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Aug 19

The Chronicles of Jesus and His Victory in the Real Worship War

Restoring Broken Things

With respect to the worship, I began studying the past, present, and future of worship from God’s perspective, which led me to wrestle questions such as: what was God’s original design for His worship?  What has happened to his worship as a result of the intrusion of sin and death?  How is God’s worship being progressively redeemed through the work of Jesus?  And how will we worship God perfectly and eternally after the second coming of Jesus?

Pondering these questions pushed me toward the second major infuence God used to reshape my understanding of worship: the Book of Revelation.  I’ve carried on a long-standing wrestling match with Revelation since I became a Christian in the late ’60’s.  Though it confused and even frightened me as a young believer, three and a half decades later, Revelation has become one of my favorite three books in the Bible–probably because of its story structure, and the visual and auditory imagery the apostle John used in writing His masterpiece; but, most definately, because of its emphasis on worship and the centrality of the work of Jesus.

Today, I think of Revelation as “The Chronicles of Jesus and His Victory in the Real Worship War.”  Because the main

story that John is telling is the story of God’s worship–the past, present, and future of the most defining and contested category in all of life, and Jesus’ central role in this story.

In particular, God has used the last two chapters of Revelation to radically reorient my understanding of worship and everything else.  Since God has been pleased to give us a glorious glimpse, however partial, of the fully restored world of the new heaven and new earth, doesn’t it stand to reason that He intends for us to become as familiar as possible with our destiny?  The more we fill our hearts with a vision of the perfect world of tomorrow, the better equipped me will be for living as agents of hope and restoration in the broken world of today.  And the better acquainted we are with God’s perfected worship, the more faithfully we will worship Him, and help others worship Him today.

For example, I was far better equipped to converse about Switzerland and introduce friends to my favorite country in the world after I had actually been there a few times for myself.  Two viewings of the movie Heidi, a few yodeling lessons, a pair of lederhosen, and a love for Swiss chocolate doesn’t make you a Swiss tour guide; any more than knowing a few Chris Tomlin worship songs, mastering four or five guitar chords, loving Jesus, and having an audience makes you a worship leader.  We’ve got to be worshipers before we can lead worship.  And this involves becoming far more familiar and engaged with God Himself and with His design and delights in worship.

Thus, when I started spending time immersing myself in John’s vision of the present worship in heaven and the perfected worship of eternity, all kinds of alarms, whistles, and lights started going off.  I stopped trying to fit bits of Revelation into my worship experience and began to enter more fully into God’s Story, and into His experience of worship.  I’m convinced that the final book of the Bible concerns itself chiefly with God’s worship, as it was meant to be and as it will be one day, so that we will worship Him more faithfully in this day–our day.

When John wrote about worship in Revelation, he wasn’t engaging in debates, nor was he even thinking about questions of art, style, liturgy, or musical preferences in the services of worship.  Rather, John was concerned with the real meaning of worship–with worship service…that is, with helping the young church in Asia Minor know how to live faithfully as the betrothed Bride of Jesus on a day-in-and-day-out basis in this world, while longing for the wedding day in the new heaven and new earth.

These are to be the main concerns of followers of Jesus: How do we adore and serve the One who has lived and died to make us His Bride?  How can we possibly offer an adequate response to Jesus for the grace and love He has lavished upon us?  What expressions of love and faithfulness does He desire from us?  How do we worship Him well?

Indeed, Revelation doesn’t present worship as a component, even the most important component of the Christian life.  For the original recipients of the letter, worship is assumed to be the one category carrying implications for every aspect of their lives–politically, economically, culturally, and physically.  Worship was an issue forced upon them, not merely by their cultural heritage of religious preferences, but by the dark powers of the Roman world.

Michael Wilcock put it like this: “The Roman Empire, powerful in many senses, exercised on particular power which became a cause of great trials to the early Christians.  The growing practice of emperor worship meant that an increasing number of believers were required publicly to make the fateful choice between Caesar and Christ.  Every age has its equivalent of a Christian’s true allegiance; for them, it meant actual persecution and the threat of martyrdom.”

Emperor worship, in any form, collided with the central confession and defining story line of the church: ‘Jesus is LORD!”  We belong to our beloved Bridgegroom.  His banner over us is love.  Though we are called to live as good citizens and to become the best neighbors as possible–participating in every aspect of life in the community and culture–Christians are, above all else, the Bride of Jesus.

Our hearts, along with everything else, have already been fully spoken for.  Revelation doesn’t present worship as something we do to grow spiritually.  Rather, it’s the consuming, whole-life response of the ill-deserving prostitute who has become the wife and queen of the King of kings–Jesus Christ!

Though believing the gospel, we are already legally married to Jesus, though we await our wedding day.  As His loving Bride, we should be passionate about Jesus’ passions and involved in His interests.  And since our Bridegroom has committed Himself to ridding the world of every semblance and effect of sin and death, and to the making of all things new…well, you get the picture, don’t you?  Where Jesus is, we are to be.  What Jesus is doing, we are to be doing.  This is the real worship war–demonstrating our love and adoration for Jesus all the time and in every sphere of life.  Not just in our services of worship, but by our worship service.  We’re on a world-transforming mission with Jesus, not on a Saturday night date…!

There are strong parallels between worship life and married life.  In the most holy and joyful sense, individual acts and corporate services of worship are to worship service what sexual intimacy is to a healthy marriage–a passionate celebration of a whole-life commitment and other-centered love.  It’s just as easy to misuse worship in our relationship as it is for spouses to misuse sex in marriage.  And the results are just as unhealthy, and, at times, just as destructive.

(C) 2005 Steven Curtis Chapman and Scotty Smith, pastor of Christ Community Church in Nashville, Tennessee.  Adapted from the book Restoring Broken Things.   Posted at worship.com by permission of Integrity Publishers.

About the author

Scotty Smith

Scotty is the Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church (CCC) in Franklin, Tennessee Scotty, a native of Graham, N.C., graduated in 1972 from UNC, Chapel Hill, and from Westminster Theological Seminary in 1977. He served as youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem from 1977-1979, and from 1979-1980 served as youth pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN. In 1981 Scotty helped Cortez Cooper plant Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville. In 1986 Scotty was sent out as the planting pastor for Christ Community Church (CCC) in Franklin, Tennessee. Scotty served CCC as Senior Pastor for his first twenty years and has seen its membership grow to over three thousand. During these two decades CCC has also planted four churches. Recently Scotty has assumed the new title of Founding Pastor and CCC’s long time associate and Scotty’s best friend, Scott Roley, has become the new senior pastor. Scotty invests most of his time as CCC’s Pastor for Preaching, Teaching and Worship. He also serves as an adjunct professor at Covenant Theological Seminary and teaches at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He has written five books: Unveiled Hope, with Michael Card; Speechless, with Steven Curtis Chapman; Objects of His Affection; and his latest two, The Reign of Grace and Restoring Broken Things, with Steven Curtis Chapman. Scotty and Darlene, his wife of thirty-five years, have two adult married children and one grandson. Scotty enjoys fly-fishing, cross training, classic rock and roll and cooking.