The gospel all at once puts us at home in every culture and at odds with every culture.
Christ wants to and will make his home in every culture on the planet. This faith is not restrained to Jews, and certainly not to Americans. No, our God intends to be worshipped and enjoyed among every ethnicity and in every language across the globe. So Christianity can be at home in every culture.
And Christ is and will be rejected in every culture. Faith in the gospel will immediately put us out of step with our society, wherever we live, work, and worship. John Piper, drawing on Andrew Walls, calls this the pilgrim principle. All who follow Jesus will feel an unavoidable tension with the values and priorities of the culture in which they live.
At the first Linger conference in Dallas last weekend, Piper unpacked pilgrim worship — that is, worship among a people alien to this world and waiting for the better city that is to come — from Hebrews 13:12–16. He gave four principles for our worship:
1. Jesus Christ as the mediator of all worship.
Any true worship of the true God must come through the Son. We draw near to God through Jesus, or we don’t draw near to him. Jesus alone is, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). But he is not only our mediator before the Father. No, he also leads us in worship as our lead singer (Hebrews 2:12).
2. Praise to God as the continual expression of the lips.
The sound of pilgrim worship should not be limited to Sundays. It’s meant for Mondays as much as Sundays. It’s also continual in that it laces all of our words. In everything we say and sing, we’re called to honor our Lord. Lastly, we praise God in good times and bad, when we’re experiencing abundance and blessing, and when we’re suffering under the pain of illness, persecution, or loss.
3. Practical evidences that your treasure is in heaven and is worth more than everything here.
Pilgrims worship with their lips, and they worship with their hands. We honor God when we give generously to the needs of others. Because our first and greatest treasure is in heaven, secured in full forever, we can be risky and radical with everything we have here. Worship calls us to sacrifice ourselves and our possessions joyfully for the cause of Christ.
4. Pleasing God.
“God is pleased when our worship reflects our need and his bounty, our bankruptcy and his riches, our folly and his wisdom, our weakness and his strength, our emptiness and his fullness, our hunger and his rich food, our thirst and his fountain of living water.” How we worship — specifically what we do with what he’s given us here on earth — should as much as possible make him look as amazingly beautiful, valuable, and satisfying as he really is.