Puritan Gems

Monday, October 16, 2006

Soli Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone

"Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created." (Revelation 4:11)

"When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?--that I also may do the same.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. "Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:29-32)

"Freedom in worship". That's the common mantra of the modern church. It is said that God doesn't care how you worship, just do whatever you want and God will honor it.

Many years ago, I had to opportunity to go to my first "Christian" Rock Concert. During the show, the bass player began to pull out his underarm hair and give it to screaming girls in the audience. This was long before I learned anything about the "regulative principle" of worship. Even then, something struck me to be a bit odd about this episode. Something about it wasn't quite right. Was God honored by this in the least bit?

What is the "regulative principle"? It stresses the Biblical fact that worship is God's worship, not man's. Worship belongs to God alone. It is His, and He regulates it. Contrary to popular teaching today, God does care how He is worshipped, and very much so.

Now this principle can become legalistic, as some churches forbid musical instruments, or enforce the singing of Psalms only. The Bible does allow musical instruments in worship (Psalm 150:1-6), and encourages musicians to play skillfully (Psalm 33:3). Yet we must always remember that our worship is for God's glory alone, not for man's entertainment. (See Church Music: A Checklist)

Common teaching today says that our worship must be designed to "lead people into the presence of God". Therefore, "worship" is turned into entertainment in an attempt to appeal to the flesh and "draw people to God", thus effecting what the Holy Spirit is apparently unable to accomplish. The problem? Fleshly man cannot worship God in a suitable way, for "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24).

After God removed the pagan nations from the Promised Land, He warned His people not to worship Him like the pagans did their gods (Deuteronomy 12:29-31). Furthermore, God limits His worship to that which He alone has commanded. "Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it." (Deuteronomy 12:32). The Bible is clear regarding God's standard for worship. If it isn't commanded by Him in His Word, it cannot be performed as an act of worship.

Today, this principle has been ignored, as the church seeks to imitate Hollywood and Las Vegas in their form of worship. Adopting the modern slogan "if it feels good, do it", the term "worship" has been used to validate all kinds of things, from suggestive "booty-shaking" dances and circus sideshows to mystical "slain in the spirit" experiences, where a person loses consciousness and falls to the floor (with someone to catch them so that they won't get hurt). This is usually accompanied by convulsions and other phenomenon. Other experiences include barking like dogs and other strange "moves of the spirit", all of this without the slightest support from Scripture. Recently someone even tried to defend the use of "yoga" and "trascendental meditation" in their own Christian worship. This is not Biblical worship, but an offering of “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1-2).

The church will not transform the world if it continues to imitate it. R.C. Sproul explains. "…why aren't the seekers coming? They like pop music, so we give them pop music. They like stories so we give them dramas. They like anonymity, so we let them have it. They like convenience, so we'll change their oil while they're here (this by the way is being done). The problem is that we can do none of these things as well as the world can. Why get up on a Sunday morning and drive somewhere to listen to pop music, when its as close as my stereo? Why settle for cheesy scripts and sets when the television does it so much better? Why spend an hour getting an oil change when the pros can do it in ten minutes?”1

For a long time, God has winked at our ignorance in this manner. We must ask ourselves if our manner of worship is pleasing to the One being worshipped. We need a return to the model of worship prescribed by God Himself, for His ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). Man cannot improve upon God's worship by adding his own eccentricities, nor can we compete with the world for souls by trying to imitate it. When it comes to meeting the desires of fleshly man, the world is just plain better at it then the church is.

For further Study, I recommend:

The Right Manner of Worship and Drawing Nigh Unto God by Rev. Jeremiah Burroughs
R.C. Sproul - Swimming Upstream.

1 R.C. Sproul - Swimming Upstream.


Turgonian said...

Ouch! That story about the bass player is weird. I don’t have objections against Christian music (like gospel) in itself, but that’s going way too far -- and gross, too. Time was when you had to go to your knees to beg a golden strand of hair from the head of a virgin. But there you go: when marriage and virginity lose their sanctity, so does hair…
I don’t understand why so many people associate the Middle Ages with ignorance. At least people knew about non-monetary value. Besides, sola ignorantia is much preferable to ignorance and decadence.

You say worship is only good when there’s a verse in Bible which commands it. In that case, what do you think of inwardly worshipping God while you’re doing something else (e.g. riding your bike or working)? Or is that not ‘worship’ in the OT sense?

Barking like dogs? Hmm, I wouldn’t call that a very spiritual sound. Woof!
Yoga… I don’t do it myself (duh), but I remember reading an article by a woman who said she always felt overwhelmingly grateful towards the persons of the Trinity while she was doing it. Is that unbiblical mysticism?

It’s a good and convincing article. You’re right that Christians shouldn’t be eccentric, even when the world is insane…especially when the world is insane. But let me ask you one question: what do you think of gospel music (e.g. Rebecca St. James, Michael W. Smith)? I don’t listen to it myself, but I have (Reformed) friends who do.

Puritan Lad said...

In a broad sense, everything we do is an act of worship. Performing our daily jobs “should be” an in an attitude of worship, and should be done without grumbling and complaining (Phil 2:14) How I wish I could claim that for myself :}

However, when it comes to corporate worship, gathering together in one place, God does regulate it. He is very particular on the manner and attitude of our prayers, on the word being preached, and on the use of the sacraments. (You can actually buy a home communion set, the “meal that heals”, advertised on Christian TV.)

When it comes to Christian Pop Music, I have no problem with is philosophically (or secular music for that matter – See the Christian Liberty Post). However, I think it is important to distinguish between “worship” and Christian “entertainment”. They aren’t the same thing. (I also have no need to listen to Rachel Rachel perform a garage band quality rendition of “Carry On Wayward Son” when Kansas does it so much better. As for “Jars of Clay” performing Ozzie Ozbourne hits during their concerts, we’ll let the reader decide.)