3D Worship: Mind+Will+Emotion

“With the same powers of our soul whereby we contemplate God, we must also worship God; we cannot think of him but with our minds, nor love him but with our will; and we cannot worship him without the acts of thinking and loving, and therefore cannot worship him without the exercise of our inward faculties.” – Stephen Charnock (The Existence and Attributes of God, 210)

I’ve spent a little time reflecting on this quotation by the great Puritan pastor and its implications, and I think there’s much that we can learn today from this theologian of the 1600’s. He highlights three aspects of human beings and suggests that God deserves a three-dimensional worship that involves all of these aspects. I’d like to begin by showing that Scripture teaches that these aspects of humanity exist. Then, we’ll connect each of these three aspects to worship. Finally, we should consider what deficient worship looks like when it lacks one of these aspects.

Mind+Will+Emotion as Aspects of a Person

It is worth beginning by noting that human personality is reflective of the nature of God. Although marred, we posses what the Bible calls the “image of God” (Gen. 1.26-27; 5.1-3; 9.6). This unique characteristic of humanity adds a complexity that is of no little significance. But what is this “image”? Perhaps the image of God that makes us different from the animals has something to do with the unique abilities that we have to express complex emotions, to think (even exercise meta-cognition), and to act from volition (making choices not merely determined by instinct). Scripture teaches all three of these aspects as aspects of human personality.

  1. Mind: The mental aspect of man (Gk. nous, dianoia, phronesis) is handled in a multitude of passages. Several significant ones are Mark 12.30; Luke 24.45; Rom. 1.28; 7.23-25; 8.5-6; Eph. 4.18.
  2. Will: The volitional aspect of man (primarily, Gk. thelema) is addressed in a number of contexts. A few significant texts are John 1.13; 5.30; 2 Pet. 1.21.
  3. Emotion: Human affections are another aspect of man that are addressed in Scripture. There are a number of texts that may refer to emotion more generally using a particular term (Gk. pnuma), but on the whole, the Bible refers to specific emotions such as love, joy, anger, sorrow, or fear.

Mind+Will+Emotion in Worship

Our God has created us in his image and has given us these three aspects of our persons. And if our God has given us these gifts, then it seems reasonable that he is worthy of all of them. God deserves our minds, our wills, and our emotions. Let’s examine where we are called to worship with each in Scripture:

  1. God deserves the worship of our minds. We are urged not to worship God in disconnect from particular truths that we must assent to (Rom. 10.2). To simply go through the motions or simply engage our emotions in worship does not count as true worship unless we bow our minds to the truth-claims of the Bible.
  2. God deserves the worship of our wills. Throughout Scripture, we see that the human volition must be engaged in the worship of God. Worship is a choice. It involves a deliberate decision accompanied by action (e.g., Josh. 24.15). Remember that worship is more than singing/music and involves financial giving, a choice to listen to and submit to the Word of God, and the exercise of our spiritual gifts.
  3. God deserves the worship of our emotions. One possible text that points in this direction is John 4.24. God doesn’t merely deserve to be worshiped in “truth” (perhaps a reference to mental assent to what is accurate), but he must also be worshiped in “spirit” (perhaps emotional engagement with worship). This is why we see particular emotions like gladness in singing (Ps. 100.2) and cheerfulness in giving (2 Cor. 9.7).

A great scriptural example of full-orbed worship comes to us in the form of the Great Commandment:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. (Mark 12.30)

  • “Love” and “heart” is the intersection between emotion and volition.
  • “Soul” certainly involves emotion at some level.
  • “Mind” refers to the intellect.
  • “Strength” is volitional action.

Mind/Will/Emotion Missing from Worship

What does it look like when we omit worshiping God with one of these aspects of our humanity? What is the end result?

  1. Will+Emotions-Mind=Emotionalist Worship. A worshiper who consciously engages their emotions in worship, but who fails to engage their mind in the truths about God only offers a vapid flurry of feelings. My failing to worship with our minds, we give God less than what he deserves.
  2. Mind+Emotions-Will=Antinomian Worship. A worshiper who only worships God by thinking on him and getting excited about him, but never consciously acting on those thoughts and feelings is a lawless worshiper. They claim to worship God internally, but have failed to show the fruit of that worship in their lives. This is the worshiper who tries hard to engage in corporate worship in the church on Sunday, but turns the switch to “off” during the week and lives for themselves the other 6 days.
  3. Mind+Will-Emotions=Theoretical or Legalistic Worship. Removing the emotions from worship leads to an abstract, will-driven worship. This deficient form of worship spends lots of time in deep truths about God but never getting excited about them. The mind is engaged, but the passions are not. In order to engage in such a theoretical worship, many believers do it on the basis of the sheer force of their wills. This can often lead to a legalistic works-orientation in worship.

