Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning - Lesson 4

Implications of the Inward Essence of Worship

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.

John Piper
Gravity and Gladness on Sunday Morning
Lesson 4
Watching Now
Implications of the Inward Essence of Worship


1. The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is our highest duty

2. Worship becomes radically God-centered

3. It protects the primacy of worship by forcing us to come to terms with the fact that worship is an end in itself

4. This accounts for why Paul makes all of life an expression of worship

  • 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


Implications of the Inward Essence of Worship

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. So what we've seen now is that the inward essence of worship is being satisfied in God. What are the implications of that for worship? I've got four of them, and I think these are in your in your booklet if you have it. And these are where the rubber starts to meet the road. This means and I'll tell you, it is life changing for worship when your people start to get this. The pursuit of joy in God is not optional. It is our highest duty. That was the liberation in 1969 1970. In Reading Lewis reading Edwards, Reading the Bible to discover that all of my guilt feelings during college. Of enjoying worship and enjoying ministry. And wondering, is that okay? Messing it up by enjoying it? Because if I enjoy it, it seems like it's satisfying to me and not really done for God. And all that stuff was just messing me up in the head for four years plus and. And suddenly I hit upon these truths. That pursuit of joy in God and of course, is the key. Not in his gifts. This is not a prosperity gospel. When I wrote the book Desiring God a Mission Leader. At the time, I didn't know what's become of Mary. Heard him. Hadn't heard him for 20 years. He just lashed out at the book in a missionary magazine, Desiring God. As a another typical American self-centered health wealth kind of book. I read the review, although I don't think he read the book I wrote to him, I think. But I don't know if he ever changed his mind.


So when I say your highest duty is to pursue your joy in God, I mean pursue the kind of satisfaction that enables you to suffer and die for Jesus. Okay, so clear. This is not a pursuit of an easy life now. It's a pursuit of such a profound satisfaction in God that when he does strip away everything else, we are still okay because we have him. So there are millions of Christians who have absorbed a popular ethic that comes more from Immanuel Kant than from the Bible. That it is morally deficient to seek our happiness, to pursue joy, to crave satisfaction, and to devote ourselves to seeking it. They think that's morally deficient. You'll hear pastors speaking carefully. Pursuing your joy is the problem. It's not the problem. It's where you pursue it. That's a problem. This is absolutely deadly for authentic worship. To the degree that this ethic flourishes, that says it's morally defective to pursue your own joy. To the degree that this ethic flourishes to that degree, worship dies. For the essence of worship, his satisfaction in God to be indifferent to or even fearful of the pursuit of what is essential to worship is to resist worship. Many pastors foster this very mistake. By saying things like The problem is that our people don't come on Sunday morning to give. They only come to get if they came to give. We have life in our services. I've heard that. That's not an accurate diagnosis of the problem. People ought to come to get. They ought to come. Starved for God. They ought to come saying has a deer patch for the following spring. So my sole plants for pants for thee. Oh God. God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have got.


It's the job pastors and worship leaders to spread a banquet for them. You see what difference that will make in a service. If you hammer away at people who come in here to give. You'll come here to get it. If you don't qualify that now in the best mouth. That means you come to give praise, which is okay, I got a problem with that. But frankly, I'm a realist. 95% of my people are not coming breathing. They are coming 60% empty, 20% empty, 90% empty, 10% empty. Nobody is much better than 9% for ever. And that's the way they're coming and they're hoping they might meet him and then he might do something to them that would make life livable. Another week in his presence with some measure of joy. And they're looking to me and they're looking to this 30, 40 minutes of singing, God, could you help me get connected with the spring, with the fountain? And I'm doing everything I can to cultivate that mindset. I'm not going to call that names. Selfish. Selfish? Oh, there's a lot of passion, a lot of ethic. Ethical people develop an ethic that says your desire on Sunday morning for your joy is defective. It's kind of in the air. You just breathe it like, Ooh. And I'm here to say. With C.S. Lewis. Our problem is not that we. Are seeking to be pleased, but that we are far too easily pleased. We are like children making mud pies in the slums because we cannot imagine what a holiday at the sea is like. C.S. Lewis first page of The Weight of Glory changed my life. The problem on Sunday morning. If there's a if there's a a lull, if there's a downer in the congregation, it isn't that people are too eager to be happy.


