When Theology becomes Doxology

29 08 2008

Music has always been my passion and ever since I can remember I’ve been involved in the worship team at every church I’ve been to (bar one). Lately I’ve been leading the worship once a month at my current Church. My years of experience as a semi professional musician have taught me how to put on a good show and how to act on stage. More importantly it taught me how to engage the audience I’m playing to and how to lead them.


So last night we had a worship leaders meeting and mini seminar with Wayne from the old Parachute band. Wayne was one of those cool and relaxed type musicians. Quite introverted, but still very friendly. We sang a few songs together and then he spoke for a while. Some of the stuff he shared just blew me away. He opened by talking about Grace. When we are humbled by the Grace God has shown us through His son Jesus Christ, our correct response is worship. We can do nothing else but show our addoration for the King we serve. Grace is Christianity 101 and it bothers me how little this is taught in Church. Some of the Churches I went to thought that there was too much teaching on grace  and stopped teaching it. Others never mentioned it because they thought it would give people licence to sin. I’ll never forget the time I walked into a homegroup meeting with the revelation that Grace is not a licence for sin and sin by no means cancels out Grace.

(On a side note I read a speech by N T Wright at an Edinburgh conference. Wright was talking about His views on the NPP. Some of it was good stuff, the Gospel surely is “Jesus is Lord”. He also went on to say that Judaism was a religion of Grace and not of works. Jews were not semi or quasi pelagians. The jury is still out on that one for me. But his interpretation of Justification as both present and future was shocking.  He said out future justification is based on works. In other words salvation by Grace through faith is a good start, but you need works to maintain your salvation. Wright may correctly have identified that Jews were not semi pelagians, but Wrights views on Justification certainly are semi pelagian in my book! That is a view I wholeheatedly reject. But this is not a post about N T Wright or the NPP.)

How you worship and pray is normally a good indicator of what you truly believe. Grace is something that informs our worship. Without it we have little reason to worship God.  For me having come to an understanding of the reformed faith I have plenty of reasons to worship God. For one he chose me, I didn’t chose Him. It was His spirit that was working in me to “will and to do”. He took me as sinner dead in trespasses and regenerated me. God also chose me unconditionally, not based on anything I did or would do. Simply out of His good pleasure and will. God’s grace was also sufficient to cover every sin that I had, or would commit. His Grace is sufficient for me. I am no longer what I once was. I am now a Child of God, an heir with Christ. I am hidden in Christ, he holds me secure and no one can snatch me out of his hand. Apart from Jesus I can do nothing. Who is this King of Glory who makes the waves of sea and wind to obey Him? I have come to realise that my theology must become my doxology. It must inform and colour my worship. That is the point of learning theology. After all our learning we come to a place where we worship God in spirit and in truth. It has taken me a long time but I finally understand what Jesus said to the woman at the well.

At that meeting last night there was a tangible presence of God amongst us. We had gathered to worship Him with the truth of His word and with the reality of His presence. I must admit that I havent felt this in a long time. Coming from a Charasmatic / Pentecostal background it was common place, and often got out of hand. Currently my church is full of cessationists. Many refuse to acknowledge the move of the Holy spirit as valid for today. But the attitude is changing slowly. Too often we are guilty of overly humanizing God or “making God in our image”. Tozer said the problem of today was that we have lost the concept of the Majesty of God and He was right. Packer talks along similar lines in his book “Knowing God”. God is not someone we can manipulate for our own ends. He is not like the other “gods”.  There are no words to express what its like to encounter the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul said that all of creation is groaning, and that the spirit intercedes for us with groans. Jesus, when talking to Nicodemus, says the spirit is like the wind. You can see its effects but no one knows how or where it blows. The word for spirit in the Bible means “breath” and thats the best we have. It is no conincidence that in Genesis 1-2 God breathed into Adam the breath of Life. That was the Holy spirit that gave Him life. Gods empowering presence. Encountering the Holy spirit is like being given a new lease on life or being made alive again. Although it is not always as dramatic, it follows the pattern of Genesis 1-2. Thats how Paul can say the first Adam brought death but the second Adam became a life giving spirit.

The God we serve is like the Father in the parable of the Prodigal son. We are like the son who wants his inheritance now. Effectively telling our father that we wish he was dead. He knows whats best for us, but gives us over to own sinful desires at times. When we are lost His heart breaks for us. When we come home he runs to us and wraps his arms around his before we can give our sorrowful repentance speech. He clothes us with a robe of righteousness and gives us his ring. He throws a party for us and rejoices. The son who never left the Father has nothing to complain about either. Whatever the Father had was always His. He always had enjoyment of being in the presence of the Father. This is the God we serve. It was solely of His Grace and Love that we are welcomed back into presence when He has every right to destroy us. It is solely of His Grace that we are brought back into His house, and made to be sons and daughters. Everything we have is the result of Gods Grace lavished upon us. We can make no claim on anything to do with our salvation.

Today when I come to lead people in worship I must count all my experience as loss to know Christ. I realise that for all the good it has done me I truly have nothing to offer people if I do not point them to Jesus. The music is not the focus, nor is my presentation of it. The first lesson I have to learn to educate the congregation about Grace and to model it to them in my own life. When they see understand and see that they will worship regardless how we play.

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