Have you ever stopped to consider what it must be like to work for Hallmark or another of the companies that creates greeting cards? Imagine spending your whole day attempting to come up with wonderful statements of deep feeling – love, remorse, sympathy – yet without feeling any of the emotions. Imagine having to write words that express sympathy, yet not feeling any sympathy yourself. Or imagine having to write words that can express the deep, passionate love a man has for his wife as they celebrate fifty years of marriage, but without having ever experienced that sort of love yourself. How depressing it must be to spend the whole day writing words of love and passion but then return alone to an empty home.
A lot of Christians worship God in just this way. So often we sing songs with the most wonderful lyrics. We sing “When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” But when we sing those words, so often it is as if we are single men writing a greeting card to celebrate a fiftieth anniversary – though the words may sound wonderful, they are devoid of any true meaning to us. When we sing “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me” do we even try to understand just how amazing God’s grace is? Have we experienced that grace and allowed it to transform our lives? Do we know that the very grace we sing about is the only thing keeping us from an eternity of separation from God? Do we feel deep love and affection to the giver of Grace?
True worship relies on both feeling and understanding, or as Jesus said, on spirit and truth. Worship that is devoid of feeling and emotion will be dead worship, for the God we serve is worthy of feelings that express His worth. It is the very height of hypocrisy to pay lip-service to God when we do not truly feel affection for Him. At the same time worship needs to be thoughtful. While it engages our feelings it must also engage our minds. Our feelings must have their basis in what we know about God so that the more we know about Him the greater will be our feelings of affection for Him.
Before I married my wife I heard time and again from the wonderful older couples in our church that after forty, fifty or even sixty years of marriage, they continued to love each other more deeply and more intimately. I marveled that this could be true, yet through the first years of my marriage I have already seen that it is not only possible but it is the way God intended marriage to be. I love my wife in a deeper way now than I did the day we exchanged vows. In the ensuing six years we have faced trials together and have spent thousands of hours talking, laughing and crying together. The more I learn about Aileen and the more time I spend with her the greater my feelings of affection for her.
Great knowledge of God must produce great feelings of affection for Him. These feelings of affection give me the burning desire to worship Him. I long to express my feelings, not as a means to some profound end, but simply as an expression of the affection I have for Him. As such worship is not a means to an end, but it is an end in itself.