John 4:19-26

"Sir," the woman said, "you must be a prophet. So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?"

Jesus replied, "Believe me, dear woman, the time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father on the tis mountain or in Jerusalem. You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews. But the time is coming-indeed it's here now- when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."

The woman said, "I know the Messiah is coming-the one who is called Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us."

Then Jesus told her, "I AM the Messiah!"

Monday, January 18, 2010

Worship and Theology

For those of you who know me... I'm a huge reader! I love to read almost as much as playing music or golf or watching movies. But here's the catch. I've always read fiction. I've never been a non-fiction guy. BORING!!!! However, over the last few months, God has really put it on my heart to know Him more. And so, I've been reading a good bit of non-fiction. I really didn't know where to start so, I asked Pastor Erik (who by the way reads about 4 books a week!) where should I start. He challenged me to first start with what I do. Worship. So I asked around, did some research and found an incredible book by Bob Kauflin called, Worship Matters. For the first time in my life, a non-fiction book was relevant and interesting to me. And I found that I learned a TON! As a result of reading this book, I found that I was drawn to understanding more about theology. Bob says that (and I'm paraphrasing here) in order to truly and fully worship God, you must have a deep understanding of theology. I didn't know that I agreed with him at the time. And I recently posted a tweet saying that. WOW! Some of you have really gotten up in my mix for that statement! LOL so, let me clarify.

First of all, you have to look at what I said. I said in order to "truly and fully" worhsip. Not just "worship". Let me ask you something. Is it possible for you to like football and know hardly anything about it? The answer is yes. But can you truly have a passion and love for the game if you don't know every nuance of how every position works, how every play develops, why coaches make decisions, or why certain players get drafted to certain teams? The answer is NO! You can't.

So why then do we presume to think that we can worship God, the way Jesus instructs us to in John 4:19-26 , without fully knowing who God is. That is theology.

Many people say, "well, I read my Bible," or "well, I just believe". That's all good and fine. But do you truly know God? Just as you've been given a gift of music or sports or talking to strangers, or whatever else you want to throw in there... God has specifically gifted men and women to be able to discern and teach about who He is, and what His word (the bible) says. As a pastor, I guess I'm somehow lumped into that category, though I often feel inadequate to claim it. But there are those who have devoted their lives to understanding God's word. Those who have dedicated themselves to learning Greek and Hebrew to be able to take the original manuscripts that Luke and Paul and John, Peter, Matthew, etc. wrote, and translate them and interpret them for us. One of those people is J.I. Packer. This is a guy who literally oversaw the translation of the English Standard Version Bible, considered to be the closest word-for-word translation that we have available to today. The man is something like 90 years old! He's been studying God's word for over 70 years! I would say, he probably knows more about the character of God than any four of us combined!

I say all of that to say this. You cannot (and I'll stand firm on this), you cannot fully and truly worship that which you do not know intimately. You can follow God. You can love God. You can put your faith and hope in Jesus Christ (which by the way you should, since by the way He did say, "No one comes to the Father but through me".) But you cannot truly and fully and whole heartedly worship Him unless you know Him. Understanding theology is in and of itself, by default, the definition of worshiping God. Here's what I've found out since diving in to these books: my worship of Him has increased with every page I read. My time in scripture has revealed more to me than ever. And my heart and mindset are being transformed before my eyes, more so than ever before! And it's nothing short of incredible!

If you are interested, here are some books that you can find on Amazon. This link, particularly, is for a J. I. Packer book. You can find the others here as well. They are: Worship Matters, by Bob Kauflin; and Desiring God, by John Piper. That's a great start. I would strongly urge you to read them. Then if you disagree with me, let me know. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Please feel free to comment below. No one is going to judge you for your comments. But I think this is a discussion that needs to be had. So, I'll ask you again.... can you truly worship God without a deep understanding of theology?



Erik Reed said...

Dude, 100% right on. You are absolutely right. We can love God in ignorance. But to worship the Triune God fully and completely, we should know Him. The word "theology" itself means the study of God. When people think of studying theology they assume that means studying about God instead of studying to better know God. There are undoubtedly many who study theology to formulate arguments ABOUT God, but there are many who study to better KNOW God. To better know God leads to a more beautiful and informed act of daily worship.

It is hard to worship that which you don't know intimately. It is easy to worship the idea of God, which doesn't require intimacy.

Elder James said...

Theology in a nutshell is understanding how God moves in and through His creation(which includes mankind). If one's understanding of how God works is skewed, then they will serve and workship in an impaired way. Paul spent most of his letters telling the little churches to stay true to the things of God they had taught them and that was Theology. And they got theirs first hand in Christ. You can have knowledge of right Theology and simply not know God. You can worship God and have your Theology mixed up. That is why God sent His Holy Spirit and later on sent His written word, so we can learn, understand and walk in intimacy with Him. And right Theology is taking the Word as the Sola Scriptura ( Latin for Scripture alone ). The Word alone gives us our understanding of God and how He moves in and among us to accomplish the work of His Kingdom.

Misty Severs said...

I totally agree - God wants to be sought out he wants us to pursue him and then share what we learn with can we be his Disciple if we don't know theology. Bold statement yes....I agree yes had I realized it before No. Good Job Robbie

Tiffany said...

I totally agree with you. The more knowledge I gain regarding the character of God, the more I understand how he calls me to worship him with everything I have. There is such freedom in that too. I no longer worry about what people think about me during worship time. It becomes all about being in his presence and experiencing more fully the relationship that God calls us to. Love you for your strength and continual pursuit of God!