You may have heard it said that we become like what we worship. This is more than a pithy truism; it is a profoundly biblical truth. The writer of Psalm 115 captured this truth when, after describing the idols that people make, he concluded, “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.” He then issued a passionate appeal, “O Israel, trust in the LORD” (vv. 8–9). The truth is plain for all to see: Worship shapes us. This is the second answer that Jonathan Landry Cruse gives to the question, “What happens when we worship.” For good or ill, worship changes us.
We are changed by the mere act of worship. Any worship changes us. If the object of worship is worthy of worship, we are shaped for good. If the object of our worship is superficial, we are shaped for superficiality. If we worship entertainment, we will be shaped as those who must be occupied and amused every moment of every day. If we are shaped by fashion, we will be shaped into those who clamour for approval based on our appearance. If we worship career, we will be driven in life by money and success and power and influence. Worship takes what we already love and trains us to love it even more.
This is one reason it is so crucial to regularly attend worship. Worship carefully planned helps us love and appreciate God and thereby transforms us. Worship, says Hughes Oliphant Old, “is the workshop where we are transformed into [God’s] image.” This doesn’t happen in an instant but over time. As physical exercise over timeand by regular practice shapes us into what we should be physically, so corporate worship over time and by regular practice shapes us into what we should be spiritually.
But what does this look like? How does the act of corporate worship shape us? Consider some practical examples, tracing our own liturgy at BBC.
The call to worship shapes us in at least two ways. First, it shapes us by calling us to obey. God seeks worshippers and the Sunday morning call to worship, when heeded, brings us to our knees before God in this area. Second, it shapes us by confirming our identity. We come out of a week filled with all manner of voices telling us who we are, but the call to worship centres us afresh on the fact that we are children of God, called to worship our heavenly Father.
The prayer of confession shapes us by calling us to repentance and godly living. The attendant assurance of forgiveness acts as something of a covenant renewal. As we united our voices with the one leading this prayer, we are reminded that we are in relationship with God through Christ, which shapes us to keep short accounts of sin. Corporate confession models what daily confession should be.
The songs we sing shape us by reminding us of our responsibility to speak truth to one another. Christian singing is more than enjoying a melody or powerful lyrics. Christian singing is an act by which we address one another and remind one another of truths we desperately need after a week in the unbelieving world.
Our stewardship shapes us by reminding us of the need to be generous and sacrificial. The offering is more than a convenient way to fill the church coffers. It is a means by which to shape us into generous and sacrificial Christians who prioritise the work of the kingdom.
As we sit under the preached word, we are shaped into the people that God wants us to be as his truth is applied to our hearts. Part of this is being practically shaped in the discipline of meditation. Our society is not accustomed to silence. We always look for something to keep us distracted and entertained. Sitting silently under the preached word is a discipline that should be applied in our private worship as we meditate on God’s truth.
The sacraments shape us by pointing us afresh to the truths of the gospel and encouraging us that we are accepted in the beloved. When we receive grace in the ordinances, we are reminded that our faith is not primarily about what we give to God but about what he has done for us in Christ.
As you gather for worship, carefully consider the actions in which you are engaged. Realise that the things in which the church engages on the Lord’s Day are not empty rituals. The Scripture reading, the songs, the prayers, the sacraments, the stewardship, and the sermon are all designed to shape you into the image of Christ.