In a number of Thai churches I have noticed that the type of worship songs selected fall into three general categories: 1) “I offer you my life” 2) “Pour out your Spirit” and, 3) “I want to be close to you”. This emphasis is hardly unique to Thailand as much of modern worship songs here are heavily influenced from the West. These type of songs have a time and place yet it seems that in some churches, these are almost the only type of songs that are played. As we sing the same basic things over and over again, I have begun to wonder, “Where is Christ? Where is the cross?”. It seems to be a glaring oversight to not have songs about Christ and his finished work on the cross as a mainstay of Christian worship.
When I come into the weekly worship meeting, the first thing that my heart wants to sing is usually not “I offer my life to you” or “You are my every desire.” Why is that? Is it because I am not spiritual enough? Yes, in fact, that is exactly the reason. If I am honest to myself, my motivations are usually mixed and Christ is not my every desire. When songs come up that require me to sing lyrics like “You are all that I want”, I will often go silent or sing very quietly, praying in my heart, “Oh LORD, make me desire nothing but you. This song is not me. Change my heart God, and increase my love for you.” If I sing songs that say more than is really true, then I feel like I am lying to God and everyone around me.
When I come into the worship service each week, I need to come to the cross. I am a weak, ignorant sinner who has not gotten it all right during the week. I have messed up. I was short with my wife. I yelled at my son. I checked email for the fifth time when I should have been reading my Bible. My desire for God has been lagging. I need to sing songs that acknowledge that I am a weak sinner, worthy of condemnation, under God’s wrath, but have received the grace and mercy of God at the cross. I need to hear, say, and sing the truth about who I am and what God has done for me. I don’t want merely a token hymn or song that mentions Christ in passing in the midst of a steady diet of celebration and commitment. What am I celebrating? Why would I commit my life to God? Take me to the cross, show me the bleeding Savior who has died for me, and risen that I might have hope. Show me the glorious Savior that is worthy of all devotion and praise. Take me deep into the suffering of Calvary and show me the Savior who was wounded for my transgression. Now that is worth celebrating.
I need to be reminded again and again of what God has done for me. My focus is too often and too easily taken off of Christ and on to myself. I too often tend to think about what I should be doing for God and forget what He has done for me. I become self-focused too easily. Life can be confusing and overwhelming, and I don’t always know how to respond, or I respond in a sinful way. When I come to worship on Sunday, I don’t need a heavy burden of needing to drum up heartfelt emotional commitment out of no place when the worship service begins. What I need is worship songs that give an honest assessment of who I am and what Christ has done for me. I need to hear about the glories of the Savior who lived and died and rose again for wretched weak sinners like myself, to the glory of God. My focus needs to be taken off of my performance, my intelligence, my problems, and my circumstances. My focus needs to be taken to Christ.
What is Christ-centered worship? It is worship that is about what Christ has done for us, not about what we do for Him. It is about exalting the excellencies of Christ’s work on the cross, not about exalting the excellencies of our commitment to Him. It is about the objective work of Christ on the cross that makes me right with God, not about my subjective fluctuating feelings about God that make me alternatively feel close to God or far from God. Most of all, it about more of Christ and less of me. I have nothing to offer or commit to God outside of what He offered to me at Calvary through His commitment to do His Father’s will in accomplishing our salvation, to God’s glory.