The Heart of Worship
Worship God Conference | Gaithersburg, Maryland
The following is a lightly edited transcript.
We ended the previous message defending that God’s self-exaltation — especially his self exaltation in the cross — is an act of love and not megalomania or egomania. It is love. It sounds egomaniacal to certain people that I quoted because they don’t have the biblical mindset to see it for what it is. Nor do they understand the main reason I gave for why God’s self-exaltation in the cross and everywhere else is an act of love — the one source of pleasure that will be deep enough to satisfy us forever is the sight of the glory of God in the face of Christ. If God in some kind of mock humility sends us away from himself to go find our pleasure somewhere else and to find a satisfying admiration somewhere else, he will hate us. It will look humble. It will be what the world thinks a God, perhaps, ought to do — make humanity central. Go find a human to be happy with. Go find a sunset to be satisfied with. Go find a canyon to be moved by. But I am not going to call any attention to myself as God.
What a tragedy that would be for us. So that is where we ended, striking the note that God’s self-exaltation, whether it be in the words of Christ — you must love me above everybody — or whether it be in the act of the cross — I am doing this to demonstrate my righteousness and vindicate my holiness that has been trampled by millions of sins that I have passed over — whichever way, it is love. I hope you can make that plain so that your people glory in God’s God-centeredness and do not feel it is a threat to their joy, but rather the ground of their joy.
Made to Be Satisfied
Now before I tackle this theme of what is the essence, the heart essence of worship inside, I want to underline that truth, which I just articulated one or two other ways, because I think if we get that right, so much falls into place.
Turn with me to John 17, would you? I was going to give you glimpses of how you might do this for your people if you believe it is important to get this truth across to them. Here would be a way. There are lots of ways. This is one. Here we are at the high priestly prayer. I am going to assume that you agree with me that the high priestly prayer of our Lord Jesus for his disciples and for us through them, as he says in verse 20, I am praying for those who will believe on me through their words. So he is praying for us. I am assuming that you agree with me that this prayer is an act of love. He is not hating us in this prayer. He is loving us in this prayer. So what does it sound like?
John 17:1 — “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your son, that the Son may glorify you.” Now isn’t that an odd way to begin a prayer for you? Father, glorify me — me. Make me glorious in this moment of my death and in the resurrection. Oh God, don’t abandon me. Make me glorious, that I may then reciprocate and show how glorious you are. This is a strange way to begin a prayer for his people. Look at verses 4 and 5. “I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). So God gave him a work to do that would glorify the Father. He has virtually done it. He is thinking of the cross as virtually done. “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5).
So the first five verses of this prayer are a prayer for his own glory. That is so strange. So you set that up. And you say, “Now, okay, you are trying to make a case here that this is the heart and essence of his love for us, praying for his own glory to be exalted.” Why? And you go down to verse 24: “Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” There is the closure. I am praying that I would be glorious, that the cross would work, that I would make it through, that I would hold faith, that I would be worthy of being praised in songs like this forever and ever. And I would come out of the grave and rise and assemble the people around me. Why? So that they might see my glory forever, the glory that I have had as creator forever, the glory that I now have as redeemer forever. That is the reason I am praying for my glory, because if I don’t have it, you don’t have anything. You were made to know this, to love this, to be satisfied in this, to treasure this.
The reason the world is in the mess it is in, is because it is trying to find what it’s made for in every way but this way. And worship services and a life of worship has the potential of exposing people to what they were made for. You know this. I keep saying you can’t imagine. Of course you can imagine. You can imagine better than I can. You watch people. Why are they crying? They haven’t been to church in 20 years. Why are they crying? They are crying. They can’t even explain it. They are in touch with why they were made. And Christ knows that about us. And longing to give us the fullest, deepest, longest experience of joy he prays that the Father would glorify him.
Blind Eyes Opened
Let’s go to 2 Corinthians 4 just to give another glimpse how to do it. Bob Kauflin, in his letter to me, a year or so ago said maybe I would want to consider this text, so I am going to squeeze it in. I should have built on it, but I have built a whole book on it — God is the Gospel. It may be the most important book I have ever written. So there, I believe in it.
