Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Whitmanesque Worship

Back in my long-lost liturgical days, I used to say the following words to God as a part of the confession:
I have not loved You with my whole heart, and I have not loved others as myself.
They were and are among the truest words we can ever say about ourselves, even at our finest moments.

Now, on the other hand, I am often prompted by the PowerPoint slides at church to sing songs about how much, how very much, I love God. In fact, I sometimes sing that I love Him with all my heart. Imagine that. Among all the changes I have gone through in terms of my spiritual understanding, this is not one of them. This sort of lyric irks me. They are not only effusively self-regarding, they are plain lies.

Anyway, this is the kind of thing that has a tendency to eat away at our worship, turning it into a Whitmanesque celebration of self. I had the opportunity yesterday to watch and listen to Tim Keller at the recent Gospel Coalition talk entitled What Does Gospel Centered Ministry Look Like? This is wonderfully wise and rich fare, and I found myself wishing for a printed copy of the talk, so I could consider Tim's words more carefully. Well, I haven't got that, but I've got the next best thing: Justin Taylor took really good notes. And not only Justin, but also the blogger over at Naked Church. Both of these fellas have done us a great service, for which I thank them.

But what has the Keller talk to do with self-regarding, self-celebrating worship? Well, Keller quoted Luther's larger catechism (ah, I remember it well) to the effect that the breaking of any commandment is, in essence, the breaking of the first commandment. It is for this reason that David, in the confessional psalm 51, asserts that his grievous sins (against Bathsheba, against Bathsheba's husband, against his own nation), were really sins against God alone.

My point is simply this. The reason I need a savior is that I have not loved God with my whole heart. If I say that now I do love him with my whole heart, I needn't any longer speak of Jesus or long for Him, because in fact I no longer need him.

Which might be a reason that, so often, Jesus seems so peripheral to our worship and preaching.


Anonymous said...

It is a shame that so many churches have abandoned public (and indeed private) confession, when it is something Jesus teaches us to do: "Forgive us our trespasses..." I suppose we want to immediately jump to a romantic notion of what a relationship with God is, and forget who we really are.

Anonymous said...

good post, thanks.

Jared said...

Wow. Simply . . . wow.

Thanks, Bob.

Nate said...

I have posted an invitation to repentance over at my blog, concerning an issue that is close to me. Anyone who reads is invited to join this corporate repentance:

Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ted said...

Great post. Thank you. You put into words something that has tumbling around in my head for some time. Thank you very much.

Anonymous said...

Very thought provoking. I responded to this post on my blog: