Theology and Doxology

At a recent men’s retreat, my friend Adam said something that struck me in a powerful way. It has provided me with days of contemplation, serious conviction and a desire to live differently. His statement?

“When your theology exceeds your doxology you know you are in trouble.”

Now, since I haven’t been to seminary, I had to put it into plain-speak so I could understand it. Here is my best attempt at paraphrasing:

“When the depth of your knowledge exceeds the extravagance of your worship unbelief has taken root and you are on the verge of idolatry.”

Even the simplest and most basic truths of Christianity are glorious – the all-powerful God who created the Heavens and the Earth knows me, loves me and is interested in my life; where I was once destined for eternal torment I am now destined for eternal life because God took on flesh and died in my place; God Himself dwells inside of me and wants me to learn how to co-operate with Him to establish His rule and reign on the Earth… and I could go on and on.

Pick any one of those truths and really think about what it means – it is almost beyond our comprehension, yet it is absolutely true. But I rarely live with any present awareness of those truths, most of the time those Realities roll off my heart without any discernible impact. If that isn’t sin, I don’t know what is.

You see, to know these truths and NOT worship reveals unbelief at some level. Somewhere along the line I have taken a truth, “God loves me” for instance, and built a case of unbelief against it. I have a whole case file of hurts, unanswered prayers and scenarios that could have played out better and I blame God for them. I listen more closely to the voice of the Accuser than the voice of my Lord and conclude that God is liar and He doesn’t really love me – for if He really loved me, then such and such wouldn’t have happened. By partnering with the Enemy through unbelief I allow him to rob me of knowing God’s love and the security that brings and I allow him to rob God of my worship of Him. In essence, I worship my past experiences rather than God. I believe they are more potent and more real than He is. That is called idolatry.

So my challenge, our challenge, is to set aside the case file and really enter in to belief. It is to trust God – who He is and what He says – and to understand that He is the only thing that is Really Real, Eternally Constant and Unshakable. Our challenge is to let God’s Word weigh most heavily on our hearts and allow it to propel us into worship. And, interestingly enough, worshiping God leads to new understanding of who He is and we get caught up in the virtuous cycle of delight – constantly worshipping and finding new reasons to worship.

I think all of us have room to grow in the expression and extravagance of our worship. There are something like 10 distinct words for ‘worship’ in the Bible. They span the range of falling prostrate on the ground, spinning in circles while shouting, raising up one’s hands, dancing wildly, and sitting in humble reverance. I was raised among the “frozen chosen”, so every one of those expressions sound terrifying to me except for the last one. Not terrifying because I don’t think God is worthy, terrifying because I wonder what people will think. Here again is idolatry. I value my reputation, my sense of propriety and my fear of man more than I value worshipping God to the extent He deserves. Damn it – I didn’t know my idolatry, unbelief and rebellion ran so deep.

There is part of me that fears what my congregation would look like if everyone cut loose in worship like I am proposing here. What would newcomers think? Does that even matter? Would people be so distracted by others that they wouldn’t be able to engage in worshipping God? Do I cater to anemic hearts or do I throw everyone in the deep end trusting that God will teach them how to walk on water in the midst of the storm? I don’t really have good answers to these questions, so if anyone reading this has any thoughts, I’d love to hear them.

What I do know is that it is time to dethrone my idol of self. My unbelief, my idolatry, my rebellion and my fear of man have to go. I have sworn my allegiance to Jesus, He is the only King I shall have. Dear Lord, please help me.

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2 thoughts on “Theology and Doxology”

  1. I think the primary consideration should be whether the worship is real. My initial reaction is that you are being too hard on yourself. I have witnessed you authentically moved to tears describing the goodness of the Lord and the immensity of His love for us and was personally moved and inspired to reflect more deeply on the immensity of our Lord’s sacrifice on our behalf. It literally changed my prayer life in that I begin with deep gratitude and reflection upon His immense sacrifice and love for us. I have been a member of churches, where people have run around the sanctuary, “wrecked the rows” in physically expressive displays of worship, but I don’t think that it represented a more worshipful environment. I used to be more dramatic in my worship in those environments, but I don’t think that my worship is any less genuine or intense at the Vineyard. It all goes back to authenticity and God sees what is in the heart. More dramatic and physically demonstrative expressions of worship give people more fuel to be fake. I remember one occasion where a brother I knew, literally tore up a row with his worship. Then I don’t think I saw him at church again for another 6 months. I don’t know what was in his heart, but the physical intensity of the worship didn’t seem to translate into greater obedience. It may also be a cultural issue. Iowans are nothing if not emotionally restrained. The music is not designed to evoke “cutting loose” like music in the more expressive churches I have attended, so it is a good and complex issue. I enjoyed the posting.

    1. Meach, thank you for your response.

      I agree that greater expressiveness doesn’t correlate well with greater obedience. While I haven’t been in those types of environments personally, I’ve heard stories similar to what you describe. It almost seems like the people are worshipping the experience or the demonstration rather than God.

      I so appreciate you taking the time to respond. It has been wonderful to have you and your family worship with us. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

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