Now look at this. I mean, these are two of the most important verses imaginable. In 2 Corinthians 4:4, what does Satan not want you to experience? What does Satan see in the gospel he doesn’t want you to have? Verse four. In their case the God of this world — Satan — has blinded the minds of unbelievers to keep them from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” The gospel that is good news of the glory of Christ who is the image of God. He doesn’t want you to see that. And conversion is being given the capacity to see it and worship is the ongoing expression of what we feel when we see it.
Jump down two verses to verse 6, and then ask the other question, not just what Satan doesn’t want you to see, but what does God engage with creative power to enable you to see? Verse 6: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” If you would put those two verses on top of each other, verse 4 and verse 6, they simply shed light on each other — amazing light, theological light, worship light, practical light. God enables your heart to perceive light — spiritual light. I wish you would all read Jonathan Edwards’ sermon “A Divine and Supernatural Light Immediately Imparted to the Soul,” which is based on this verse.
So the point of those two verses, as I focus on them here is simply, Satan doesn’t want you to see the essence of the gospel which is the glory of Christ who is the image of God. God engages himself with infinite creative power to enable us in the new birth an ongoing illumination to see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. And this is what we want for our people and what only God can do. Only God can do it.
All to the Glory of God
We are certainly, then, to join God in magnifying his glory. That is obvious. I think the text my dad probably quoted to me more than any text growing up — my dad was away from home three-fourths of the year doing evangelistic work and he would write to me and we would communicate on the phone and he would say, “Johnny, whatever you do, word and deed, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Over and over again. Whatever you do, eat, drink, the most basic things, son, get up in the morning to the glory of God. Go to bed at night to the glory of God. Eat pizza to the glory of God. Drink pop to the glory of God. Shoot buckets to the glory of God. Son, everything you do, do to the glory of God.
What condition of the heart — what experience of the heart does that? What experience of the heart magnifies the greatness of the glory of God? That is the question for this message. What is it? What is the experience? Now that is an important question, not because you are worship leaders and lead services of worship, but because the Bible in, Romans 12, calls all of life worship. “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to Christ, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1).
This body in all that it does, is to be worship, which means is to come from a heart condition that magnifies Jesus, that makes Jesus look good, makes him look as glorious as he really is. My body is to be moved, hugging, touching, giving, loving, rebuking, whatever this body does as it moves through the world, is being animated by a heart, the abundance of the heart. This part of the body speaks and all of the other parts of the body move. It is being animated by a heart. And my question in this message is: What is the experience of the heart that in itself shows God is infinitely valuable and beautiful and worthy and produces acts in the body which also display how valuable God is and how infinitely worthy he is?
Their Hearts Are Far from Me
So, as a sub question, let me ask first why I am asking that question, besides the fact that I was assigned the topic. Because I could approach it a whole lot of ways. Why do I ask the question with regard to the essence of worship, the heart of worship: What is the experience, the core, essential experience of the heart unseen, first, by anybody but God? Why do I ask that question? And my first reason is Matthew 15:8. Worship leaders should be really, really familiar with this verse. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” I am terrified as a pastor that God would write over our services, vain, empty. Bethlehem Baptist Church worship services: vain, empty.
There are such worship services. You should not want them. Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips.” That means they are singing. They are preaching. They are praying for nothing. This people honors me with their lips. Why is it vain? Why is it for nothing? Because their heart is far from me. That is why I am asking this question. There isn’t any more important question than to ask the heart question. What is my heart supposed to be doing while we are doing these music things, these verbal things, this preaching thing? What is my heart supposed to be doing? If it is not experiencing the right thing, this preaching is vain. The singing is vain. The music is vain, empty, useless, and it smells in God’s nose. So this is an important question. That is my first reason for asking it. Matthew 15:8. I don't want that. I want it to be not vain.
Worship from the Heart
Here is my second reason for asking the hard question: The New Testament is stunningly silent about forms of worship. The Old Testament is not stunningly silent. It is very verbal. I mean, you have got down to the threads and the colors of the threads and the tassels and days and months and seasons and endless detail of how to do it in that regime. And it is gone. Jesus is now the temple. Jesus is now the priest. Jesus is now the blood and the sacrifice. And all the geography is irrelevant and the buildings are irrelevant. I think it is a stunningly silent, frighteningly silent.
