Devotional Thought for Today – 11/20/21

Stephen Charnock Puritan Quote - Self Above God In Anything Is Idolatry

HEBREWS 10:25

Who is the focus of your worship? Is it you and your needs or God alone? Stephen Charnock the Puritan theologian of the 1600’s understood (as I have repeated far to many times) it is always about God and never about us.

Contemporary perspectives on worship
In considering the debates about worship in the Church in our day, it is necessary to keep four things in mind. First, the form of contemporary Sunday services of evangelical churches lacks continuity with much of the past worship practices of the Christian Church. Worship in American churches, and increasingly in other countries, has been greatly influenced by the practices of American evangelicalism which grew out of the 19th century camp meeting. In the camp meeting there was a three-part form: music (to attract a crowd and put it in the right mood), preaching (to convert sinners), and an altar call (to secure a decision). The goal was the conversion of sinners, not the service of God by the converted saints. Neither the doctrine of salvation nor the doctrine of the Church was soundly represented in camp meetings. Second, the Western mind has grown hostile to making distinctions (male/female, marriage/cohabitation, truth/falsehood, man/animal). It is therefore not surprising that the distinction between the public worship of God and the rest of the Christian life should appear to be problematic to many. Third, dispensational theology has robbed much of the evangelical church of the sense that it can really learn from the Old Testament, let alone that Old Testament teaching might still be binding. So it approaches the issue of worship as it does ethics and doctrine (but not prophecy!), with only the New Testament in its hands and with suspicion toward the past. In this climate of thought, many Reformed and Lutheran (and even Roman Catholic) Churches imitate what seems to succeed in the “megachurches,” often with little thought given to the doctrinal consequences of their decisions. The fourth thing to bear in mind is the constant effort on the part of the unseen enemy, the devil, to distort or corrupt the worship of God (Mat 4:9; Eph 6:11-12; Jas 4:7). Surely Reformed Christians must remember the lessons of Scripture and history.

Reformed confessional perspective on worship
As a confessional Reformed church, we must not approach worship in the pragmatic manner prevalent in many evangelical churches. We must not view ourselves as a generation of practical innovators moving the Church forward to ever greater successes. We are humble servants of Christ, exhorted “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Through our Confession and Testimony, we recognize the spiritual unity we share with our fathers in the faith, both in doctrine and in practice. We affirm the continuity between the Old and New Covenants, and the continuity of the Church through the generations. In our Confession, we treasure the solemn and holy nature of the assembly of God’s people on the Lord’s Day and the means of grace instituted by God and blessed by his Spirit. We hold firmly to the holy and spiritual nature of the Church and to her place in God’s design for the world. She alone is the pillar and ground of the truth, and that truth which she upholds is the truth of God’s Word in its purity, apart from men’s traditions (Mark 7:7). Our goal is to glorify God and to enjoy Him in worship. This requires thoughtful and careful study of God’s will. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24). Christ joins Spirit and truth together, governed by one preposition: EN PNEUMATI KAI ALHQEIAI. In making this statement, Christ does not reject the relevance of Old Covenant worship to the practice of the New Covenant Church, but gives us a concise restatement of the New Covenant promise that God’s Law will be written on our hearts (Jer 31:33-34; Ezek 36:26-27; cf., Heb 8:10; 10:16; 2Cor 3:3). Though there is indeed an element of discontinuity — Christ’s body is the true temple — a discontinuity that fulfills the gospel’s universal vocation (“…neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem shall you worship the Father…”), the conjunction of Spirit and truth directs us to worship God in every place according to His Word (“we know what we worship”) in the new dispensation of the Spirit, now that Christ has come. Christ gives no liberty to think that the leading of the Spirit will open vistas of truth apart from His Word. The worship of God continues to be covenantal and directed by God’s Word while being opened to all nations and all places through faith in Jesus Christ (John 12:32; Isa 49:6; 1Jn 2:2; Rev 5:9).

The above is an extract from A Reformed Theology of Worship, Paper submitted to the 170th Synod, of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America

Calvin and the Worship of God


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