Saturday, 14 May 2011

True Worship

Truth — not music, not bare passion, and certainly not ritual — deserves the place of prominence in worship.

God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24)

God is spiritual in his very essence and therefore he must be worshipped with spiritual worship: worship in the energy of spirit; worship that engages and employs our entire spirit, not just the motions of our hands and the words we form with our lips; not bare ritual; but a true expression of the heart and soul.

Jesus makes a deliberate contrast between the worship God seeks and the typical kind of worship that is dominated by human tradition, obscured by empty ritual, and buried under meaningless layers of pomp and ceremony.

"Worship in spirit and truth" is a much abused and widely misunderstood principle today. Jesus is not calling for the kind of shallow passion that responds to the music and the atmosphere. He's not saying we should aim at working ourselves into a frenzy of feeling and passion devoid of any rational content.

Authentic worship is concerned with truth, not bare passion.

It's a common misconception today that worship in the spirit requires us to empty our minds of anything rational.

We can use music and atmosphere to build raw passion to a crescendo. And lots of people think that's the purest form of worship: when you are so overwhelmed with emotion that your mind is unattached and unengaged in any kind of rational thought. In fact, music is so important to the process that when you use the word "worship" today, most Christians assume you are talking about music.

But notice that Jesus gives truth, not music, the place of prominence in worship: God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.

That's loaded with implications. "Truth" here stands in contradistinction to bare ritual. It also contrasts with raw passion. Jesus is saying that sound doctrine, a clear conscience, and a true heart are infinitely more important for authentic worship than the place where we worship, the forms with which we worship, the style of our music, or any of the other things people usually want to talk about and fight over whenever the subject of worship comes up.

What's important in worship is what you believe, not what tribe you belong to. Authentic worship is about how you think of God, not just how you "feel" when you sing about him. It's about lifting up your spirit and opening your heart before him, not merely raising your hands and closing your eyes.

Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28)

(This is a cut-down and lightly edited version of an original post by Phil Johnson.)

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Don't Worry 17 - Share it with Other Believers

17. Share it with other believers

In the last post in this occasional series (some time ago now!) I recommended seeking Christian fellowship as an antidote to worry, even if this seems counter-intuitive at the time.

I could go further: why not share your concerns with other believers and ask them to pray?  As British people we find ourselves very reluctant to do this but it can be a great help to know that someone else is aware of the struggle that you’re facing and is praying for you and supporting you.

Paul, even though he was an apostle, often requested others to pray for him, conscious of the help this gave:  I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.  (Romans 15:30)  Pray also for me.  (Ephesians 6:9)  And pray for us, too ...  (Colossians 4:3)  Brothers, pray for us.  (1 Thessalonians 5:25)  Finally, brothers, pray for us ...  (2 Thessalonians 3:1)

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  (James 5:16)  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  (Galatians 6:2)