The word most commonly used for worship in the Old Testament proskuneo in the Septuagint. Proskuneo is prevalent in the gospels, prevalent in Revelation and virtually absent in the epistles. There are two little exceptions in Hebrews and one in 1 Corinthians where a person falls down.
Why is the main word for worship in the Old Testament gone out of the Church, but there in the Gospels and there in Revelation? And here is the reason I think: Jesus was there in the gospels physically and people could fall down in front of him and they did over and over again. So you got a lot of uses of the word. They ran up. They fell down. They worshipped him. In Revelation, he is right there on the throne. People are really falling down. He is right there. They are falling down. And that word is gone. It is gone. It is not in the epistles. Why? Because he is not anywhere. He is everywhere. You can meet this Jesus in worship anywhere. You don’t go anywhere. You don’t have to move one millimeter of your body to meet this Jesus while you are in a bed dying with cancer.
There is an incredibly strong de-externalization, internalization, intensification of worship onto the heart in the New Testament. That is the second reason why I am asking this question: What is the experience of the heart that magnifies Jesus and produces acts of the body that show Jesus is magnificent, that turns all of life into worship and makes corporate worship services not vain? That is my question.
And here is my answer. I’ll give you the answer, and then I will defend it from Scripture for a little bit, and then I will spell out four implications for our worship life and services. The answer is the experience of being satisfied with God. You know that I am a trinitarian lover of Jesus, and when I say God, I mean Jesus and the Father and the Spirit. So don’t think I am minimizing Christ here. If you want to say being satisfied with Christ, or if you want to say being satisfied with all that God is for us in Christ, that is a good way to say it. Any way feels inadequate. But the key word, the operative emotional word is satisfy. I will use some others as we go along, but I am going to stick with that one as the main one. The experience that I have been saying is so massively important inside in order to turn all of life into worship, and the reason a worship service is not vain is the experience of satisfaction in all that God is for us in Christ. I am so glad we are singing to the Lord a new song as well as old songs because the range of things about God that are worthy of being sung about and that bring satisfaction to the soul are infinite. We will never run out of things to write about or sing about.
We Are Satisfied When He Is Glorified
Now let me give you some biblical support. Let’s go to Philippians 1. This is my favorite place to defend this point. Let me state the thesis that I am going to defend a little more clearly. Some of you know it because I have said it a lot. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. That is the banner over my life. I think it would be pretty obvious if you knew me for just ten or twenty minutes. I don’t write about this as one who has arrived at satisfaction in God. I write as one desperately hungry, desperately thirsty. I have seen so many things in the Bible that make me want this. That is why I write. Every now and then in a worship service or on the street talking to an unbeliever, I feel like I am almost there. I can almost see him, almost feel the way I might feel in the last day when I see him and my heart is finally content and I am not dealing with guilty feelings anymore or discouragements anymore. My life is one continuous battle against bad emotions, lots of them. So just know that “Mr. Satisfaction Writer” is on a quest. I have seen it. I have seen it. I have tasted it. I know where it is found. But I write not having arrived at full experience. That is my life. I am a desirer. My heart is a desire factory and every day it is producing bad ones that have to be killed — put to death what is earthly.
I am trying to show you the biblical foundation of the sentence God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. Verse 19: “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus, this imprisonment will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not at all be ashamed but that with full courage, now as always, Christ will be honored.” So just get that clear now. Half of my sentence — God is most glorified or Christ is most magnified — has now been stated. Paul’s passion in all of his life for this body of his, whether it is in chains or preaching freely, is that his body would show Christ is magnificent. Christ is great. Christ is honorable. Christ is worthy. Christ satisfies the soul. Christ is more valuable than anything. That is the goal. That is the goal of your services. It is the goal of our lives. So he said it now. And now the question is: How does he think that happens? How does that happen? That is his goal. He wants his body animated by a heart of some kind to do that.
