If the Church realized what they “get” from worship

From John Piper’s The Dangerous Duty of Delight:

First, the true diagnosis of weak worship is not that our people are coming to get and not to give. Not a few pastors scold their people that the worship services would be lively if people came to give instead of to get. There is a better diagnosis.

People ought to come to corporate worship services to get. They ought to come starved for God. They ought to come saying, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1). God is profoundly honored when people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God. And it is my job as a preacher to spread a banquet for them. I must show them from Scripture what they are really starving for—God—and then feed them well until they say, “Ahhh.” That is worship.

The point Piper is trying to make is not that the Church should forget the Bible and its commands to offer our talents for service to the body of Christ. The point was to emphasize the whole reason for corporate worship, and that is to commemorate (M-W: to call to remembrance) God’s work on behalf of His people and its benefits. It is to ascribe glory, honor, and praise to the God who delivered us from the sure wrath and condemnation which we deserved because of our willful rebellion and sinfulness.

The worship service is (or sadly for many churches, should be) a weekly reminder of the gospel. The first part of the gospel is the fact that we are sinners, plain and simple, and that we will be sinners until we die. Ought not this fact bring us to the start of worship service in fear and trembling? But we have the assurance in the second part of the gospel, the good news, which tells us that there is forgiveness in Christ, that the great exchange has taken place. Our sins and the wrath which we deserved was placed on Jesus, and Jesus’ active obedience to the Law has been imputed (counted) to us.

Psalm 130:4 says “But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.” I take care that I may not forget what I “get” from worship: the sweet (re)assurance of the good news and also importantly, a solemn reminder of the fact that I deserve God’s wrath without the blood of Christ covering my sins.

In The Dangerous Duty of Delight, Piper takes the concept of Christian Hedonism (you’ll have to read this book or the longer Desiring God from which this book was adapted to realize that this isn’t an oxymoron nor a heterodox teaching) and applies it to corporate worship, marriage, and evangelism. In this March 6, 2005 sermon titled, “The Present Effects of Trembling at the Wrath of God,” he follows a similar path for application. My fellow believers would do well to read (or even better, watch) this sermon and meditate on the wrath of God and how it should make us compose ourselves when we come to Sunday worship. Here is one line which stuck out to me, because it is exactly how I feel about many of our churches and services today: “Those who have seen and savored the holiness of God and justice and wrath and grace of God, can never again trivialize worship.”

Solemn, somber, sober-minded, staid. How can we not be? Transcribed from the actual sermon delivery: “This is not something you grow out of, like, ‘Oh, I’ll become a mature Christian and I’ll stop being a trembler.’ No, this is something, in fact, that the immature need to grow into.” The mature Christian will have these marks.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Pepper Potts on May 9, 2008 at 10:33 PM

    Sam, I am truly amazed at how candid and honest you are with this. I know the crazy roommate Sam, but this is so cool. I’ll be praying for you and see you Sunday.

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