Thursday, September 4, 2014

THE WORSHIP LEADER (Philippians Chapter 3)

Philippians 3:3, “Who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.”

This verse sets before us the nature of true worship as opposed to its inferior counterpart--the legalistic religiosity promulgated by the false teachers (Cf. Philippians 3:1-2).  True worship is by the Spirit.  Some use the term “worship leader” to describe the person who leads the singing during the services at church, but it is the Spirit of God who is the true and ultimate worship leader.  It is only by the Spirit—and not by the flesh (i.e. man’s religious doings)—that anyone can endeavor to worship God in an acceptable manner.

Worship is acknowledging God for who He is and what He does in what we say and what we do.  We were all created to worship our Creator, but sin has gotten in the way (Cf. Colossians 1:21).  Rebel sinners have no heart for worshiping God.  So, as A. W. Tozer once noted, Christ came to make worshippers out of rebels: “Why did Christ come? Why was he conceived? Why was he born? Why was he crucified? Why did he rise again? Why is he now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, “in order that he might make worshipers out of rebels; in order that he might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created.”

In order for worship to be acceptable to God it must meet His requirements.  “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).  Worship must be “in spirit and truth.”  A person must first be “born of the Spirit” (Cf. John 3:6), if they are to worship in spirit (Cf. John 3:6).  They must be saved and given a new heart with a desire and capacity for it (Cf. John 6:63).  Only the “Fount of every blessing” can work to “tune (a) heart to sing (His) grace.”

The Spirit of God leads and empowers the believer in the worship of Christ.  Such is the purpose of His ministry: “When the Spirit of truth comes…He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-14).  It is the ministry of the Spirit to glorify the Son.  He opens spiritual eyes to behold the glory of the Lord Jesus (Cf. Ephesians 1:18-19; 3:14-19).  In His helping ministry He is ever always pointing a finger in the direction of the Lord Jesus, bidding our hearts to gaze upon Him, as the hymn puts it, “Spirit of God, my teacher be, showing the things of Christ to me.”

The activities of worship would be impossible apart from the instructing and empowering ministry of the Spirit. Prayer is of no avail if not “by the Spirit” (Cf. Ephesians 6:18; Jude 20).  Indeed, the Spirit “helps us in our weakness for we do not know what to pray for as we ought” (Romans 8:26).  We cannot understand the Scriptures apart from the Spirit’s illumination (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:12).  It is the Spirit of God who alone can apply the Word of God to our hearts that we might lovingly obey and serve. The fellowship we enjoy as believers is a “participation in the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1).  The same kind of Spirit-dependence applies to every other aspect of worship.

Worship of God is the result when the believer is filled with the Spirit of God: “But be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:18-20; Cf. Colossians 3:16-17).  A contemporary Christian song speaks of getting “my worship on.”  But worship is not something we “get on,” it is that which we are Spirit-led to do as we are filled with and walk in Him (Cf. Ephesians 5:18f; Colossians 3:16f).  And the believer is Spirit-led to worship 24/7 in every aspect of his life, not just once a week in a “worship service” (Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31).

There is a tendency for us to approach the matter of worship from an “outside-in” perspective.  We sometimes over-emphasize environment factors—music, aesthetics, a charismatic preacher, etc.--with respect to their contribution to worship (Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:3-4).  But the believer is in fact indwelt by a preeminently qualified worship leader who leads and empowers us in the worship of God and who is not limited in His ministry to a certain place or time.  John MacArthur summarizes his ministry this way: “The Holy Spirit is the divine initiator at work in the depths of the human heart. He transforms a person's life so as to promote worship.”  He is the ultimate worship leader.

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