Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning - Lesson 3

Worship and Joy

How is God's pursuit of his own glory loving? But if our enjoyment is incomplete until it comes to completion in praise, then God would not be loving if he was indifferent to our praise. When God commands us to praise something that is infinitely praiseworthy, it's the completion of our joy which can only be found in him.

John Piper
Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning
Lesson 3
Watching Now
Worship and Joy

Worship and Joy

3. Inward essence of worship (cont.)

A. God's pursuit of his own glory is love

B. Connection between our joy and worship (Jonathan Edwards)

Class Resources
  • The aim of corporate worship is that God be seen, known, enjoyed as glorious. God supplies us the strength to do it. Jesus diverts attention from worship being in a specific location with outward forms to a personal, spiritual experience with himself at the center. Worship doesn't need a temple, but a risen savior.
  • So what Jesus has done is break decisively the necessary connection between worship and its outward and localized associations. Spirit refers to spirit given intensity and truth refers to thinking right thoughts about God. The root of our passion and thirst for God is God’s own infinite exuberance for God. The basis for my passion for God's glory is God's passion for God's glory. 

  • How is God's pursuit of his own glory loving? But if our enjoyment is incomplete until it comes to completion in praise, then God would not be loving if he was indifferent to our praise. When God commands us to praise something that is infinitely praiseworthy, it's the completion of our joy which can only be found in him.
  • The implications of the inward essence of worship focus on centering our corporate worship on connecting with God and experiencing joy as a result. When our whole life is consumed with pursuing satisfaction in God, everything we do highlights the value and worth of God. Which simply means that everything becomes worship.
  • Some elements of corporate worship make it possible to glorify God in a way that an individual worshipping privately cannot. Preaching should be expository exultation.
  • Eleven points of what unites us in worship. Ten practical preparations for hearing the Word of God on Sunday morning.

God pursues us. We should pursue him. The key is to get these in the right order and depend on the first for the second. In the New Testament is a stunning degree of indifference to worship as an outward form and emphasizes a radical intensification of worship as an inward experience of the heart. 

The booklet that Dr. Piper refers to is not available at this time. Most of the notes he refers to are in the notes that you can download under the Downloads heading.  

We are thankful for John Piper's willingness to share these lectures with us. They were originally given in 2008. Copyright 2008 by Desiring God Ministries. Used with Permission. For more information, please visit www.DesiringGod.org.

Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning

Dr. John Piper


Worship and Joy

Lesson Transcript


The following message was recorded at an event hosted by Desiring God. More information about desiring God events, conferences and resources is available at W WW dot desiring God dot org. Let's pray together. Father. I ask for your help now. There are glorious things that we need to talk about concerning your infinite worth and our reflection of it in corporate gatherings from the heart. You are infinitely worthy of the most intense private and family and church gatherings to express your value o that we might as a church in the world do this. Well. Come and help me to be a little teeny part of advancing that. I pray in Jesus name, Amen. My alarm went off at 545 this morning and I drug myself out of bed. I took a shower, I went to my study, I closed the blinds on the 11th Avenue side and I knelt down at my bench that is designed for me. And I opened this book to first Proverbs and then Isaiah. And I read these words in Isaiah 34. The Lord is enraged against all nations. And furious against all their host. And I paused. Lingard. And tried to let that have its God design effect on my heart. That is simply a sweeping, stunning statement. The Lord is enraged against all nations. And I thought of our session in which we discussed gravity. Now, when you're reading through the prophets, you stumble across things like that regularly. And the world doesn't think that way often. God is angry at all, the nations furious at all their hosts. This is not a mild displeasure. This is fury. Rage. And so I simply had to come to terms with the God who is so infinitely holy that the way the nations relate to him infuriates.


