Body Building

Paul told the Corinthians that Christian worship is primarily a corporate (and corporeal) affair; it expresses and forms the Body. If worship does not strengthen the community (the Body), it is not Christian worship (see 1 Cor 1:2; 14:26).

—William Willimon, Worship as Pastoral Care, 20

The Life of the Church

After the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the conception, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find the ‘other Paraclete’ (John 14:16) given to the apostles (John 20:22-3), the ‘Promise of the Father’ (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:4-5) made good at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21; see also 33).  Henceforward the Holy Spirit will be the Life of the church, itself the ‘first fruits’ of God’s new creation (James 1:18) and an instrument in God’s hands for the achievement of God’s purposes among humankind.  The Holy Spirit works from the very beginning to constitute and compose the church and its members, coming to them and abiding in them corporately and individually, starting to transform them in the direction of God’s kingdom and enabling them to bear witness to the gospel for the sake of its extension.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, “The Holy Spirit,” in ed. Colin E. Gunton, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine (Cambridge Companions to Religion), 284

The Spirit in Us

Believers call upon God in prayer as ‘Abba! Father!’ because the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into their hearts (Gal. 4:6).  Believers bear ‘fruit’ because the eschatological age has dawned and the Spirit has been poured out upon them (Isa. 32:15; Gal. 5:22-23).  Even the suffering of believers at the hand of the world signifies that ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests’ upon them (1 Pet. 4:14).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Glorifying the Son

Who, then, is the Spirit according to John? He is the one who descends from the Father upon the Son that he might flow through the Son to all who believe, bringing forgiveness and renewal, life and light. His coming signals the replacement of God’s former dwelling in tabernacle and temple with the triune indwelling of the children of God. His role is to confirm believers’ interest in the Son, and thus in the Father as well, and to continue the mission given by the Father to the Son through the church in the world. The Spirit effects all these things ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (14: 13 NASB).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Ascended as God and Man

Against our attempts to make the resurrection a ghost party, like a wisp of fog on hot tea, Jesus appears among us with “real wounds,” shows us that resurrection is a matter of flesh and bones, of broiled fish and honeycomb.

His wounded body, a body that yet eats, a body of flesh and bones—flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone—now ascends into what it means to be God in eternity, forever taking with his embodied self all the good and hard memories of what it means to be human.

As the human who exists beyond the touch of death, whose scarred and resurrected body is our death’s antidote, as the everlasting human who remembers all our faces, the ascending Jesus keeps his promise to raise us with him—a promise he makes as the first born of a new creation and as God.

And it it this wounded God with human memories whose rule of resurrection overcomes death, whose rule of forgiveness overcomes sin, whose rule of welcome overcomes estrangement.

—Father Kenneth Tanner, https://www.facebook.com/kenneth.tanner

For Us and with Us

Because the Father receives His death and His life on our behalf, Jesus’ ascension signifies that we, too, have access to the Father in heaven (Heb 10:19-25), and from that privileged position, Jesus leads us in every act of worship. He is ultimate liturgist (Heb 8:2), preacher (Heb 2:12a; Rom 10:14), singer (Heb 2:12b), intercessor (Heb 7:25; Rom 8:34), and table host (Heb 13:9b-10; 1 Cor 10:16). As James Torrance has written, our worship is “the gift of participating through the Spirit in the incarnate Son’s communion with the Father,” for our worship is mediated and perfected by the incarnate Son of God who continually offers perfect worship to the Father for us and with us.

—Michael A. Farley, “Jesus’ Ascension and Christian Worship,” 2-3

All for His Glory

God is so overflowingly, unashamedly satisfied with His own glory that He devotes all His energies to making this glory known. The creation of the universe, the history of redemption, and the consummation of all things are driven ultimately by this great passion in the heart of God—to exult fully in His own glory by making it known and praised among all the nations.

—John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, 3rd edition; Chapter 7 “The Inner Simplicity and Outer Freedom of Worldwide Worship,” 248

Future Grace

For those not in Christ, this life is the best it will ever get. For those in Christ, . . . this life is the worst it will ever get.

—Dane Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers, 212

Even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:5-7)

From the Inside Out

There is no physical posture which can guarantee to us acceptable worship. Physical posture in Scripture is only significant when it is a reflection of the inward posture of the heart. . . . Now that inward posture produces in Scripture an outward posture, which is its reflection. The great error is to try to produce worship by affecting some kind of physical posture or physical gyration or something of the sort—false worship comes from that, you see. The prophets of Baal flayed themselves and danced up and down to work up an ecstasy that God might hear them. But that’s the wrong way around. You see, every physical posture is to be an expression of an inward spiritual posture of the heart. 

—Eric Alexander, sermon #5 on John 4 (https://www.ericalexander.co.uk/sermons/acceptableworship.php)

Private Worship

Public worship, you see, is impossible except against a background of private worship. And in so many ways, the quality of our worship when we are together will be a reflection of the quality of our worship when we are alone.

And so often the secret of failure in public worship is failure in secret, in our faithful attendance on the private means of grace, because the public ministry of the Word, vital as it is, is never a substitute for the private reading of it. Public waiting upon God to gather us as people, which is the place . . . where God is pleased to manifest Himself, is never a substitute for private waiting upon God in the secret of our own soul.

And if you do not regularly bow before God in private worship and adoration, you will find it a strange thing to do so with other people on the Lord’s day. It is as simple as that. This is why, in the general sense and the broad term, faithful attendance on the private means of grace is of the very essence of preparing ourselves for worship.

—Eric Alexander, sermon #5 on John 4 (https://www.ericalexander.co.uk/sermons/acceptableworship.php)

Filling the Mind, Enlarging the Soul

Enlarge your soul with the glories of God by filling your mind with thoughts of His greatness as you bow together with His people; enlarge your soul with His love and goodness and mercy and ask, Where am I? I am in the presence of the eternal God and under His smile. Where ought I to be? I ought to be under His judgment and banished from Him forever. What shall I do? Why, I shall say, what shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. 

—Puritan writer