The Alpha and Omega of Worship

There is no work of God in which the members of the Trinity are not jointly operative.  This is true of creation, redemption and worship. It is by the perfecting causality of the Spirit that the Church’s worship offered in the Son reaches the Father. As a perfecter, the Spirit leads us to the Son, through whom our being and our act (worship) have free access to the Fatherly sanctuary in the same Godhead. Only Spirit-perfected worship is true worship. Not only the Spirit joined through the Son to the Father is the proper object, but also the causative agency of worship, the one who exalts the community in Christ to the heavenly throne of the Father. . . . Worship as such is a gift of grace: what God begins in us He shall complete. God is the alpha and the omega of worship.

—Ngien, Dennis.  Gifted Response: The Triune God as the Causative Agency of our Responsive Worship, 32-33

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Worship in Revelation (6)

John’s exile on the isle of Patmos was nevertheless transformed by his being “in the Spirit,” suggesting that the spiritual dimension in worship was infinitely more important than the physical surroundings.

—Donald Guthrie, “Aspects of Worship in the Book of Revelation,” Western Theology and Ministry in the Early Church

Worship in Romans (13)

As Karl Barth says, the wrath of God, the “no” of God against our sin in Romans 1, is the “next-to-last word.” And the next-to-last word is for the sake of the last word, the “yes” of the gospel. Realignment comes first with the atoning work of Christ in Romans 3, the resulting new life in the Spirit in Romans 6-8, finding our place in God’s story in Romans 9-11, and the resulting new community in Romans 12-16.

—Don Williams, “A Charismatic Worship Response,” in Exploring the Worship Spectrum, 245

Freed to Lead

It is very tempting to conceive of a worship leader as the spiritual engine that drives the worship train, or the highly-charged sideline coach who needs to keep her team fired up.

This puts all the focus on our agency, a vision that doesn’t square with the New Testament. In the New Testament, our agency as worshipers and leaders is intimately linked with what Jesus is doing as we worship and with what the Holy Spirit is doing as we worship.

Our congregation’s worship is not ultimately mediated by your level of or capacity for emotional engagement but by the perfect mediating work of Jesus, effected through the Holy Spirit. Praise God! This can free you—and all of us—to engage emotionally, but without a sense of burden that it all depends on us.

—John Witvliet, Reformed Worship 116, 45-46

Another Comforter 4

The Holy Spirit cannot be divided from the Father and Son in worship. If you remain outside the Spirit, you cannot worship, and if you are in Him you cannot separate Him from God. Light cannot be separated from what it makes visible, and it is impossible for you to recognize Christ, the Image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you. Once you see the Image, you cannot ignore the light; you see the Light and Image simultaneously. It is fitting that when we see Christ, the Brightness of God’s glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit.

—Dennis Ngien, Gifted Response: The Triune God as the Causative Agency of our Responsive Worship, 30

HAPPY PENTECOST!

Another Comforter 3

Although worship is our response to love, it is actually better thought of as the Spirit’s gift to us of a response to God or, in Matt Redman’s words, ‘a gifted response’.  We can only respond to God in praise because the Holy Spirit causes love for God to arise in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), enabling us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Gal. 4:6).  Without the Spirit we could not even sincerely say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (I Cor. 12:3).  And, as we have seen, even that is not the full story, because the response the Spirit enables us to make to the Father is actually simply a sharing in Christ’s own response to the Father.  The Spirit, in other words, is the one who baptizes us into Christ (I Cor. 12:13) and enables us to share with Christ in His worship of the Father.

—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity, 97

Another Comforter 2

If we ask the New Testament authors, “What is the nature of the Spirit’s work?” we receive a plethora of information. It is the Holy Spirit, for example, who is the one who makes God’s love real for us—”God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). In a sense, it is He who stands at the threshold of the Christian life, for only He can enable us to embrace Christ as Savior and Lord—”no one can say, “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). Then, it is the Spirit who gives us the boldness to come into the presence of the awesome and almighty Maker of heaven and earth and call him “Dear Father”—”God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal. 4:6). It is the Spirit who enables believers, from various racial, social and religious backgrounds, to find true unity in Christ and together worship God (Eph. 2:18). In fact, without the Spirit, worship and the glorification of Jesus Christ cannot take place (Phil. 3:3). And it is the Spirit who is the true Guarantor of orthodoxy (2 Tim. 1:14).

An excellent summary statement of the range of the Spirit’s work is Galatians 5:25, which speaks so plainly about the Spirit as the Source from which we are to live our lives: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” The Spirit thus undergirds and empowers the entirety of our lives as Christians.

—Michael A. G. Haykin, The God Who Draws Near: An Introduction To Biblical Spirituality, xix-xx