That's one side of my. Personal devotions this morning. I thought of John 336 because that is such a pivotal verse in the Gospel of John, or it says, Whoever believes on Jesus will have eternal life and whoever does not obey him, the wrath of God remains on him. And now that word remains signifies. Isaiah 34 two. The wrath of God is already there on us and every nation. His fury is in his omnipotent power against sin and those who commit it. And there's one escape. He sends his son into the world to die under that rage. Absorb it off of us. If we will believe in him. And if we won't, the wrath of God remains on us. So that was the next thought I had in my devotions that wasn't in the text. I just needed it. I needed it because he had just told me. He's furious at all the nations and nothing worse can be conceived than the fury of an omnipotent god against you. Nothing. Nothing can be conceived worse than an omnipotent God furious against you. And that's what he says he is. And so I have to have an escape. I have to have some relief. I cannot live under that. I cannot survive under that kind of horrible cloud. And that's why the gospel exists. So I went to John 336 and and said to Jesus, Thank you. I do believe in you. I do fly to you. Now cover me with your perfect righteousness and cover me with your all sufficient atoning blood and avert from me this fury. And of course, Jesus says by his word, that is what I came to do. You're safe. Relax. You're in the eye of the hurricane. You're not in the wind.


So I kept reading that took about, I don't know, 15 minutes for all that to happen. 10 minutes? And I kept reading and I came to what I wrote at the top. I don't know what year I wrote this, but I wrote at the top of my Bible. So I'm 35 now, some Isaiah 35 beautiful chapter. Following that chapter of God's rage. I'm just going to read you the whole chapter. It's not long. I want you to savor the beauty of this word. So what I'm doing right now is just illustrating gravity and gladness. That's all I'm doing. I'm just out of my life this morning. This is what I would like to happen in our corporate gatherings. A mingling of these glimpses of God. Here's Isaiah 35. The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad. The desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus. It shall blossom abundantly in rejoice and with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it. The majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees say to those who have an anxious heart, Be strong, Fear not Behold your God, He will come with vengeance. With the recompense of God, He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened. In the years of the death. Death, unstoppable. Then shall the lame man leap like a deer and the tongue of the mute Sing for joy for waters break forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert The burning sand shall become a pool and the thirsty ground springs of water in the heart of jackals Where they lie down the grass shall become reeds and rushes and the highway shall be there and it shall be called the way of holiness.


The unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way. Even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come upon it. They shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. And they shall obtain gladness and joy and sorrow. And sighing shall flee away. As the chapter that comes right after the Lord is furious with the nations. You just you, you you cannot enjoy some 35 if you don't know the God of wrath, can't you will dumb it down. You'll make it superficial, you'll make it thin, You'll make it romantic. You'll make it. An image of your own immediate desires for something. But if you put it right after chapter 34. It will land on you a different way. In fact, verse ten, I memorized it once the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing. So the ransomed, the redeemed, it's those who have run to Jesus, pleaded his mercy, escaped the wrath of God and been rescued and ransomed and redeemed from his wrath. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion. That is the place of the King with singing Everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. And I circled that in my Bible. I circle that phrase everlasting joy. In fact. When I was finished with my prayer time, I got up and went to my computer. I turned it on. I double clicked. The accordance icon went to my Hebrew and read this verse in Hebrew to see what the phrase was for everlasting joy.


And the phrase is sin heart alarm. Simha is joy and alarm, age, eternity, sin, heart alarm, The joy of the age, the joy of the ages. Everlasting joy awaits you. Our joy here is very embattled. It's up, it's down, it's thin, it's gone. But there is a day coming when the ransomed of the Lord will go to Zion and all sighing will flee away. There will be no more tears, no more sorrow, no more crying and only everlasting joy. And the God of rage. Will only be for us. Mercy. So. A flavor. Of what it means. Gravity and gladness. Let me review where we were in the last session or the last couple and bring us up to where we are now. I began by giving you a New Testament argument that Jesus took hold of the Old Testament. Word of worship is to have our prosecutor now and. Dealt with it in such a way that he stripped it. Of its localized external focus and radically intensified it as an inward experience. That was my argument. Which is why that word Prost Cuneo, I think, disappears virtually in the epistles of the New Testament. And the language of Temple and the language of sacrifice, the language of priestly service. All of it becomes de localized. D externalized and it becomes an inward experience expressed now everywhere. That's the emphasis all of life, all of ministry, all of eating and all of drinking. And whatever else you do becomes a way of reflecting the glory of God. That's the emphasis of the New Testament. Then we shifted over to pose the question. So if you're saying the New Testament is radically intensifying the inward nature of worship as a heart experience of God, what is that experience? That's the question we posed near the end.


