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Right Doctrine, Right Emotions

By Blake Loy

“There never was anything considerable brought to pass in the heart or life of any man living, by the things of religion, that had not his heart deeply affected by those things.[1]

I saw a video on the internet called, “The Worst Worship Ever.”  I will spare you the details, but it absolutely made me nauseous.  What I saw was 10 minutes of emotionally charged jumping and crying and swaying and spinning without even a reference to the Cross of Jesus Christ.  There was a lot of activity and a lot of expression, but was there actually worship?  Worship is our response to God’s self-revelation; which predicates that the truth about God be revealed (in song, in preaching, in scripture) and that we understand it, internalize it, and express it through proper affections back to God.  This insidious, emotional worship, as demonstrated by Youtube, is obviously off-base but it reminds me of two other dangers that even we at FCC are susceptible to.

First, there is the danger of misplaced emotion; that we are moved emotionally by mRight Doctrine Right Emotionsusic and not the truth in the lyrics.  We do everything we can do to avoid affecting some kind of emotional “high” with the songs that we select, the arrangements of music that we use, and the order of service.  This does not mean, however, that there are not people here because of the music.  Not everyone likes a hard drum beat or a heavy baseline, and because we lack both of those things at Faith, I am sure there are many here because they find their expression in our style of music rather than raucous or outlandish music at other churches.  If that is the case with you, beware!  The source of our emotion can only be God the Father as revealed through Jesus Christ the Son through the stirring power of the Holy Spirit.  When our mind processes deep truths about God through song, through scripture, and through the preaching of the gospel, the result is properly placed affections and a proper response in worship.  Jonathan Edwards warns us in his treatise on religious affections that proper affections do not mean proper understanding. Emotions, however, are a good thing which brings me to the next danger that we face at FCC:

Equally dangerous to the emotions that are improperly placed is the total lack of emotion in worship.  We want the deep truths about God to be preached and sung every time we meet at FCC.  This requires a great deal of introspection and thought in our worship.  However, when we truly encounter those deep truths, our souls should be stirred to experience matching emotions.  Ranging from exuberant joy to brokenness and contrition, there are appropriate affections for every song we sing and every truth we proclaim.  It is sinful to perpetually sit in stoic emotionless thought while the greatest truths of all time are played out before us.  As we walk through the stages of the gospel (God, repentance, grace, and thanksgiving) I hope you find that your emotions match the lyrics and that you do not worship passionlessly.  Edwards also warns us that while proper emotions that do not originate from truth do not represent true “religious affections,” if our souls are cold and callous to the truth, we may not have experienced true conversion.

Anyone who has recognized his depravity before God and tasted of the grace which God bestowed to us through Jesus Christ cannot help but be overwhelmed by emotion.  I would encourage you to read John Chapter 4 this week and ponder what it means to worship in “spirit and in truth.”  I will promise to pack as much truth into the lyrics of our songs as I can.  Will you search your heart and worship with appropriate emotions as we lift our voices together on Sunday morning?

In Christ


[1] Edwards, J. (2004). A Treatise Concerning The Religious Affections: In Three Parts. In E. Jonathan, The Works of Jonathan Edwards (Vol. 2, pp. 234-343). Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. (p. 238)

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