Friday, January 25, 2013

Worship vs. contemporary worship

"That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Eph. 4:14).

We are warned in this passage not to be "tossed to and fro", this carries the idea of fluctuation or instability (as caused by waves) along with this imagery, we are not to be "carried about" or to be borne or conveyed about easily by the unsettled and unpredictable "wind of doctrine."  Doctrine means teaching or instruction.  If anything is supposed to be solid and engender stability it should be sound doctrine.  When people are instructed in the Word or the doctrine(s) of God's Holy Word, there is strength and stability.  Take for example what is mentioned in Psalm 1 regarding the blessed man who stays in the word.  It says: "he shall be like a tree planted..." (Ps. 1:3) this suggests a purposeful plant vs. a wild tree.  This speaks of a protected plant, for he is planted by a husbandman on purpose.  Most of all, this speaks of stability because trees don't customarily move around, ha!

When doctrine is rooted in the Bible it produces strength that results in stability.  The key is staying in the Word and changing our sentiments to conform to the Word.  In Heb. 4:12 among many descriptions regarding the Word, we see an interesting word: "discerner."  This is taken from the Greek word kritikos, which is easily discerned to be the word we commonly know as "critical."  The irony is that the Bible is to be critical of us, and not us criticizing the Bible.  If there is something that we may not understand in the Word then it only goes to show that we need to further study the matter (like those Berean believers in Acts 17:11).  The beauty of God's Holy Word is that it is written and it is available.  We can read the Bible ourselves and with it test or try or approve all things (1 Thess. 5:21).

When doctrine is rooted in the sleight of men or cunning craftiness or deceit the results are disastrous.  A novelty isn't necessarily a good thing especially when it comes to doctrine, and consequently practice (for our practices stem from what we truly believe, and what we believe is shaped by doctrine).  Today we are witnessing (or have been witnessing) the entrance of contemporary worship into churches.  This wouldn't happen if individual Christians or respective church members would stay in the Word (because all a church is, is an assembly of baptized believers).  When a church goes towards contemporary worship it may be due to a combination of factors.  A leadership change, a change in the standards or beliefs of the leadership, a change of convictions or deeply held beliefs by a deacon or two, perhaps a worker or two, or a few, if not many of the church's members.  What are all these but an expression of being tossed or carried about with every wind of doctrine?  The problem with contemporary worship is not in its use of technology or modernized practices.  The problem is in the very nature of it.

In order to understand the situation we must first come to terms with our terms.   We must understand what the nature of a thing is, then identify the nature of worship, and then compare it to the nature of contemporary worship.  In doing so the differences will then be clearly seen.

When we say the "nature" of something, we simply mean its being or property that makes it what it is.  One of God's nature is eternal.  Only God is eternal.  God alone existed in eternity past, everything and every one else had a beginning.  And so it is natural or in God's nature to be eternal.  Among other things, man is a moral being.  It is natural or within man's nature the capacity to chose right and wrong by intelligence (as opposed to an animal, which naturally operates by instinct).  So what is then the nature of worship?  Worship, among other things, is sacrifice.  It is about acknowledging that God is God and we are his servants.  He is sovereign, not us.  He is in charge not us.  Then it follows that we as his servants respond to Him by doing what He wants us to do.  When we give up our desires for His desires that is where worship begins.  Worship is sacrificial because we approach God on His terms and do what pleases Him.  What then is the nature of contemporary worship (CW)? Well, CW, among other things is by nature, entertainment.  It seeks for happiness over against joy.  The object of worship is God, the object of CW is self.  Worship is sourced in spirit and truth (not in materials, not really even in music). CW is sourced in fleshly gratification and sensuality.

As we see more and more Christians being consumed upon by contemporary worship, let us not sell our worship-birthright as Esau did (exchanging the blessings of God for something carnal).  Let us stay in the word and ever be transformed by the word.  And in doing so we avoid the childish pitfall of being tossed to and fro or carried about by contemporary worship.

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