Celebration of Discipline
By Richard J. Foster
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. —William Temple
To worship is to experience Reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is a breaking into the Shekinah of God, or better yet, being invaded by the Shekinah of God.
God is actively seeking worshipers. Jesus declares, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him” (John 4:23, [italics added]). It is God who seeks, draws, persuades. Worship is the human response to the divine initiative. In Genesis God walked in the garden, seeking out Adam and Eve. In the crucifixion Jesus drew men and women to himself (John 12:32). Scripture is replete with examples of God’s efforts to initiate, restore, and maintain fellowship with his children. God is like the father of the prodigal who upon seeing his son a long way off, rushed to welcome him home.
Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. Its central reality is found “in spirit and truth.” It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit. Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit. The words of the chorus, “Set my spirit free that I may worship Thee,” reveal the basis of worship. Until God touches and frees our spirit we cannot enter this realm. Singing, praying, praising all may lead to worship, but worship is more than any of them. Our spirit must be ignited by the divine fire.
As a result, we need not be overly concerned with the question of a correct form for worship. The issue of high liturgy or low liturgy, this form or that form is peripheral rather than central. We are encouraged in this perception when we realize that nowhere does the New Testament prescribe a particular form for worship. In fact, what we find is a freedom that is incredible for people with such deep roots in the synagogue liturgical system. They had the reality. When Spirit touches spirit the issue of forms is wholly secondary.
To say that forms are secondary is not to say that they are irrelevant. As long as we are finite human beings we must have forms. We must have “wineskins” that will embody our experience of worship. But the forms are not the worship; they only lead us into the worship. We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ—too bad for the form.
The Object of Our Worship
Jesus answers for all time the question of whom we are to worship. “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10). The one true God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the God whom Jesus Christ revealed. God made clear his hatred for all idolatries by placing an incisive command at the start of the Decalogue. “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Nor does idolatry consist only in bowing before visible objects of adoration. A. W. Tozer says, “The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” To think rightly about God is, in an important sense, to have everything right. To think wrongly about God is, in an important sense, to have everything wrong.
We desperately need to see who God is: to read about his self-disclosure to his ancient people Israel, to meditate on his attributes, to gaze upon the revelation of his nature in Jesus Christ. When we see the Lord of hosts “high and lifted up,” ponder his infinite wisdom and knowledge, and wonder at his unfathomable mercy and love, we cannot help but move into doxology.
Glad thine attributes confess,
Glorious all and numberless.
To see who the Lord is brings us to confession. When Isaiah caught sight of the glory of God he cried, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5). The pervasive sinfulness of human beings becomes evident when contrasted with the radiant holiness of God. Our fickleness becomes apparent once we see God’s faithfulness. To understand his grace is to understand our guilt.
We worship the Lord not only because of who he is, but also because of what he has done. Above all, the God of the Bible is the God who acts. His goodness, faithfulness, justice, mercy all can be seen in his dealings with his people. His gracious actions are not only etched into ancient history, but are engraved into our personal histories. As the apostle Paul says, the only reasonable response is worship (Rom. 12:1). We praise God for who he is, and thank him for what he has done.
Lord, I worship You for the calm reassurance that when I am hard-pressed with thorns and trials, You are working. I believe that You are working on my behalf, facing the enemy that I cannot conquer on my own. I worship You as the champion in the fight, my anchor in the storm, and my hope that eradicates all despair. Thank You for Your faithfulness to me. May I learn to trust You in the quiet seasons, and worship You even more passionately when the thorn presses deep within my side. In Your Name, I pray. Amen.
Stop. Spend 15 minutes today listening to the voice whispering in the quiet of your heart. Do Hear Him? In the quiet is when He is speaking the loudest. That stirring in your heart; that is God. Only He can nurture your soul.
Foster, Richard J.. Celebration of Discipline, Special Anniversary Edition (pp. 158-160)… SELECTED
Published on Jan 23 @ 12:33 AM EDT