The keys of the piano are gently played, the guitar begins to twang, the worship ‘leader’ speaks… ‘now is the time to worship’. So often we have been blessed in gathered worship. In fact, many of the key moments of coming face to face with God has come during gathered worship. I could tell you stories of how I wept in the Spirit, whilst holding a 6-inch nail at Spring Harvest, or the time I collapsed in the Spirit at Soul Survivor – I could even tell you about the time I danced like a lunatic filled with the Spirit at a traditional church gathering. So often we have been blessed by gathered worship. It’s not a surprise. The leader has prayed about this hour on Sunday all week, hours spent sweating over a 20-minute talk. The worship band have prayed and practiced. Prayer meetings before the service. Even the punters have come prepared for this is the moment we bring all our worship to God. I have even been invited to preach with the words, ‘we have now had our worship – Ben’s going to speak to us now’! Gathered worship is great! But…
If that hour a week is all we give in worship something big has gone wrong. I can hear Amos now declaring the word of the Lord, “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-falling stream.”
Worship is looking at God face to face – and when we do, like Moses we shine – like Jesus on the mountain we are transfigured – looking like the best version of ourselves. But if we are only doing this for an hour a week, our worship is ignored. So, Paul encourages us to look to God in our everyday life. He writes to the church in Rome:
“So, here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
Every moment of every day we can look to God face to face and we can be metamorphosised into his likeness. By choosing to wake up and pray, rather than fill ourselves with the anxiety of the news or social media – we look to God. In the shops, what we buy – and whether we queue for human relationship or slip out quickly with the computerised till – we can look to God. When watching latest TV, or listening to music – we can judge and critique – or we can learn about the world and how we might reach it with God’s love. The way we use our belongings, the food we eat, the clothes we buy, the way we treat our bodies – every aspect of our lives – is a calling to worship – to look to God – and thus, is an opportunity to be transformed into His likeness.
Nicodemus and Jesus share a late night conversation where we are all instructed to be ‘born again’. I wonder when the apostle Peter was born again? When he left the family business and followed Jesus? When he witnessed healings? When he saw Jesus transfigured? When he saw the blood drip from Jesus’ forehead at Gethsemane? When he denied Jesus three times? When he was beautifully recommissioned at the beach? At Pentecost when he preached and converted thousands? When he went to the ‘other’, Cornelius’ house, and shared the Gospel? I think Peter would say, ‘every single time’. You see, we are not called to be born again the once like a butterfly – but to be constantly born again like a snake – always shedding skin as we grow and direct our lives in 24/7 worship to the one who gave it all.
So, this week, and the weeks ahead – enjoy gathered worship. But also, in every area of your life offer it to God – worship Him – look at Him face to face. And may every single time you know that you are being transformed into His likeness. Be a snake not a butterfly, be born again loads this week.
Ben Lucas Consultant