‘But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.‘ John 4:23-4.
‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.‘ Romans 8:5
When we think of the Christian Church, the first thing that ought to come to our minds is the matter of the worship of God. It is sad that today we find little evidence of a true worship of the Lord ‘in the beauty of holiness’ as found in Psalm 29:2. This ought to remind us that the word ‘holiness’ speaks of ‘separation’, so that we may read that verse in the Psalms thus, substituting ‘separation’ for ‘holiness’ – ‘worship the Lord in the beauty of separation’! Now is it not true that, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, ‘Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it; that He might sanctify and cleanse it’ (Ephesians 5:25-26). So we may say that God reminds us, through Paul, that Christ died to make the Church sanctified, holy or separated. It is well said, that Biblically, one cannot divide the concept of separation from the concepts of holiness or sanctification.
The authors of the Westminster Standards rightly stated that, ‘Whatever is NOT commanded by Scripture is Prohibited!’ Today one is more likely to hear, rather, this statement, ‘Whatever is not forbidden by Scripture is permitted!’ For such a statement to be made by those who claim to be Biblical, is tantamount to disaster. We are reminded in the Bible to worship God, ‘in Spirit and in truth’ (John 4:24). Thus our worship of God includes all Persons of the Trinity, and of necessity that means Jesus Christ in all the fullness of His being and His work. The true character of Christian worship thus corresponds to God’s revelation of Himself. Further, the Christian believes that the inspired Word of God is adequate for everything from doctrine to righteous living, and this therefore includes worship!
Today we find many churches seeking for short-cut methods in their work This is evidenced by the resounding success that such men as Bill Hybels are generating around the world. The philosophy appears to be, if it draws a crowd it must be good. However such is not the philosophy of God. God reminds us in no uncertain terms, ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it’ (Psalm 127:1). Many today have forgotten that verse of Scripture found in Luke 12:32 ‘FEAR NOT, LITTLE FLOCK; FOR IT IS YOUR FATHER’S GOOD PLEASURE TO GIVE YOU THE KINGDOM’.
Has not the thinking of the world entered the church, so that numbers count! The March issue of the ‘Australian Presbyterian’ even headlined ‘Sunday – is it MacTime?’ In the major article of that issue, Stuart Bonnington asked this question, ‘MacWorship – do you want fries with that? The modern marketing approach to Sunday worship costs much more than it gains.’ No doubt that the television clerics have driven many a pastor down this track. It is all very sad; and it would he depressing if it were not for God! A lawyer once asked the Lord Jesus Christ what was the most important commandment in the law. Jesus answered by using words from Deuteronomy 6:5: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and with all thy mind’ (Matthew 22:37). So when we come to worship we do not come in some fragmented fashion, we come with an unreserved commitment – with every part of our being aiming to honour Him. In the context of true worship is the doctrinal system of the Bible, so that every part of the service will be governed by the truths of the Bible. It is not a matter then, of asking whether some aspect of worship is enjoyable or not, but rather whether it is true. We are not to be bound by some corporate agreement, because the ultimate criterion is what God has said in His Word. Thus we cannot allow for women to be in positions of leadership within the church, because the Scripture forbids such. Why is it then, that the majority of churches today are happy to allow for women ministers and elders? Is it not because we want to be ‘culturally sensitive’, and our theologians have taught that culture is important!
The central and focal point of any church, ought to be the worship service, because in that we come to worship God; with a holy awe and reverential fear, and it is such which is at the heart of true worship. How far removed from that, is much that passes for worship in our day. Bill Hybels has encouraged this type of thinking with his ‘seeker services’ which are simply times of entertainment. Another man who has typified this type of thinking is Chuck Swindoll of Dallas Seminary, who goes so far as to say that fallen man can come to Christ without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. The whole range of Charismatic idols follow the same ideas. Sadder still, is the reality that many reformed ministers and churches are plagued with the same sickness; and it is spreading like cancer in the professed church around the world.
Jeremiah Burroughs (a Puritan divine) said this, ‘When the congregation meets to worship God, they must have a convenient place to keep air and weather from them, now this is but a natural help, and so far as I use the place of worship as a natural help, I need have no command. BUT if I will put anything in a place beyond what it hath in its own nature there I must look for a command …. if you have not some warrant from the word of God it is superstition.’ The great southern (USA) theologian Robert Dabney in his ‘Systematic Theology’ (P.193) says that, ‘the great object of Scripture is to reclaim the world from idolatry.’
The fundamental principle as far as Church worship is concerned, is the object of our worship, it is all important. The devil desires to be as God, and he seeks to be the object of the worship of men, even as he sought the worship of Jesus. All non Christian worship is an expression of Satan to draw away worshippers from the One True God, to bring them to worship him. There are so many aberrations of doctrine which render worship unacceptable to God. Acceptable worship must be directed to the God of the Bible, the one, true, and living God. ‘The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart’ (Psalm 34:18). It is such who know the reality of true worship. Every one of us needs to give careful attention to his own habits of worship. A man’s worship is governed by what he believes! Herein lies the problem that we face!