Yesterday I shared with you about an article I read on worship by Trinity professor and theologian, Kevin Vanhoozer. Vanhoozer says that when we catch “the vision of who God is and what God has done, it stops us in our tracks and elicits our praise” (10). This is similar to what John Piper has written with regards to the missionary heart that the honest worship of God creates in us (see blogspots for Sept 22-24). Vanhoozer writes the following concerning the meaning of worshipping God "in truth": “Truth sets us free ‘from’ idolatry: from false religion and false striving after meaning and happiness and righteousness. Consequently, truth sets us free ‘for’ right worship, for worship bent on ultimate reality” (10). What does it mean to worship God "in spirit"? Does it mean to worship according to the Holy Spirit, or is it related to our own spirit? To worship God in spirit, says Vanhoozer “engages not merely our mind, but our whole being or ‘spirit’: not only minds, but hearts, hands, and imaginations too” (11).
Vanhoozer goes on to emphasize how proper theology (=understanding of God and his ways) leads to true worship: “Theology, then, both emerges from and leads us back to worship. Conversely, worship must be theological: it must reflect faith’s understanding of who God is and what God has done. Furthermore, worship must be corporate, for one of the great things that God has done is precisely to form a people. Worship involves – in praise, in commemoration – of what Christians know about God” (14). If it is true that worship forms us spiritually, and I believe it does, Christians must deepen their understanding of how God is portrayed in the Bible and expose themselves to writings that help them challenge cultural depictions of God which are inferior to the inspired text.
What does Vanhoozer say about the various styles of worship? Who’s right on the issue? Vanhoozer exhorts the Church to go “beyond the worship wars” and says, “Whatever one thinks about musical styles, let us at least agree that worship must be theological – God-centered – not anthropological. It’s not primarily about us!” (14). Within our Christian narcissistic culture thinking of worship as “not primarily about us” is easier said than practiced. Worship through my life, as well as when with my faith community must be about God's glory and his exaltation. It should never be primarily focused on what I can get out of a worship experience, although I am always blessed when I wholeheartedly praise the Lord. It is about living worshipfully in submission of everything I am before all that God is.
Worship is indispensable for your life and mine. Both private and faith community worship should seek to worship God in “spirit and in truth”. Clarifying true worship, its subject and object, and its importance for shaping one’s life, must be the sine qua non of how we live our lives today. Not to worship God as the centerpiece of our lives will lead us to the false religions and substitutes spoken about by Vanhoozer in his article. He alone deserves our allegiance, our focus, and our loyalty.