In studying for an upcoming talk, I pulled out one of my top 10 favorite modern Christian books: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life to remind myself of what Don Whitney says about corporate worship as a spiritual discipline (to help us grow in godliness.)
I commend this book to every believer, unreservedly, but allow me to pick a nit on a point I think he misses slightly. (Perhaps I am misunderstanding him or he has clarified elsewhere.)
In commenting on “worship in spirit and truth”, he says that “unless the heart is plugged in, there’s no electricity for worship.” And quotes John Piper: “Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.”
But then he goes on and draws this curious dichotomy:
So we must worship in both spirit and truth, with both heart and head, with both emotions and thought. If we worship too much just by spirit we will be mushy and soft on the truth, worshiping according to feelings. That can lead anywhere from a sleepy tolerance of anything in worship at one extreme to uncontrollable spiritual wildfire on the other. But if we worship by truth without spirit, then our worship will be taut, grim, and icily predictable.
Wrong. Worship “by truth without spirit” (as if that were possible) is not worship. It is dead, re-read the Piper quote. (Actually read Matthew 15:8 where Jesus quotes Isaiah 29:13).
I appreciate the caution against emotionalism, a needed warning in our age, but oh! How I long for (true) spiritual wildfire to be the thing that marks our church!
I contend that it is impossible to worship “too much just by spirit”, but rather the danger is in worshiping without truth. (Which is perhaps what he means when he says “just by spirit”.)
My proposal: ground yourself firmly in the truth and pour on the affectional gasoline! Behold the magnificence of God’s revelation in the scriptures and gasp in wonder! Close your eyes around tears of joy! Lose yourself in the bliss of gratitude that you, a wretched enemy of God, were reconciled by the blood of God’s only son!
You cannot worship too much in spirit. Worship without spirit, no matter how full of truth, is no worship at all. And worship without truth, no matter how spirited, is no worship at all.
Worship in blazing spirit, and rock-solid truth.