gaze at the beauty of the Lord.
A major hindrance to worship is our ignorance of God – in particular, our sin prevents us from seeing the full glory of Christ. In worship, our imperfections act as a veil that obscures our vision of God. However, as we behold the Lord through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we are transformed into Christ. In other words, as we worship God and behold Him, the image of God which was distorted by the fall is gradually being restored. So because of this, I don’t lose heart when I stare at my weaknesses and my inabilities to worship Him properly. The work of the Holy Spirit makes me more fit to worship Him. It’s only in my feeble attempts to worship Him that the hindrances that prevent proper worship are removed. It’s only when I come to Him in worship that proper affections and mental faculties towards Him are restored. Moreover, my own infirmities cause me to yearn for the hope of my full redemption and this yearning gives way to worship when I realize that my hope is absolutely sure. God Himself has prepared us for this and the work of the Holy Spirit in us is the guarantee of this hope. John describes this reality in the new heaven and new earth in Revelation 22:1-5
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His servants will worship Him. They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
Why won’t there be anything accursed? Why will His servants worship Him freely and forever? Because our redemption is complete and the power of sin has been destroyed. More than that, the very presence and possibility of sin is removed. We groan in this earthly body because we know that the picture given in Revelation is true. We know that God will finish the work of redemption that He has started in us. Through worship, we get a glimpse of this final redemption and the certainty of this final redemption gives us all the motivation we needed to worship our God.