Hudson, my 14 month old, has already experienced a plethora of emotions. Trust me. There have been times where he wants nothing but to be held by his mom. So much so that he just whimpers at her feet with both of his little hands extended toward her. As of lately, we have been watching a lot of Royals baseball. If the boys in blue make a big defensive play, or one of them hits a home run, we unashamedly clap and shout at the TV (don’t judge us).
Outward expressions are merely natural responses to life experiences. We don’t shout for our favorite team because that’s what we’re supposed to do -we do it because we care (sometimes, a little too much) about what just happened out on the field. We don’t mourn for the death of a friend because it’s some sort of “unwritten rule.” We weep because our emotions naturally lead us to when we have lost someone that we dearly love.
It would be backwards not to express the joys and sorrows that well up when our intellects collide with our emotions.
Is it not strange then to sing about how holy God is and how much we adore him with our hands in our pockets as we yawn the words? It does not seem fitting to praise the God who raised our spiritually dead, hell-bound lives back to life with a straight face and our arms folded.
Author and worship leader Stephen Miller writes on this subject.
King David, the innovator of music in corporate worship, wrote hundreds of songs for the purpose of engaging the mind, heart and body in worship. He understood that posture is an outward expression of an inward reality. Our body naturally acts the way our hearts feel. So we see encouragements throughout scripture to bow humbly, raise hands joyfully, shout and sing loudly, clap hands and even dance before the Lord. This must have felt very awkward to the people of the day, who had never seen anything like this before.
Worship is a response. God’s people have and will forever respond to God’s goodness. It really is that simple. God is good in unique ways, so we respond uniquely -clapping, singing, shouting, dancing, kneeling, and even weeping as we ponder the mercies of our Savior King. It must be said that the simplicity of worship can easily get complicated. Our silly preferences over styles of music can cause quarrels and create barriers, but we must find a way to worship because God created us to enjoy (worship) Him. The foundation of our worship will never be our whimsical preferences. In fact, if our nit picky desires for a certain style of music creates a barrier to our worship of God Most High, then we aren’t worshipping Him, we are worshipping ourselves. The only way we will truly worship comes through receiving the good news of the gospel -Christ crucified in our place, and raised from the dead to give us new life (see John 14:6, and 1 Cor. 15:3-4). The Person and work of Jesus is what we are responding to. In Christ we have enough grace to be saved from the wrath to come, and enough grace to be sustained in the day to day grind of worshipping God in all circumstances. Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). So don’t get caught up thinking about what you look like when you’re singing on Sunday mornings. Get caught up thinking about the One who saved you from your sin, and worship Him with everything.
“Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8).
Great post Jason. There are times in my life when raising of hands and outwardly expressing what I felt inside was more about me hoping others would see me as super spiritual. As I’ve grown in my walk with God as Father I now can’t help but respond by raising my hands, singing louder, crying, and at times shouting in agreement with what we are singing. Just like the rains fall from the clouds and then eventually make their way back up into the heavens, I receive the blessings of the Father and then respond by praising Him. I love Matt Redman’s phrase, “Breathing in his grace. Breathing out His praise.”