Coop's Column - Longing to Delight and Honor God
In these meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, we are considering seven features about Christians which the English Puritan Christians said are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully. Christians who do display these qualities are LUI, Living Under the Influence of the Spirit. This week we consider the fourth of these marks: “Deep Longing to Delight and Honor God.”
In these meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, we are considering seven features about Christians which the English Puritan Christians said are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully. Christians who do display these qualities are LUI— Living Under the Influence of the Spirit. This week we consider the fourth of these marks: “Deep Longing to Delight and Honor God.”
However frequently (and, at times, vehemently) honest Christians may disagree on what makes a good Sunday morning worship service, one fact is incontrovertibly clear: On Pentecost day the gathered community of believers church reveled—yes, unrestrainedly they reveled!—in giving God his due honor and praise.
Immediately after the Holy Spirit had descended upon that fear-filled band of Jesus’ followers and fed them fresh freedom and courage, they tossed aside all reserve and caution, loosed every restraint upon their emotions, and with one voice sent heavenward their throbbing praise to God.
Overcome with joy and gratitude
Why the outburst of adultation? Simply because their hearts were overcome with joy and gratitude as they remembered what God had done for them in Jesus and saw the Spirit whom Jesus had promised now descending upon their fellowship. No surprise, then, that flowing out of their worship came a further Divine outpouring of gifts: “many wonders and miraculous signs were done through the apostles.” (Acts 2.43)
Wherever the Holy Spirit is present to prompt and inspire human hearts to bring God his due worship, it is impossible for such worship to be sterile and dreary, dull and boring. Spirit-blest worship is alive--always. It is expressive, vigorous, passionate. The Psalmist declares: “I was glad when they said unto me, ‘Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” (Psalm 122.1); and Pentecost-drenched Christians are glad to echo the Psalmist’s glad words.
Peace and love as gifts from God
Every act of genuine Christian worship rests on no other fact or foundation than what God has done to reconcile his people to himself through his Son. Paul in Romans 5:1 declares that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, for God has poured out his love into our hearts. The peace and the love are gifts from God toward his people. In response, the people sound forth an echo of gratitude to God for his unspeakable gift to them.
The New Testament Greek verb “to worship” (proskuneo) means literally “to approach to kiss.” The word describes the fitting posture and intention of those who gather to bring God worship. They enter God’s august and holy presence with one purpose only: reverently yet eagerly to bring him their hearts’ “kiss,” so to speak. They long to honor God for who He is: The Sovereign One over heaven and earth who has deigned to take them into his embrace. They long, too, to bring this God delight: to please him with words of sweet affection and with acts to express thanks and praise.
The crucial activity of the Spirit
But note the crucial activity of the Spirit in the entire exchange. It begins with God delivering his gift to his people. He does so “by his Spirit, whom he has given.” (cf Romans 5.1, 5). And in response the people, prompted and empowered by the same Spirit, give back to God the adoration he deserves.
The late British evangelist and author David Watson, the “Billy Graham of England” who led spirited Festivals of Praise throughout Great Britain for several decades prior to his early death in 1984, once commented: “…when we ‘come towards [God] to kiss’ by opening our hearts to him in worship, we are able to receive his love poured into our hearts by the Spirit …Interestingly, the Christian mystics of the past have often referred to God’s Spirit as his kiss, so that being filled with his Spirit is simply allowing ourselves to be kissed by God…..As we ‘come toward to kiss’ [God] in worship, so God comes afresh to us with the kiss of the Spirit.”
It is through the Spirit, then, that God’s people (can) open their hearts to receive from God his gift of life anew through his Son Jesus Christ. And it is through the same Spirit they (can) return to God his due honor and to bring God delight. The twin acts—both the receiving and the returning—are the solemn honor and calling of every Christian and Christian community.
Solemn, yes. But dull and somber, never. For wherever the Spirit is present to inspire their worship, Christians become eager—yes, deeply they long—to honor God and bring God delight. To honor him, as befits his glory, majesty, holiness, power—his supremacy over them. And to delight him, as befits his warm intimacy—his familiar fellowship with them.
Aware that they cannot worship God without the Spirit’s help, Christian worshipers precede their approach to God with a plea. Fervently they pray:
Spirit of God, who dwells within our heart,
wean it from sin, through all its pulses move.
Stoop to our weakness, mighty as you are,
and make us love you as we ought to love.
Did you not bid us love you, God and King,
love you with all our heart and strength and mind?
We see the cross--there teach our heart to cling.
O let us seek you, and O let us find!