Saturday, November 24, 2018

Book Review: A Taste of Heaven

Taste of Heaven: Worship in Light of Eternity. R.C. Sproul. 2006. 173 pages. [Source: Review copy]

First sentence from the preface: We observe the flight of birds with a sense of awe.

First sentence from chapter one: It was one of those lovely autumn Saturday afternoons when people’s thoughts turn to football, golf, or raking leaves. But I was doing something else entirely: reading again the Discourse on Method and Meditations of Rene Descartes.
In A Taste of Heaven, R.C. Sproul examines how the Bible answers the question: how should we worship God. He argues that the Bible is not silent on the matter. There are two approaches to answering this question. One approach is to strictly worship according to what the Bible explicitly says. The second approach is to ask the question: does the Bible forbid it? does the Bible speak against this? warn about this? If the Bible does not forbid it or discourage it, then it is okay. Sproul does not come down completely in favor of one approach or the other.

The book discusses topics relevant to believers: baptism, communion, prayer, praise, fellowship, etc.

Quotes from chapter one:
  • The question we need to ask is this, “If God Himself were to design worship, what would it look like?” (15)
  • We behave as if nothing God said on the subject of worship in the Old Testament applies today. If we are to come back to the foundation, if we are to please God in our worship, doesn’t it make sense to ask whether there has ever been a time when the unchanging God Himself revealed the kind of worship that was pleasing to Him? I believe that the answer is yes, and I believe that there was such a time. (18)
  • I believe we can discern principles in the patterns of worship that God revealed from heaven to His people in the Old Testament, and that those principles can and should inform the patterns our worship follows. (19)
  • There is no doubt that God wants HIs worship to have form, so the question is not whether we will have a liturgy or not. The issue is whether the liturgy is biblical in its content, and ultimately, whether we are using the liturgy to worship in spirit and in truth. No matter what the liturgy is, whether it’s a plain liturgy, a simple liturgy, or a complex, highly symbolic liturgy, it can be formalized and externalized so that it is corrupted to the point that God despises it. As we seek out the forms of worship that please God, we must be vigilant lest we fall into formalism or externalism. (22)
Quotes from chapter two:

  • The all-encompassing criterion for acceptable sacrifice before God in the Old Testament was the posture and the attitude of the person making the sacrifice (28)
  • The promise of our redemption was first announced to Adam and Eve after they sinned and violated their moral relationship with God. God gave them the protoevangelism, the original announcement of the gospel: The Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and in the process He would be wounded in his Heel. (Genesis 3:15). If that verse was the only reference to redemption in the Bible, no one could penetrate its meaning because it is so cryptic. Having the benefit of the unveiling of God's plan of redemption through the ages and through the Scriptures, we know exactly to what God was referring in Genesis 3:15. In that promise, the gospel was given to Adam and Eve, the gospel of forgiveness, restoration, and fellowship with God. It was the gospel that proclaims the crushing of the evil one who disrupts and mars the beauty and holiness of God's creation. God promised that the evil one would be destroyed by the sacrifice of the Seed of the woman, Who would be wounded by the process of His conquest. This promise of the sacrifice of the Seed of the woman was central to Abel's worship. The irony is that this first gospel was given in the context of the cursing of the serpent after the fall. (30-1)
  • My speculation is this: I cannot imagine that our first parents did not explain to their sons the hope that sustained them. That hope was the most important promise that Adam and Eve had received, the promise that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent at the cost of the wounding of His heel. How many hours do you suppose Adam and Eve sat with their children, preaching the gospel to them and teaching them the elements of appropriate worship? (32)
  • However, it was not enough for Cain and Abel to merely hear Adam and Eve speak of the promise. The issue was whether they would trust the promise. (32)
  • Unlike Cain, Abel was humble in his worship, which is the only possible posture for a fallen human being to have in the context of worship. Arrogant worship is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. (35)
  • The single most important thing to understand about worship is that the only worship that is acceptable to God is worship that proceeds from a heart that is trusting in God and in God alone. (38)

Quotes from chapter three:

  • The sacrifices that were made in the Old Testament were to be sacrifices of praise, and praise is an attempt to express honor. The central element of worship in the Bible involved honoring God, blessing God, esteeming and reverencing God. A sacrifice was offered as an outward sign of a heart that was filled with awe, reverence, and respect toward God. (41)
  • I've never given my whole self to God or given my reasonable service to HIm. I have failed in my spiritual duty. And yet, that's what worship is--the presenting of ourselves on the altar of praise, so that what we think, what we do, and what we live is motivated by a desire to honor God. (46)

Quotes from chapter seven:

  • I hear preachers say, "We're not supposed to suffer as Christians." When I hear that, I want to say, "You are a false prophet." Not only are we allowed to suffer, it's our vocation as Christians. Our Savior was a suffering Savior, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who endured manifold afflictions. The New Testament tells us many times to be prepared for the same thing. We suffer, if need be, for a season. (86)
  • The thing that is strange is when we enjoy relative freedom from afflictions in this world. The time when afflictions are over will come when we pass the veil. (86)
  • Disease is part of the fallen world. It's part of the kingdom of this world. To bear that affliction is to give the same testimony to the redemption that is ours in Christ as if we were bearing the affliction of the persecutions of the Emperor Nero. Our spiritual response to disease should be no different from our spiritual response to persecution. (87)

Quotes from chapter ten:

  • There is a variety of responses to the presence of God, but we never read in the Bible of an occasion where God appears to the people and they are bored. Neither do we read of anyone walking away from an encounter with God saying, "That was irrelevant." A Christian service of worship is a gathering of God's people in His presence; it is an encounter with God. So how can we account for the results of the polls that tell us that people come away from church feeling that it is boring and irrelevant? I believe it is because they have no sense of the presence of God when they attend worship. The real crisis of worship today is not that he preaching is paltry or that it's too drafty in church. It is that people have no sense of the presence of God, and if they have no sense of his presence, how can they be moved to express the deepest feelings of their souls to honor, revere, worship, and glorify God? (126)
  • Idolatry is simply an attempt to make God visible in ways that are unacceptable to Him. (127)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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