About Jesus - Steve Sweetman
In Christian terms, the
word "worship" means different things to different people.
Many Evangelicals associate worship with singing hymns in a
Sunday morning meeting, as I believe my mother understood worship to be
when I was young. In those
During the late 1940's
and early 1950's my dad played guitar for a popular local country and
western band. They had their
own weekly radio show and they performed at dances throughout the
region. I believe my dad
could have easily ended up in Nashville, playing his guitar alongside the best of them, as did one of his
musical disciples. My dad's
musical future all changed when he became a Christian.
The Evangelical culture of the day did not permit dad to play in
a secular band. It also did
not permit him to play his National triple neck steel guitar in church.
He was frustratingly trapped in a state of limbo between two
cultural communities. That
eventually changed. Somewhere
along the line Evangelicals sanctified guitars for the service of the
Lord, permitting my dad to play his guitar with other musicians in
churches across southern Ontario Canada.
I recall Alfred Reid.
He was our congregation's organist when I was young.
I believe I can safely say that worship for him was one hand
raised to Jesus, the other hand on the keyboard, and a few tears sliding
down his cheeks. I'll never
forget his heart felt expression of worship. When
my dad finally got to play his National steel guitar in congregational
worship, he thoroughly enjoyed accompanying Mr. Reid.
Although I haven't played
my guitars, banjo, or harmonicas, in congregational worship lately,
playing music in that setting has been a big part of my life over the
decades. On one occasion in
1981 I had lunch with the former lead guitar player for a popular
Washington D C rock band. When
he became a Christian he left the world of rock and roll behind, and
that included his electric Gibson Les Paul guitar.
If he would have offered me that guitar I would have thanked the
Lord and received it in a heart beat, but of course, he wouldn't have
wanted to taint me with his past worldliness by giving me his guitar.
His reasoning for leaving it all behind seemed reasonable for
him. Beyond the fact that
his electric guitar was associated with his past life of immoral and
unhealthy excesses, he considered his Les Paul something that fed his
addiction to his ego. Many
heavy rock guitar players admit that the rush they feel while wailing
away before adoring fans is addictive.
The bolt of energy of electrical proportions that blasts its way
through their system while their fingers fly across the fret board beats
most drug induced highs. So,
this former rocker left the world of electric and entered the world of
So what's the Biblical
bottom line to worship? I
believe Romans 12:1 helps answer this question.
The NIV reads; "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in the view
of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and
pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship".
Let's dig into Paul's admonition and see what he is saying.
In light of God's
abundance of mercy directed our way, Paul encourages us to offer our
bodies as living sacrifices. He
calls this offering "our spiritual act of worship". The
terminology Paul uses here puts a New Testament spin on the Old
Testament practice of sacrificial blood offerings.
The Greek word
"soma" that is translated as bodies in Romans 12:1means more
than our physical bodies. "Soma"
is often in reference to the totality of who we are, as I believe is the
meaning here. In other
words, the New Testament view of a sacrificial offering is offering
every fiber of who we are to Jesus.
Our English verb "to
offer" is translated from a Greek aorist active infinitive verb.
An aorist verb denotes a one time action that has yet been completed.
This tells me that Paul is saying that we must at one point in oru life
decide once and for all time offer ourselves to God and then live this
offfer out in our lives.
We derive our English
noun "liturgy" from the Greek noun "leitourgia",
which simply means "a service" that one provides for another.
It's not a service in the sense of a Sunday service.
The verb form of leitourgia is "latreuo", which means
"to serve". In the
translated as "proper worship" here in Romans 12:1.
The meaning of "latreuo" tells us exactly what Biblical worship is,
and again, it has little to do with any Sunday morning activity.
Biblical worship is the
sacrificial, moment by moment, continuous, act of serving Jesus with
every fiber of who we are. If
this is how you attempt to worship, and if you're honest, you'll agree
with Paul when he calls such worship a sacrifice. It
doesn't come natural to fallen humanity.
What musical instrument
you play or don't play has little to do with worship.
My Washington D C former rocker friend sold his Gibson Les Paul.
I've kept my Fender Stratocaster.
If I can leave my ego at home, my guitar becomes part of my
expression of worship to Jesus, just as Alfred Reid's organ became part
of his expression of worship. If,
however, my ego accompanies me to a service of worship, I become the
focus of worship instead of Jesus. At
this point worship becomes theatrical entertainment.
There's nothing inherently wrong with theatrical entertainment,
but let's not call it worship. The
Apostle Paul was right when he said the sacrificial offering of
ourselves is our spiritual act of worship.