September 23, 2009

Mission of Hope as Worship

2009 1527 page11 captudy the story of any successful business and inevitably you will find a compelling mission that fuels the organization to greatness. This mission captures the core of what the company is all about. For example, consider the mission of Coca Cola: “To put a can of Coke within arm’s reach of everybody in the world.”

Walt Disney aspires “to make people happy.”
Sony says: “We want to experience the joy of advancing and applying technology for the benefit of the public.”
Software giant Microsoft is all about empowering people “through great software—any time, any place, and on any device.”
And finally, consider this grand, audacious mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church: “To proclaim the message of the three angels in Revelation 14.” Gutsy mission, isn’t it?
To this end we are devoting our week to a deeper study into this passage in Revelation 14 that outlines the mission of God’s end-time church. We share a prophetic directive to proclaim a message of hope to the world.
Worship and Our Mission
Revelation 14:7 records: “He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
2009 1527 page11Yesterday we looked at this verse and considered the urgency of our message in light of the judgment that “has come.” Today we revisit the same verse to consider the importance of worship to our mission of hope. Notice at the heart of our message of hope is a calling to “worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
Philip Yancey observes: “It is a terrible thing to be grateful and have no one to thank, to be awed and have no one to worship.”1 As a community of faith, we have our God to thank. We have Someone to worship! This is in the DNA of our church. Worship is at the core of our mission.

So what does this mean? Let’s address three questions with regard to worship: whom? how? and when?
Whom to Worship
Notice who receives our worship. We worship Him who created the heavens and the earth. In our sophisticated age of space travel and savvy technology, it is an unending temptation to shift our affections from our Creator to ourselves.
In the late nineteenth century, two pioneers were obsessed with climbing Mount Rainier, that glorious 14,410-foot peak in Washington state. They sought help from a local Native American guide, who informed them that his people considered it sacrilegious to climb Mount Rainier. He described God’s home in the lake of fire at the crown and that no Native American dared to trample on the holy ground.
The climbers offered more and more cash, until eventually one guide sold out. Although the guide tried to mislead them, the men were determined. Near the pinnacle, the guide said, “I am forbidden to go any higher. From here on, you must go on alone.” Courageously the men persevered, determined to conquer the mountain. They did. They snapped pictures. They planted a flag. Chalk up another victory for humanity.
While their gritty resolve is admirable, at a more profound level their accomplishment is disturbing. After all, they violated a sacred trust. They conquered for humanity what had previously been reserved for God.
In today’s sophisticated age it remains a constant temptation to elevate humans and diminish God. When Samuel F. B. Morse invented the telegraph more than 150 years ago, his first words sent by wire were “What hath God wrought.” When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon in 1969, he said, “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” It used to be God who got credit for human innovation. That’s not the case anymore.
Rabbi Harold Kushner observes: “Technology is the enemy of reverence. Deliberately or inadvertently, technology puts out sacred fires because [it] is the celebration of what man can do. In the Bible, idol worship is not a matter of praying to stones and statues. Idol worship is the celebration of the man-made as the highest achievement in the world. What is wrong with idol worship, with worshipping human achievements as if they were the ultimate accomplishment, is not just that it is disloyal or offensive to God. The sin of idol worship is that it is futile. Because it is really an indirect way of worshipping ourselves, it can never help us grow, as the worship of a God beyond ourselves can help us grow. As a result, we find life flat and uninspiring, and don’t realize why.”2
Every human spirit craves to cry out with the psalmist: “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him . . . ?” (Ps. 8:3, 4).
If God is not the object of our affections, then we will find something else to worship. Movie idols, video games, fast cars—puny, pitiful gods will steal our worship if we are not focused upon the one and only God who is truly worthy of our praise, the God who created all of heaven and earth.
How to Worship
This brings us to the second question: How shall we worship? This question has sparked vigorous debates throughout Christendom. Do we worship with drums? dancing? the pipe organ? uplifted hands? silence? laughter?
It is not about us and the style of worship we prefer. Authentic worship is all about surrendering completely to God. “I’m convinced that pastors don’t give two cents about worship,” laments Eugene Peterson. “They really don’t. And there’s a reason for it. True worship doesn’t make anything happen. It is a losing of control, a weaning from manipulative language and entertainment. . . . Pastors sense that if they really practice worship they are going to empty out the sanctuary pretty fast.”3
Far too often, people confuse worship with self-gratifying entertainment. Thus, they will say things like “I’m going to worship at First Church today because they have a funny preacher from out of town. Next week I’ll worship at Main Street Fellowship because they have a hot worship band.” The result? We’re raising a generation of junkies that scurry to the most electric worship one week and then to the most titillating preacher the next week, never anchoring to any local church. They whine about how the worship service fails to meet their needs—as if the church exists to cater to the entertainment whims and emotional cravings of selfish consumers.
Worship means surrendering every compulsion to God’s control and fully submitting ourselves to Him. The result of worship, then, is always a life of radical obedience. When we truly worship God, everything we do becomes an offering of surrender and praise. It is about Him, not us. When we come together to worship we express our gratitude to Him and humbly present to Him our needs. He is the center of corporate worship, not us.
When to Worship
This brings us to the question When do we worship? Read Revelation 14:7 and notice the clear reference to the Creation story. The One who receives our worship is He who “made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
In the story of Creation we find this account: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done” (Gen. 2:2, 3).
Ellen White adds: “The true Sabbath, given to man as a memorial of creation, has been taken from its rightful place as a sacred command of God, and, instead, a false sabbath has been exalted and worshiped. . . . But a message, the third angel’s message, has come to the world, to exalt the truth to its right position, that it may stand fast as God’s testing truth for these last days. God’s requirements are to be given to the world in all their original freshness and power.”4
Isn’t it a privilege to proclaim God’s gift of the Sabbath in all its “original freshness and power”?  As Seventh-day Adventists, such is our joy; such is our mission! 
1Philip Yancey, “Open Windows,” Marriage Partnership, vol. 5, No. 4.
2Harold Kushner, Who Needs God (New York: Summit Books, 1989), p. 54.
3Eugene Peterson, in “The Door,” Christianity Today, vol. 36, No. 9 (Nov./Dec. 1991).
4Ellen White, The Youth’s Instructor, Oct. 20, 1898.
1. How much of our lives should involve worship? Give reasons for your answers.
2. Why is worship at the center of the crisis in the last days?
3. What “gods” do modern people worship?