That's not the problem. It's that they don't have the spiritual sensitivities to seek it in the right place and the spiritual illumination to see it come in from God in the songs and the prayers and the silence and preaching. So this this is hugely significant for worship. Recovering the rightness and indispensability of pursuing our satisfaction in God will go a long way to restoring authenticity and the power of worship. That's implication number one here. Number two, another implication of saying that the essence of worship is satisfaction in God is that worship becomes radically God centered. Corporate worship becomes radically God centered. Nothing makes God more supreme and more central than a people utterly persuaded that nothing, not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends, nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their aching hearts. Besides God. That conviction breeds a people who go hard after God on Sunday morning. They're not confused about why they are here in worship. They do not see songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or duties. They see them as means of getting to God or God getting to them. For more of his full lists. Should the difference in listening to a sermon that way, or singing a song that way or coming into a room with that mindset? The stuff we're doing here, the songs were singing in the the confessions. We're reading the praise, the prayers, we're praying in the silence. We have a sermon that's being preached. These are not just stuff. This is not just traditions. These are all designed in order to help you get to God and God get to you so that there's a connection and an explosive moment. You're real.


I'm real. You are infinitely satisfied. That's worship. That is the apex of worship right there. If the focus shifts on to our giving to God. One result I have seen again and again is that suddenly it's not God that remains at the center, but the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Are our instrumentalists playing with the quality, fitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? Just have appropriate structures and proper use of words. And little by little, the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself. On to the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of technical distinction and artistic acts. I've been there, folks. I don't ever want to go back. That raises a lot of questions. I know it does. We have a phrase here. This may address one or two of the questions. We have a phrase here, Bethlehem. Undistracted excellence. Now, when you put those two words together, what we mean is this. Yeah. So, Mark here last night, our North pianist Carroll is our our downtown pianist, Marcus North pianist. And we kind of move around down south, but I'll just mention those two. You know, I love their their presence in our worship. They are so good. I never think about them. In my 20. No. See, Chuck and Carol have been here for ten years. Mark, I don't know how long he's been playing, but in my years I have never heard a mistake from Carol Stanhope. She's probably made one. And she's so good. She covers it. I've never heard a mistake from Mark. Now, what's the big deal about that? The big deal is they're out of the way.


They're there. Carol's musical skill is so phenomenal. She can do every single kind of music there is, and she can do it flowing in and out of it in such a way that you just are not distracted by it. She has an incredible gift for doing stuff so well. You don't think about how well she's doing. The fact that I'm talking about it now is dangerous because you're going to go and think about it next time. And the world preaching. I don't. My only goal is to talk in a way that is helpful to your faith, not attractive to my diction. I don't craft sentence to say no. Now, how can I make people like this sentence? That would be what a rhetorician does or an orator. But I do think about what I say. Right now I don't because I'm just talking, you know? Well, I think about a millisecond ahead of time. I think about what I write down for a sermon. The national conference is coming in a couple of weeks. It's on the power of words. My job is to address the topic. Is there such a thing as Christian eloquence? And I mainly mean, for me, as a preacher, should I even think in those terms? Because the Bible in first Corinthians two says, I did not come to you with eloquent words of wisdom. I came to you in the spirit and power of God. So there's a flag waving in the Bible. Watch out for eloquence. Watch out for eloquence. And yet you all know that if I began to say we was all the time. Or they is, it would be so jarring to your ears that it would so get in the way that you wouldn't be able to profit.


Which means there has to be some level of diction that gets out of the way. And yet we all know, too, that a good turn of phrase I read this morning. Of fear, memory and the Proverbs. A little sleep, a little slumber, and poverty will come upon you like a robber and want like an armed man. Now, why does he say like a robber? Like an arm to it? That's a metaphor. The Bible is filled with metaphor. It's filled with language that could be said a lot more prosaically, simply and without any visual flourish. And God chooses to use language that is often palpably visual and tasty and provocative and parabolic. And. So I'm just pointing out the huge challenge that this paragraph right here presents. That when you begin to take a lot of thought about your performances, whether it's musical, a prayer, a sermon. When you begin to take a lot of thought about that, you you start to move away from worship. Worship has got to be free from calculated artifice. We all know the difference between a offertory on the piano that carries us helpfully toward God by the associations that it has spiritually and one that's really, really, really, really, really. And basically the point is I'm a really good pianist. We all know that. We've we felt that. And I don't want to go there and I don't want us as a church to to go there. Nothing keeps God at the center of worship. Like the biblical conviction that it's that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in him and the conviction that the pursuit of satisfaction is why we are together. So that right there, I think, is a guard. It's a protection lest our artistic excellence or preaching skill or singing skill are playing skill.