Magnificent in Death
Verse 21: “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Look for conjunctions and understand them. “So my eager expectation and hope its that Christ would be magnified in my body whether by life or by death for” — I am going to explain this. I am going to ground this. I am going to help you understand how in life and death Christ is magnified in this body. I am going to say something here that is earth shaking and life transforming. Watch, because I have just said for. For to me to live — that word live corresponds with the word life in verse 20. Make the connection. See that? For me to live corresponds with life is Christ, and to die corresponds to death in verse 20. So now you have seen he is making the connection there so that he can unpack how in life and in death Christ is magnified. And the way he explains it is I pray, hope, am expectant that in my body, in my death Christ will be magnified for to me to die is gain.
Christ will be shown to be magnificent in my dying if in my dying I experience it as gain. What does that mean? It means if I am so satisfied in Christ and all he is for me then all the satisfactions that will be taken away from me at death — my wife will never be my wife again. In the kingdom there will be no marriage or giving in marriage. I am going away. I am leaving behind everything that I have seemingly known so well and gotten so much pleasure from. I am dying. And you look up to Christ and you say, “Compare. Christ, everything. Christ, everything.” And you say, “Gain.” At that moment Christ is magnified, because you are so satisfied in him. That is it. That is my textual argument.
Christ is most magnified in you in your moment of dying when in your moment of dying you are most satisfied in him. He is most magnified in your dying when in your dying your heart is most satisfied in him. May God work that. Our people and ourselves get close to that from time to time. And all I know to pray is for the hour of my death that God will mercifully give that to me, give me that. I can’t make that happen. This teaching of Christian Hedonism and the elevation of the importance of the emotion of satisfaction in God is so threatening to so many people. It is out of their control. Most people like to have a religion they can manage. Tell me things I can do, because if you tell me I have to experience something I can’t make happen, that is scary. That means I have totally depended on a supernatural work in my life. Yes, you are.
Magnificent in Life
Now the other half — that was the death half. Here is the life half. Let’s read it again. So he is so eager that Christ would be magnified, honored, glorified in my body in my life for to me to live is Christ. To live is Christ. What does that mean? I think the best exposition of the life half of this pair is Philippians 3:78. So if you want to flip a page, or maybe you don’t have to. In my Bible you don’t even have to. Just go to 3:7–8 and we read this: “Whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” And right now he is in jail, so he has lost freedom. Lost a lot of possibilities of life. “Whatever gain I had I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I might gain Christ.”
So Christ is praised in death by being prized above life. That is the death part. And now we see that Christ is most glorified in life when we are most satisfied in him even before death. That is what verse 8 is about. I am counting everything as rubbish that I might gain Christ right now. If something is taken away from me, if I must forgo a night’s sleep to love somebody — rubbish. I gain Christ. Anything I lose I count it as lost for the sake of Christ.
Why does Philippians 2 say, “Don’t grumble?” “Do all things without murmuring.” The only possible way to live a life without murmuring is to count everything as loss for the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. I left my Bible on the plane yesterday. So I am borrowing a Bible. I am so ticked at myself, and I am discouraged. I have got six years of markings in this Bible. I really want this Bible back. So you can pray about that when you get to the Baltimore airport in a couple of hours. I am hoping they will have it. But now I am not supposed to murmur. How can I not murmur? I want this Bible. And the answer is I count everything as loss for the surpassing value. I have Christ. I have the one about whom the Bible was written. He loves me. He is going to take care of me. He is going to be with me. He can even provide me with another Bible probably. He will turn all those absolutely white blank un underlined pages into glory. He will do that if he chooses.
But you get the idea. I mean that is a small thing, a real small thing compared to what some of you face. And the only key to life that displays the glory of God for others is that we be satisfied — we count everything as loss for the surpassing value, the supreme satisfaction of knowing Christ Jesus. This is the great warfare of our churches. The great goal of preaching and the great goal of worship is to be satisfied. So there is my textual support and now I am going to turn to the application.
Four Implications of Christian Hedonism in Worship
So I have just argued that Christ is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him using the death piece and the life piece of Philippians 1:20–21, in order to show that the inner experience that in and of itself makes God magnificent is a being satisfied in him about everything else. And now what follows from that?
1. God Mandates the Pursuit of Joy
If that is true, if God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, the first shocking thing for most people is that the pursuit of joy is not an option; it’s mandated. I did not hear this growing up. I think I absorbed it because my father was so joyful as a person that I absorbed it, but I never heard anybody preaching to the effect: You must be happy. You must pursue your joy. God threatens terrible things if you will not be happy. I just never heard anybody say that. We are duty bound to pursue our joy.
Now millions and millions of Christians and a lot of them in your churches have absorbed a popular ethic that to the degree that you seek your own benefit in an act, it is morally ruined. You should act with a sense of indifference to the benefits to yourself as you seek to love other people. And if you have a view to benefiting from an act, then that act has been morally corrupted. That is a very wide spread and defended ethic. I wrote my dissertation years and years ago on Jesus’ command to love your enemy. And I read dozens and dozens of ethicists who argued that if you have a view to any reward at all in your ethical behavior you are defective. So it is not just in the air. It is in the books. And it is deadly to corporate worship, absolutely deadly. To the degree that this ethic dominates your people, that their pursuit of their own joy is defective, your services will die. Forms will abide, hearts will not be what they ought to be.
There are a lot of pastors who make it worse by saying things like, “The problem with this people, the problem with you people in our dead services is that you come here to get and not to give.” Have you ever heard that sentence? “You come here to get and not to give.” You should come here to give. Give glory to God. Give praise to God. And if you came to give and not to get for yourselves, then this place would have some life in it. He really has a skewed theology. I say to my people, “You don’t have anything to bring to this service. You come in here dead. You come in here discouraged. You come in here bankrupt. You come in here empty and maybe if you are empty enough, God might get some glory from you by your craving his fullness.” If you come here craving, longing, desiring, knowing that everything in the world has failed to satisfy my soul, then you might just might drink from the fountain of living water and have your soul satisfied. That is the kind of people I want to come and that is the kind of service that will explode with life. It is thirsty people. It is hungry people. It is needy people who come to worship.
So get out of their minds the thought that they are serving God or providing a duty to God to come to this service. They are desperate for God. They need God. And you are teaching them he so delights to satisfy their souls in himself. Now I could complain about people coming to get the wrong thing. There are a lot of people who come to get entertained. And they are not after God. They are after scintillating music, logically precise preaching. I know people who like my preaching who are not believers. That is horrible, scary. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I make them feel guilty? Because that is the paradox. I mean the power of deadness. You can hear abstract flourishes of languages, logical order, passionate engagement and like it and not give a rip about what is being said. And the same is true with music. Preaching is music. I mean, my understanding of preaching is just music without the music.
As a deer pants for the flowing streams, so my soul longs for thee. That is the way... I want people to come to worship. A deer. This deer is not offering anything to this stream. He is just... and the stream, if it were God, which it is, the stream would be saying: This thirst honors me very much. That you are drinking her and not there, thank you. I am delighted that you are here. I feel very honored by you that you have come to this stream to drink from me.
So my first application is the implication of saying God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him is that pursuing satisfaction in him is an obligation and is not a threat to your ethics in him.
2. Radically God-Centered Worship Pursues Satisfaction
Number two, second application. Pursuing satisfaction in God and keeping satisfaction in God as the core inner experience in worship makes worship become radically God-centered. Now you might feel, “no it doesn’t; it makes it you centered.” I have had people say this to me. Piper, you say, “Seek my joy. Seek my happiness. Seek my satisfaction. That is just me. That is not God-centered. That is me-centered.” But a lot of you know my favorite story to illustrate why this is not the case. I love to tell this story. So I am going to tell it again, because David told me that this story brings more light on worship issues than any story I ever tell.
Let me tell you a little something about this story. The story of the rose is what I am talking about. I did this with daisies on our 40th meeting anniversary. Noël and I have been married 40 years as of last December. We met on 6/6/66. Last June 6 I was in Palm Springs and I got on the phone to the florist about three blocks from our house. I said, “I want you to send six roses to 1801 11th Avenue South, okay?” “Fine.” “Get them there this afternoon.” “What do you want on the card?” “I want 6/6/66.” And the guy said, “That is the devil’s number.” I said, “Just put the dashes in the right place.” And I only mention that on the 40th anniversary that is 2006 — June sixth — we actually did this story and had it videoed by my daughter. So maybe it will make its way to YouTube some day, but I don’t like to play that game too much. But, anyway, here is the story.
On the 40th anniversary I ring the doorbell. I have got 40 roses this time behind my back, right? And I am going to surprise my wife, because I don’t ever ring the doorbell at my own house. I ring the doorbell and she opens the door surprised. And I pull out the roses and say, “Happy anniversary, Noël.” And she says, “Johnny, they are beautiful. Why did you?” And I say, “It is my duty. This is duty.” Everybody always laughs at that point. They laugh at duty. I say, “Why do you laugh at duty? Isn’t duty a good thing?” That is the wrong thing to say. Duty is a good thing, but duty-given roses on an anniversary is not a good thing.
So we replay the video. Ding, dong. “Oh, Johnny, what is wrong?” “Happy anniversary, Noël.” “Oh, Johnny, they are beautiful. Why did you?” And I say, “I couldn’t help myself. I just love buying things for you. In fact, I have arranged for a babysitter because there is nothing I would rather do, Noël, than spend the evening with you tonight.” And not in a million years would she ever say or has she ever said, “Nothing you would rather do. You are so selfish. You are so self-centered. You are a Christian Hedonist. You ruin worship. You ruin marriage. You ruin anniversaries.”
Now the point of that story is that is worship. If you want to bring roses to God on a Sunday morning and he says: Why did you bring those? Don’t tell him, “The Bible says to. I am a good, disciplined Christian. I do the right things.” Don’t give him that answer. Say, “There is nothing I would rather do than spend an hour with you. And I am just putting roses up there because they are beautiful and you are beautiful and I want to know you better an experience you more.” He wouldn’t say, “I, I, I. All you ever say is I want, I want, I want. No.”
If everybody comes to worship longing to be satisfied in him, he is the center. It is not self-centered to want to be happy in another. You got that? It is not self-centered to want to center your joy in another, namely Christ. In fact, we all know this — though we don’t experience it very often — that the sweetest moments in life are the moments when we are so into another that we are forgetting ourselves. That is true in sex and that is true in worship. It is true in loving people on the street. If we could just gloriously forget how we look, how we sound, how we smell, our hair, our body. Oh, that we could forget ourselves and be into another in love and in delight, that would be joy, and you wouldn’t be thinking about feeling joy. You would just be feeling joy. So it is not self-centered. That is application number two.
3. Worship Is an End in Itself
Emphasizing the inner experience of worship as being satisfied in God protects worship as an end in itself rather than a means to an end. And here is what I have in mind. There are thousands of people and pastors and churches that use worship on Sunday morning — use it. We use it to attract crowds. We use it to raise money. We use it to recruit workers. We use it to improve church morale. We use it to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling. We use it to teach our children a way of righteousness. We use it to help marriages stay together. We use it to evangelize the lost and so on. We use it, use it, use it. And that is not what happens if you are making God the center through being satisfied in him. It is not what happens.
Here is what happens. You can’t say to your wife, “I feel a strong delight in you so that you will make me a nice meal. Can you?” Does it work like that? “I feel right now a deep satisfaction in you so that you will make me supper.” I think she would say, “I think you want supper, not me.” And she would be right. You can’t say to your son, “I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass.” We are on to something very profound here. If you really delight in something, some person, it is an end in itself. And as soon as you try to think of that delight as a means to something, it is not real anymore.
Therefore, do you see how urgent it is to cultivate a people who are pursuing satisfaction with God, period? End point. I am not saying the worship services are the end point. I am saying that emotional experience is not a means to anything. When we all get to heaven and we are sinning no more and we are seeing him for what he really is and there is rising in our hearts a full orbed satisfaction — in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore — When that is finally, fully happening, nobody will ever say, “What is that for? What are we supposed to do with that? What is that for? What will it lead to? What will it produce? What is the real point beyond that?” There is no real point beyond that. That is the end. Christ will be magnified in that — that experience of satisfaction in him.
Now that leads me to my fourth one, but we won’t leave this one too quick. I don’t think this is widely understood. Just analyze it for yourself in your own soul. Can there be an authentic delighting in something if you are trying to use that experience to make something else happen? We want our worship to be experiences which in that moment are ends in themselves. We are not massaging these people for money. We are not massaging them to get this building paid for or to recruit children’s workers, for goodness sake. “Come on, let’s have a rousing service this morning so that at the end when I mention the children’s needs everybody will be primed to respond.” Oh, that is evil.
