Tag Archives: john piper

Scripture as Litmus Test: A Practical Application

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the Word and to present her to himself as a radiant church without blemish, but holy and blameless.” Ephesians 5:25-26

*Ladies, please don’t tune out until reading through the fourth paragraph.  I think there is something invaluable in this verse for you, too.

Yesterday I presented the concept of reading scriptural commands as a litmus test (A Grape Doesn’t Try to Be a Grape).  In short, a Christian doesn’t discipline himself to be obedient as much as obedience flows from who he is in Christ.  Authentic worship results in obedience.  One of our favorite quotes at Worship Concepts is, “Missions exist because worship doesn’t,” from John Piper in his book “Let the Nations Be Glad.”  In essence, loving God results in loving people.  People who love God, love people.  And true love for people results in telling them about Jesus.  If you’re not loving people, then check your love level toward God.  Our actions don’t establish who we are, they reveal who we are (James 2:14-25).

So, let’s apply this principal to a specific verse, Ephesians 5:25-26.  If you replace the word your with their, then we have a different perspective; it becomes, “Husbands love their wives…” It’s now an if/then statement.  “If I love my wife, then I am a husband.”  The inverse is also true, “if I don’t love my wife, then I am not a husband.”  My position as a matter of civil law may apply the title of husband to me, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I am the husband God intended me to be.  Applying a title to something no more changes its essence than the Grinch tying antlers to his dog made it a reindeer.  Using the template of “worship as being verb”, my actions reveal my state of adoration for God, they don’t establish it.

In this case, I can plumb my love for God by how I treat your wife.  Is it natural for me to encourage her or is she the punch line to my jokes?  When another man whines about the “old lady” do I commiserate or rejoice in the wife of my youth (Prov. 5:18)?  I’m sure you get the idea.  Agreed, sometimes it needs to be a choice to respond in a certain manner, but what are my actions the majority of the time?  Also, if I notice that I’m having to force myself to respond in love more frequently, then it’s time to check myself as worship of God.

One of my favorite church announcements goes like this: “Would Jane Smith’s husband please find her in the church lobby after the singles service?  She would really like to meet you tonight and hopes that you have a proposal prepared.”  If you’re a single lady wondering if a particular man is the husband God has for you, first apply this scripture verse as a litmus test to see if he’s the husband God has for anyone.  Does he exhibit a Christian love for the ladies already in his life?  How does he respond to his mother?  What is his relationship with his sisters?  Is he respectful of women in general?  What jokes, if any, does he crack about “women drivers?”  If a man exhibits the scriptural attributes of a godly husband while he’s single, then he’s already a husband; God’s timing to make him one flesh with his wife just hasn’t come to pass, yet.  Referring back to paragraph two, getting him to sign a marriage license isn’t going to make him a husband.

Wives, do you allow gentlemen to treat you as ladies or do you struggle with accepting chivalry with grace?  Something as simple as allowing your husband to hold the door for you reveals if you are truly comfortable with who you are in Christ.  Husband hint, this means that we have to hold the door.

Parents, we can apply this as well.  How do our young men treat ladies?  Do they need some more rearing?  In our home it took a very practical form of respect; the toilet seat goes up and the toilet seat returns to the down position when finished (you know what I’m talking about.)

Also, what types of young men are our daughters attracted to?  Has a daughter learned from observing mom?  As an example, does she pause at the door, like mom does, to allow a gentleman to open it for her?  Has her dad been the example of a husband and laid down his life for mom just as Christ laid down His life for the church?  In this way, she’ll know which young men are laying down their lives for others rather than just simply just wanting to lay down (please excuse my apt coarseness).

All of these things are a litmus test for who and where we are in Christ.  I realize that today’s post has been a bit far afield from my normal schtick, but the idea of scripture as a litmus test is integral to our teaching on worship at WCN and I hope that a practical application helps clarify the thought.  We are who we are in Christ; nothing more, nothing less.  And out of the abundance of our hearts…

That’s why worship.

Jumping the Worship Shark – Part Deux

…continued from yesterday.

Throughout scripture the terms used to describe worship seem to transcend time, space, posture, attitude, etc. The concept or worship remains elusive throughout the OldTestament. At times it took the form of scheduled observances, i.e. “The Lord’s appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations – My appointed times are these: For six days work may be done; but on the seventh day there is a Sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation” Leviticus 23:2&3. These are “worship” as noun.

There are also feasts such as The Passover or The Feast of Unleavened Bread. These are the action verb of worship. Sometimes the priests offered sacrifice on behalf of Israel as passive spectators and at other times God’s chosen people were active participants, “Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, but on the first day you shall remove leaven from your houses…” Exodus 12:1

In Joshua’s “farewell speech” we see worship as lifestyle, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” It is in “lifestyle worship” that the Israelites seem to be the most schizophrenic. I won’t list them here, but there are myriad examples of God’s Chosen putting on and taking off their t-shirts with pithy phrases. Let it be sufficient to say that the Israelites were just like everyone else in lifestyle…only more so. When they were religious they were more religious than anyone else, but when they were secular they were more secular everyone else.

