Friday, September 12, 2008

WORSHIPTAINMENT: WORSHIP AND ENTERTAINMENT DO NOT MIX


"Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean; and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them." - Ezek. 22:26
A cartoon here illustrates the vain attempt by many churches to appeal to peoples sensual desires instead of converting them to Jesus Christ and to true worship. Modern worshiptainment, the co-mingling of worship and entertainment, is a self-centered endeavor that fails to guard the holy from the profane.

A rock concert, with the lights, loud music and celebrity, with the name of Christ and a few Hallelujahs thrown in does not make worship. It is a substitute for worship. I do not believe that the Scriptures permit the church to turn what ought to be God-focused worship into entertainment. "God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jn. 4:24).

In the tabernacle and in the temple, God's "holy things" were not to be treated as unholy. "Holy things" were not to be used for personal pleasure or entertainment. Take for example the incense which God commanded. It was to be mixed exactly as He commanded and it could only be used at the temple, (Exodus 30:37,38) The incense was sacred.

Nadab and Abihu died because they offered the incense using "strange fire" (Lev. 10:1ff). The "strange fire" which Nadab and Abihu used was fire taken from where God had not commanded (Lev. 16:12). It was necessary to follow God's instructions. To veer from God's specific instruction was to show disrespect to God. After God killed Aaron's sons, Moses reminded him with these words:
"It is what the LORD spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’" (Lev 10:3)
God also killed Hophni and Phinehas, sons of Eli the High Priest, because of their irreverence in worship that displeased God (1 Sam. 2:12ff). Because of how they treated the sacrifice and worship, God said they despised them. They were irreverent by not following God's instructions.

In like manner, people today are showing the same spirit or irreverence by ignoring God's instructions. It must be their carnal appetite that says the worship in the New Testament is boring. Because unless the worship satisfies their senses, they simply are not interested.

Whoever and whatever came in the presence of God was to be holy. And every sacrifice was to be holy. Before the priests could come before God, they could not approach Him until they had been cleansed ceremonially and clothed with holy garments. And every sacrifice that came before God was prescribed by God and was offered in the way God commanded. Many churches today offer entertainment and call it holy music and they offer infotainment, psycho-babble, and self-help lessons and call it the Gospel. What was to be holy is no longer holy.

God's name is holy. In the 10 Commandments, God said, "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain" (Ex. 20:7). To take God's name in vain has always been irreverent towards Him. But God's name is used for making millions in record deals and concerts. There is no acceptable parallel to this in the Bible. It is vain when the names of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are used in music that makes multi-millionaires out of people who are not even Christian.

Worship to God can be offered in vain (Mt. 15:7-9; Mk. 7:6,7). When man-made doctrines are taught as the will of God, their worship is made vain. Entertainment based "worship" is aimed directly at the less spiritual part of man.

Recently, a man engaged me on this issue. He was willing to approve of modern innovations to worship, such as dance and instrumental music, on the basis that the early church enjoyed the "love feast". He did not know that Paul reminded the Christians to eat their meals at home so as not to taint the Lord's Supper. Paul rebuked them saying, "do you not have homes in which to eat and drink?" (1 Cor. 11:22). Whatever the "love feast" was, Paul makes it clear that there were no "love feasts" brought into the worship.

Breaking the bread and drinking the fruit of the vine is holy worship. The purpose is to reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus and to proclaim what He did for us. The purpose of the Lord's Supper is not to satisfy our natural need for food. Those who justify the "love feasts" in worship find themselves breaking the spirit of worship. Worship is not about me, it's not about what I want to do, and it's not about what I like: it's about God! The church must maintain the distinction between the holy and the profane.

While worship is a very personal thing and there is no way to ensure that everyone is worshiping in the right spirit, the church has a responsibility to provide the only environment where that can happen. The church today must do what the church of the New Testament did.

Here is worship in the New Testament. Only the inspired Word of God is read and studied as authoritative. Singing alone is the prescribed music in the church. Prayers are directed to God through Jesus Christ and no one else. The Lord's Supper is a time of reverent reflection on the meaning of Jesus' death. And members of the church give toward the collection to help support the work of spreading the Gospel. Let's not offer the profane by mingling worship with entertainment. Offer the worship that God has prescribed. Worshiptainment is not pleasing to God.
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