Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Worship as Turning to God's Agenda

We are two messages into a series on Habakkuk at Element right now, and while we are focusing on four connected requirements it gives us for living the Christian life -- brokenness, repentance, worship, and faith -- the prevailing theme of the short three chapters of the book is the sovereignty of God. Habakkuk's conversation with God says one thing most clearly: "God is in charge."
Or, as in Habakkuk 2:20, "But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him."

There are obvious shades of "Who are you, o man, to say to God . . .?" and not so subtle shades of "Keep your fool mouth shut," but as it comes at the end of stanzas pronouncing woes on all the ways the Chaldeans (and everybody else) pursue their own glory, I think what it really means is, "God is the one who is in charge; better get with the program."

God has an agenda and it is not only not ours, it frequently and constantly interferes with and opposes ours. We are used to thinking in terms of God helping us in our life, that our life is "our story" and we invite God to participate in it, and that is so bass ackwards. It is God's story, God's world, God's life, and we get to participate in it.
This is never more vivid in Habakkuk than in the way God answers Habakkuk's complaints. He does so completely outside of Habakkuk's assumptions and preferences and expectations. In a nutshell, the conversation kinda goes like this:

Habakkuk: God, there is so much sin and injustice in Israel, why aren't you doing something about it? Where are you and why aren't you listening to me?

God: I'm here. I'm about to do something awesome about it.

Habakkuk: Sweet!

God: I'm raising up idolaters to come destroy you.

Habakkuk: Um . . .

God: Seriously.

Habakkuk: But why would you use wicked people to judge good people?

(Jared's Note of Irony: Notice that Habakkuk takes this tack right after saying Israel was wicked and God should do something about it.)

God: Oh, I'm going to destroy them too.

I'm trying to be humorous with that nutshell summation, and Habakkuk's faith is actually remarkable in that he continues to faithfully acknowledge God's goodness and holiness and righteousness even in the expectation of pain and suffering, but that is really the gist. God has an agenda, and it is not ours.

Last week we focused on Habakkuk 2, and I colored the point of the woes over man seeking worldly pleasures and satisfactions as a call to repent of our glory and turn toward God's. That is what repentance really is; it's not going from being a bad person to being a "good person," because being a good person is impossible and doesn't work. Repentance, rather, is trusting God and submitting to God's agenda for His own glory, even when it means hardship and suffering and self-denial.

This is why corporate worship tainted with how good, faithful, strong, whatever we are is a dangerous, dangerous path. We should not gather to sing even for one second our own praises.

The worship God is seeking relies completely on His initiative, knowing that the only true expression of worship is through the abandonment of all our agendas for His, as we trust in His sovereign power and unlimited grace. It is from this heart posture that true liturgy flows, that music and arts find their highest calling and that the light of a worshipping community shines as a beacon of hope to a suffering and searching world.
-- David Ruis

(HT for the quote: Joe Byler)


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you've read The Challenge of Jesus by N.T. Wright, but much of it is about the same idea. When Jesus said "Repent and believe in me," he wasn't just saying, "Turn from your sin." He was saying much more than that: "Turn from your political, social, and moral agendas and follow my agenda."

This idea flies in the face of so many of the movements and sects in modern Christianity.

Thats a good summary of Habakkuk, by the way.

Jared said...

I have read that book; it was actually the first Wright book I ever read. (Coincidentally, I mention it one post down, in the piece on the second coming.)

There is also much relation between this stuff and the way George Eldon Ladd casts salvation in his works as "embracing the yoke of God's sovereignty."

Chanda Canup said...

Yes. Very, very good. Thanks for posting this!