“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” – 1 Corinthians 2:2
As we dive into this Sunday’s sermon on “Cruciform Worship” we must better understand that Christ calls us to worship Him in truth and in spirit. Without this understanding of true worship, we will be confined to a faulty understanding of how, when, and where we approach God. We will settle with the faulty notion that we can only reach God come Sunday, in a building, via a message from the pulpit, and perhaps, if we’re lucky, during an altar call.
This is problematic because we’re made to believe that God is only available and active one day of the week, at one location, where we decide to visit, and only activated upon our dropping to our knees at the end of a sermon where we decide on whether it was good enough to receive an outward emotional response from us.
Worship involves truth as God does not abide nor does He live in falsehood, therefore knowledge is involved in our approach to Christ. Mind you, when we use words like “approach” or “coming closer to” or “entering the presence of” we must also understand the nature and attributes of God. Not comprehending the omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God, albeit an unsurmountable task to comprehend but at least have a rudimentary understanding of these terms helps us see that God is already wherever we are, knowing all, powerful enough to act and move and change without our permission.
We cannot approach a God who is already there. We cannot welcome God to a place where we are the guests. We cannot force the hands of the Eternal when our very breath is a gift of His revealed grace.
Therefore when we worship we must have knowledge of God, His holiness, His sovereignty, His immanence (nearness), and prevalence through creation.
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 3:18
If we allow our minds to sink into oblivion as we worship God we fail to see God work and end up worshipping our emotions instead of the revealed Creator.
Our minds must be active and our spirit must be in tune with His Holy Spirit.
Our heart, mind, and soul must not be sullied by unforgiven sins, behaviors, and patterns that halt our worship. We must approach the throne of grace with confidence, with pure hearts, and clean hands. Remember that we are only able to do this in spirit if we’re hidden in the person of Jesus Christ.
Sin cannot stand in the presence of the Almighty otherwise we would be immediately incinerated. It is only just for a Just God to eradicate evil and there is no place in all of creation that evil festers more virulently than in the human heart.
Therefore our conscience, our heart, our emotions, our actions, and very existence must be hidden away in the presence and person of Jesus Christ as we engage in worship.
Therefore, we ask, what is Cruciform Worship?
Pastor Rohan Samuels of Freedom Life Church tackles this beautiful effort by covering a few points of what Cruciform Worship is not and what it is.
Pastor Rohan makes mention of the erroneous and often broadly accepted as orthodox teachings of Victoria Osteen on the subject of worship. The first thing we notice is the focus of attending a place in order to worship. Again, this distracts the believer from the biblical teaching that we are no longer confined to a temple, a structure, a building to be able to find God. Our worship supersedes geographical structures, therefore should our church be demolished that statement by definition is problematic because the church is not made up of brick and mortar but of people. We worship God from our couch, from our workspace, from a prison cell, and from the gallows. There is no place from which God cannot hear or receive our praise of Him.
Second, the focus is turned onto the individual. Worship is driven upward (technically strange because God isn’t up or down, God IS everywhere, omnipresent) toward God. It is a demonstration of our connection to the redeeming God and Creator of the Universe. The moment worship deviates focus and appreciation from God it then turns that energy toward something else. Meaning, the recipient of that worship is no longer God but money, pride, a building, fame, celebrity, ourselves, and other idols. It can even be an image of what we believe God to be but it is not God at all.
And lastly, our worship isn’t focused on making God happy, as if God needed our attention to be complete, but on our sanctification. Be holy as I am holy, says God.
Again, this sense of spirituality outside of truth and knowledge leads to all forms of worship of all things other than God.
Exiting this problematic teaching by Victoria Osteen, Pastor Rohan enters into several points of value for the Christian mind regarding Cruciform Worship.
But let us define the term before anything else.
John Frederick defines Cruciform Worship in his book, Worship in the Way of the Cross, this way:
“The world invests in violence, coercion, and manipulation as the means of accomplishing its will in spite of or instead of the other. The kingdom of God as preached in the gospel presents us with another way forward, the way of God’s cruciform love. The cruciform way of God in Christ is a manner of living in which every person lives and exists for the sake of the other.”