In Psalm 2:11, “Worship the Lord with reverence,” we see worship begin to reveal itself in a new light. The word for worship (Abad) in this verse implies to be worked or slaved to a state of exhaustion. Whatever owns or enslaves our resources, attention, thoughts, heart reveals what we worship. And, it will wear us down till there’s nothing left. Reverence (Yir’ah) can be associated with awe that consumes one’s attention, sometimes to the point of terror. The question for us to answer is, “what do we want wearing us down and consuming our attention?”

As an aside, being in the presence of God always leads to one of two inevitabilities: either worship or judgment (death). That should produce some awe that will consume your attention to the point of terror. There is no middle-ground here. “The fear (same word translated at “reverence” in Psalm 2:11) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.” But, being in awe or reverence of God is also the beginning of wisdom, the knowledge that He is loving and just and gentle…well, there just aren’t enough adjectives.

Anyway, it’s in Psalms, most of which were written by the greatest worshipper on Earth, that we begin to see what worship is. But, it’s in the New Testament, in the New Covenant, that worship reveals itself fully. It’s in the salvation of Christ that reverence for God moves from being consumed with terror to being overwhelmed by the tsunami of His love. It’s when we are brought back to life in His resurrection, after realizing our death that we are God’s glory.

There is another distinction in worship between the Old and New Testament. In all of the feasts and festivals (some of which I listed earlier) of the Old Covenant the worshippers (people) came to the temple. Under the New Covenant the temples come together in worship (“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in You?”, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own.” I Corinthians 3:16 & 6:19 respectively). There’s that implication of worshipping or bringing glory to whatever owns you.

To my thinking, this means that the idea of meeting together on a particular day at a particular time to renew our minds, refresh our spirits, recharge our batteries and rejuice our emotions to simply survive another week is inefficient at best and completely ineffectual at worst. It’s what consumes us during the week that defines worship. Simply coming to church in the hope of plugging into some spiritual outlet for a few hours just isn’t going to cut it. We need to recognize that we are temples of the Holy Spirit who is in us. We have the power source, the everlasting battery, in us. But, if we’ve been getting our “juice” from other sources (the other things in life that we allow to own us) it actually inhibits our ability to draw on this infinite power.

The inverse to weekly corporate worship as a source of energy is true. Ultimately, if Christians have been in a state of worship throughout the week, loving “the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength”, then when the “Temples” all gather together an overwhelming, awe inspiring corporate expression of that state of worship can’t be contained. When two or more, who have been in a private state of worship, are gathered in the name of the Originator of that worship, then the Origin and Originator of that worship is there. Worship begets worship. I’m not going to pretend to understand it. All I am able to do is testify to the magnificent mystery of it all.

This individual, private, upper-room, continual attitude of prayer, this little light of mine type of worship always results in a kind of spiritual critical mass when combined with like individuals. The outward manifestation of individual worship starts an uncontrollable chain reaction that culminates in a mushroom cloud of corporate worship that can no more be contained and harnessed as could a nuclear explosion.

Why don’t more churches experience this type of critical mass? Why do one third of those who regularly attend church feel that they experience the presence of God less than half of the occasions that they attend church (according to Barna research http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/35-worship-tops-the-list-of-important-church-based-experiences)?

It’s because the meaning of “worship” has been a casualty of the worship wars. It’s because we, as Christians, have been deceived and lied to about what why we were created.

We are created, we have our being, our very existence is for one over-riding purpose: to bring glory to God. John Piper, in his book “Let the Nations Be Glad” does an excellent job of laying out biblical texts that reveal God’s zeal of His own glory. Here are just a few…

“God created us for His glory: ‘Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.’ Isaiah 43:6-7”

“God forgives our sins for His own sake: ‘I, I am He who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.’ Isaiah 43:25”

“Jesus receives us into His fellowship for the glory of God: ‘Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.’ Romans 15:7”

“God instructs us to do everything for His glory: ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ I Corinthians 10:31; cf. 6:20

“Everything that happens will redound to God’s glory: “From Him and through Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

So, here we are again. Back at the question, “what is worship?”

Worship is a being verb.

Consider it…don’t miss the nuance. God created the universe for His glory; chose Israel for His glory; God led Israel out of Egypt for His glory; God sent Jesus for His glory; Jesus performed miracles for His glory; Jesus suffered, died and lived again for His glory; Jesus gives us life through His resurrection for His glory; Jesus will come again for His glory; in Him we have our being for His glory.

There it is: “for in Him we live and move and have our being”…for His glory.

We are worship. We bring glory.

