Just the title of a recent post by Tim Challies makes me pause to think. The post was titled Why worship any way other than as God desires? and immediately brought to mind the idea that, as American believers, I’m not sure we know know what this is.
Challies article focuses on music in worship, which is definitely a hot-button issue in today’s churches, but a reading of the Old and New Testaments show us that God is much more interested in how we do what we do in service to Him than we are lead to believe.
In the Old Testament, we see entire chapters of Exodus and Leviticus dedicated to teaching the Israelite people to build the Tabernacle, what to wear, how to be present, who can enter, what should be said, by whom and how. We’re treated to this with the Temple as well, with penalties enforced to people that break the rules, and others refusing to break them.
In the New Testament, we see much more liberty in the way that a believer approaches the worship service, but still rules are in place concerning dress, how many can speak, who can speak, what to do about tongues, and the character of the men leading the gatherings and overseeing the ministries. The difference being that the worship of God would now take place in a decentralized motif, rather than the centralized one of the Old Testament.
The problem that I have, and have been working through for quite some time, is that when God specifically calls something out in the New Testament to correct a church’s practice or inform it about something new, how do we resolve this against the current American practice to absorb our culture into the Bible and explain away these calls based on what is currently in vogue.
The current refrain in American Christianity is that God could not be for something that is clearly stated in Scripture, but that He crafted His rulings based on the times. For example, God wouldn’t promote hierarchy, because non-hierarchy in the church/family is definitely “the better way to go.” God wouldn’t really tell wives to submit to husbands, it was a stepping stone. God would be against Trump’s wall, or whatever other social justice rule that we’ve come up with today to promote unity, harmony, and not offending anyone.
So, how do you reconcile a God who said that He was come not to bring peace, but a sword (Matthew 10:34) with the God that is being touted today?
John MacArthur is joining this conversation in talking about how social justice may cloud the gospel and reconciliation, but it goes further than this. To me, I’m coming to a place where I’m beginning to wonder why we are doing what we are doing in churches. What parts of American Christianity are just edifices built on top of the truth, and have taken place of truth when it’s just religiosity much like the Pharisees.