Honesty in worship
I was struck by this quote recently by A.W. Tozer: ‘Christians’, he writes, ‘do not tell lies, they just go to church and sing them’. On one hand it made me feel uneasy, yet on the other it provoked me to think more deeply about worship. It is not that Tozer doubted the truth of the gospel, the objective reality of Jesus’ birth, death, resurrection or ascension. He believed, as I do, in Jesus’ virgin birth, sin bearing death, victory over the grave, and ascension into heaven. It wasn’t the objective reality of the gospel that he was questioning, but the subjective response.
Last week we were singing the song:
‘As the deer pants for the water,
So my soul longs after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.’
I found myself praying that God would make this true in my life. For it is no light thing to declare that God is our only desire. Sometimes our singing betrays the truth in our hearts. Please do not misread me here. I am not saying that we should never declare our longing or desire for God nor am I criticising Martin Nystrom’s song, but I do want us to acknowledge that an exclamation of devotion is often times more aspirational than an honest reflection of our own hearts.
Though I enjoy singing, ‘As the deer pants for the water’. I often find I am singing words that I believe, but long to experience deeper, the truth of:
‘I want You more than gold or silver,
Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy-giver
And the apple of my eye.’
God certainly is the only One who will truly satisfy the longing of my heart, He certainly is the real joy-giver, and I have experienced satisfaction and joy in Him, but sometimes these words of worship are sung with little appreciation of their meaning or emotional connection. I believe God is worthy of both our minds and our hearts in worship. We must be careful in the way we worship God for we do not want Him to say of us, ‘these people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ (Isaiah 29:13).
It is worth remembering here that the ‘chief end of man is to worship God and enjoy Him forever’. Worship is not a means to some other end, but end in itself. It is the Spirit-led response to the revelation of God’s truth.
For this reason I agree with Paul Robinson when he writes, ‘When we choose subjective lyrics it is important that we are singing these words in response to a message, word or working of the Spirit in worship and not just by themselves’. There should be an honesty and a depth to our expression of devotion.
Surely, as Phil Baiden has said, we see this supremely in the Psalms. Where ‘As the deer pants for the water, so my soul pants for you, my God’ (Psalm 42) continues not with simple expression of love or devotion to God but with a heart felt cry:
‘My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long:
Where is your God?’
In this we see an earthy worship that connects with believers lived experience whilst at the same time appealing to God to meet with us, to do more in our lives, to deepen our experience of His grace. So let us pray:
Lord, may our worship be a true reflection of what You are doing in our hearts and our lives at this time. Guide those who lead worship in our churches so that they might choose words and music that connect with our hearts and minds. Forgive the times when our worship pays little more than lip service to You. Help us to worship You in Spirit and in truth. In the name of Jesus and to His glory we ask it. Amen
Posted on August 31, 2012, in Friday Music and tagged A.W. Tozer, As the deer pants for the water, Christians do not tell lies they just go to church and sing them, Martin Nystrom, Psalm 42. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.