Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Loving God with All Your Mind

Worship Requires a Commiment to Thinking Deeply and Studying Diligently

It is not surprising that the pursuit of truly knowing and thus rightly worshiping God requires a resolved commitment to thinking deeply and studying diligently (2 Tim 2:15). Indeed, the greatest commandment in the Law is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Mt 22:37). Yet in this age of “evangelical pragmatism…pietistic anti-intellectualism…[and] journalistic bite-sizing” (Piper, Think, 17), it is common that such a call to rigorous study be met with scoffing from those both inside and outside of the church. Many look upon the desire for doctrinal precision as academic snobbery, as they are content to “worship God in their own way.” “As long as one is sincere in their devotion,” contemporary wisdom proffers, “ignorance of truth is to be excused. After all what is truth anyway?”

However, at the well at Sychar the Lord Jesus proclaimed a view of both worship and truth that flies in the face of the relativistic doctrinal apathy that plagues our postmodern culture. “You worship what you do not know” (Jn 4:22), He scolds the Samaritan woman, and thus teaches His people that, as Kevin Vanhoozer notes, “sincerity alone is an insufficient condition of right worship” (Worship at the Well, 8). A true worshiper, as He soon tells her, worships in spirit and truth. It is certainly right for one to be zealous for God and passionately committed to Him. But if that zeal is not according to knowledge, that person is not a true worshiper of the true God, even if he thinks he is (Rom 10:2).

See, it is possible to live our lives intending to worship and glorify God as He has prescribed while worshiping Him defectively (and therefore not truly worshiping Him at all) because of a lack of knowledge. John Calvin underscores the dangers of such an enterprise: “For unless there is knowledge present, it is not God that we worship but a specter or ghost.” Vanhoozer comments, “All of our pious intentions are struck by this thunderbolt, by this thought that we cannot help but worship falsely unless we are guided by God’s Word” (8).

This is precisely why the Christian must commit himself to doing theology, for it is the true Christian’s desire, not to worship in his own way, but to ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name in the way He Himself has prescribed. The stakes are indeed high, especially for those surrounded by a culture such as ours. Bruce Ware admonishes the pietistic anti-intellectualists: “If we are to escape the cult of self and find, instead, the true meaning of life and the path of true satisfaction, if we are to give God the glory rightly and exclusively owed to him…we must behold God for who he is” (God’s Greater Glory, 9).

And so a Christian must diligently apply himself to the discipline of theology, showing himself to be a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. For otherwise he will not worship God for who He is, but who he has imagined Him to be.

And there’s where the pastor’s role comes sharply into focus. This stuff certainly affects the Sunday gathering for corporate worship. Vanhoozer calls us to consider:

What do we do when we worship? We acknowledge and celebrate God’s worth. In worship we come together to remember and to respond to who God is and to what God has done for us. In short, we come together to do theology, though in a form that is more informal, participatory, and musical than it is systematic. (4)
The congregation gathers to remember and respond to who God is and what He has done for us. Yet, by failing to rightly interpret Scripture (comprehensively, holistically, and accurately) the pastor risks leading his people to remember and respond to a god who simply does not exist, a god of the congregation’s own imagination. The severity of such an infraction is arresting, especially in light of Jesus’ statement that eternal life consists in the knowledge of God (Jn 17:3) As we consider such things, I cannot help but hear the terrifying echo of Matthew 7:21-23: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”

With the stakes so high, both the undershepherd and the sheep must make war against every speculation and lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

Series Outline

Light and Heat: Introduction

1.1 - In Pursuit of Light: We Worship What We Know
1.2 - Systematics and Doctrine Matter
1.3 - Loving God with All Your Mind

2. In Pursuit of Heat: We Worship What We Know

3. Conclusion: Light and Heat, Spirit and Truth

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