Tuesday, 20 November 2007

In Spirit and truth

Our expression of worship should accord with the nature and person of the God we're worshipping, and how he has enabled us to worship: his salvation in Jesus. Exuberant joy, declaring together the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his glorious light. Inexpressible longing in this present time awaiting the glory yet to be revealed when we will be raised like Him. Reverence and awe that we worship the creator and sustainer of the universe who dwells in unapproachable light; and wonderful thankfulness that yet we draw near to enjoy his presence without being consumed in the fire of his holiness because we are in Christ, clothed with his righteousness and indwelt by His Spirit. Love and deep respect as we call out to this God, "Father!" by his Spirit who dwells in us, who has made us joint-heirs with the Son.

How frequently our expression falls so short: not thankful reverence befitting his holiness and our approach in Christ alone, but mostly dullness of heart befitting a cultural reserve. Not joyful exuberance at the infinite glory of Jesus whom we know and love even through present suffering, but mostly excitement at good music. In this we're in Romans 8 - we long for the day when our bodily, spiritual, emotional, heartfelt response will truly fit the glory of the God in whose image we'll be made new at the final redemption of our bodies, like his Son.

In the meantime, let's encourage and exhort one another towards this. We may groan in this present suffering - but not at the musicians (or lack thereof) or the fellow members of the body of Christ, but at our own hearts and minds which do not worship as we ought. Let's not judge each other, or our churches, by our expression in sung worship. That is, according to the Spirit-breathed word, I may say my church shows wholehearted love and devotion to Christ not because they show it in song, but because they love one another in deed and truth (see James & 1 John). And I may say my church express in worship true reverence for the holiness and majesty of God not primarily by an awesome solemnity in song, or falling face down, but primarily by pursuing holiness for ourselves and each other: this is our spiritual act of worship (1 Peter 1, Rom 12.1).

Unsurprisingly, we will encourage each other in these things if we sing accordingly too, aiming at expression befitting the person of our devotion (see Col 3.12-17). Let's not aim for less, but more. But let's not judge each other by tests the Spirit has not given (cultural or emotional expression in sung worship). We might miss what he's actually working, and fail to give him the thanks and glory due his name.

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