“The adjective cruciform is a theological word used to refer to the worldview and way of life that focuses on the others-centered, self-giving love of God in the sacrificial life and death of Jesus Christ.”
Biblical scholar Michael J. Gorman goes a step further when defining Cruciform Worship by placing the utmost focus of the Christian on the cross of Christ. Here is a snippet from his book, Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross:
“It is well known that the idea of a crucified messiah, savior, or deity was ludicrous to the Jews and non-Jews alike in antiquity. Paradoxically, however, the early Christians found in the crucified Jesus, now raised and exalted, both the ‘power of God and the wisdom of God,’ as Paul put it (1 Cor. 1:24), and a model of humility, self-sacrifice, and suffering worthy of imitation.”
In On Being a Christian, Hans Kung elaborates on the centrality of focusing on the crucified Christ this way:
“The distinguishing feature of Christianity as opposed to the ancient world religions and the modern humanisms… is quite literally according to Paul ‘this Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ crucified.’ It is not indeed as risen, exalted, living, divine, but as crucified, that this Jesus Christ is distinguished unmistakably from the many risen, exalted, living gods and deified founders of religion, from the Caesars, geniuses, and heroes of world history.”
Cruciform Worship is self-denying, the cross of Christ-honoring, theologically sound, God-glorifying worship. And to add that it leads the worshipper to serve others wholeheartedly, selflessly.
Cruciform Worship: Principles to Consider
Here are ten principles Pastor Rohan covered concerning Cruciform Worship:
- Worship that glorifies the Father is worship that captures and welcomes His presence; not just tolerates it or wants it on its own terms.
- The worship the Father requires is worship that is spirit-led and not just emotionally fabricated.
- Emotionally led worship permits activity but still has you imprisoned.
- You can only be spirit-led if you have crucified your flesh.
- You can’t belong to Christ and still have an appetite for the world.
- You can’t belong to Christ and not be transformed into the image of Christ.
- Cruciform worship needs to begin at self-denial.
- Cruciform worship is transformative; it transforms the character of the corporate body and individual. Cruciform worship begins at the cross.
- Cruciform worship isn’t merely subjected to an emotional experience, cruciform worship is theological and biblical.
- Sound theology and biblical acuity are not addictions to cruciform worship, they are prerequisites for worship.
The Cost of True Worship
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian and pastor turned spy turned would-be assassin of Adolf Hitler. He would be executed for attempting to sabotage the Nazi Reich by assassinating its heartless leader. The plot itself was foiled and Dietrich, along with his coconspirators, found out, tried, and some hanged while others were shot. No one blames this minister for his ardent effort to stop a maniac like Hitler. I sure don’t.
Prior to Bonhoeffer’s demise, before Germany annexed several European nations and invaded Poland, thus initiating the start of World War II, he was a pastor and scholar. He penned a monumental book on discipleship still in circulation to this day and of great use in a society filled with Christians who have lost sight of Christ and His cross.
“The cross is laid on every Christian. The first Christ-suffering which every man must experience is the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. As we embark upon discipleship we surrender ourselves to Christ in union with his death—we give over our lives to death. Thus it begins; the cross is not the terrible end to an otherwise god-fearing and happy life, but it meets us at the beginning of our communion with Christ. When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
It is often understood that the more one reflects and emulates Christ the more time they spend in service of family, friends, ministry, and the voiceless.
Their life, as they know it, is a life of service. A life that reflects that of our Lord on the cross, the All-Powerful, surrendering His life for our sake.
Cruciform Worship again points the believer to the cross where they ought to see, there, the true meaning of love and sacrifice and redemption.
For the moment we remove our eyes from the cross of Christ we then place our worship elsewhere.
And anything apart from the cross of Christ is rubbish.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20
Questions to Consider
- When you worship God, what comes to your mind? Clouds? A bright light?
- Is your worship led by your emotions or by the knowledge of Christ Jesus?
- Has worship led you to look inward or God-ward?
- Has your worship style led you to serve God’s people or to complacency and apathy?
- Could it be that your worship is focused on something?