A Curmudgeon Weighs in On Evangelical Worship

A Curmudgeon Weighs in On Evangelical Worship

We do all manner of things, including very important things, because we think they are a “good idea.” The worship of God is, indeed, a good idea. It is especially so because it is God’s idea. To think of worship simply or even primarily in terms of a human act is deficient, because the Scriptures teach us that the worship of God is a matter of divine initiation. This is plainly seen in Exo 25:8 where God speaks to Moses: “Let them [the people] construct a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.” Moses did not come up with the idea; it was God’s idea for the people to worship him, and to do so in the way He prescribed.

God’s liturgical initiative begins with the act of creation itself. God made a world in which man, male and female, could dwell in the good land formed for them. This land, the garden of Eden, a place of delight, was the place in which Adam and Eve and their offspring could enjoy God’s blessing and presence. Even after their sinful rebellion, God made it possible for humans to worship him. In Genesis 4, after Moses narrates the first murder in human history (done in the context of worship, I must add) we see God’s unfolding grace as humans are, even in their fallen state, able to “call upon the name of the Lord” (Gen 4:26).

The Grand Biblical Narrative is truly God’s story of redemption through His promised Son. It is, equally, God’s story of His glory and His invitation to His image bearers to worship Him, and Him alone. The Scriptures can be read as an ongoing drama of God’s gracious pursuit of idolaters, as He calls them to worship Him in spirit and truth. None of us deserve this, of course, any more than we deserve God’s lavish grace to us in Christ. But God has in Christ made a way for us to approach Him (Heb 10:19ff), as David Peterson puts it, “on His terms and in the way He alone makes possible.”

This series of blogs will lay out a basic doctrine of worship along with some commentary on current issues that I feel need urgent consideration in our churches. I’ll say up front that I’m likely to offend virtually everyone in the series, so if you get your feelings hurt easily, let me apologize now. I won’t do it (apologize) again. And, yes, as Bruce Ashford likes to say, I’ll be a curmudgeon at times about some of this. Frankly, I’m fed up with much that goes on in evangelical circles that masquerades as worship, so I intend to let off some steam. But I do promise to be charitable (mostly), even when I disagree sharply with some people.

So you’ll have some idea of what to expect, the next few posts will provide a definition of worship and some key biblical-theological ideas that are fundamental to a healthy worship life in the congregation. As well, I’ll have some posts that take up certain contemporary issues, including my complaints about what I call “DisneyWorld Worship” and answers to questions like “What should we do when we fight about the volume of the music?” Yes, I have opinions on all this and more, and I’ll be blogging about it over the next several weeks.

Global Context (CA-Afghanistan): The Kite Runner

Global Context (Central Asia-Afghanistan): The Kite Runner

This series of posts deals with the global context in its historical, social, cultural, political, economic, demographic, and religious dimensions in particular. We will provide book notices, book reviews, and brief essays on these topics. We hope that you will find this series helpful as you live and bear witness in a complex and increasingly hyper-connected world.

Khaled Hosseini’s stunning debut novel is the masterfully told story of two boys growing up together in Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover of the mid-90s. One of the boys, Amir, is born to the privileged Pashtun upperclass while the other, Hassan, grows up a member of the despised minority group, the Hazara.

The ensuing narrative, centered around the Afghan game of “kite running,” takes the reader on a riveting and often sad journey through Afghan society and culture. Hosseini depicts the communal nature of Afghan society–the high value placed on family, town, and tribe. He portrays the pain and brokenness of many Afghans as he explores themes such as war, poverty, child abuse, and rape. Hosseini’s characters are brilliantly crafted and explore sin, guilt, and redemption like few other novels at the turn of the 20th century.

The Kite Runner is recommended for its significance (1) as a work of literature, (2) as a portrayal of history and culture, succeeding in examining recent Afghan history in an incisive and perceptive manner, and (3) as a global political bellweather, giving perspective to current U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as potential conflicts in Central Asia and the Middle East.

The reader should note that the book is pervaded by graphic violence including sexual assault.

Book: The Kite Runner (2003)
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Genre: Fiction
Region: Central Asia
Length: 352 pp.
Difficulty: Intermediate

20/20 Conference, Plenary Session V: Danny Akin

Question: How does the gospel come to life according to Jesus?

