Worshipping God? Or Not?
There is was in all its glory. The ‘Praise Band’ was on the stage at the church. The band members were dressed like rock starts. Cleavage bulging over the tops of the female singers costumes didn’t raise an eyebrow. Shiny tight pants on the male singers reminded a few old timers of the ‘Pirates of Penzance’, but no one seems to mind.
( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvNeDW5MbS8 ‘Pirates of Penzance Video for a little humor)
Of course this church was too traditional to do anything like pole dancing exercise for Jesus. They had to draw the line somewhere, and that seemed like a good place to draw it today. Of course, give it a few years and the line in the sand could be moved over a little more to the world. After all, the world was where the non-Christians were. What better way to bring them into the church than to bring an acceptable amount of the world into the church? Taken as a whole, or taken one by one, the congregation was proud of their church building, their diverse congregation, their open minded approach to making their church comfortable to the non-saved, and just over all proud.
This Sunday, the lights in the auditorium were dimmed. Spotlights in a variety of colors were aimed at the singers and musicians. The younger crowd was actually shouting and screaming in anticipation of a real show, a show that was equal to anything the world had to offer. Parents smugly patted themselves on the back for keeping their children from rock concerts by bringing rock music into the church. They had it made. They had saved their children from the world. Teens in the audience/congregation felt both Christian and worldly. They were in a church, so they must be ‘spiritual’. The beat of the world’s music was playing loudly. The song lyrics were sort of Christian. It was just all too cool. When the ‘praise service’ began, the volume of the praise band vibrated the floors and walls of the building just like at a real rock concert An energized and sustained emotional response to the music was maintained for over an hour by most of the people there. Those not responding, either positively or negatively, had their hearing aids turned off. After a prolonged musical assault on the people, the singers and band were exhausted to the point they had to stop. All that singing and dancing amounted to an hour long aerobic exercise session. They had to stop because they were just too tired and hoarse to keep going. Besides, they only knew a few songs, and how many times you sing a one line song?
Then the preacher got up to preach. However, being as overcome by his own emotions as was the entire congregation, he decided that a sermon wasn’t necessary. He just thanked the musicians for such an uplifting performance, said a closing prayer, and sent the people home.
One family didn’t go straight home. They went to Hooters for a meal. Then, as they were feeling so ‘Christian’, and ‘so good’, they decided to do a good deed. They went to visit Great Aunt Dorcas in the nursing home. She was delighted to see them. She was even more delighted to learn they had been to church. Speaking to her eleven year old nephew she asked, ‘What did you learn in church today?’ The boy replied, ‘I learned I want to be a rock star!’ Aunt Dorcas promptly fainted. The nurse was called. The family, feeling a dreadful emotional let-down, left quickly. They vowed to never again disrupt an emotional high given to them by the Lord in church by doing a good deed. Well, they all concluded, at least it was over for a week or maybe two or three weeks. They would have to check their calendar to see when they could make it back to church; and, that would really depend on what the church was offering them as well. If it was a boring service, then they would probably just skip it. And they would certainly skip it if there was going to be a preacher known for making then ‘feel uncomfortable’. After all, they could worship God just as well at home. Then, they put worshipping God out of their minds entirely. It was time to think about how to get the things the world had to offer. It was either debt or a second job or sell a kidney, but that yacht with two bathrooms was definitely a must.
Some of the people from that church were worshipping a false god. They have no real idea of who God is. They were worshipping their own desires. Others were real Christians. They were ignorant and self-centered, but nevertheless, true believers. They were worshipping God according to how they personally wanted to do it. They liked worldly music. They liked fitting in with the world. So, they took the world’s music to God as worship. They were honoring God with their mouths, but their hearts were far from Him. And, while there were true believers in the service, the children of those believers will very likely be Christian in culture only. And their grandchildren will be embarrassed to let anyone know that their family has a tradition of Christian worship. Self-stylized worship, worship done in a way or style that ‘suits the individual’ before it suits God isn’t really worship. Although God Himself is supposed to be the reason for and the center of the worship service, it became about not only pleasing the individual church attendee, but about pleasing the entire world!
On the same Sunday there was a little house church in a pagan land. Christian churches were officially allowed, but definitely frowned upon by all non-Christians. Sometimes Christians were beaten, robbed, fired from their job, refused a job, and even murdered for their faith. Their church service went a little differently.