From my observation, we all tend to skew away from giving God one of these areas of ourselves. May we, by God’s grace, offer him the fully-orbed worship that he so greatly deserves.

“He bestows upon man a spiritual nature, that he may return to him a spiritual service; he enlightens the understanding, that he may have a rational service; and new molds the will that he may have a voluntary service.” – Stephen Charnock (The Existence and Attributes of God, 248)

Reformed Heritage: 5 Truths Worth Fighting For

There’s something attractive about the Reformed heritage of my faith. For me it’s even more than a series of confessions or a list of doctrines, but also includes the rabble-rousing, steady-handed, hard-hitting, faithful-serving way of life embodied in this background. These men fact-checked their leaders and recognized that the line they were being fed had been cluttered by a lot of tradition.

In my own efforts to fact-check my faith, I’ve seen time and again where my beliefs have been cluttered by traditions of men. And there have certainly been times where I may have taken my rabble-rousing a little too far, but these guys remind me that there are some things in life worth fighting for. The Reformers pointed to 5 guiding principles that shaped what fit this category. I wanted to take a moment to overview these principles.

The Basis of Salvation: Faith Alone

There is nothing I can do that will ever earn salvation for me. Only on the basis of faith can Christ’s righteousness stand in my place. The consistent command of Scripture is that of simple trust. All of my righteous works are as filthy rags.

The Object of Faith: Christ Alone

Ultimately, I don’t trust in my faith to save me. I don’t trust in a prayer, a baptism, a priest, or a pattern of life as the source of my salvation. Christ and Christ alone stands as my righteousness. In him I approach the throne of God with boldness.

The Source of Authority: Scripture Alone

Scripture serves as our only rule of faith and practice. Christian movements have a way of gathering up cultural and traditional baggage along the way. But the appeal to sola scriptura is an attempt to strip away that baggage and return to the core of what Christianity is all about.

The Ground of Salvation: Grace Alone

Unearned and unlimited, God in his grace chose and saved a people unto himself. There wasn’t a thing I did that earned that gift of salvation. Grace is God chasing me while I was running from him.

The Purpose of Salvation: For the Glory of God Alone

Many Christians, if asked about the purpose for their existence or the purpose of the Church would tell you that these things are for the glory of God. The method by which God the Father gets glory is by the Church lifting up the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Meaningful Discipleship in the Local Church: 6 Correctives

Discipleship is the call of the Church (Matt. 28.19), but is the Church really doing this job well? Can we honestly say that at least the majority of those who claim the name of Christ and darken the doors of our churches are intentionally in discipleship relationships that are moving them toward greater and greater Christlikeness? Yesterday I read Building a Discipling Culture by Mike Breen, and I was impacted by a number of insights on how churches could be doing a better at this all-important task.

