We have come to the final instalment of our five-part series of how we express love for God: through Emotions. Some people are wired towards outpouring of emotions. Their natural reaction to everything is going to be deep emotion. If there’s a joyful song, they are most likely dancing, clapping, or raising their hands. In times of lament, they have tears. Emotions pour out of them. This is what I typically think of when thinking about “Loving God through emotions.”
Throughout this year, I have tried to make the case that we all need to cultivate each of these five ways in our lives. They won’t all develop equally but they all need to be increasing in our lives. I’ve struggled the most with what to do with the topic of loving with our emotions (which is probably why it is our last series). I was introduced to a book a while back that has shaped my thinking about nurturing a heart for worship. You can find it here if you would like to read it (the public library also has it for free electronically).
My intention in this series is not that you become more expressive in worship but that you consider the habits you have in your life and how those habits shape your worship. We are all worshippers. Everyone. We all worship something because we are loving beings. But, you may not love what you think you love. This was a hard concept to swallow.
In the beginning of John’s Gospel, John the Baptist was pointing to Jesus proclaiming him to be the Lamb of God. Hearing his message, two people began to follow Jesus. John 1:38 says that Jesus turned around and saw them following him. He then asks them a question the question I want us to wrestle with over the next few weeks, “What do you want?” This is the first, last, and most fundamental question of discipleship. Interestingly, he doesn’t ask them what they know.
I want to say that my deepest want, my heart’s desire, my love is Jesus Christ. I want to be able to say my deepest longing is for the presence of God. There’s a few lines in this book that brings much of scripture together powerfully where Smith observes, “Your deepest desire is the one manifested by your daily life and habits… Our action, our doing, bubbles up from our loves, which as we’ve observed, are habits we’ve acquired through the practices we’re immersed in.”
What he gets at, which is bringing Jesus’ teaching into focus, is that we are going to worship and love something. Where we focus our worship and love is determined by the regular practices we take part in. We might not even recognize these practices, but they shape the core of our identity. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). Take a moment to think about the regular things you do in your life. What do you watch? What advertisements do you pay attention to? What public voices do you regularly hear? How do you start you day? Etc. How have those things shaped how you view the world and even how they have shaped your desires?
I want to end with an excerpt from the first chapter of this book: “Consider, for example, Paul’s remarkable prayer for the Christians at Philippi in the opening section of his letter to them: “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11). Notice the sequence of Paul’s prayer here. If you read it too quickly, you might come away with the impression that Paul is primarily concerned about knowledge. Indeed, at a glance, given our habits of mind, you might think Paul is praying that the Christians in Philippi would deepen their knowledge so that they will know what to love. But look again. In fact, Paul’s prayer is the inverse: he prays that their love might abound more and more because, in some sense, love is the condition for knowledge. It’s not that I know in order to love, but rather: I love in order to know. And if we are going to discern “what is best”—what is “excellent,” what really matters, what is of ultimate importance—Paul tells us that the place to start is by attending to our loves.”
What habits can we adopt in our daily lives and in our regular church gatherings that shape our heart towards God? What regular practices could we adopt that instill our core beliefs within the children we are raising in our church? I look forward to engaging in these discussions together.