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Christ-Centered Worship

In this post, we will focus on Calvary’s third core value: Christ Centered Worship.  This core value states:

We center our corporate worship on Christ—through preaching, praying, singing, reading and picturing (ordinances) the Word so that God is glorified and His people are edified.”

As we discuss this core value, it’s important to understand the context in which we will be tackling this important issue. While we recognize that “Christ-Centered Worship” is a large term that could encompass many areas of the Christian faith, we will be working within the confines of the corporate gathering of the church and discussing what scripture has to say about what should and should not govern our corporate “liturgy.”

There are very few things that can raise the blood pressure of Christians (from a western culture) more quickly than talk about what a proper worship service should look like.  Heated debate often takes place around the preaching, styles of music, and whether it was reverent or relevant enough. Well, if you’re reading this post hoping that I would talk about which musical style is most appropriate, then I fear you are going to be very disappointed.  My goal for us here is simple: I want to focus in on Christ-Centered Worship by asking two very important questions. I believe that the answer to these questions will help inform our understanding of the importance of our corporate gatherings.

  1. Why?: “Why do we center our corporate worship on Christ?”
  2. How?: “How should we center our corporate worship on Christ?”

The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Throughout the New Testament we are encouraged to gather together as a local body of believers.  Yet unfortunately for many, faithfully engaging and committing to the local church has become as optional as whether or not we want fries with our value meals. Far too many professing Christians have taken an unbiblical approach that says – I don’t need the church to be a Christian.  Therefore they view the “church” as just one of the options that may or may not help them in their personal spiritual journey.  It is so easy for all of us within this consumerist driven culture, to essentially isolate ourselves, never truly investing our lives in others, becoming a part of the body of the local church.

In my study this week, I was given a well written article by Luke Stamps that talked about the importance of “personal growth and maturity” along with the importance of the “gathered Church.”  Stamps wrote: “The church is not merely an aggregation of individual believers; it is the congregation of those who are united to one another by a common faith and who are strengthened together Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day…”[1]

Fellow Christians, we are a congregation!  We are united by a common faith!  I pray we are strengthened, encouraged, convicted, comforted, challenged, and charged as we focus on Christ in our gatherings Sunday after Sunday! Another author declared it this way: “God does not call us to follow Christ alone!  We are called to follow Christ together and with particular people.”[2]

Jesus said to Peter, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”[3] The church is God’s idea – God’s plan.  God has always been about individual devotion that is part of a community of believers, part of a family, that reflects His own character. The church should be a foretaste of heaven. If that’s true, we would expect that God has given us insight into corporate worship that ought to shape what we do “Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day.” So, I want us to ask an important question this morning: “Why do we center our corporate worship on Christ?”

REASON #1: The church gathers so we might collectively reflect and display the glory and character of God Almighty.

Look with me in the Scriptures at 1 Peter 2:9-10,

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Now, turn with me to Psalm 145:1-13,

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.  Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.  Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.  One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.  On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness.  They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.  The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.  All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord, and all your saints shall bless you!  They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom and tell of your power, to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.  Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and your dominion endures throughout all generations.”[4]

The glory of God is never seen more clearly than when focus upon Christ, who makes the worship of God possible!

Let’s look further at what the Scriptures have to say in Colossians 1:15-23,

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”[5]

From these verses we see six wonderful statements about our Lord God:

i.      He is God in the flesh

ii.      He is full of power: His power is put on display through His creation and sustaining of all things

iii.      He is eternal: No beginning…no ending

iv.      He is our Peace Maker: “…making peace by the blood of his cross…”

v.      He is our Sacrifice: “…reconciled in his body of flesh by his death…”

vi.      He is our Mediator: “…in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him…”

Put quite simply, worship is not possible without Christ!  Therefore, when we gather we must let Christ be the center of our worship. This is so clearly seen in another text of Scripture. Consider the following passage: Hebrews 13:12-15,

So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.  Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

REASON #2: Edification: We also realize that when our worship is centered upon Christ we are edified and encouraged to persevere and be faithful in our witness.

Isaac Watts wrote the song, When I survey the Wondrous Cross. Beautifully penned, this song proclaims: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” When we focus on Christ we are encouraged collectively to remain steadfast and immovable in our faith. We are reminded of the charge found in Colossians 1:28, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.