Answer: Love.

Jesus taught us in Matt. 22 that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind. The second greatest is to love our neighbors as ourselves.

John says his Gospel that they will know we are his disciples if we love one another.

John says in 1 John that we love because God is love. He loved us so much he sent his son to be the propitiation for our sin. Our response should be love.

Jonathan Edwards is the sharpest intellectual mind America has ever produced. He was also a pastor. In Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards asks what it is that makes the church like heaven. His answer is love. Akin agrees.

There is nothing more crucial to the gospel coming to life than our having an accurate understanding of what biblical love is.

1 Corinthians 13 is the text for this session.

Whatever you do, love will help you do what you do to the glory of God. Though Paul wrote this passage for the church, he intended for it to be lived out daily in every aspect of our lives.

As Dionne Warwick said, “what the world needs now is love.” (Who’d have thought Danny Akin was a Dionne Warwick fan???)

1. Love is essential (vv. 1-3)

Love is essential for a healthy church, for a healthy marriage, for bringing the gospel to life in the world around us.

Without love, it doesn’t matter what you say (vs. 1). If love doesn’t accompany what you say, you are nothing more than a lot of noise. Love brings authenticity and integrity to what we say. Lost people don’t pay attention to us because they are not convinced we really love them.

Akin once had a chance to share the gospel with a scientist. Though the man did not come to faith in Christ that day, he thanked Akin for being the first Christian to not be ugly with him because of his naturalistic beliefs. Akin apologized on behalf of Christians.

Without love, it doesn’t matter what you know (vs. 2). Loveless knowledge puffs up; it makes you a proud and arrogant know-it-all. We are to love our Lord with our mind. We need to read the right books-having a morning quiet time is not enough for you to love the Lord with all of your mind. God is no fan of ignorance, but ignorance is better than having a full mind that does not love God. Loveless knowledge leads to pride, and pride is what took the Devil down.

Without love, it doesn’t matter what you do (vs. 3). What you do in this life counts for nothing if your action comes without love. Even good things.

2. Love is expressive (vv. 4-8)

Paul gives us sixteen expressive words to describe love in these verses. All of them are verbs. Love is an action. All of them are in the present tense. These verbs should characterize your life.

Love is longsuffering-he will bring people into your life who make you suffer long.

Akin shares about a friend of his who was physically abused and hated his father until he was saved. The he loved his father. In recent years his father became a Christian, and today he is a good daddy and a great granddaddy. His children will never know what their grandfather was like before he knew Christ. God takes even bad things and often turns them into good things for his glory.

Love is kind. Question: how do you teat people who can do absolutely nothing to further your agenda?

Love is not envy. Love does not have an inferiority complex. Envy has built into it the seed of its own destruction-you are never satisfied, no matter how much you get.

Love does not parade itself and love is not puffed up. Love does not have a superiority complex. Love does not have what Akin calls the “peacock syndrome.”

Love does not behave rudely. Love has manners. Love treats people with kindness, grace, and respect, even if it is not returned. Akin uses the example of Christians who do not tip well in restaurants as an example of Christians who claim to love, but do not show manners and thus turn off lost people to the gospel. We are not in restaurants to be served, but to serve-we are ambassadors for Christ.

(Akin makes a joke about the Methodists-the crowd goes wild. All of you reading this should email him and ask him why he is doggin’ the Methodists.)

Akin briefly hits on the other verbs in verses 6-8. All of these verbs tell us what a Christian’s love ought to look like. This goes by pretty quickly.

3. Love is Enduring (vv. 8-13)

Love never fails, even though everything else will fail or vanish away. Now we know things partially, but one day we will know in full because we will be in the presence of Christ.

Faith will one day give way to sight. One day hope will give way to reality. But because God is love, love will never fail. The gospel comes to life when God’s love life is being lived out in our love life.

Personal reality check: take out the word “love” in 1 Corinthians 13 and swap the word “Jesus” in its place. Then do the same thing, but put your name in the place of “love.” How well does your name fit?

This reality check should bring conviction.

Following a suggestion from J. D. Greear, we should then read 1 Corinthians 13 by replacing love with the phrase “Jesus in me” is . . .

The gospel comes to life through Jesus in us, loving through us.