Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Christian's Joy in Worship

I recently read an article on worship by Terry Johnson ("Worship from the Heart" in The Worship of God [Christian Focus, 2005]: pp. 161-80) that offers a good discussion of the concept of joy in worship.

Johnson notes that "Christian joy is not the joy of the bar room or the ball field, but of those who fear the God whom they love." He adds that "even in the athletic world, there is a difference between the joy expressed when the winning touchdown is scored and that expressed at the awards banquet two months later. In both cases the emotion is joy, yet the manner of expressing it differs as one moves from one setting to another. Similarly the joy of worship is not like that of the arena."

In answer to the preacher who asked why we can’t get as excited in the church as we do at football games, Johnson replies, "that kind of excitement is unsuitable for public worship; gospel joy is a different kind of pleasure." He continues, "Our joy is a deep emotion, similar to peace, experienced at a level unrecognized by the world. It is not the noisy exuberance and excitement of the arena, but it is ‘inexpressible and full of glory’" (1 Pet 1:8).

He concludes his remarks on joy in worship: "Our joy is a reverential joy, in public displayed with restraint. Ostentatious displays of zeal, whether by shouting, by raising hands, by leaping about, or by other such physical manifestations, have been restrained in Reformed circles by a sense of what is appropriate in public worship service, as well as the desire not to draw attention to oneself or to claim too much for oneself. We do not pray so as to be seen by man, whether on the street corner or in the public assembly. God alone is to be glorified (Matt 6:1-18)."

May the Lord grant to us the experience of this kind of peace and reverential joy in his presence!

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
Note: Evangel article for 10/21/08.

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