Worship that Forms Us
G.K. Beale's great book You Are What You Worship walks us through a biblical theology of worship. The title is self-explanatory; as humans we become like that which we worship. James K.A. Smith does the same thing in a slightly more accessible way in You Are What You Love. What both Beale and Smith pick up on is a truth that we so often want to forget. The things we love most are the things that fundamentally shape us.
Up to this point we have looked at the drama of redemption. God has acted in time and space. He created all things, yet man rebels against him. We become enemies of God. Nevertheless, God does not leave us in our state of sin and misery, he comes to us and saves us. He gives us his Spirit to dwell in us. We are no longer strangers and enemies but friends and children of God, co-heirs with Christ. From this drama in which we find ourselves, arise certain doctrines. The facts of redemption are our doctrines and our doctrines are the facts because the drama is true. We learn who God is, who we are, what is required of us, and our place in this drama. The doctrines lead us to praise to doxology. We praise God not in ignorance, but because of what he has done. Our doxology is rooted in the drama and the doctrines of the faith. This doxology moves us from being spectators to participants. We each have a role to play and worship teaches us that role. Yet what we find is that in our worship, we are formed and made more human, more of what we were created to be. Doxology leads to discipleship.
I love cooking shows. Some of my favorite shows are the ones where you have either amateur chefs or bad chefs that are brought under the wing of a great professional chef (think Worst Cooks in America). The thing I love about these shows is that you see people go from not knowing much about food or how flavors come together to caring deeply about it. They watch and take notes. They study every knife stroke, every spice, every ingredient. By the end of the show, people who could not cook or were still in the very early parts of learning about cooking have become proper chefs. They understand just how much salt needs to go in a dish or what they need to do make a great soufflé. They have gone from just being spectators to participants and their participation has changed them.
This is what worship does. We no longer just sit on the sidelines, but we get our hands dirty and participate. This changes us. As we worship, we are changed. We are conformed. We see ourselves grow in our faith. We see ourselves become more like what we worship because our worship is governed by God. He tells us how we are to worship, and he does this because he knows that worship changes who we are. Thomas Chalmers tells us that we cannot just change ourselves by force of will. We cannot solely stop loving something and without first having another love that replaces it. What worship does is that it exchanges our old loves with a a new love. There is an "expulsive power" to this "new affection," and that new affection conforms us to its image.
I love Crossfit. Over the years I have seen it work, not just in my own life, but in the lives of friends. It has kept me healthy, cut weight off me, and allows me to lift heavy things that I never thought I could lift. As I got into it, I learned a lot. I learned the "doctrine" of lifting weights (Rule #1: always look cool). The interesting thing is, that as it started to change how I looked and acted, people started asking questions about what I was doing. And, as I talked to people and they explained some physical issues they were having, I would encourage them to just try out Crossfit. I ended up seeing quite a few friends get into it and they are benefiting from the experience and also encouraging their friends to join up.
You see, when we love something, we naturally want to let other people know and bring them into it. When we see it change our lives, we want to see that same thing change the lives of the people around us. I want the world to know that I love my wife. I want the world to know that I love my son. I want the world to know that I love my Lord. I want them to come and join in the worship. I want them to be transformed and conformed. I want them to experience the newness of life that I experience. This is what finding myself in God's story has done. I know the drama of redemption and see the doctrines that flow from it. Those doctrines have lead me to praise, to doxology. That doxology has conformed me and made me a disciple. Part of being a disciple is proclaiming to the world the great works of God (preaching the gospel and explaining the doctrines). It is going out and making disciples, sharing what you love with the world around you.
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