We are to have, in the words of Pastor Eugene Peterson, a “long obedience in the same direction.” We are to follow Jesus, counting the cost of being his disciple – having all of life infused with the love of God and the desire to follow him. This is why worship is important, and worship must center in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to be long on the worship of Jesus.
As believers in Jesus, we are “living stones” being built to form the temple of the Lord. In our worship we are all like priests, carrying the sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving into the presence of God. As God’s holy people, we have been set apart and hewn into shape for the purpose of worshiping Jesus Christ. Instead of offering the blood of bulls and goats, like the select group of the Old Testament priests did, Christians are all priests who now offer spiritual sacrifices because Jesus has taken care of the sin issue once for all. We are to continually offer to God our worship of Christ, a holy life in grateful response to Jesus’ death on our behalf (1 Peter 2:4-10).
Jesus Christ is our cornerstone, our center. In our priority of worship, we are to allow God to build us into a community of faith that worships Jesus with lives dedicated to knowing him and making him known. It really is all about Jesus. An ancient prayer says: Less of me, more of Jesus.
Since the worship of Jesus is of such importance, let me offer a definition of worship so that we are all on the same page: Worship is the expression of a relationship in which God the Father reveals himself and his love in Christ, and by his Holy Spirit gives grace, to which we respond in faith, gratitude, and obedience. All of life, not just a Sunday worship service, is to be a daily rhythm of God’s revelation to us, and our response to God in faith, thanksgiving, and an obedient life.
We exist for worship, and Christian worship is grounded in the triune God and centered in Christ. Worship is the heart and life response to the revelation of God in Christ. Therefore, genuine encounters and experiences of God’s revelation to us and our response to that gracious revealing cannot help but form us into the disciples of Jesus that God wants us to be.
Stuart Briscoe, author and long-time pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin told the following story: “Many years ago, during the Cold War, I traveled to Poland for several weeks of itinerant ministry. One winter day my sponsors drove me in the dead of night to the middle of nowhere. I walked into a dilapidated building crammed with one hundred young people. I realized it was a unique opportunity. Through an interpreter I preached on maintaining Christ as the center of our lives as Christians. Ten minutes into my message, the lights went out. Pitch black. My interpreter urged me to keep talking. Unable to see my notes or read my Bible, I continued. After I had preached in the dark for twenty minutes, the lights suddenly blinked on, and what I saw startled me: everyone was on their knees, and they remained there for the rest of my message. The next day I commented on this to one man, and he said, ‘After you left, we stayed on our knees most of the night. We wanted to make sure we were remaining in Christ and centering our lives in him.”
God is real, and he is really present with us. God is not just some third party listening in to our prayers and our meetings. Worship is an occasion for us to experience God’s presence and power, and to be formed into the followers of Jesus he wants us to be.
Since Jesus is the center of our worship, that means that worship does not center in a style or an outcome. We too often evaluate a worship service on whether or not it “worked” or if it emotionally “moved” the congregation through a particular musical or liturgical style. When worship is designed for congregational taste and preference, Jesus Christ, as the center of worship, may easily be lost. Worship that is pleasing to God has Christ as the center and object of its faith and response. That means that worship that is pleasing to God can be offered in many different styles. Worship itself is to be evaluated not by the satisfaction of personal preference but by its acceptance by God as pleasing and honoring to him. And what is pleasing and honoring to God is worship that has Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith. If Jesus ever gets pushed to the margins of worship, it doesn’t matter what style we worship in because then it ceases to be Christian worship.
Since Jesus is the center of our worship, a particular worship gathering of people changes from more than just an obligation to a meeting with God himself. Worship then becomes less about gaining truth, and more about letting Jesus as the truth gain us. The more we pay attention to the presence of Jesus Christ through the songs, prayers, preaching, and Scripture, the more we will experience the centrality and power of God. And when we experience Jesus, we cannot help but capture his heart and passion for the world. Jesus becomes very precious to us when we align ourselves to him as the cornerstone of our faith and worship.
Romans 12:1 says: Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. We center our lives on Jesus not just on Sunday morning, but daily. Pleasing worship is not confined to a particular person or priest performing worship, but is the responsibility and the privilege of every believer. We are embodied beings; we speak through vocal chords; we move with our legs; we act with our arms; we cannot communicate nor do the will of God apart from our bodies.
Jesus, as the center of our worship, means that acceptable worship is not just for the sanctuary; it is for daily living and communicating. It is in the home, the neighborhood, and the marketplace that discipleship will prove itself. It is in the quality of everyday relationships that God finds worship that is set apart and pleasing to him.
A few questions, it seems to me, need to be asked: 1) Is Jesus the center of your life (not just part of it, but the chief cornerstone)? 2) How do you, or will you, live a life of worship with Jesus as the cornerstone of your life? 3) Do you know of what value Jesus really is?
Jesus is much too precious of a cornerstone to be left in a church building. Let God drill deep into your life and show you the infinite value of Jesus Christ. Explore him. Worship him. Worship him through offering your very life to him. Shape your life around him. Center yourself completely in Jesus and discover just how precious he is. Let your love be long on Jesus Christ.