So, if this is why we worship, how, from the Scriptures are we led to accomplish this? How should we center or worship on Christ? First, we realize that every good and perfect gift comes from above.  We know that ultimately we are undeserving of any of the graces God bestows on us. Therefore, since know these things, we need to ask an important question, “Are there certain means[6] (within the local church) through which the Holy Spirit works to convey blessings into the lives of the believers?”[7] The simple answer: Yes.  Let me share with you five means that we believe God has given the church to bless us with His grace.

Means #1: Preaching the Word (Proclaim Christ):

II Timothy 4:1-4, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”

Romans 10:13-15, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

One can hear and respond to Christ when the message is proclaimed!  We must preach the Word!

Means #2: Reading the Word (Turn our attention to Christ):

I Timothy 4:13, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.”

Let’s think for just a moment on a few ways the Scripture is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword.”[8]

  • When the Word is preached it can be the instrument that brings the lost to salvation
  • Feasting on the Word builds us up to maturity
  • Delighting in the Word allows us to see the majesty of God
  • The Word is an encouragement to the spiritually poor and oppressed
  • The Scriptures bring conviction and comfort as we are taught God’s grace

Therefore, inasmuch as we are encouraged to do so, we need to regularly read the Word as we gather corporately to turn our attention to Christ.

Means #3: Praying (Acknowledge our dependence upon Christ)

I Timothy 2:1, “First of all I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”

I Timothy 2:8, “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…”

Through our prayers we acknowledge our dependence upon Christ and gain the assurance that when we boldly approach the throne of grace we will find grace and mercy in our time of need.

Means #4: Singing (Reflecting Christ):

Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

There is a parallel text in Ephesians in which we see one of the evidences of being filled with the Spirit and letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. The songs we sing, along with the praises we offer, glorify God and edify us as they instruct us as to the nature and character of God while admonishing us to persevere.

Means #5: Picturing the Gospel through the Ordinances (Displaying Christ):

Baptism:

Matthew 28:18-20, “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Lord’s Supper:

I Corinthians 11:23-26, “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you.  Do this in remembrance of me.”  IN the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

Both of these ordinances picture the Gospel and therefore remind us of God’s saving work in our lives whereby He places us in His family. Preaching the Word, reading the Word, picturing the Word, praying, and singing together are means given to us by God that the Holy Spirit uses to pour out His grace into the lives of believers.  Therefore we must be faithful to incorporate them into our services as we focus upon Christ.

APPLICATION: (What does this mean for us corporately and individually?)

Corporately:

Calvary: So, what does this mean for us as a church moving forward?  What does this mean for us as we gather corporately? It means that we are going to be as intentional as possible in our worship services to center them on Christ. We are committed to having regular times of adoration and confession where we acknowledge our condition before Him. We should DESIRE to have designated times of thanksgiving and times we reflect on the assurance we have in Christ.

Individually:

Christians: Examine your commitment to the local church and the gathering together to worship Christ, in light of Christ’s sacrifice. God saved you to be a part of a family! Ask yourself: What’s keeping you from engaging and joining a local church?

Non-Christians: What are you worshiping? As you’ve heard us state time and time again, the simple, undeniable truth is that we all worship something. The truth I want to share with you this morning is that whatever your hope is in will ultimately fail you because it was never intended to replace your Creator.  The goal of any corporate gathering of believers, as we’ve mentioned above, is to glorify God. One way in which we do this is by inviting the uninitiated, the lost person (which we all were once upon a time), the sinner (which we all continue to be though, as Christians we are saved by grace through faith from the penalty of our sins), the non-Christian to come and meet the King of Kings.  Scripture says,

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Christ is calling to you. Will you answer Him?


[1] Luke Stamps, “Especially Preaching: The Ordinary Means of Grace and Christian Spirituality”, The Gospel Coalition (February 11, 2011)

[2] Mark Dever

[3] Matthew 16:18

[4] Psalm 145:1-13, (ESV)

[5] Colossians 1:15-23

[6] Wayne Grudem defines “means” as, “The means of grace are any activities within the fellowship of the Church that God uses to give more grace.”  He also discusses the difference regarding “means” between Catholics and Protestants.  Catholics view these as “means of salvation” that make people more fit to receive justification from God.  But on a Protestant view, the means of grace are simply means of additional blessings within the Christian life, and to not add to our fitness to receive justification from God.”

[7] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (p. 950)

[8] Hebrews 4:12

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