Articles and thoughts by Steve Green.
Isaiah 6: 1-9
What does real worship look like? O, I know the physical characteristics that are usually associated with worship; intimate expressions of the heart, faces turned upwards, hands held high, and eyes closed in undistracted attention. I too, have been transported to the heavenlies and deeply affected while worshiping. Yet, when the songs have ended and the service is over, what then? Does worship have a higher purpose and a longer lasting design than we’ve realized?
During a visit to a Christian college I was impressed with the high percentage of students that chose to attend the student-led worship services. The auditorium was full that night and from all appearances I was convinced that there must have been an extraordinary move of God on campus. The singing was heartfelt and the participant’s obvious affection toward God seemed sincere. Afterwards I spoke with one of the students about what I had witnessed and asked how the spiritual intensity of the meetings translated into everyday life. In other words, what difference did a Sunday night encounter with God have on campus life during the rest of the week? Their response shocked me. “None really. There is still all the same stuff that any other college deals with. I think our worship is disconnected from the way we live our lives.”
The pattern for worship given in Isaiah chapter 6 may just be the answer to what is missing. Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up.” It was a vision; something that God revealed to Isaiah. True worship begins with God’s call and initiative. He beckons and we come, He calls and we answer, He invites and we respond. The gospel is all about God finding us, reaching us with his free love and extending His grace to us while we were sinners. Worship, therefore, starts with a vision; God opens our eyes to catch a glimpse of His majesty, greatness and holiness. The sight is overwhelming. The foundations of our very existence shake and our world is turned upside down. Isaiah cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
No other response is right or appropriate. Those who see the “King, the LORD of hosts” are undone. In the bright light of His holiness, all is uncovered and laid bare, our sins exposed and our feeble excuses silenced. Confession is the next aspect of worship. After Israel’s defeat by Ai, Joshua told Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” God is glorified and praised, when with true humility and brokenness, we acknowledge our sin.
We must linger here a moment, and not be too quick to run from the pangs of conviction and the frightful realization of the deep depravity of our hearts. There is a remedy for the soul, but usually it comes as a surprise to the unsuspecting who mourn over their sins. When we feel most deeply our utter unworthiness and tremble in despair, He comes to heal our hearts. As Isaiah waited, a seraph took a burning coal from the altar with a pair of tongs and flew to him. “And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for’.” Do I hear the strains of worship beginning to swell as the blood-washed sinners feel their burdens lifted and their guilt removed? Worship only comes from the redeemed, those who by faith alone have looked to Christ alone. True worship rehearses, rejoices in and revels in the gospel of God’s grace.
There’s one more element of worship we must not miss. Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” He responded, “Here am I! Send me.” True worship is really a commissioning service. We come to God by His invitation and enabling and He reveals a measure of His greatness and glory to us. We are undone as our sins are exposed by the light of His holiness. We run to Christ and take refuge in his atoning work on the cross. Renewed by the blessing of covenantal promises we are sent out to live for God’s glory, bearing the imprint of grace and testifying to His mercy.
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