Now lest anybody misunderstand, when that happens, when a worship service week in, week out happens as an end in itself, everything gets better. Marriages get better. Children’s workers get motivated, people witness to their faith. But if you start to think the other way around that “We have got to get evangelism happening in this church, so for evangelism to happen we are going to have some rousing and vital worship services.” Then you ruin worship.
It is like the analogy of the marriage would be if you look in your wife’s eyes and say, “You, you are my delight.” I guarantee you, the food will improve. But you know and she knows that if there is a little footnote: “I love you. I delight in you. I hope the food improves.” She will feel it. You will know it. This is not easy, because we all like our food the way we like it.
4. Satisfaction in God Magnifies Him
Last quick, brief application. The fourth implication of saying that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him is that it explains why all of life is worship as well as gatherings of the people of God are worship. Why are both of those called worship? How does Romans 12:1–2 work? “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.” So present your body to God. So that means something that is happening with the body is magnifying the worth of God. And I am arguing being satisfied with God is the key to that.
And I give you one text. You want to go with me to Matthew 5 and we will close with this. It will be the last thing we do. Matthew 5 — Sermon on the Mount. Perhaps you have seen this connection before, maybe not. I desperately want to be the man of verse 16. And you do, too. Read verse 16 and then we will back up and put it in context.
“In the same way let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Now I think Matthew 5:16 is what Romans 12:1 means. Present your bodies as a living sacrifice which is your spiritual act of worship. This behavior, letting your light shine that men may see your good works, which you do with your body, results in people giving glory to God. So there is an example of the outward life coming from a certain heart, the outward life making people admire God.
And this is a miracle because many of us, when we do good deeds, get admired. We don’t want that. That is not what the verse says. The verse says, “When you do your good deeds, God gets admired.” And then my question is: How do you do your good deeds so that God gets admired and you don’t become the focus? That is a huge question for the Church today. And I think the answer is found in the context flowing from verses 11–16. And I will just point this out and we will be done.
Verse 11: “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice in that day and be glad.” He can’t really mean that, can he? That was too fast. We must have misread. He can’t mean that. Blessed are you when others revile you. Have you ever been reviled? I mean this is ugly. This is unbelievably painful. Somebody says, “You have made the stupidest mistake I have ever seen. You can’t possibly have done what you just did.” That hurts. I am not going to be happy. Am I? Or am I? He says to. “Rejoice and be glad for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets.”
So you are trying to live for Christ. You do what you think is the right thing. You get reviled for it, persecuted for it, people utter all kinds of evil against you for it, and you are discouraged and you are depressed and it hurts like crazy and Jesus says to you, “Rejoice. Be satisfied in your reward. I am your reward. You are going to meet me some day in heaven. I am going to get you there. Be satisfied and rejoice in this horrible, horrible experience that you are having of controversy and criticism.”
You are salt of the earth. So if you were to ask me, “What is the salt? What is tangy?” For you are the light of the world, verse 14. So we have got salt and we have got light flowing from “Rejoice in the day that you are persecuted because you can be satisfied not with that, but with your reward in heaven.” I would say, “If you show me somebody like that, somebody who in the midst of suffering, in the midst of criticism, in the midst of conflict has a demeanor of inner, deep, quiet, strong, satisfaction in God and the rewards that are coming, I would say that is the saltiest, brightest thing I have ever seen in my life.” That tastes so different than the world that there is only one explanation for that — God. I think that is what it means. And so when you get to verse 16 where it says, “Let your light so shine before men,” I think it means deeds done out of that kind of heart get glory for God and not for you. The kind of heart is in rejoicing in my reward, not in being liked by other people. I am rejoicing in my reward, not in health. I am rejoicing in my God, my reward — Christ. Not a good job, not ministry going well, not kids walking in the paths of righteousness. I am rejoicing in God. And out of that satisfaction in him, I am doing things for others rather than being all wrapped up in myself that makes others say, “God is great.” So whether it is a worship service flowing from satisfaction in God or a worship life of good deeds flowing in from satisfaction in God, I think it holds. Because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him, worship is not vain and love is real.