So, if this is true (which I contend that it is):
Theology proceeds from God, teaches us about God, and leads us back to God in worship (Aquinas).—
Burk Parsons (@burk_parsons) May 31, 2011
Why do Christians then run from the word theology as if it is not at all connected to God’s revelation about himself, by himself, so that all praise would be directed back to himself?
For additional reading, check out this blog post over at DG: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/why-doctrine-matters
 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:  Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,  lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:7-9 ESV)
Father, I admit that too often my belly is full. I preoccupy myself with the abundance of your gifts to me, rather than focus my gratitude on the giver.
I expect you to give me abundance according to my terms. I expect you to give me all manner of things that are desirable to me, rather than needful to me.
Show me what it is to be content. Show me what it is to live a life of gratitude and dependence, so that all may know… so that I MAY KNOW… that the giver of all things was according to my need and according to your supply.
Being reformed (that is, committed to the whole counsel of God in terms of its thought, teaching, and common threads) can, if one is not careful, sap the vitality and life out of ones persistence in prayer and zeal for evangelism. Without getting in to the finer details of why this phenomena should be both anathema and fantastically farcical to true believers, let us nevertheless presume for a moment that it can happen. So, the astute reader might ask, then, what DOES a reformed presentation of the Gospel actually look like? This recent article in byFaith Magazine gives some very helpful summation on the topic:
So what do these characteristics look like in a Reformed gospel presentation? An explanation of a God-centered gospel includes five elements. It will:
• Showcase the glory of God as Creator and Redeemer, generating an awe of Him and a profound indebtedness for His covenant mercies expressed in Christ.
• Display the logical flow of the gospel, moving from problem to solution, as well as the glorious illogic of grace, the non sequitur of God’s love of the unlovely and His justification of the ungodly.
• Carry with it the overtones of God’s sovereign work in salvation and the undertow of His purpose in election, which is initiated and ensured by Him, and contingent on Him rather than our efforts.
• Be communicated in ways that rely on the Holy Spirit whereby we see ourselves as spiritual midwives and not spiritual salesmen; whereby we are driven to prayer in dependence on the Spirit and happily submissive to His working.
• Issue a call not merely to conversion but to discipleship as the exercise of lively faith and the fruit of genuine repentance; it must convey the necessity of obeying God’s commands to believe on His Son and to turn from sin and live by grace under the lordship and for the sake of Christ.
It is interesting to note, by the way, that without the fifth bullet point, our presentation of Christ’s saving work is not in fact at all faithful to the great commission unless part of the call is to demonstrate newfound faith in the bearing out of fruit.
For what it’s worth.
I have the good fortune of being the proud son of an HVAC engineer. Though I am not in a field of engineering, nor do I have the skills necessary to be an engineer, I did learn (at a young age, mind you) some very crucial lessons in my house.
I should start with a few background notes. First, I am by nature a very curious person. Second, I learn by “touching” not by “looking”. Incidentally, most of the time growing up, those close to me ended up learning that when I wanted to “look” at something, it meant I wanted to explore it by touching and manipulating it. It didn’t take them long to catch on to my game and figure out that they better be careful how they answer me.
But I digress.
One of the things that I was most fascinated by in my house was the digital thermostat. It met all the criteria of something that would interest me: it had a display, it was electronic, it had buttons on it, and when you manipulated it, it controlled and operated things. To my young mind this was just too good to be true.
Hence, my valuable childhood lesson was this: don’t “look” at the thermostat without permission.
Being an adult now, I know that touching the termostat can have broad reaching consequences. It can cause the energy bill to go down, or up. It can cause the temperature in the house to get cooler or hotter. It can engage machinery and fans, compressors and air handlers, refrigerant and condensation. In addition to revealing the temperature in my house, it also can set the temperature in my house.
What about a thermometer? A thermometer can do nothing of the aforementioned things. It can simply report data.
Here is the analogy. Throughout the Old Testament narrative, the former prophets show us that the cultic activity of Israel, borne and fleshed out in its worship practices, gave the onlooker a very keen insight in to the spiritual health of the nation.
John Witvliet says it this way in his Calvin Theological Journal article entitled The Former Prophets and the Practice of Christian Worship:
“First, the former prophets demonstrate the significance of liturgical action as a barometer of corporate spiritual health… on the good side, every time there is a revival or sign of spiritual health in Israel, out come the liturgists—even in the books that lack the cultic orientation of Chronicles… On the bad side, nearly every time there is a spiritual, political, or moral decline, cultic activity suffers.”
This is a significant point, because it tells us something that worship did not do. Worship did not create the revival, nor did worship contribute to the degeneration. It was reflective. It simply demonstrated what was happening during the other 165 hours of the week that was brought in to the tabernacle.
Witvliet goes on to say this:
“In sum, when Israel is faithless, its worship is degenerate. When Israel is faithful, that faithfulness is expressed in corporate prayer and praise before God’s face. Of course, it may be a mere truism to assert that liturgy is one reliable (though not exclusive or completely sufficient) barometer of spiritual health. It is a foundational insight into the nature of life before God.”
It is a fact that people (especially pastors) get run down and beat up. It seems like every other day is Sunday. Standing in front of God’s people and feeling the need to be “fresh” (in terms of preaching) can seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task to undertake. Men who have been in the ministry long term tend to forget that “freshness” and “vitality” comes from a vibrant worshiping life before the face of God that comes out of the 165 hours of the week; it cannot simply be manufactured or “put on” in the pulpit.
The same goes for the congregation who is seeking vitality. It is a farce to think that the corporate gathering of God’s people will somehow engender enough vibrancy in the communities dwelling with God that the corporate worship experience will be able to carry them through from Sunday to Saturday. It is an unhealthy expectation to put on the church, her leadership, and her people.
Vitality with God is developed and nurtured in the home, in the heart, and in the fellowship with other believers as lives transformed lead transformed lives.
Sunday is a thermometer of the church, not its thermostat.
Sometimes, quotes are good, and I would screw them up if I added too much. So enjoy these.
From John Witvliet:
“Christian worship is a like a covenant-renewal service in which the gathered reaffirm the vows made with God in Christ. Guided by a liturgy, in a worship service, we renew the promises we make (and often failed to keep) to God, and we hear again the promises God has made (and kept!) in Christ. One legitimate, nourishing, robust, vital reason for assembling today is for nothing less than the renewal of the new covenant we have with God in Christ.”
He continues to clarify:
“The pastoral question we face is whether most people experience worship this way, or whether, in contrast, they really experience it as a meeting of a religious social club, or an educational forum, or a form of entertainment. Because these other kinds of events are common in our culture, we are bound to take our expectations for them into worship with us. In contrast, worshipers need to be challenged to see the worship event as a deeply participational, relational event, in which we are active listeners, speakers, promise-receivers, and promise-givers.”
Oh, that God would grant us eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to understand, that we are called in to a deeply participational kind (both with God and each other) of service where we actively listen and speak, and receive and make promises and oaths. Amen!