In our DiM posts, we come down hard on the focus on emotionalism that permeates Evangelical Christian Music. It is the biggest problem with so-called Worship music being pushed by Bethel, Hillsong, Vineyard, and even Integrity Music. While visiting a small local church-plant recently, I realized that something needs to be said of why this genre of music is so compelling, especially to growing churches, and to recognize its well-intentioned though misapplied reasoning. The idea being that if we can stir our hearts to experience a deeply felt emotional love for God, then we are worshiping God with our hearts and that is pleasing to Him. The intent of “worshiping God with our emotions” sounds good, but it is misguided and carnal.
The Summation of the Law
I think it best to begin at the beginning, so let us remember the Law of God. Jesus was asked what is the great commandment in the Law. Let’s see His answer below:
Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him,“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Now, modern-day evangelicalism likes to confuse this summation of the Law (on these two commandments depend all the Law…) for the Gospel. “Love God, Love Neighbor” is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ… it is the Law. None of us live up to this law. Only Jesus Christ fulfilled this Law. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is that our entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven will be by His fulfillment of the Law imputed to us by Grace, through Faith in Jesus Christ. Does this mean the Law is no of no use to us? Absolutely not! Let’s look at what Paul puts together in Eph 2:8-10:
Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
By Grace, through faith, we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared for us to walk in. How do we know what is a good work? The Law. So you see, while no amount of law-keeping can grant saving faith… Faith received as a Gift of God will lead us into good works prepared in Christ Jesus. This is the focus of the book of James, that a faith that does not lead us into good works in Christ Jesus is not true faith.
James 1:19-27 (ESV) | Hearing and Doing the Word
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. 26 If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
James 2:14-26 (ESV) | Faith Without Works Is Dead
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
You don’t get true faith by doing good deeds, you get it by hearing the Word of Christ (Rom 10:12-17) and receiving with meekness the implanted word (Matt 13:23 ESV). It is the Word of God that produces faith, and that faith should produce fruit. How much fruit will depend on your maturity and the extend to which you’ve died to your flesh, because until the Great Day of Christ’s return we continue to walk in bodies of sinful flesh and have been charged to take up our crosses daily.
Notice the focus in the Apostolic teaching is on faith, not on emotion. Neither Paul nor James calls Christians to whipping up an emotional experience of love. Our flesh has its own definition of “love”, and the world usually focuses on the feel-good emotion or physical displays of affection. God defines Love differently:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (ESV) 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Love isn’t an emotion; love is a Character trait, a fruit of the Spirit of God. Emotions come and go… Love never ends. Where do emotions fit in the fruit of the Spirit of God? Self-control.
Our Hearts of Flesh
Let’s talk about the condition of the heart of mankind. To put it bluntly, our hearts are wicked, idolatrous, and adulterous. We are in-fact defiled by what flows from our sinful hearts.
Matthew 15:10-20 (ESV) | What Defiles a Person
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” Then the disciples came and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be rooted up. Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person.For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) | God’s Wrath on Unrighteousness
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Now, when the Spirit of the Living God regenerates us by the Grace of God, granting us saving faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, our flesh yet remains and must be daily crucified in repentance until the Day of the Return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do we have the power to change our sinful hearts? No. King David knew this, and spent a great deal of time in prayer asking the Lord to change his heart. Probably the most prominent expression of this Truth, that we need God to cleanse our hearts, is Psalm 51.
Can We Worship With Our Emotions?
When we read through the Old Testament prescriptions for Worship, we see sacrifices, statutes, and ordinances for the People of God keep in Worship of the One True God. Many like to point to the exuberant praise of King David before Lord in 2 Samuel 6:16-23. Clearly, David’s worship was received by the Lord, and Michal was made barren for her judgement against David. But we don’t see Jesus or His disciples demonstrating such worship in the New Testament. I point this out, not to say that such worship is off-limits, but to make a point that worship remains, even when such emotional exuberance is missing or subdued. In fact, had David’s heart NOT been in the right place, his exuberance would not have been received as worship. There will be times when your emotions fall in line with your worship… and it is awesome. However, there are times when our emotions will fly completely against our worship, such as when Abraham was told to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice of worship to God. If the key to right worship were found in the emotions, Abraham would have failed. Praise be to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that our emotions are not the key to right worship; rather, it is by faith that our worship can be pleasing in His sight.
Hebrews 11:4-6 (ESV) 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
How Do We Worship With Our Hearts?
Firstly, we need to adjust our understanding of what the Scriptures mean when our hearts are being referenced. It isn’t just your emotions. Your heart is the core of your being. David charged his son to value Wisdom in Proverbs 2. Let’s take a look at how he references the heart.
Proverbs 2:1-15 (ESV) | The Value of Wisdom
1 My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice
and watching over the way of his saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
and who are devious in their ways.
The thrust of the first several proverbs is growing in Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding so that the man of God will walk in the paths of righteousness. That growth comes from inclining the heart to understanding, and seeking the wisdom of God and receiving that wisdom in the heart. David isn’t just talking about emotions, he’s talking about studying, memorizing, meditating, and walking in the Word of God.
When it comes to corporate worship, our focus should NOT be on our emotions; rather, it should be on the Word of the Lord. Whether or not we feel that ‘puppy-love’ gushing of euphoria… we are called to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. The songs we sing, the confessions of our mouth, should be in accordance with Scripture. The world knows how to manipulate emotions… and the evangelicalism has attempted to short-cut maturity in spiritual growth by focusing on emotional manipulation disguised as “worship”. Such carnal focus only serves the worshiper’s felt needs and does not edify the church. Singing songs about how you are dancing, singing, crying, embracing, and worshiping doesn’t actually lead to Worship. There are no short-cuts… it’s time to get back to the heart of worship.
Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) | A Living Sacrifice
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Faith in Christ Jesus gets you there… not emotion. May the Grace of God abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. Amen.
In Christ Jesus,