I began this series about a month ago. It’s time to bring it to a close. Thanks to all of you who’ve participated in the discussion. Here’s a quick summary of the previous articles, followed by a couple of closing thoughts.
In Part 1 I described the dilemma I faced as a new Christian, over 30 years ago. Then, in Part 2, I briefly touched on David’s extravagant and “undignified” worship of God. It’s tempting to think that such an unrestrained public display of emotion might be inappropriate. I tried to take that thought and turn it on its head in Part 3. The main point of Part 4 was that we’re commanded to love and worship God with our bodies, no less than the rest of our being.
There were some exceptionally good comments following the first two posts. If you haven’t already read them, you might want to go back and do that now. In some instances, the comments added considerable depth and nuance to the discussion.
My final question is this: Do physical expressions of praise and worship tell us anything about the true condition of our hearts? My answer: Not necessarily.
That’s because we can (and often do) draw near to God with our lips (that is, with outward expressions of praise) while in reality our hearts are far from him (Isaiah 29:13; Mark 7:6). We can do all the right things outwardly, and yet utterly fail to worship or hallow God in our hearts.
But I want to ask you to think carefully about Jesus’ words there; we mustn’t try to make them say more than they do.
What they do say is that we can put on a convincing outward display of worship without having any corresponding inward love for God. I don’t want anyone reading this to miss that. It is a real and terrible danger that we all have to guard against. Jesus strongly condemned the Pharisees for it.
What they do not say (or even suggest) is that outward expressions of worship are therefore inappropriate or undesirable. I think I’ve given ample biblical evidence in the previous posts to show that those outward expressions are not only appropriate and desirable, but are in fact inherent and never ending components of worship.
God is fundamentally concerned about our hearts. But he has designed us so that our lips and our hands and our feet fulfill their true purpose only when they outwardly express the inward passions and pleasures of our hearts. And to the extent they do not do that, authentic biblical worship is to some degree short-circuited, and we are less than fully engaged (heart, soul, mind and strength) with God.
I close as I began, thinking now what I thought over 30 years ago–many of us need to lose our sinful, self-conscious dignity and pride.