“There is no Christian Mind . . . The Christian Mind has succumbed to the secular drift with a degree of weakness unmatched in Christian History.”
That was written in 1963 by Harry Blamires.
Lately I’ve been grappling with a couple of topics: evangelism and worship. Much could be said about these. I’ll not attempt some decisively fresh or profound commentary on them. The truth is that they were simply the means God used to re calibrate my heart.
As I was thinking through these two topics, a book by John Piper came to mind that I read about 19 years ago, so I dusted it off and found several interesting tid-bits that I will reference.
We often hear talk in our Christian culture about how the gospel of Christ will meet our felt needs. It’s as if Christ has been made out to be some self-help guru that will enable us to have ultimate satisfaction in life as we follow his plan.
To a degree this is true and I don’t necessarily argue with the essence of that sentiment. However, it seems to reverse the focus from God to us. I love what John Piper said. “Our evangelistic task is not to persuade people that the gospel was made for our felt needs, but that they were made for the soul-satisfying glory of God in the gospel.” 1
We are often taught to entreat our non-believing friends to be reconciled to God, not because Jesus is worthy or because it brings God the glory He is due, but because of what He will do for us. I understand this is not new, nor is it somehow disingenuous or wrong to suggest that a person comes to the end of himself and then turns to Christ for relief. That is largely my own experience. To borrow an old saying, I was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
It does, however, seem that in our Christian culture, so much is made of man and so little of God. We try hard to be “relevant” and unoffensive in church and in our own Christian walk. Years ago when I lived in a larger city, I would receive at least one invitation by mail a month to visit some new church plant that promises fresh, relevant church services. One local church’s radio ad boasted of “no more boring church.”
In one sense there’s nothing wrong with being relevant. Paul said he became all things to all men that by any means he might save some. And I don’t disagree with those who contend that the method is what changes, not the message. But the reality may not be in line with the intent.
It is my opinion that too often the message does change. In our attempt to be edgy and relevant, dispensing with those aspects of disciple making that sniffs of tradition or stuffy religion, we might be creating disciples who must continually be entertained and fed milk not meat.
It appears to me that we somehow have lost the “edge” of the gospel. “Serious disagreements are covered over, while vague language and pragmatic concerns preserve hallow unity at the expense of theological substance and Biblical clarity and power. “2
Maybe what those around us need and those who are looking to us as Christian examples want to see is an unashamed abandonment to all things Christ.
This attitude has carried over into our corporate worship. We worship God because he is worthy. We worship Him to be satisfied in Him. Yet, many of us fall prey to the idea that we need to be entertained, challenged or even fed in our worship. If the pastor was witty, the music upbeat and tight and the pews full, then my what a wonderful worship service we had. On the other hand, if the sermon was dry or the music sloppy then we just didn’t feel like we connected with God.
Piper writes that, “Worship is for the sake of magnifying God, not ourselves, and God is magnified in us when we are satisfied in him. Therefore the unchanging essence of worship (not the outward forms which do change) is heartfelt satisfaction in the glory of God, the trembling when we do not have it and the longing for it.”3
So as I’ve been grappling with the two ideas of how we “do” evangelism in our current culture and what effect that has had on worship and how we “do” that corporately, it occurred to me that I often lose sight of the object of worship. So I asked myself, who is this Jesus we call men to follow and worship?
I realize there is a Bible full of examples, but Colossians 1:15-20 seems to capture it:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
“Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing — not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends — nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God.” 4 “And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God.”5
Go back and read those verses from Colossians again…slowly. Let them sink in. You quickly sense that it’s all about Jesus and because of Jesus and for Jesus and it’s all to the glory of God. Piper continues, “If the essence of worship is satisfaction in God, then worship can’t be a means to anything else. We simply can’t say to God, ‘I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else.'”6
He’s right. By definition, that would mean that we are not satisfied in God.
So what’s the what?
As I read through those verses in Colossians and subsequently those quotes from Piper, I began asking myself, if I truly believe that all things were created by Christ, that he is before all things, that he has first place in everything, how should that affect my approach to disciple making? How should that affect corporate worship?
I quickly realized that I have been giving mere lip-service to my confession of who Jesus is. I needed God to re-calibrate my heart and my thinking.
1. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books, 1998), 39
2. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books, 1998), 24
3. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books, 1998), 41
4. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books, 1998), 41
5. John Piper, God’s Passion for His Glory (Crossway Books, 1998), 41