“If worship does not change us, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Worship begins in holy expectancy; it ends in holy obedience.” – Richard J Foster
Today we are in Part 4 of our series on our Core Values, drawing out the idea of Passionate Worship, what we defined earlier as “Loving our Lord and expressing that love explicitly, intentionally, creatively, and passionately (Psalm 99:9, John 4:23).”
Worship is to feel in our hearts and express with our bodies a humble but delightful sense of awe and love based on a right knowledge of God. It necessarily involves our heart, mind, soul, and strength.
Yes, worship is physical, but much more than that
We know worship involves some kind of outward act. The biblical words means “to bow down” or “to bend a knee”. The most common expressions of that at Hilltown are singing music, playing music, praying audibly, and listening to God’s Word. But the frightening reality is that all of this can be done in vain if we’re not careful. In fact, we’re even capable of producing worship that God hates and despises (Amos 5:21).
So what makes good worship?
Jesus says that “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). But what does that mean?
Worshiping in spirit means you are not merely going through the motions.
Worshiping in truth means you are not merely acting out emotions.
It’s fully engaging with heart and head.
It is the highest intersection of emotion and thought.
Let’s say you and I bumped into each other at a café and you were telling me that you had a chance to meet my wife, Kelli. You go on and on just gushing about her beautiful red hair, her love of horses, how well versed she is in American history…
I would be thrilled that you had such a great conversation, but I’d have to make it clear that it wasn’t with my wife. Kelli has satin black hair, loves music and literature but not horses or history.
You can rave all you want about my amazing wife, but it would be completely meaningless if it’s not accurate. There’d be no way for me to feel confident in your love for my wife if what you know of her isn’t truth. And no matter how much you appreciate what you think you know of her, I know you’d like her more if you knew what she was really like.
It’s the same with us and the Lord. He wants us to pursue the truth of Who He is and what He is like. He desires everyone “to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:4). He sends “the Spirit of truth” (John 16:14) and plans to sanctify us and change us by that truth (John 17:17).
It’s an encounter with the Truth of God that enables us to be encountered with the Spirit of God.
The great hymn-writer and pastor, Isaac Watts, once wrote,
“The Great God values not the service of men, if the heart be not in it: The Lord sees and judges the heart; he has no regard to outward forms of worship, if there be no inward adoration, if no devout affection be employed therein. It is therefore a matter of infinite importance, to have the whole heart engaged steadfastly for God.”
You have to want for God.
John Piper writes that “true worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine. Strong affections for God rooted in truth are the bone and marrow of biblical worship” (Desiring God, p. 82). He goes on to say very poignantly, “Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead” (ibid., p. 86).
Where Hilltown is on that spectrum
Let’s be honest, I think it’s fair to say that Hilltown tends to excel at worshiping God in truth, but has room for improvement in worshiping God in spirit.
I long to see more passionate worship at Hilltown.
I long to see our people so overwhelmed by what they know of Christ that they cannot help but lift their voice in praise.
We would like to see that high intersection of head and heart.
We would like to hear our church family singing our hearts out in praise to God, leading by example those around us, “encouraging one another with songs, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), not hoping that people around us aren’t affected by our singing but hoping that they are.
And we would like to ask you not to wait for someone else to start. Be the start yourself.