“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
- William Temple
Wow, that is a packed quote. Let's break it down!
To quicken the conscience by the holiness of God
See Isaiah 6. You really ought to read the whole chapter, but I'll quote the relevant part here.
"...I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. ...And one called to another and said:
'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!'
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: 'Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!'"
When I read that, I am in awe of my God. His robe fills the temple, and his glory fills the whole earth. I find it incredible that the foundations shook at the voice of - not God - but of his servants the seraphim. Unbelievable! Imagine what the voice of God in all its wonder might do. (hmm... maybe create the galaxies...?)
Imagine witnessing this and being so overwhelmed with the knowledge of his holiness that you are undone. Isaiah was not yet atoned for (that happens in the following verses) so we do have a different status than him as children of God, but still we are so infinitely less than the eternal God!
In worship we come face to face with God's incredible holiness, in stark contrast to our daily struggles, and our consciences are full aware of the gap between. Praise be to God we are not stuck there! Let's move on to the second phrase.
To feed the mind with the truth of God
The truth of God. I might define that as his Word, his Bible that contains the truth about all of life. One of those truths is that through Jesus' death on the cross we are purified and made blameless before God. Our daily struggles may yet remain until we see him face to face, but the truth of our redemption is glorious knowledge that worship rejoices to remind us of.
There are multitudes of other truths as well. In fact this is a reason why I love hymns - they are often based heavily on scripture so contain solid truths rather than interpreted ones like in many modern worship songs. Still, God can speak through any medium, and worship is a beautiful way to once again feed upon those foundations of the faith that hold us through the storms of life.
To purge the imagination by the beauty of God
This phrase is very dear to me. The beauty of God is something I haven't yet begun to comprehend, but that I find myself pondering so often. Whenever I see something beautiful in creation, I think "That's the beauty of God... only a way minimized version." I really believe creation - not only the physical earth but also things like emotions and relationships - really show the beauty of God's mind and heart. It's unfathomable if you think about it. For just a few of the beautiful things that begin to show us how glorious God is, check out his post. It says enough I think, for this segment.
To open the heart to the love of God
Now that we've gotten a real glimpse at the holiness, truth and beauty of God, we are confronted by an impossible truth. He loves us. He loves you. He loves me. And wow, how unbelievable is that! He chooses to love us with a love that is beyond our understanding - a love that sacrifices all to redeem us and has given us absolutely above and beyond anything we could deserve.
Open your heart! For whatever reason, we humans are so protective of our hearts, so unwilling to accept love that many of us end up with hearts of stone. The purpose here is to soften our hearts, to give them the terrifying task of opening up and receiving all the great love of God. That is not easy but it is necessary and beautiful. As the words of a famous song say, he is the Lover of our Soul - that is a deep and intrinsic need of ours and it is vital to allow our hearts to receive the love that don't deserve, but desperately desire.
To devote the will to the purpose of God.
Finally we come to the place where we are infused with the love of God and rightly we want nothing more than his purpose. It is the desire of the beloved to devote all time and energy to pleasing the Lover. This is the attitude that I sincerely believe God desires, the serving that comes from being overjoyed with his love and a longing to give him all that we can because of what he has done for us.
And so we surrender our agendas, our wants and even our needs. We commit our will - that part of us that determines what we strive for - to God's purpose, furthering his kingdom, shining his light to a broken world. It is the most glorious cause one could ever have! What a joy that we are allowed to participate in his redeeming, sovereign plan.
What a fantastic thing worship is, truly! I hope this imperfect but heartfelt study of worship blessed you in some way. It definitely blessed me to write!