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Who invites whom to worship?

July 20, 2010

I was struck recently by a prayer in a worship service where God was “invited” into the assembly. I suddenly had in my head bizarre imagery of the nation of Israel gathering together in the courts of the Temple and then “inviting” God to join them. It is His house! They were the guests, entering in at His invitation. Though the veil of separation was torn and we may now freely enter His presence, we must remember that it is, in fact, His presence that we are entering. He is, by definition, there.

If He is not “in” the worship service, in fact, then the worshippers are in the wrong place. I am not speaking spatially –and we should not, when speaking of the presence of God. God is, of course, omnipresent. Even more specific to the concept of worship, Jesus promised that wherever two or three are gathered in His name, He is there. Yet He is not there because they are gathered in His name; rather, when they are gathered in His name, they are, by that act, drawing near to His presence.

Gathering in His name is, in fact, an act of worship. If we are gathering in His name in our home, we are drawing nigh unto His presence. If we are gathering in His name is a field, on a boat, or in a cave, we are drawing nigh unto His presence. And, if we are gathering in His name in a church building, we are, again, drawing nigh unto His presence. Our gathering is not an invitation to God; our gathering is a worshipful acknowledgment that He is God.

God does not wait to see if we are worshipping Him properly, and then “show up” after we sing the third or fourth song. Much of the evangelical church has turned the very concept of worship on its ear. It is not about man; it is about God. Its purpose is not to make us feel better, or give us an emotional charge that will help us to rise above the challenges in our life. Its purpose is to bring glory and honor and praise to a holy God.

When we gather to worship, we are entering His gates with thanksgiving! We are entering His courts with praise! I think the classic worship song gets it precisely right: we have come into His house, and gathered in His name to worship Him. There is no need to invite Him. There is no need to wait for Him to “show up.” He’s already there; in fact, it was He who extended the amazing, gracious invitation to us, that we might come into His presence and offer sacrifices of praise and worship for who He is and for what He has done for us.

When you enter your worship service next Sunday, remember that it is He who issues the “call to worship.” He is there, awaiting your response. Will you acknowledge that you are on holy ground before the face of God? Or will you simply go through the rituals and motions, and hope that He drops by?

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