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

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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

The Ministry of Song 7 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 3)

The pattern for song in the pages of Scripture [especially in the Psalms] is perfectly suited and balanced to the reality for our humanity. And so we’re encouraged in this different way to sing that which varies in theme, that which differs in mood, that which is different in style, that which is singular, that which is repetitive, that which is long, that which is short. Because in all of these areas, our Lord Jesus Christ is, as it were—and this is to me a very important thing—the Lord Jesus Christ is not squeezing our emotions into some small bottle of grace; but stretching and pulling our emotions in order to fulfill and transform our fallen and broken humanity.

—Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

The Ministry of Song 6 (Jesus, the Psalms and Me 2)

If you make at least a quick survey of the Psalms—and I confess I’ve only done it quickly, you’ll notice a very remarkable thing which is actually perfectly in keeping with the principial teaching of the NT, and that is this: only about a third of the Psalter is addressed to God; another third of the Psalter is addressed to me; and another third of the Psalter is addressed to you. Now isn’t that interesting? Here in the midst often of rather foolish language that has not been tested by Scripture, we are sometimes urged to sing only those things that are directed towards God; and we cannot do that without saying that the Lord Jesus was singing some of the wrong things!

So we need to be very careful, for example, about some of us—you know we all belong to different ends and edges of the spectrum on this—some of us who rather despise songs that have a focus on myself. What is the key thing here? The key thing here is not the question of how many times the first person singular is mentioned, but where those many mentions of the first person singular are eventually going to lead. Are they going to lead me from the first person singular to the three Persons divine? Is it not legitimate for me to sing, “Why are you cast down, O my soul?” so long as I am going to sing, “Hope thou in God, send your light forth and your truth, and let them be guides to me”?

—Sinclair Ferguson, “True Spirituality, True Worship” (audio message)

Jesus My Worship

Who can do it?
Who can love God with all his heart, mind, and soul?
Who can achieve perfect union with God?
Who can worship God with a pure and unstained heart?
Not me!
Not you. Not Billy Graham. Not Bill Hybels. Not Matt Redman.
Not anybody I know or you know.
Only Jesus can. And He does for me and for you what neither of us can do for ourselves.

This is the message that is missing in the literature of contemporary worship [AND traditional worship!]. It is too much about what I ought to do and too little about what God has done for me. God has done for me what I cannot do for myself. He did it in Jesus Christ. Therefore my worship is offered in a broken vessel that is in the process of being healed, but is not yet capable of fullness of joy, endless intense passion, absolute exaltation, and celebration. But Jesus, who shares in my humanity yet without sin, is not only my Savior—He is also my complete and eternal worship, doing for me, in my place, what I cannot do. . . .

Thanks for Jesus Christ, who is my worship. We are free! And in gratitude, we offer our stumbling worship in the name of Jesus with thanksgiving.

—Robert E. Webber, “Contemporary Music-Driven Worship: A Blended Worship Response,” Exploring the Worship Spectrum, 130

Christ Our Priest

The doctrine of the continuing Priesthood of Christ [is one] without which it seems to me one cannot have an adequate theology of worship. Whatever else our worship is, it is our participation through the Spirit in the self-offering of Christ and the intercession of Christ. If there is one doctrine which more than any other characterised the theology of both Calvin and Knox, it was the doctrine of the sole Priesthood of Christ within His Church. It was in terms of this that they attacked the medieval concept of the priesthood, and interpreted prayer, communion, forgiveness, union with Christ and the Church as the Body of Christ.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):73

Christ for Us

After His ascension He ever lives before the face of the Father as our Leitourgos  [Hebrews 8:2] and Intercessor, for there He confesses us before the face of God as those for whom He died, as those whose names He has entered as members of His Body.

Because that is Christ’s confession, it is also our confession. We may now take His confession as our own, His answer of prayer on our lips, and in His Name go boldly before the throne of grace. That confession is the one thing we hold on to. It is the confession of our hope, for all our hope rests on the obedience of Christ on the Cross and His confession before the Father. The confession of the Church which answers to the confession of the High Priest is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God continually.

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 13