At the RZIM Summer institute, I met a guy whom we called “Joey B.” Joey B was an active participant in the worship and lectures. If he heard something he liked, you would hear him say “That’s so good!” or “Come onnn!” At first, I and others found this to be a little distracting. I actually wanted him to stop — that was me being foolish.
You see, Joey B actually had the joy of the Lord in his heart. It was almost tangible. He wasn’t causing chaos and distraction; he was convicting me with every shout because he was more concerned with praising God than looking “respectable.” By the end of the week, he had lessened his “so goods” and we all started to miss it!
Have you ever been in a church service where they sang the song “Joy Unspeakable,” but one look around proved the joy was not only unspeakable, it was, ironically, invisible? The Baptist church needs more cry babies and drama queens. Please let me explain: Too often, it seems we are attending a Vulcan church service with Mister Spock leading the choir.
Emotions are legitimate and important. God intentionally created us to make emotional connections to every event in our lives. And for the most part, these connections make sense. When a tragedy occurs, we are sad and we show it. When something good happens for our family or a favorite sports team, we are happy and we show it.
So why is it that when we go to worship the God who saved us, it is taboo to show much, if any, kind of emotional expression? It is not putting on a show if you are overwhelmed by God’s holiness and love and you want to sing loud, clap your hands and even move your feet! Joy is not an abstract concept; it should be visible!
Neither is it a grab for attention when someone is weeping loudly over their sin or grief or struggle. We are called to share these burdens as the body of Christ, yet we sometimes expect people to hide their struggles because it makes us feel uncomfortable. Shame on us.
We know that Jesus showed great emotion. When “Jesus wept” after Lazarus died, the Greek that is used there conveys intense emotional groaning. Jesus didn’t just shed some quiet tears, He “boo-hooed.” I’m sure at other times, Jesus was a pretty joyful guy as well. Children don’t tend to flock to grumps. And I’m sure that he was having a good time with everyone else at the wedding feast where He turned water into wine.
We all express these same feelings, sometimes to the extreme, as long as we’re not at church. That does not make sense.
To be clear, I’m not in favor of emotionalism. I don’t believe people need to put on a show at church just to make people think they are good Christians. I also don’t think we should totally abandon the idea of self control. But how can we really say we believe God is awesome, and that He has rescued us with a scowl on our face and the worries of what we’re going to eat after church on our minds?
As Alistair Begg said, “Christians ought to throw some really good parties…” because no one on earth has as much reason to be happy than we do. And sometimes, we ought to recognize our need to weep, because we of all people should understand just how awful our sin is.
So, this week, take the time to worship. Even if you are by yourself, quietly sing some songs about God. Just praise him. Don’t ask for anything ¬— don’t even ask for God to speak to you/change you/show you something. In fact, don’t bring you into it at all. If you will do this and make it all about Him, I bet you’re going feel something. You ought to.
If you’re in church, and a friend is weeping. Go hug them and weep with them. If they are praising, shout and clap and dance. Do not reduce “giving God praise” to the weekly repeat of reluctant applause and a few “amens” from the licensed ministers in the crowd.
Ravi Zacharias always says that “the farthest distance you will ever travel is from the head to the heart.” But if you will travel that distance and let the truth of who God is affect you deeply, you will experience the fullness of Christian life that Christ came to give you.