What is that experience? And I argued the essence of it, I think, not the whole of it by any means, but the heart and essence of it is being satisfied with God. Being profoundly content, happy, joyful, thrilled, admiring of what God is. That's the inward essence of worship. Then I said, But that fact itself modeled for us in God's own passion for His glory and himself doesn't quite get at why this is worship. To to do that, you have to ask the question, how is God's pursuit of His own glory loving? And we closed the last session by reading C.S. Lewis section from Reflections on the Psalms. Where he said that gods demand that we praise him. Bothered him when he was an unbeliever because he said it sounded like an old woman wanting compliments. Those were his words. Michael Prowse. Is a columnist for the Financial Times in London and wrote a book review a few years ago expressing in our time. In this generation exactly the same burden, concern, anger that Lewis had in his unregistered days. He said. I cannot understand a God who demands that people get down on their knees and demands that people praise him and demands that people love him. That sounds like a weak tyrant who desperately needs the approval of his creatures or of his subjects. That's Michael Prowse, London Financial Times few years ago. So this is not uncommon. I heard Don Carson say the other day on a tape I was in to online, that is, he does what he calls these university missions. He goes around and he does evangelistic talks at universities. The questions in the last 30 years have dramatically changed from what students used to ask and what they presently ask.


And the one illustration he gave was that they used to ask more apologetic cope How do you know the Bible is true type questions? And the one he chose to mention now is precisely this one. What kind of a God would be so egocentric as to demand that people praise him all the time? How can you worship a God who is like that? So you get Lewis, you get Michael Prowse, you've got the witness. The Don Carsons is not. We're not just making up this problem that the Bible's portrait of God as pursuing his glory and creating you for His glory and demanding that you eat and drink and do everything to his glory is a problem for a lot of people. So the question is that I raised, how is it loving? Because that's the issue. This doesn't look like love. To be always advancing your own self. Because if you advanced your own self all the time, you would not be loving. You would be vain, arrogant, proud, self-centered in a vicious, sinful way. And yet for God, it's not sinful. And Lewis's quote said this What he had never noticed is that the demand that we praise him is the demand that we. Do what we always do in K, in fact can't help but do with everything we enjoy. We praise winery, praise songs, we praise singers, we praise sports, we praise sunsets, we praise babies, we praise jewelry, We praise whether we praise churches, we praise everything that we happen to enjoy it. And many argued this key statement, the joy. Is not just tacked on. I mean, the praise is not just tacked on to the joy. The praise is the joy in consummation. It completes the joy. If you're cut off from it, then the joy is not complete if you don't get to praise it.


I remember. The weeks after I first read that in Reflections on the Psalms in 1969 or whenever it was my days in seminary, the ordinary, simple, practical illustration of I that I saw in my own life was this I used to go in the library at Fuller Seminary, and all the magazines were on Iraq over here, and one of them was The New Yorker. The New Yorkers are sophisticated that are amazing. I don't know if it still exists. I assume it still does. But in those days it had probably a half a dozen cartoons in it. These were very sophisticated cartoons. These are just we're talking almost 40 years ago. And so you wouldn't know any of them. But anyway, I walked over and I would just every month I would just go look at the cartoons. And now I'm in a library looking at cartoons which are supposed to make you laugh. And I would see a really clever political cartoon. And inside, I would love it. Oh, it's just so cool. And everything in me wanted to say, Look at this. Look at this. What is that? I was I was interpreting that experience in terms of C.S. Lewis words about praise. What is it about me that, yes, I'm enjoying it, but my joy felt limited, frustrated, truncated, until I could say, look at this and have somebody else laugh with me. And then my mind began to just go all over the place. I remember as a as a boy, a teenager. Watching. Red Skelton on television. Most of you don't know who Red Skelton is, but he was a comedian and and really weird. And and I hated watching Red Skelton by myself because I wanted somebody to laugh with.


