In the book of Matthew, Jesus is put on the spot by the religious leaders of his day. They attempt to trap him in a debate of Jewish law with a question of priority. As the author of both the spirit and the letter of the law, Jesus is able to masterfully summarize what the law was meant to teach and what is of greatest importance.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.' (Matthew 22:34-38)
If you're feeling a little deja-vu, it's because I've already written a previous blog post that references Matthew 22:37. It's not my intention to rehash what has already been written. Instead, I want to dive a little deeper on one point of Jesus' three-point commandment.
"All Your Heart"
I could write about the mind and our need to always be growing in our understanding of the word and the gospel. I could write about our souls and the mystery of being made for eternity. Instead, I want to look at the heart and ask some questions
Does the Gospel move you?
Does it impact you daily?
Does it affect you?
In my context as a Pastor of Worship, it is my desire to see the church deeply affected by the word of God. I am needy for this myself. I want the treasure that Christ has put in my heart to produce good things (Luke 6:45). I long for my heart to overflow with Holy Spirit produced, "rivers of living water" that satisfy my greatest thirsts (John 7:38). I want to live as a new creation in Christ and be changed by the reality of the gospel (2 Corinthians 5:17). To paraphrase a song we love at Sovereign Hope, our hearts need to be tuned by the gospel in order to sing God's grace. This desire, what I desire for myself, I desire for our church body as well.
The Discipline of Feeling
There is a pendulum that swings in the modern flavors of Christian tradition. Back and forth it goes between emotionalism and intellectualism. We must live in the tension and not stray to one side or the other. It is as easy to become addicted to emotional worship experiences that lack depth and truth, as it is to become wooden, stoic, and completely unaffected by encounters with God through worship.
There are many theological and practical resources designed to help us grow in wisdom and in the regular Christian disciplines of Bible reading, prayer, fasting, and evangelism. But what if you dread corporate worship? What if you can't wait for all the singing to be over so the real service can begin? For those that struggle with heads full of knowledge but hearts that have grown cold, I want to encourage you to do two things that you can start doing today.
1. Pray - Begin praying with the Psalmist "restore to me the joy of your salvation and uphold me with a willing spirit" (Psalm 51:12). Pray that that knowledge of the glory of God in Jesus Christ would shine in your heart (2 Corinthians 4:6). Pray diligently that you would not abandon the love you had when the mercy of God first met you (Revelation 2:4) and you were given access by faith into the grace which we stand. Pray that you would rejoice in the hope of glory (Romans 5:2).
2. Sing like you mean it - Understand what I'm not saying. I'm not saying sing louder. I'm not asking you to raise your hands or close your eyes. It's not my intention to prescribe a worship expression. Instead, I'm asking you to question yourself and be mindful. We are a part of the church. We are the redeemed bride of Christ, purchased for his glory, by his death. Knowing this, and living in this reality, how should we sing these songs?
"You will reign forever, let your glory fill the earth!"
"Jesus paid it all, Sin had left a crimson stain but he washed it white as snow"
"Hallelujah! All I Have is Christ! Hallelujah! Jesus is my life!"
"My one comfort both in life and death is that I am not my own"
"No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from his hand"
"One with himself I cannot die. My soul is purchased with his blood. My life is hid with Christ on high, with Christ my savior and my God!"
If even our eating and drinking should be done to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31), how much more so should our worship!
A Sacrifice Will Cost You
At the end of the book of 2 Samuel (v. 24:18-25) there is an encounter between King David and a man named Araunah. David wanted to purchase a piece of land from Araunah so that he could build an altar. Araunah, most likely with the good intention to please his king, tries to give away not only the land but the necessary firewood and animals that would be sacrificed. In v. 24 David answers Araunah's extravagant offer. He says, "I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing."
The practice of sacrificing animals as a burnt offering for the forgiveness of sins died with Christ, since he was our perfect sacrifice (Revelation 5:9-10), but worship still will cost us something. Hebrews 13:15 encourages us to "continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise." There will be seasons where this is easy and it costs you a little and there will be seasons where this sacrifice will cost you more than you think you can bear. Still our "light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17).
We must worship God for his holiness and his limitless power that spoke the universe into existence! We must be broken over our sins, and humbly ask for forgiveness, and we must rejoice in the grace of God and in the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves sinners! Let your heart be affected and let your faith be full.