First there was the greeting as everyone arrived. It was a sincere howdy to brothers and sisters in the faith. That wasn’t really part of the service. It was just a natural way to greet each other. Then the service began with the thanksgiving part of the service. That was how the little band of believers began every service. Personal humility in the little congregation made a group that was humble. Humble people are thankful people. The thanksgiving part of the service had a time limit on how short it could be, but now how long. Thanksgiving was given for at least one hour. If anyone tried to jump right into the prayer request part of the service, then they were censored immediately by the rest of the congregation. That seldom happened, but it wasn’t tolerated if it did happen.
Thanksgiving put God in His proper place as the One from whom all blessings flow. That is proper worship. The service is about worshipping God, so of course He should take center stage from the very start of the service.
Then there was singing. The music was dedicated to the Lord. It was the Lord that the people wanted to please with the music and the words of the songs, as they were singing to Him. No one there considered bringing in new members by making the music more pleasing to
Of course there was preaching and praying and fellowship and more preaching and praying. There was probably eating as well. If food was left over maybe it was taken to those who hadn’t been able to come to the service because of illness, or work, or maybe because they were in jail or something like that. I have read that in some countries prisoners don’t eat unless family members bring them food. Or maybe some of the brethren were in hiding because they were being persecuted for their faith.
Whatever went on in the little house church, the people were attempting to please God first and foremost in the service. They were worshipping God with a right attitude stemming from a reverent awe of their Savior. After the service was over, they continued worshipping God through right actions throughout the week. They tried to do the things Christ said to do. Obey the commandments moment by moment. There was no acceptable time to set aside their Christianity. Telling others about Jesus Christ, the way of salvation, was also a priority. It was a dangerous priority, but still a priority. Sunday was the day when the saints of God, the brethren got together for assembled worship. This assembled worship encouraged them to live a life of worship throughout the week. They had set themselves apart from the world, and they fully and completely identified themselves as people of God. They no longer wanted what the world had to offer. Worshipping God was their way of life.
Most church congregations fall somewhere in the middle. They are neither hot nor cold. Does that mean they are lukewarm? Are they sitting on the fence? Do they make the Lord sick? Are they measuring their own level of commitment by looking at the more liberal churches, and saying, ‘Well, thank goodness we are not THAT liberal!;’ Honestly, standing out as a conservative traditional church is not the goal. Those churches honestly seeking to make worshipping God a way of life just automatically stick out. They are the light on the hill. It cannot be hidden.
It is easier for a real Christian to wind up in a liberal church because there are so many of them. Some churches exist under the banner of a denomination with a strong history of sound theology and doctrine. However, they are only cultural Christian churches. The church has a form of godliness, but no actual faith in God. Unfortunately, churches like these suck in ignorant Christians like moths to a flame. Some recognize the problems with such a church after attending for a time. Some even turn away from such silliness called godliness. Then these real Christians realize they have a big problem. They can’t find a church with sound doctrine.
Amos 8:11-12 is beginning to come to pass. It says:
‘11Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD:
12And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it.’
There are still churches that teach sound doctrine according the Bible. They do not slap the name ‘Christian’ or worldly practices and bring it into the church. There is no such thing as ‘Christian yoga’. These rare churches know that putting the word ‘Christian’ in front of something does not make it acceptable to God.
Individual Christians can make a big difference by living their own lives according to scripture. The instructions given in 1 Peter 1:13-19 give instructions on how to do that. The passage says,
‘13Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; Take your Christian walk seriously.
14As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: Don’t act like you can still live by the standards and rules of the world.
15But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Think about your actions. Great or small, you actions should be pleasing to the Lord.
16Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. Your life should have a new paradigm, a pattern of living as close to that of Christ as possible.
17And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: If you call God your Father then act like He is your Father. Obedience is due Him.
18Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:’ God spared no expense to redeem us. What can we give Him in return except to love Him with all our hearts and honor Him by our actions?
Humility and meekness is a sign of Christians walking close to the Lord. They progressively have a better understanding that all their accomplishments are through Christ alone.
A sign of a deceiver or a Christian attempting to live with at least one foot firmly planted in the world is pride.
Those hoping to have a life of greater ease and comfort should pay attention to 1 Peter 5:5 which says,
‘Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble’
There can be no life lived in greater hardship and turmoil than a life lived resisting the things of God.
‘Because I Love Thee I Will Serve Thee’ isn’t the deepest theological song, but it does have a clear message. If you love the Lord truly, then you will serve Him.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2_AYq4m1w4 This is not a fancy version of the song – just a simple church service.
In my mind I can see and hear a very humble preacher singing this song. He has gone to heaven already. He was prone to burst into song right in the middle of a sermon, and this song was always sung with a tearful voice.
The message is simple.
Love the Lord?
Then serve the Lord.