By Dee Raptor
On Dec 21, 2020
Jonathan Edwards articulated a fifth and final test in order to evaluate any spiritual movement: a true work of the Spirit causes people to increase in their love for God and others. Edwards drew this principle from 1 John 4:7–8, where the apostle John wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” A primary fruit of the Spirit is love (Gal. 5:21), and where true love exists, it is evidence of the Spirit’s genuine work.
A true work of the Spirit produces a love for God that expresses itself in sober-minded adoration and praise. That is the definition of biblical worship. Worship is an expression of love for God and therefore by its nature engages the soul’s passions. Most Christians understand that, at least in a rudimentary way.
Though too many seem to think we’re not truly worshipping until the human intellect is somehow disengaged. Often times, worship leaders urge people to suspend their rational faculties because the Spirit supposedly can’t work if we’re doing too much thinking. That is a totally unbiblical concept. In authentic worship, thoughts and feelings together—along with all our human faculties— are focused on God in pure adoration. That principle is implied in the first and great commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37 esv).
The kind of praise the Father seeks is not a cacophony of mindless pandemonium. Worship is not mere frenzy and feelings. “Those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). God “delight[s] in truth in the inward being” (Ps. 51:6 esv).
Therefore, true worship (like authentic sanctification) cannot bypass the mind; it is all about the renewingof the mind (Rom. 12:1–2; cf. Eph. 4:23–24). As Jonathan Edwards said, genuine, biblical worship should bring people “to high and exalting thoughts of the divine Being and his glorious perfections [and it] works in them an admiring, delightful sense of the excellency of Jesus Christ.”
The effect is that we become whole new persons—“renewed in knowledge” (Col. 3:10). Scripture knows nothing of any type of spirituality that bypasses intellect and operates only on feelings.
But losing control in worship is a serious and tragic error. It is a self-willed, self-serving, and ungodly approach to worship, because it reflects either careless neglect or an outright refusal to worship in spirit and truth in the way God has said we should worship (John 4:24).
So how should we evaluate worship practices that encourage a loss of rational control? Here is a compelling answer: “This idea of emptying the mind is foreign to Christian thought. It has much more in common with pagan practices such as transcendental meditation, mystical rituals, hypnosis, and other mind-emptying procedures that often open the door to demonic influences. A person who is eager to have a spiritual experience that bypasses the mind may be opening herself up to spiritual entities she wants no part of. When one looks for a short road to spirituality, bathed in mystical or miraculous experiences, he can become vulnerable to Satanic deception.”
The mysticism of popular contemporarary worship is only made worse when it joins forces with the materialism of prosperity theology. As we can see, prominent influences within the Charismatic Movement treat God as if He is a cosmic Santa Claus who cheerily grants their every material desire. Others treat the Holy Spirit as if He is an energetic force—a spark of electricity and spiritual power that produces an ecstatic buzz. In either case, charismatic congregants are trained to approach God for what they can get out of Him.
As one author explains, “The prosperity gospel is coldhearted materialism in religious disguise. It chooses Bible verses selectively to fit a name-it-and-claim-it theory, but it does not love God. It wants to use God for selfish, infantile purposes.”
By contrast, true love for God expresses itself in a life of selfless obedience and sacrificial service to Him (Rom. 12:1). In addition to producing a greater love for God, a true work of the Spirit also instills within believers a sincere and sacrificial love for one another. Such love “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6), meaning it does not tolerate false teaching for the sake of superficial unity.
Excerpted from Chapter 4 of Strange Fire by John MacArthur, pp. 74-79
D. D. KUYET alias "Dee Raptor" is a Christian HipHop Artiste/Rapper. He is also a graduate of Food Science and Technology. He is a contributing writer at lightwk