Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Book Review: Engaging with God by David Peterson, Introduction

I have decided to use this blog as an opportunity to share my reflections on the topic of worship. I got the idea when I started reading Bob Kauflin's blog, "Worship Matters" this past week. He recommends this book as one of the best on the topic, and a must read for any person involved in leading worship. 

So this is how it's going to work. I'll read each chapter, and then post a review. Hopefully this will be an incentive to keep this going consistently! All right, here we go.

David Peterson introduces his book with a discussion of the recent inundation of worship materials flooding the market. He comments that this growing worship phenomenon is causing lots of contraversy and dividing the body of Christ, rather than uniting us toward the common focus of our faith- Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, most of us do not even realize that our convictions on worship are based primarily upon preference and tradition, rather than on biblical theology. Many become defensive when faced with possible changes to our worship customs, for they do not see the need for any change. "But this is how we always done it!" Others are discontented with the "worship experience" at their church, and end up  church-hopping in an attempt to find that satisfying experience that fits their mold of what  ideal worship looks like. Unfortunately, we all have a tendency to ignore the biblical theology of worship in lieu of personal preference and taste.

So What is Worship?

Normally, when we hear "worship", we immediately think of a particular gathering, such as a church service, listening to a sermon, taking communion, etc. Now, no one would deny the importance of personal devotions, yet we constantly seek a particular experience or self-expression in our church services. We all have that "moment" when we felt like we truly worshiped. We then use this moment as the standard to weigh all other worship experiences. 

Is worship essentially an experience or feeling? Such subjectivity only causes division among the church, when believers begin rating the service on their individual standard of  the ideal experience. Peterson states,

Worship must involve certain identifieable attitudes, but something is seriously wrong when people equate spiritual self-gratification with worship!

In the Old Testament, we see that God actually regards some worship as unacceptable 
(Gen. 4:3-7; Ex. 32; Is. 1). We need to realize that some things that we might find impressive or particularly pleasing to God, may actually be offensive to Him.

In the New Testament, we see that appropriate worship is determined by our attitudes, as well as our activities (Rom. 12:1-2; 14:17-18; Heb. 12:28-29; 13:16).

Peterson shows that worship permeates all aspects of Scripture, and can be seen in every element of biblical theology, such as creation, sin, covenant, redemption, the people of God, and our future hope. Overall, worship is all about being in a right relationship with God, and glorifying Him holistically with our lives.

The disciples followed Jesus in His ministry, and developed a worshiping relationship with Him, observing His words and actions, including His death and resurrection, and then experienced the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at the day of Pentecost. They then took the message of the gospel to the World, and followed His example, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The New Testament reveals to us that worship is actually a Holistic category that describes the believer's entire lifestyle. I like what P. W. Hoon has to say about N.T. worship,
Our traditional understanding of worship as restricted to the cultic gathering of the congregation at a designated time and place for rite and proclamation will no longer do. This is not what the New Testament means by worship.
Lastly, acceptable worship is only made possible by God Himself. Without the gift of Jesus Christ, the Lamb who was slain for us (Rev 5:11-13), we have no access to God the Father. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's ultimate plan of redemption for the world! 

In the days ahead we will be discussing the rest of this book, Chapter by Chapter. But today, I will leave you with David Peterson's Thesis Statement: 
The worship of the living and true God is essentially  an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible.

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