So I would go get my mother and say, Red Skelton still warm his monologue career because my mother laughed like crazy. She laughed till the tears ran down her nose. And we together would feed on each other's enjoyment of this humor. Little lessons, little pointers to something very profound that when God commands you to praise that which is infinitely praiseworthy, he's doing it for your sake as well as his sake, because you're praising that which is most beautiful, Most satisfying is not some kind of demanded tack on. It's the completion. It's the consummation. God wants the fullness of your joy and the fullness of your joy can only be found in him. That's where we ended last session. And I have I don't know, I don't think this is in your booklet because I just developed this a little while ago. Since I put that booklet together, I thought I would give you a biblical foundation for what Lewis says. You know, that's kind of a a reasoning way of talking. Now, this is just plain old Bible, which is more important and more solid. So here's Jesus. So what I'm doing now with these verses is just taking a minute to show you that biblically. God's pursuit of his own glory. Is love. Love is. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son. That the son may glorify you since you have given him authority over all flesh to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life that they know you. The only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.


And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. Those first five verses of this priestly prayer in John 17. Are all about Jesus and the Father and their glory and Jesus prayer that He would be glorified. Glorify your son, that the son may glorify use as a conspiracy between the father and the son to glorify each other. You glorify me, and then with the glory that you glorify me, I've evil to glorify you. And there will be this glorious, complete intra Trinitarian glory. Father glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had. So his prayer for you. This is a prayer for his people. Begins with the prayer for his own glory to be completed. Back with the Father. No, sir. If you just read those those first verses there, 1 to 5, you'd say what a strange prayer this was all about him. It's all about himself. It's not about me. It's not a prayer for me. It's not a priestly prayer. It's a ego prayer. Either I glorify you, you find me, I glorify you. Do that kind of a prayer. Is that. It's a prayer preparing for these words. At the end. This is the end of the prayer. Father, I desire that they also. Whom you have given me. Maybe with me. I just prayed to my glory, completed and restored back where I was. Maybe with me where I am. To see. My glory. That you have given me because you loved me before the foundation. The world, O righteous Father. Even the world does not know you. I know you and these know that you have sent me. I've made known to them Your name and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them.


The reason it is loving for verses 1 to 5. To be a petition to God that the glory of the Son be restored with the Father after his humiliation on the earth. The reason that is loving is because he he's preparing a place for us. To join him in that glory. I want them to see me in my glory. That's if you believe that the prayer of Jesus for you in John 17 is a loving prayer, then you will say that these words here are love. And they are love. Labor's. At great sacrifice to itself in order to satisfy the beloved. On that which is most satisfying. Forever. That's what love does. Love labors at great cost to itself in order to bring the beloved into the fullest and longest satisfaction with what is infinitely satisfying forever. That's the definition of what love does, and that's what God does when He pursues our enjoyment of His. Glory. The most important paragraph that I ever read in the works of Jonathan Edwards is this paragraph, and you'll see now the connection with with worship, I hope. God glorifies himself toward the creatures. In two ways. So now you see God glorifying himself, and he does it in two ways. He does it by appearing to their understanding. Thoughts. Secondly, in communicating himself to their hearts and in their rejoicing and delighting in and enjoying the manifestations which he makes of himself. He glorifies he glorifies himself in their rejoicing. He glorifies himself in there, rejoicing and delighting and enjoying the manifestations of his glory. God is glorified. Not only in his glories being seen. By the understanding. But in its being rejoiced in. By the heart. When those that see it delight in it. So when your mind gets it right and your heart responds profoundly with delight, God is more glorified then when they only see it.


