Worship and being filled with the Spirit

In Ephesians 5:18-20 the Bible says:

be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

This is the second passage in the New Testament containing the exhortation to address one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. We looked at the other one from Colossians where Paul exhorted people to let the Word of God dwell among them leading to worship. Here Paul instead encourage people to be filled with the Spirit leading to a life of worship.

It is my deep conviction that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and being continuosly filled by the Holy Spirit will fuel a worshipping lifestyle. In Acts baptisms in the Holy Spirit were always followed with different tangible signs and one of these where that people started to praise God. A new or renewed joy in worship is a direct result of the work of the Holy Spirit in a christian’s life. The Holy Spirit is also the one revealing God as our Father, giving us assurance of salvation and drawing us into a more intimate relationship with God.

The Holy Spirit and worship mix well together and I do believe that worship should always give room for the Holy Spirit to act. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is teaching the church about gifts of the Spirit. The context is a wider teaching on what church life should be like when we “come together” and Paul is basically saying that whenever we meet together the Holy Spirit is there willing to distribute gifts to anyone as he wills for the benefit of the whole body.
The context is not to teach the individual christian about how to find what is my personal spiritual gift but rather that the Holy Spirit wants to pour out a wide array of gifts over different people in different times in the context of corporate worship.

Let us encourage corporate worship fueled by the Holy Spirit and open for God to act through His Spirit through whom he pleases, through one with a tongue, another gets an interpretation, prophesy from one, and a word of knowledge from another. This is worship that will build the church!

What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 1 Cor 14:26

The normal christian church life.

Worship and the Word of God

In Colossians 3:12-17 it says:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This blog series is about worship in spirit and truth and I would like to start up with some reflections on worship rooted in the word of God.

The first thing I would mention has to do with worship being more than singing songs to God. Worship is first and foremost a life that is lived for the glory of God. When you and I put on as the text says, the kind of character that flows out of God’s being we are living worship living in unity with eachother, having patience, forgiving eachother, love, compassion, humility. The heart of worship is displayed in your character, how you act towards people around you and the kind of life that is a life of worship is built on the word of God.

In most of the New Testament letter/epistles there is a pattern for how Paul, for example, is teaching the different churches. In the beginning or first half of the letters Paul is often teaching truth, about God, about the nature of the church, identity in Christ, salvation, the doctrine of grace etc. The latter part of the letter is often used to then apply these truths and show what kind of life that should be lived, how we should treat eachother, what to avoid as a follower of Christ and so on. The pattern to see here is that teaching in the New Testament starts with truth, because that is the foundation upon which you can build a godly life. Only preaching application, how to live etc would be to miss the point that without a foundation of godly doctrine, understanding or having a revelation of truth you cant build a godly life or to put it in the other way around, good doctrine/teaching lead to a good/godly life.

So what has this to do with worship? It lead us to the latter half of the Scripture quoted, to teach and admonish eachother with worship songs. Worship should be filled with the word of God declaring truth and thus teaching people right doctrine, leading people into the right life that is in itself a worship to God. Content matters!

I would like to finish with a quote from worship leader Stuart Townend:

“I think content is vitally important to our corporate worship,” Townend shares. “Sometimes great melodies are let down by indifferent or clichéd words. It’s the writer’s job to dig deep into the meaning of Scripture and express in poetic and memorable ways the truth he or she finds there. Knowing the truth about God and who we are in Him is central to our lives as believers. Songs remain in the mind in a way sermons do not, so songwriters have an important role and a huge responsibility.”

Worship in Spirit and Truth

Worship has always been an “interesting” part of church history, probably because music is so connected to culture and therefore to our identity. Many have been part of the pipe organ debate in many churches at the entrance of more contemporary worship music styles. A friend of mine once told me that when organs where first introduced to church life they were considered the devil’s instrument replacing the beauty of the orchestra.

I will not start a debate about music style in worship but would rather want to share some reflections of the biblical style of worship. Jesus said: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

In a few coming blogposts I will reflect on what worship in spirit and truth should look like. If you have found your way to this blog then I would welcome you to join with your reflections and comments.

What does God think about…

My first real blogpost will be of the philosopical kind. I have been reading some different debates and articles on God’s opinions lately. I will leave those aside and this is not an attempt to involve myself in them, but it has spurred some thinking on my part.

So often we try to define God’s opinions depending on what our current culture says to us. Our view of who God is easily becomes political correct. My suggestion though, is that God must be defined by his character in eternity, whether we like it or not in our current culture.

God is love. This is neither unfamiliar or uncomfortable. We know this because God has revealed this character to us through the Bible and first and foremost through Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of John states: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

The law did reveal something of God’s character as well. Something of his standard, his holiness. Now the ultimate purpose of the law was not for us to try to live by it, but for us to realise that we can’t live by it. The law is our teacher that teach us our need for grace is the point Paul is making in his letter to the Galatian church.

Grace and truth came through Jesus. In Jesus, in his grace, and in the truth he reveal we see God. In the grace that has been given to us, that even if we have not lived according to God’s standard, even if each and every one of us are sinners, we have been given grace through Jesus. On the cross he has died with my sin and through faith in him I am now free from the condemnation of law, death and sin. Jesus also came with truth. On the cross Jesus not only put an end to condemnation on every believer, he also manifest that there actually is a righteous condemnation on sin that need to be dealt with. God does not change his opinion on sin according to current waves of popular culture, he deals with sin on the cross. Jesus came both to reveal the eternal grace and love of God’s character as well as His eternal holiness and truth.

Let me use an example that is not very controversial. Pedophilia is a sin in God’s eyes. Now that is not very difficult for me to grasp since it fits very well into my culture and worldview. My point is that it has always been a sin in God’s eyes. In ancient Greece it was considered an ideal for an older man to have a sexual relationship with a young boy [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pederasty] and in their culture this would probably be considered normal. My point is that God did not suddenly change his position in 1650 BC and he doesn’t suddenly change his position 2009 AD.

God is God, and he doesn’t deal with sin by wiping it under the carpet and forget it. He condemns it on the cross of Jesus and then recreate us with a cleansed conscience and a new life in Jesus Christ.

Grace and Truth. We need to acknowledge both aspects of God’s character to see God revealed to us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.