  1. We must commit to relationships of challenge and invitation. Relationships that are all about challenge and lack invitation will spiral towards legalism and burnout. Relationships that are all about invitation without any challenge will lead to warm and fuzzy friendships without any meaningful accountability. Many churches today lack both challenge and invitation; they’ve become little more than a social event. Meaningful discipleship requires direct confrontation over sin, and loving invitation into real-life Gospel living.
  2. We must vary our approach to discipleship. Churches I’ve served in are usually very strong in their lecture-oriented, fact-based instruction, but usually offer little in terms of apprenticeship or immersion learning structures (e.g., Matt. 5.1). But these methods of discipleship are proven and effective tools! If we’re going to up our game in this area, we’re going to have to be willing to dust off some of these tools that have been sitting in the back of our garage. Discipleship includes distribution of facts (what we’re good at), but it also includes connecting truth to life in apprenticeship and immersion scenarios (what we’re not good at). Several additional thoughts:
    • A Caveat: Assuming that showing up at church or in a small group will count as “immersion” is assuming that the majority of the people in the church or small group have been discipled themselves. I think this assumption is unwarranted. I know a number of adult believers who have never been engaged in a discipleship relationship.
    • An Expectation: Apprenticeship is a substantial investment for both parties. But in this process, the rewards are always greater than the buy-in.
    • A Warning: Apprenticeship and immersion aren’t synonymous with cloning. We’re not trying to make a bunch of people like ourselves, we’re trying to make disciples of Jesus Christ!
  3. We must admit that the current structures that we’re relying on for discipleship are fundamentally broken. Most churches I’ve served in have relied on a Sunday School or small group structure for engaging people in the discipleship process. But there are a number of reasons why this structure (as typically implemented) may not be the best method for discipling believers.
    • Small groups are (and should be) open to visitors. This limits the intimacy and openness of dialogue amongst the members. Baring our souls is often a very difficult task. This only becomes more difficult with a number of strangers in the room.
    • Small groups grow in a linear fashion. As months go by, people come and go based on their church attendance. They lack a stability in membership and can grow too large. They also lack a natural step for members to go and make disciples on their own. This inhibition is due to their linear nature.
    • Small groups require facilitators or teachers. This kind of relationship lacks the authoritative and intimate “follow me as I follow Christ” kind of call of discipleship.
    • Small groups are primarily easy to join and easy to leave. They aren’t effective accountability structures. Attendance isn’t often an expectation to which people are held.
    • Small groups often rely on administrated content. In other words, they’re going to cover what someone on the church staff thinks the groups need to be studying. This sometimes misses the challenges and hurdles that the members of the group may be experiencing.
  4. We have to adopt a sound structure for doing discipleship. One such structure is what Breen calls “The Huddle” (oddly, the same name of the odd band of misfits being discipled that I was a part of in junior high). This group is made up of 4-10 people who have committed to a mentoring relationship under one individual. This group commits for roughly a year, at which point they should be prepared to start “Huddles” of their own. More people aren’t discipled by making the groups bigger, but by individuals preparing to replicate the groups in turn.  First-time leaders can start with groups of 4 in order to make the challenge less daunting. This vehicle for discipleship is powerful because it combines a two critical components of biblical discipleship.
    • First, it is an admission that discipleship happens best in a group scenario. Many churches do discipleship whenever a new believer comes along or one-on-one with people in a counseling environment. But this avoids the power of group learning that is evident in the ministry of Jesus with his disciples.
    • Second, it is admission that the plausible scope of discipleship is limited. While Jesus ministered to crowds, significant portions of his ministry were invested in his band of 12.
  5. We must call our people to allow greater access for their brothers and sisters into their lives. Only by allowing people into our lives in a more intimate way will we be able to achieve the kind of discipleship that God has called us to. Leaders tend to sit back and complain that church members aren’t rising to meet the challenge, but this kind of critique is unhealthy for the body. Rather, servant-leaders must begin by modeling the kind of discipleship that they want to instill in others. Leaders who get out of the air-conditioned office and into the dirtiness of a handful of peoples’ lives and then call on them them to do the same.
  6. We need to develop a language of discipleship that lends purpose and clarity to what we do. Breen offers a suggested series of terms with associated images and applications that serve as a quasi-curriculum for their discipleship “Huddles.” While I don’t see the writer’s structure here as incredibly helpful, it did give me some ideas for engaging others in the process of discipleship. My takeaways:
    • First, discipleship language needs to be memorable. Using word pictures (or pictures in general) can communicate biblical truth in a discipleship context far better than a massive and detailed curriculum.
    • Second, discipleship language needs to be fully-orbed. In other words, many churches are really good at teaching doctrines or Bible study, but few do a great job at discipling others in a holistic Christian life (which includes doctrine and Bible study, but so much more as well).
    • Third, discipleship language needs to promote discussion and engagement. However you do discipleship, it needs to be more than you just sitting back and talking. It needs to be something that others can relate to and engage with applications and questions.

Hunting for a Cathedral: The Good and the Best

May 17, 2013 — Antwerp, Belgium.

The night before, I had made a drive from Denmark down to Belgium. We arrived after dark and I was exhausted. So I crashed and set my alarm so I could see the one major attraction of the city — The Our Lady Cathedral. This impressive building started construction in the 14th century and stands as the tallest cathedral in the Low Countries of Europe. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait. But I only had about an hour to find the cathedral because I had a client meeting scheduled in the morning. I didn’t have a good map,  but I had a general idea of where I needed to go. After all, how hard could it be to find a massive cathedral?

Upon leaving my hotel, I headed into the old city. The odd confluence of old buildings (some with scarring from World War II still visible) and new high-end fashion stores and American businesses seemed jarring. But where was the cathedral? It was supposed to be around here somewhere; however, the heights of the buildings made it difficult to see the skyline, and the non-linear streets made it impossible for me to keep my bearings.

I was about to abandon my search due to the time when a glance down a side street made my morning. I saw the tower of a cathedral! The street was rather small and only a few passersby gave it any momentary thought. I stood for a moment and captured a few pictures. The discovery complete, I knew that I’d have to make good time on the return to the hotel. As I rounded the corner, I felt that my trip had been successful.

Out on the main road and heading back to my hotel with barely enough time to shower and leave for my meeting, I thought to glance behind me. And just 4 blocks behind me, a towering spire broke above the skyline. This building seemed to be 4 times bigger than the little church I’d just photographed. And to think that I almost missed seeing this awe-inspiring architectural wonder because I got distracted by a little structure along the way. As an American, my expectations as to what I would find made me willing and able to accept the lesser substitute for the impressive monument. This reminds me of the many times in my life where I’ve taken a good road, but have missed the best course of action. Philippians 1:9-10 also points to this concept:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ”

Don’t miss the wonders that God has for you because you’ve become distracted by the commonplace.