Which means right. Doctrine is good. Reflecting the value of God by thinking right. Thoughts about him is good. It's not enough. If they only see it. His glory is then received by the whole soul. Both by the understanding, yes, and the heart. God made the world that He might communicate and the creature receive His glory, and that it might be perceived received both by the mind and the heart. He that satisfies, he testifies. His idea, idea of God's glory doesn't glorify God so much as He testifies also of His approbation of it and His delight in it. Now, that paragraph. Is, of all the things probably that we will talk about in all of these sessions, the most significant paragraph outside the Bible for what it means to worship God in life together as a church. Because God glorifies himself in our understanding him truly and our affections for him duly. Many people do not grasp that God is not glorified in their lives the way He should be. Until they enjoy him the way they should. The implications of that are massive. We will pursue the right understanding for the glory of God, and we will pursue right affections in worship for the glory of God. Somebody asked me last night. About how these two work together. Truth and. And affections, emotion, experience and the objective truth. And there's a quote from Edwards It's not here that I was so moved by and so helped by years ago that I think I just about have it by heart. It goes like this. Edwards said. As a preacher, Jonathan was a preacher. He said, As a preacher, I think it my duty to raise the affections. That's just his old 18th century word for emotions, to raise the affections of him, his spiritual affections, not just vibrating fingers and sweaty palms and fluttery eyelashes.


He means spiritual emotions. I think it's my duty to raise the affections of my heroes as high as I possibly can. Provided. They are being raised by truth and that they are conformable to the nature of the truth that raises them. That's a very significant sentence. It drove the pastors in Boston crazy. Charles Chauncey hated that sentence. By saying I consider it my duty as a pastor to raise the affections of my people as high as I possibly can. He thought that was pure enthusiasm. Kerry's mania, we would say. But when Edwards adds, provided that these emotions and these affections are being raised by truth and provided that the nature of the affections themselves are conformable to the nature of the truth, all protections are given from abuse. I love that sense. That is what I consider my job to be as a pastor. It's an impossible job. I cannot create spiritual affections. There are a lot of pastors who don't realize they can't create spiritual affections because they know they can create carnal affections. They can make people laugh. They can make people cry. They can do anything with their rhetoric. That's not spiritual. When he says that the truth. Should form or that the emotion should be conformable to the truth. He means if you're talking about hell, you don't want people to laugh. I have seen pastors talk about Hill with a little grin on their face. Just a little grin. And and as I try to interpret what is that face? What does that mean? They're talking about a terrifying topic and there's a little grin on their face. The one time I can remember my interpretation was this pasture is dreadfully uncomfortable moving away from happy times. A happy feeling in the church, some dreadfully uncomfortable moving away from happy times.


He welcomed them in a way to be happy. He tell stories in a way. They help them be happy. He wants their room to feel good and nice, going to talk about hell and in order to not completely go there. He he keeps a face that says, I really am still kind of like them happy. That's weird. Hell isn't something you grin about. It's just not. We got to go. There is a people and there. So when Edward says, I want to raise the affections of my people as high as I can. If he's talking about heaven, he wants the kind of thrill. And if he's talking about hell, he wants terror. And that's the work of God. If it's rooted in truth, you can't manipulate those kinds of things. If you try, you're going to mess it up. So when the Bible. Commands us to rejoice in God, rejoice in the Lord. And again, I will say, Rejoice. Serve the Lord with gladness. Delight yourself in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous in thy presence. This fullness of joy at our right hand, our pleasures forevermore. When the Bible commands us to rejoice, which it does in those five verses six five. It's demanding that we do that, which will give God most glory. Because being satisfied in God is the way He's most glorified. Now I want to spell out some implications of this for Sunday worship. Saturday worship. But before I do pose this question. What about? Godly sorrow. But you're you're saying the essence of corporate worship is being satisfied in God. So does that mean there should be moments in the service in which people are broken? Sad for their sin. And if so, how does that fit? Have you turned all of worship into good times? Happy, happy feelings by using the word satisfied as the essence? That's a really good question and ought to be pressed on that.