The question for us Christians is, “to whom or what do we bring glory?” Just because something, or someone, is created for a purpose doesn’t always mean that the purpose is fulfilled. Are we worship that brings glory to God or to something else? Are we worship that attracts those around us to God or distracts them to something else? Or worse, are we attractive worship or repulsive worship?

When we are cut off in traffic, what type of worship are we? When the cashier at McDonald’s gets our order wrong, what type of worship are we? When we see a homeless person who could use a sandwich and coffee, what kind of worship are we? When a young girl is struggling with the option of abortion, what kind of worship are we? When the teenage boy down the street, who we allow to annoy us with his sub-woofers, continues to make poor life decisions, what type of worship are we? When the elderly lady across the street, who we think complains too much, could use her lawn cut, what type of worship are we?

In short, are we worship that attracts people to the Savior or repulses them?

For that driver, forgive because you were forgiven. For that cashier, offer an encouraging word for the difficult day they may be having. For that homeless person, make an extra sandwich when you’re making your own lunch for the day. For that young girl, offer to help raise that precious, unborn child in the way that she should go so that when she is grown she will not depart from it. For that teenage boy, remember what it was like for you at that age make yourself available to walk the difficult road of adolescence with him. For that lady, what’s one more yard on your to-do list, anyway?

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Be worship…and then stand awestruck when you see what corporate worship can be when two or more have been gathered in His name throughout the entire week.

And, just as being worship results in corporate worship, corporate worship encourages being worship…but I’ll let you write that story on your own.

That’s why worship!

FREEEEEDOOOOOOM!!!

“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.” Acts 16:26

This is one of my favorite verses about worship in the Bible. Here’s the backstory: it’s about midnight, Paul and Silas have had a pretty typical day including travel, healing, delivering the occasional girl from demonic possession, riling up the locals with preaching; all of which leads to their inevitable arrest, flogging and prison time. All in all it was a pretty good day. [Insert sarcastic smirk here.]

So, there they sat in prison which I’mfairly certainthose were accommodations most of us would find less than acceptable for worship on any given Sunday morning. Heck, it was probably worse than most modern day prisoners would find acceptable in any US penal system facility or even at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib for that matter.

Nonetheless, there they were. And they did something rather strange, “…Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God…” What, huh? They were worshipping? But, wait, weren’t the pews too hard? Did they really have a band in prison? Where’d they get the hymnals from? Where did they find a projector to put the words on the wall? How did they worship without a decent sound system and good monitors? Really…intelligent lighting in a cave that served as a prison? Who made sure that the heat was working? [Insert another sarcastic smirk here.]

For now, I’m going to let you work that last paragraph out on your own. I’ll write about worshipping in spite of our circumstances in a later post. Today I want to dwell on what happened next.

To illustrate the result of Paul and Silas’ worship I’ll quote William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie “Braveheart”: FREEEEEEEDOOOOOMMMMMM! (That works a lot better when I preach on this in person, but you get the idea.)

Anyway, it’s commonly understood by us “worship music” types that worship sets us free. But, worship in “truth in and spirit” doesn’t just set those of us up on the stage and in the bright lights free; it sets even those who witness it free, too. In fact, it has nothing to do with worship as performance. Our living, breathing act of worship sets people free, as well.

When a Christ worshipper lives a life that brings glory to God, everyone around them feels the impact…the earthquake.

  • When a Christ worshipper humbly ladles a bowl soup at the downtown mission a homeless person is set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper visits an elderly shut-in a lonely senior is set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper helps a young woman with unruly toddlers load her groceries into her car a mom who may feel the hopelessness of single parenting is set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper drives to a crack house in the middle of the night to rescue the son of desperate parents an addict and his family are set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper takes in a teenage girl to help her overcome an eating disorder a scared young woman is set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper takes a stand between a battered child and their abuser a terrified child is set free;
  • when a Christ worshipper prays and sings praise choruses in a prison then prisoners are set free.

In the third sentence of the book “Let the Nations Be Glad” John Piper says, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

I take this to mean that God’s plan is for us to worship in truth and spirit; when we reflect the glory of God and the beauty of Christas a matter of course in our life.Worship as a being verb renderspiouscatch phrases, cliched evangelism strategies or pithy bumperstickerssuperfluous at bestor at worst a distraction. When God’s people are “living sacrifices” of “spiritual acts of worship”; when Christ worshippers live a life that brings honor and glory to God; when we are the being verb “worship” then the earth shakes like an earthquake, strongholds crumble, the Gates of Hell implode, captives’ chains fall off, people are set free from bondage; they’re set free to come home to The Father! Worship isn’tintended to bespiritual jollies for the worshipper, it’s purpose is so that everyonewillsee the beauty of the Darling of Heaven inthe worshipper. Then those who merely witness worshipwill be set free, too.

That’s “Why Worship.”