Our architecture, those those beautiful things right there, whether all that begins to take over. And that's really what entertains the people, gets them coming back, keeps them happy because we're so good at what we do in a lot of ways. Or is God? Through the word. Because of truth. The reason they're here happy. That's implication number two. Here's number three. The third implication of saying that the essence of worship is satisfaction in God is that it protects the primacy of worship by forcing us to come to terms with the fact that worship is an end in itself. No, got to think about this for me, because this is not obviously clear what I mean by that. So let me try to help you with it. What I'm arguing is if you try to make worship real, authentic inner worship a means to anything, you destroy it. Okay, That's controversial. You'll see why if the essence of worship is satisfaction in God. Then worship can't be a means to anything else. Which is why defining it that way is so important. So that we don't become expedient in our worship. We do what we do to get something else to happen. You simply can't say to God, I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else. So that so that that would mean that you are not really satisfied in God, but in something else. And that would dishonor God, not worship God as an end. He's not a means. You don't step on God to get where you want to go. You step on other things to get to God. And when you're there, it's over. And if you don't like it there, you're not there yet. In fact, for thousands of people and pastors, the event of worship on Sunday morning is conceived as a means to accomplish something other than worship.


We worship to raise money. We worship to attract crowds. We worship to heal human hurts. We worship to recruit workers. We worship to improve church morale. We worship to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling. We worship to teach our children the way of righteousness. We worship to help marriages stay together. We worship to evangelize the lost among us. We worship to motivate people for service projects. We worship to give our churches a family feeling. In all of this, we bear witness that we do not know what to worship is. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife. I feel strong delighting you so that you will make me a nice meal. That's not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view. I cannot say to my son, I love playing ball with you so that you will cut the grass. If your heart really delights in playing ball with him, that delight cannot be performed as a means to get him to cut the grass. I mean. I wish I could impress upon you have profound is. It's profound for relationships. It's especially profound for worship. And it's profound for corporate worship and how we think about our services, because I'll tell you, the temptation is huge. Let's do it this way because we've got a financial campaign going. Let's do it this way because we know that so-and-so is here. Let's do it this way. There's always these. Other. Now, here's a qualifier that you're thinking about probably, and you should be. I'm not denying that worship. And I can just get rid of that may. That worship will have a hundred good effects on the life of the church.


It will just like true affection in marriage, but everything better. My point is that to the degree that we do worship for these reasons, to that degree, it ceases to be authentic worship. Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that tragedy. Now, there again, that's really difficult, isn't it? I'm aware that if we succeed spiritually in an authentic meeting with God so that people are trembling with a sense of his greatness and thrill the sense of his mercy. And they walk out. Their marriages are going to get better. Their parenting is going to get better. Their citizenship is going to get better. They're giving is going to get better. Everything's going to get better morally in their lives. I know that. But I better not do it for that. Because it's like saying I'm satisfying you this morning. So that. Wait a minute. Are you satisfied in me? Or is it the show that the. So that's not evil. It's a wonderful spillover. Wives ought to make good meals for their husbands and husbands now and then. I suppose if they're cooks, you make a good real meal for the wife. But you don't say to your wife, I love you so much. You a delight to me. I really hope that the effect of this statement is that you make a good meal for me tonight. You just never talk like that. It ruins it. It ruins its not authentic moment. And so we shouldn't think that way at church either. Here's the last one. The last implication, finally, last implication of saying that the essence of of worship is being satisfied with God is that this accounts for why Paul makes all of life an expression of worship. So you've got worship services and you've got Monday morning as the office.


And in Paul's mind, these are worship. What? How can that be? And my answer is because he is defining the inner essence of worship as being satisfied with God. All Christian behavior is to be done out of satisfaction in God, all of it not just singing here and listening to sermons here, but rather going to the office on Sunday morning. And the way you type on your computer, the way you fill out a report, the way you make phone calls, the way you do emails. The way you saw board lay a brick hammer a nail. Is out of satisfaction in God. Your attitude in hammering that nail and the excellence with which you want this kitchen to come together is an outgrowth of your contentment in God. You're so content in God, you're so free in God, you're so delighted in the kind of God He is. You're going to make a certain kind of kitchen and you're going to give these people a really good deal because God is that way. And I'm so deeply satisfied in him. All of life is flowing out of our satisfaction in God. So we relate to people and we do things with a view to preserving and increasing the that's the controversial one, preserving and increasing our satisfaction in God's. I'm treating you a certain way not just because I am contained in God, but to preserve and increase my contentment in God. I wrote a whole book to justify that. So this is our guide. Let me commend it to you with one verse from the Lord Jesus. Here it is. Luke 1233. He says, Sell your possessions and give alms. Thus. That's my word. I believe that's the logic here. Provide for yourselves. Purses. Provide for yourselves.


