I’m sorry it has taken me so long to come back to this topic of Christian Hedonism. As I wrote in my last post about this topic, the words just don’t come easily in regards to this subject. The chapter on worship is 30 pages long . . . how do I even begin do it justice in one post? I’ve read it 3 times now, and I hope to share what really spoke to me and changed my viewpoint, yet remain true to what John Piper writes. So I’m taking a deep breath and here I go . . .
Worship: gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of His worth
Gladly? Why gladly? Piper reminds us that the earth reflects God’s glory ( Ps. 147:7,9) but yet this not a conscious act. Also, even if man does not reflect God’s glory willingly, he does so unwillingly by reflecting the “glory of God’s justice in condemnation” (Ps 76:10). These acts are done unwillingly, and thus are not worship. This still doesn’t answer the question of why use the word gladly, though. Why not use willingly instead? Piper argues that the use of willingly leads to us believe that we can will our heart to worship when our soul is far from God.
But worship is more than an act of willpower.
Ouch. I have fallen guilty of willing myself to worship so many times, saying empty words, singing choruses, even reading back Scripture. Why can’t I gladly will myself to worship? So how am I going to truly worship my God? How do I know if I am entering into real worship?
The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart.
Emotions? Affections? You mean there is a place in worship for those? All those years I have squashed emotions believing that they would deceive me. How many times have I been told (or told someone else) that you can’t trust your feelings? I think many, many times I have equated my emotions to my flesh, realizing that those emotions would just lead me to sinful thoughts, then sinful actions. I don’t want to be characterized by my emtions, one day feeling loved, then next day feeling unloved. BUT, I do want to experience all my God has for me in my relationship with Him, and I am coming to believe that means unlocking some of those emotions.
Here’s a list of some of the emotions that make worship authentic. Piper expounds on each of these, giving verses to support each. I’m just summarizing.
- stunned silence at the majestic holiness of God.
- awe and wonder at the sheer magnificence of God
- reverence coupled with holy dread of God’s righteous power
- longing for God
- joy from the lifting of the load of sin
- hope for the future
In regards to the holy dread of God’s righteous power, it is not a paralyzing fright full of resentment against God’s absolute authority, . . . but finds release in brokenness and contrition and grief for our ungodliness.
Just as fear overwhelmed my soul when Jonah was so sick as a baby, awe moved me at the sight of a beautiful canyon in Yellowstone, or grief consumed me college friends died in car crash, so also should wonder, joy, hope, longing, or reverence spontaneously cause me to lift my eyes to the heavens in praise. Piper writes, “Worship is authentic when affections for God arise in the heart as an end in themselves.” So how do I get those spontaneous affections? Some of them have been there all along, waiting to be released. But others are coming as I grow in my relationship with God. I have been overwhelmed with gratitude by His faithfulness. I have abounded with hope as I see Him working in me and others close to me.
Finally, I want to end with a paragraph straight from John Piper. Clearly, I’ve condensed pages of deep material to a minute bit . . . I want to keep telling you more and more, but in the interest of keeping your attention, here’s the end:
Hebrews 11:6 Without faith it is impossible to please God for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.
You cannot please God if you do not come to Him for reward! Therefore, worship that pleases God is the hedonistic pursuit of God. He is our exceeding great reward! In His presence is fullness of joy, and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore. Worship is the feast of the Christian Hedonist.