Jonathan Landry Cruse
Reviewed by: Lowell Ivey
What Happens When We Worship, by Jonathan Landry Cruse. Reformation Heritage, 2020. Paperback, 200 pages, $14.00. Reviewed by OP pastor Lowell Ivey.
Jonathan Cruse wants you to be exhilarated by the worship of God. His title already hints at this by asking one of the most important questions we can ever ask, “What happens when we worship?” The question assumes that worship is something more than a checklist of duties to be performed in a mindless, robotic way. True worship is meaningful precisely because it is spiritual. As Cruse reminds us, worship is a “supernatural event” (1). Something is really happening in worship because Someone is present in, with, and among us when we gather together to respond in faith to his call.
So, what is happening when we worship? The simple answer is that God is meeting with his people, to renew his covenant of grace with them in Jesus Christ, to transform them by his Word and Spirit, and to impress upon them their identity as the children of God. In worship, God comes down to us in covenant compassion and, by his grace, lifts us up to the heavenly places, where we enjoy a foretaste of the life of the world to come. In worship, we are being shaped by God. Our hearts are being renewed, our minds are being enlightened, and our wills are being subdued by Jesus Christ.
In other words, biblical worship reflects the pattern of God’s revelation to us in the history of redemption. As Cruse observes:
The worship service is a sacred moment when God condescends to His sinful people and restores them to Himself. Even though we do not deserve his favor—and have done plenty to earn His wrath—God reminds us in worship that our relationship with Him is about His commitment to us, not our performance before Him. Put another way, through the steps of corporate worship God graciously renews His covenant faithfulness to us. (47)
The faithfulness of God to us in Christ (not our faithfulness to him!) is put before us at every point in biblical worship. God calls us out of the darkness of this world and into his glorious holiness and the light of his truth (83–91). We hear again of God’s holiness, his verdict of condemnation against sin, and our need for cleansing grace in Christ (93–105). We hear of what Christ has done for us in the preaching of the Word and are again called to walk worthy of our calling as the children of God (107–121). We commune with God at his table in the spiritual feast of the Lord’s Supper (123–139). And finally, we are sent out with a new name, singing a new song, as God pronounces his blessing on us (141–159). Every element of worship teaches us what God has done for us in Christ and who we are now because of what Christ has done. Worship calls us to respond in faith, hope, and love as we wait for the privilege of worshiping Christ face to face in glorified bodies in the new creation.
This book does far more than set forth what worship is and what worshipers do. It draws the reader into the very heart of God by showing what God is doing in our midst every time we gather to worship him. It is a book that will make you exhilarated to be a worshiper of God.
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