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Heart Worship

Category Articles
Date July 24, 2003

"One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple."

by Terry Johnson

At Taylors, South Carolina on March l2, 2OO3 Terry Johnson, Senior Minister at Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, spoke during the closing session on Wednesday night at the Greenville Seminary Conference on Worship on the topic of heart worship. Continuing where he left off in his previous lecture on the Regulative Principle of Worship, Mr. Johnson introduced his topic by referring to John 4:7-24. "We left off looking at truth in worship, understanding that the Regulative Principle requires that we look to scripture for the elements and content of our worship. Tonight’s topic is ‘heart worship,’ which I’m understanding to be spirit worship, the spirit part of worship in spirit and truth."

Referring to Dr. Joseph Pipa’s recommendation of a book, the fellow Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) minister quipped, "I was going to say, too, Joey, that I would have really appreciated knowing that the book to read on heart worship was Jeremiah Burroughs’ before I arrived here to speak on that subject."

Pastor Johnson said he does not believe it is overstating to say that with Jesus’ answer to the Samaritan woman in John 4, Old Testament temple worship is utterly abolished. Jesus is telling her that the externals of worship defined for the Jews in the Old Testament are no longer, and that a new system has come. Worship now, Jesus says, is in spirit and truth, the internals of motive, intensity, and sincerity replacing the external symbols and typology that previously existed. Mr. Johnson urged his listeners to understand that Old Testament worship was certainly not devoid of a spiritual nature or a call to sincerity, but that the emphasis has changed. Although the heart was important in the Old Testament, it becomes even more so once the props are abolished.

" It seems to me that those in our camp really need this emphasis," said Mr. Johnson. "Having the correct form, with our hearts far away, is worshipping in vain. We who are Reformed in our worship are keenly interested in doing things right, worshipping God according to His word. We want to honor Reformed traditions in worship because we believe the Reformed way is the biblical way." Given that emphasis and given human nature, we would have to concede, he urged, that there’s a vulnerability there to doing things correctly while neglecting the heart. So, it’s good that in this conference, both things are being emphasized. We must never settle simply for getting the forms right; our hearts must be right

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