As worship leaders, we talk a lot about freedom. We want our churches to be free to worship. But what does it actually mean? Is freedom the liberty one feels to wield a “Lion of Judah” flag across the front of the church? Is freedom a boisterous dance? Is freedom the right to be crazy? What does it mean?
We all love to quote 2 Corinthians 3:17: Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.
We’ve taken that to mean, “When we are in church we can do whatever the heck we want. Run, dance, shout, sing, sway, moan and groan.”
What Does It Mean to Be Free to Worship?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with letting go of hindrances to expressive worship. But expressive worship on its own isn’t anything particularly Christian. Other religions worship expressively.
Remember Elijah and prophets of Baal? Here’s what happened as they called upon their god:
“And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.”
What are the grounds for our expression in worship? Any human being with breath can dance, sway, sing and lift their hands to a catchy Christian pop song. That’s called being human.
But if the Spirit of Lord is present, there is freedom. What is that freedom and how does that influence our worship?
Free to Worship
Here’s my humble attempt to answer what it means to be free to worship:
1. Freedom to Draw Near
Before Christ, we had no business approaching the throne of grace. As a matter of fact, it was impossible. Because of the cross, we have freedom to approach a holy God without shame. Access is now possible.
Check out Hebrews 10:19-22:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings.
What does this understanding bring to our worship? We don’t walk flippantly into a gathering. We don’t taking singing to Jesus for granted. We don’t cast our cares on the Lord lightly. It’s the highest honor and privilege that was only opened because of the shed blood of Jesus.
I love how Psalm 2 says it: Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.
So as children of God we come. We come with confidence. We come with boldness. But we also come with trembling, grateful hearts.
2. Freedom from Sin
When we worship, we don’t need to be held back by our past sins. We aren’t just free to draw near but are free from the tyranny of sin, our previous ruler. We have been liberated by the King of Glory and can step into new life.
Consider Galatians 5:1:
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
Christ set us free to walk in freedom. But this verse reveals that it’s possible to be slaves again. We need to stand firm. Corporate worship is a means by which we stand firm—day after day, week after week. The songs we sing ignite our faith in the face of doubt. We learn to sing in the midst of our suffering. We learn to trust in the midst of our trial.