Purses that do not grow old with a treasure in heaven. So sell your possessions. Provide treasure for yourself and have. That's really controversial because what you're saying is. I'm selling my possession and I'm giving alms to a needy person. With a view. To my getting treasure in here. There's a lot of ethical writers who would say, That's not love. That's pure selfishness. You know, loving this person you love and you yourself. That's a really good question. The treasure in heaven I take to be increased measures of joy at God's right hand and pleasures in his fellowship in the age to come. Jesus says that we are to provide ourselves with that when we give alms. In other words, make efforts to increase your joy. With God in heaven. He says that the way to do this is to sell you possessions and give homes. That is simply illustrative of all the ways we sacrifice and love in the Christian life to live this way, be an outgoing, sacrificial, giving person, and thus be aiming to provide yourself with treasures in heaven. Aim in all you do to maximize your satisfaction in God in Heaven. Aim in all you do to maximize your satisfaction in God now and in the age to come. And if someone asks. Here's the objection. If someone asks, Is it loving to give arms to others with a view to maximizing my own joy in God, I'm giving you alms saying that I love you and doing it with a view to maximizing my joy in God? The answer is a resounding yes. That's loving. And here's why. Because in giving up worldly things ourselves so that we can meet the needs of others, our aim. This is our aim is to show them, persuade them, help them.


To persuade them that the treasure of God that freed me to give them arms. Is so valuable. They too should embrace it and live for it. And so join us in the joys of heaven. People will feel loved if they see that they're joining us in. The enjoyment of God will increase our joy. So if I, if I, if I give you arm, if you're very needy and I don't have any ready cash and you need some and I say, okay, well, let me figure it out. I'll get cash today. And I go in some sacrificial way, I get cash, check out of the bank, or maybe I'll sell something. And I've got now 50 bucks that you need whatever to keep from being kicked out of your apartment. And I confess, I just want to give it to you. And they say, Why are you doing this? And of course, a lot of different right answers there. One would be, I love you that you're right and you could stop with that. But worldly people, they don't know what love is. They don't know what interpretation to put on that. That might mean you esteem my infinite worth before God or something. What? And so you might say I'm giving it to you because. It really makes me happy to give. And I hope that you see in my generosity a freedom from the love of things and a contentment in God that would draw you in to contentment in God so that we together could be content in God. Because if you would join me in being content in God, your contentment in God would make mine bigger. I cannot imagine a person saying that's unloving. It's very selfish. And that's not the right word to use.


It's very self gratifying. I'm saying it makes me happy to give because it displays my freedom from bondage to things and the sufficiency of God in my life to I want you to see freedom from the love of things and the all sufficiency of God. I want you to see that. And the reason I want you to see it is because then you might join me in it. Because if you join me in it, my joy in God goes up. Frankly, I think. The effort to describe virtuous acts in terms of ultimate self-denial is blasphemous. In other words, if you try to turn virtue into a totally selfless act, you're an atheist. You're saying I'm not doing this because it. Grows out of satisfaction in God. I'm not doing this because it will deepen my satisfaction in God. I'm just doing right. Because it's right. I think that's demonic. Immanuel Kant thought it was the essence of virtue. Do right for right sake, not for reward. This is very, very controversial. Last paragraph on this section. So I believe it can be shown biblically that all our behavior should be motivated by a deep satisfaction in God and a desire to expand that satisfaction by spreading it into the lives of others. Therefore, the root of Christian living and the root of congregational praise. This is the point I'm trying to make. This is point number four. The root of Christian living and the root of congregational praise are the same. That's what Paul can say. All of worship is. All of life is worship, which is why, for Paul, worship simply cannot be merely or even mainly thought of in terms of Sunday services, but of all of life. You know what that means there.


His is an absolutely God saturated vision of Christian existence when our whole life is consumed with pursuing satisfaction in God. Everything. Everything we do highlights the value and worth of God, which simply means that everything becomes worship. May God make himself that precious to us. 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. Feel free to make copies of this message for others, but please do not charge for those copies or alter the content in any way without permission. We invite you to visit desiring God online at w WW dot desiring God dot org where you'll find hundreds of sermons, articles, radio broadcasts and more all available at no charge. Our online bookstore carries all of Pastor John's books, audio and video resources, and you can also stay up to date on what's new at Desiring God. Again, our website is w WW dot desiring God dot OIG. Or call us toll free at 1888346 4700. Our mailing address is. Desiring God. 2601 East Franklin Avenue. Minneapolis, Minnesota. 55406. Desiring God exists to help you make God your treasure because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.


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