John 16:27 (ESV)
27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
Reporting for Duty
Have you ever seen or heard it told of a wedding where one (or both) of the “happy couple” doesn’t look so happy? It’s a look of doubt, of fear. A look of someone being forced into a situation. For those of you old enough, the phrase “shotgun wedding” may come to mind. For others maybe, you think of an arranged marriage. In any case, it’s not pretty and feels far from ideal. Duty is very present in that situation, but love seems distant.
Worship can be like an arranged marriage. For some, that is exactly what they know it to be. Even more unfortunate, some think that is how it is supposed to be. It’s duty, not love. In some respects, it surely is the duty of all of creation to worship the Creator, Sustainer, One-true God. However, I believe scripture teaches that perception isn’t complete. In fact, in John 16:27 Jesus himself is telling us (his followers) how this works. It comes towards the end of Jesus explaining to his disciples that they will soon be saddened by his departure, but their sadness will soon turn to joy. Then he informs them of something unheard of. Something that was impossible. Something that many today who feel God is distant and impersonal still can’t grasp. He tells them that, and this is my paraphrase, “you won’t need to ask me to ask the Father, you can ask him directly yourself!” (John 16:23-26)
This is a huge departure from all that was known about worshiping God. Before Jesus, common people could not go directly to God. Only those anointed and appointed could take petitions to God (the Old Testament sacrificial system). Even then, the high priest had to wear bells on their clothes and a rope tied to themselves. In the instance that they were in someway unclean and therefore not worthy to be in the Holy of Holies, they were struck dead. The other priests then used the rope to pull their body back out. Jesus changed it all. Jesus became our High Priest. Jesus became our mediator. But in addition, Jesus restored the lines of communication. Think back to the book of Genesis when God would walk and talk with Adam. Sin destroyed that intimate relationship. Jesus restored it.
You are loved
Jesus, in John 16:27, is teaching that because of love the intimate connection with the Father is restored. And not in a way that means we can go to Jesus and he will take our petitions forward. No, he says because we love Jesus and believe he is who he said he was, the Father himself loves us! He says because we have come to Jesus, we have also come to the Father. The distance that once was so great is now gone.
You may be asking yourself, “ok, but what does that have to do with worship?” Beloved, it has everything to do with worship! Worship is our response, our communion, our relational interchange with God. It’s part of our intimate relationship in which we seek to honor, glorify, and praise Him. Knowing that when we worship, privately or corporately, we are enjoying direct access to God Almighty changes everything. It should change everything.
Duty in Truth
We need to be careful that our worship doesn’t more resemble an arranged marriage than an act of love. Worship born of duty is hollow, starved, incomplete. Dare I say by the standard given by Jesus himself in John 4:23, even unacceptable. Our true duty in worship isn’t detached and disengaged. Even the demons know the truth and tremble. (James 2:19) Our true duty in worship is recorded in Romans chapter 12. And what underpins the traits of a Christian? Love. Holistic (heart, body, soul, strength) love for God, and love for others.
We recognize who God is and the love he has shown us, and we reciprocate that love. As Zach Neese states in How to worship a King, “Religion is motivated by fear and the sense that our identity and value are maintained through our work. Worship is always motivated by love.” (p.58) It is not a love that is aimless and ignorant, as in “blind love”. Nor is it open to any and all, as in “free love”. This love is a love that is pointed, direct, and purposeful. It is a love that is a specific response to the love given. It is adoration and devotion born out of recognition of the undue love shown to you.
The Meeting Place
Continuing into John chapter 17, Jesus further explains this reunion. I encourage you to read critically. Let the Word of God sink in. Meditate on it. Pray about it. Let it fuel worship.
John 17:20-26 (ESV)
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Some questions to ponder and pray on:
- We all have times and moments, but do you feel that your times of worship (personal and corporate) have been predominantly driven by duty or by love?
- If this was a new concept to you, how may approaching worship born from love rather than duty change your worship?
- How may this change how you view your role as part of the worship team?
- What thoughts come to mind when you think that through Jesus, you have direct interaction with the Father during worship?…even corporate times of worship?
Feel free to post thoughts below if you’d like to share.