What makes for ‘good’ corporate worship?

There are far too few choruses and services and sermons that expand our vision of God…

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This point is acknowledged in a praise chorus like “Let’s forget about ourselves, and magnify the Lord, and worship him.” The trouble is that after you have sung this repetitious chorus three or four times, you are no farther ahead. The way you forget about yourself is by focusing on God–not by singing about doing it, but by doing it. There are far too few choruses and services and sermons that expand our vision of God–his attributes, his works, his character, his words. Some think that corporate worship is good because it is lively where it had been dull. But it may also be shallow where it is lively, leaving people dissatisfied and restless in a few months’ time. Sheep lie down when they are well fed (cf. Ps 23:2); they are more likely to be restless when they are hungry. “Feed my sheep,” Jesus commanded Peter (John 21); and many sheep are unfed. If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.

-D. A. Carson, Worship by the Book, 31.

Carson on the ‘encroaching roots of self-esteem’

…the continued drift toward privatized religion is a fertile soil in which to water the rapidly multiplying and universally encroaching roots of self-esteem . . . The drive to sort out life’s problems and my happiness along the axis of self-esteem banishes truth questions, makes feeling good about yourself more important than having a clear conscience, insists that your opinion of yourself is more important than God’s opinion, and fails to deal with objective guilt. In the Scriptures, a right knowledge of yourself is contingent on having in the first place a right knowledge of God.

-D. A. Carson, The Gagging of God

D. A. Carson on personal Bible reading

It’s important to read the Bible regularly, faithfully, and devotionally. I’m a bit suspicious of an approach that advises people to think critically and academically only when they’re preparing a message or doing exegesis, but when reading devotionally to do so without taking notes or consulting a commentary–just to sit there feeling mystical. That’s a mistake.

Personal Bible reading ought to have oomph to it. If you don’t understand something, there’s nothing wrong with taking a commentary off your shelf so that you can understand the passage better. Likewise, if you’re preparing a message, there’s something wrong with a study so detailed and structured that it doesn’t include an element of reverence and fear. According to the prophet Isaiah, in Isaiah 66:2, God looks to those who are contrite and humble of spirit, and who tremble at his Word. Whether you’re writing a commentary or having your morning devotions, you ought to have the sort of reverence that is always God’s due.

-D. A. Carson [quoted by Jessi Strong in “The Heart & Mind: D. A. Carson on Training Pastors and Making Disciples.” Bible Study Magazine 1 Sept. 2015: 10-14. Print.]

Exodus 16: Witnesses of God’s grace & power begin to whine

Why should people who have witnessed so spectacular a display of the grace and power of God slip so easily into muttering and complaining and slide so gracelessly into listless disobedience? The answer lies in the fact that many of them see God as existing to serve them. He served them in the Exodus; he served them when he provided clean water. Now he must serve not only their needs but their appetites. Otherwise they are entirely prepared to abandon him. While Moses has been insisting to Pharaoh that the people needed to retreat into the desert in order to serve and worship God, the people themselves think God exists to serve them.

The fundamental question is, “Who is the real God?” New covenant believers face the same choice (1 Cor. 10:10).

–D. A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Devotional for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word

Carson’s daily devotional is also available online at The Gospel Coalition website.