Discerning Our Affections in Worship
I had a co-worker once who loved just about everything Disney. He put a sticker on his car, and would proudly wear Disney hats and shirts. He was one of the managers at the store where I was working, and I remember one day when everything was going wrong he said to me, when this day is over I am going home and I’m going to watch an old Disney movie. When I pressed him a bit as to why he chose to watch an old Disney movie as opposed to anything else, he said, “Disney things just bring me back to when I was a kid.” Ultimately there was a sense of nostalgia from all the memories of growing up, and these things moved his affections in a way that made him feel a bit better after a hard day.
On another note (no pun intended), music has a way of doing the same type of things for us. I can remember in high school and college and it even happens now occasionally, when I would be listening to secular radio, and that new song that I had been waiting to hear would come on. Immediately, I would turn up the volume and I would be energized by what I was hearing, singing along with all the passion I could muster.
Now there really is nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia and being energized or moved by some piece of music, but when you put these things together with a Christian worship service or program we must be careful to discern our affections. I bring this up because sometimes I think we can be misled to think that we have had a time of worship or that we have heard a really good sermon simply because our affections were moved.
We must pay close attention to what is actually moving our affections in order to discern whether or not it is worship or even spiritual. When those first chords of our favorite praise song are played by the worship leader, are we being energized much like any natural man who hears a secular song that causes him to turn up the radio or are we really worshipping? And when grandma’s favorite Hymn starts to play and causes us to experience a time of peace and contentment while thinking back to when she used to sing it to us as a child, do we sometimes confuse that with worship?
Now I am not saying we should only sing boring songs or songs that don’t remind us of anything, or that it is impossible to really be worshipping during these times. In fact, I think it can be good at times to remember our family worship from when we were growing up, and I also think it is good that we still have people today writing new psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs for us to sing today that get us excited. But what I want to stress is that simply because we have these moments does not mean we are worshipping or that we have been moved by in adoration of God. Charles Spurgeon once said that if he wanted to, he could move congregations to tears by telling them sad stories of mothers with sick children or energize them by telling them stories of men and women who accomplished great things. But he said it would be a waste of time unless they where moved to cry over their sin and take joy in Christ and the cross.
Even the natural man’s affections can be moved in strong ways, but those affections will never be worship unless they are moved by the word of God as it points us to Christ and what He has done for us. Whether we attend a modern or traditional worship service is not the biggest issue, but we must be sure to seek out worship and preaching that convicts us of sin, and shows us the remedy in Christ.