Because I really believe worship services should carry us from. This is Isaiah six. Holy, holy, holy. To plot a more worthy. The cold comes, touches the lips. I have taken away your sin. That moment. That moment right there is not a happy moment. In your presence. I feel so. One word that treated my wife so badly. I've neglected my kids. I've looked at pornography. I just am so frightened. I hate even being here. It's just awful. I feel terrible. Is that worship? So here's my. My effort to deal with that. Can sorrow be worshiped? Yes. And all our sorrow should be. Not all of it is, but all it should be. I don't think this contradicts our thesis that the inward essence of worship is satisfaction in all that God is for us in Christ. And here's my reason for thinking that if the sorrow we feel is caused by other people's loss of joy in sickness or poverty or calamity or death, then our sorrow is really beautiful. A beautiful statement of desire that they have the joy in God that would satisfy them and glorify God. Sorrow is an honor to God. One way I said it, I see if I can remember these words from. From. From desiring God. The weeping of compassion. So you're weeping. Suppose you have friends in Galveston, Texas. Okay. And their house is just ruined. This ruined, the insurance will cover it all. And there are very precious things that they forgot to take with them. Couldn't take with them. Irreplaceable. Thanks. And they're just really. And they call you in tears. And you cry. And you both cry. Can that be worshipful and can that be an expression of satisfaction in God? And the sentence goes like this.


The weeping of compassion. Is the weeping of joy. Impeded in the extension of itself to another. That make sense? The weeping of compassion. So they've just told you of their losses. You love them. You feel what they feel. And you want them to be happy. You want them to be content in God. And you want them to be freed from this pain. And that desire isn't reaching its fulfillment because they're not where you'd like them to be. You like them to be restored. You like everything to change. And and all that desire that they share your joy in God is being impeded because the circumstances and that tearful sense of I would love to lift your burden, that would look, when Chuck called me the other day, I called him on whatever it was day before yesterday who lost his dad. They called Chuck, our worship leader, down to. Everything in me said and I said it out loud, said, I want to hug you. And he said, The call is good. But there's a I couldn't get at him. I couldn't get to him. And and so the the that feeling, I think, is very honoring to God, because what you're saying is I'm content in God. God has met my needs. He is so satisfying. I want to extend it to another. I can't extend it as fully. I it's like tears come to my mind, turned my eyes because of it. And so I just think those moments of compassion over others hurts are very worshipful moments, if that's the dynamic of your heart. Now, here's here's the issue about yourself in your own sense. If our joy in God is threatened by our own suffering or our own prosperity, both can threaten our joy in God.


Or our own sin or our own personality, anything that would threaten my joy because of me, not others and their suffering, but me. We should feel sorrow about this. Even a measure of anger or a hostility towards sin in us that lets circumstances threaten our joy in God. This sorrow. If it is a godly sorrow, will show that our hearts are grieved at not seeing God more clearly and loving him more dearly. This grief shows that deep down we really do want God and want Him to be our treasure and our joy. So this sorrow is a way of saying that God really is our treasure and that joy in God will be the final, satisfying state of our souls in His to His glory. That's complicated. But it's real, I believe. In other words, I'm saying that sorrow over your sin. If it's understood rightly, my sin is a failure to see and savor God fully. And therefore going after other things for my satisfaction. Then God, when you see that you're broken by it, that brokenness signals a deep down delight in God that is not being experienced the way you'd like it to be experienced. And you're sad about it. You're broken about it. And God loves that. It reflects his worth. He delights in the brokenness and the tears of those who fail to love him as they want to love him. Therefore, it's fitting that corporate worship have seasons of quiet reflection and confession and repentance. That's not a contradiction to the point. There are four massive implications of this for our life together in worship. But we're going to take a break here and we'll come back in the next session and look at those implications. Thank you for listening to this message from Desiring God, the Ministry of John Piper, Pastor for preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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