I contributed today’s ‘Word for the Week’, a weekly email service provided by the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. It’s the last in a series introducing themes explored more fully in the book, The Whole of Life for Christ: Enriching Everyday Discipleship, written with Mark Greene.
And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being...’
In a loud voice they were saying:
‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honour and glory and praise!’
Revelation 4:11 and 5:12
It should come as no surprise that the Lord of the whole of life requires worship in the whole of life. In the Old Testament, we see it in regulations that touch on every aspect of daily existence, in psalms which embrace the highs and lows and everything in between, in prophets who call for justice and mercy as well as sacrifice and singing. As Deuteronomy 10:12-13 captures it, all of life was to be an expression of service to the Lord.
That’s completely in line with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 – where bodies, minds and wills are offered back to God – reminding us that the Old and New Testament stand together on the necessity of whole-life worship. Across Scripture, acceptable worship is not simply a matter of praising God in music and singing, or of participating enthusiastically in rites and ceremonies; it involves honouring, serving, and revering God in every sphere of life.
And it all flows out of his grace towards us. The biblical story line from beginning to end allows us to trace the acts of God on behalf of the people of God and our response to the Lord in worship.
In the book of Revelation, John sees a door standing open in heaven. He’s given a vision of reality from God’s perspective. For the small and weak communities of believers scattered around what is now Turkey, John sees that the true account of the world is revealed not only in the Creator God who reigns over all things, but in Christ crucified who redeems all things.
The worship that John witnesses nourishes our identity and mission as the body of Christ – because it’s focused above all on Christ himself, who is uniquely qualified to bring to pass God’s redemptive purposes in the world. The scope of what God might be pleased to do through us in our everyday lives – our whole of life for Christ – is rooted in what God has done, is doing, and will do for us and for all creation.
So, John’s vision of worship becomes a call to worship, an expression of allegiance in a world of competing allegiances, a way of declaring who’s really in charge, as we allow our worship of God and the Lamb to permeate everything we think and say and do, and invite others to do the same.