Quickening the conscience

I ran across an excellent definition of worship the other day. It comes from the pen of William Temple:

“Worship is the quickening of the conscience by the holiness of God, feeding the mind with the truth of God, purging the imagination by the beauty of God, opening the heart to the love of God, and devoting the will to the purpose of God.”

Defined this way means that seldom is God actually worshiped. Mostly our notions of worship stem from our selfish desires to be entertained, or have our “needs met.” Note that worship is:

a) The quickening of the conscience: “The heart,” the prophet once declared, “is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Human beings are incurably self deluding. Our consciences are hardened by our own capacity to excuse our actions, and at worship, when God’s principles are laid out, our consciences are softened again.

b) “Feeding the mind.” Paul declared that we are to “be transformed by the renewing” of our minds” (Romans 12:4). This implies that over the course of time our thinking degrades, our minds revert to selfish and worldly patterns of thought. Mostly our minds are either starved of wholesome content, or are filled with the soiled and degraded thinking we see on television, on the internet, or in daily conversation with friends and colleagues. Only in worship, and a study of God’s word is that process reversed.

c) “Purging the imagination.” When Paul instructed us to “think on” “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report” (Philippians 4:8), he was suggesting that we far too often think on that which is degraded, bitter, and impure.

d) “Opening the heart.” Time, and repeated refusal to worship as we ought hardens the heart. That is why the Lord urges us: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). There seems to be a direct correlation between listening to God and the condition of our hearts!

e) “Devoting the will to the purpose of God.” Paul speaks often of doing “the will of God from the heart” (Ephesians 6:6). In worship, we are to turn our will into God’s will. It is all very well to speak of “praising the Lord,” or “just worshiping Jesus,” but such sentiments are empty and useless if the result of worship is that we serve our own selfish wills, rather than God’s.

This Sunday, come prepared to meet God in worship, on his terms, and his alone. To do less is to honor the self, and not the Savior.

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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