I tried to come up with a shocking title for these posts to alert us to the difference between a “professed” God and “functional” god. That is, the God we say we believe in, and the god that actually governs our desires and actions.
As I mentioned in my post yesterday, idolatry can be active in my heart even as I’m outwardly worshipping God. That’s a sobering thought. Whenever I think I can’t worship God unless “X” is present, I’m making a profound statement. If “X” is anything other than Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, I’ve moved into idolatrous territory. Idolatry is always evil, but the idols we pursue aren’t necessarily evil things. They are evil for us because we value them over God.
Pages could be written on each of the potential idols I’m about to cover. Most, if not all of them, touch on areas that can and should be used with discernment to serve God’s people as we gather to sing His praise. Some of them are more important them others. But all of them are meant to exalt God, not replace Him.
Musical styles for congregational worship have caused quite a stir in recent years. Actually, they’ve been causing a stir for centuries, and for good reason. Music is a powerful medium that can affect us positively or negatively. However, the root of the division is often (though not always) people insisting they know what kind of music God likes. It hasn’t helped that “new music proponents” are often arrogant, insensitive, selfish, and impatient. However, we can make an idol out of what’s old and familiar as easily as we can make one out of what’s new and creative. Music must be wisely chosen for its ability to serve both the lyrics and the congregation in order to truly honor God. But thinking that we need a certain type of music to truly engage with God is, at its root, idolatry.
Every church, even those that claim to be non-traditional, has traditions. A tradition is simply something you’ve done more than once. Can traditions serve God’s purposes in the church? Absolutely! Paul encourages the Thessalonians, ““So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” (2Th. 2:15, ESV) But are our traditions today equal to Scripture in authority? Absolutely not! Every generation is responsible to examine whether or not the traditions they’ve inherited (or are seeking to establish) are biblical and truly help people exult in God’s worthiness and works. The complementary idols of familiarity and comfort are often revealed in the words, “We’ve never done it that way before.”
Lest this list seem one-sided, NEWNESS can also be an idol. We’re convinced that some fresh, different, never-been-done-before idea will make our congregational worship more effective. Or powerful. Or appealing. Maybe it’s lighting…or a new stage set up…or a video clip…or candles…or banners…or “interactive artistic activity.” Creativity is never our goal in worshipping God. It’s simply a means to the end of displaying and seeing the glory of Christ more clearly. New forms or mediums of communication can give us a different perspective, causing the truth to have a greater impact on us. But if we walk away from a time of corporate worship more affected by our creativity than our Savior, or think that the Word of Christ is old news, God help us.
I’m aware what I’m writing may offend some. I pray that’s not the case, although what we perceive as an “offense” might be the Spirit’s conviction. It could just as well be my poor communication. But this I know: God is committed to receiving all the glory, honor, and praise each time we gather as His people, redeemed through His Son’s atoning sacrifice. He will have no rivals. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” (Is. 42:8, ESV) Each time we meet to worship the triune God, HE should be the all-consuming center of our attention and affections. His greatness and splendor should become bigger in our minds, hearts, and wills. His desires and commands should become more precious to us. Jesus Christ and His atoning work should be more glorious and amazing to us.
Tomorrow, I’ll share more idols I’ve found myself worshipping on Sunday mornings. In the mean time, I pray you’re encouraged by the Father’s costly love for us.
For more on this topic, you can listen to: Worship Music or Music Worship