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Summer 2008 Magazine: The Last Great Contest – Worship
Publish date: Jun 29, 2009
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There is real controversy in our church over the subject of worship. We hear rumblings of how we need to be more relevant in our style of worship, that we must do all we can to attract and keep our youth by having a style of worship that will appeal to them. We are told that if we cater to the unconverted, we will draw them by the type of worship service that will make them feel comfortable.
The subject of worship in the Bible begins with Genesis and ends in Revelation. Actually, the subject of whom to worship was contested in heaven, when Lucifer desired to be like the Most High. After his fall, Lucifer continued his controversy here on Earth.
The definition of worship from the American Heritage Dictionary is, “The reverent love and allegiance accorded a deity, idol, or sacred object. A set of ceremonies, prayers, or other religious forms by which this love is expressed. Ardent, humble devotion.”
Lucifer coveted the worship and adoration of the angels and of the created beings. He indulged in the desire for self-exaltation. Ezekiel 28:7 tells us that his heart was lifted up because of his beauty and his brightness. We are also told that he said in his heart, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God…I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Page 36 of Patriarchs and Prophets says, “Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself.” This continues to be his aim and goal even after losing the war in heaven and being cast down to Earth.
We see Satan’s continued desire for supremacy and reverence by his attack on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. By partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve fell and forever placed humankind in an environment where Satan could tempt and harass them. For six thousand years the struggle has continued. There are only two sides to choose from, now, just as there were then. Whom will we reverence and worship— our Creator God or the imposter, Satan?
The people in Noah’s day also faced the challenge of deciding to whom they would yield their allegiance. “Men put God out of their knowledge and worshiped the creatures of their own imagination; and as the result, they became more and more debased” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 91). Because the people chose not to worship the Creator God, they suffered the destruction of the Flood that God sent.
Choose you this day whom ye will serve
The Bible is full of examples of people having to make the choice as to whom they would worship and obey. Abraham made the choice to worship the Creator God rather than the gods of the nations around him. Abraham was instructed to move away from his kindred to a place that God would show him. The Bible tells us that Abraham went, not knowing where he was going. God knew that for Abraham to remain in his home environment would be too great a risk for him. Perhaps there is a lesson here for us to learn.
You will recall the story of the prophet Daniel’s faithfulness to the worship of God even though it took him to the lion’s den. Then there were his three friends who faced the fiery furnace because of their decision to worship God alone. The story of Elijah on Mount Carmel also speaks to us of the importance of making the right choice as to whom we will worship. All through the history of the Bible, men and women have been faced with this decision.
There is however, one particular Bible story that I find very intriguing. This is the story of the children of Israel just before they reached the Promised Land and were preparing to enter in. Israel was camped in a beautiful plain, surrounded by tropical plants and beautiful trees. The climate was ideal and the children of Israel found this to be an agreeable retreat while they waited for Moses, who was busy preparing for the occupation of Canaan.
Idle time is not conducive to spiritual growth and this was the case with the children of Israel. They were in a condition of outward ease and indulgence. In addition, they neglected prayer and cherished a spirit of self-confidence.
On every side of this plain, with its attractive surroundings, were places noted for idolatry and extravagance. These surroundings, which at first were repugnant to the Israelites, soon exerted a polluting influence on them. Their minds and eyes became familiar with the vile and the idolatrous. Slowly they began to depart from God. At first, the Israelites had little to do with their Midian neighbors. But soon the Midianite women began making visits to the camp.
Balaam, a man the Israelites considered to be a prophet of God, also made friendly overtures to God’s people. He had been appointed by the king of Moab to induce the Israelites to attend a grand festival in honor of their gods. Balaam had little difficulty in persuading the Israelites to come and join in the festive occasion. Great numbers of the people joined him in witnessing the celebration. When they ventured on Satan’s territory, his devices ensnared them.
It didn’t take much to cause the people of God to cast off their allegiance to Jehovah. The music, dancing, feasting, drinking of wine, and beautiful women soon had them infatuated. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the rulers and the leading men of Israel were among the first to transgress. They led the way for multitudes to apostatize and join themselves to the worship of Baal.
By the time Moses realized what was happening to God’s people, many of them were beginning to observe the heathen rites right in the camp of Israel. The aged leader was filled with indignation. God’s wrath was poured out by a terrible pestilence that broke out in the camp, killing tens of thousands of the guilty people.
Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).
As we approach the close of time, as the people of God stand upon the borders of the heavenly Canaan, Satan will, as of old, redouble his efforts to prevent them from entering the goodly land. He lays his snares for every soul. It is not the ignorant and the uncultured merely that need to be guarded; he will prepare his temptations for those in the highest positions, in the most holy office; if he can lead them to pollute their souls, he can, through them, destroy many. And he employs the same agents now as he employed three thousand years ago. By worldly friendships, by the charms of beauty, by pleasure seeking, mirth, feasting, or the wine cup, he tempts to the violation of the seventh commandment – “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 458).
Do you think that something of this nature might be happening to our people today? Let’s just look at this story for a minute. What was it that caused the children of Israel to fall so easily into apostasy? There are a number of points to consider:
1. The Israelites were enjoying leisure time and were not spending time in spiritual renewal and prayer.
2. They were gradually enticed to sin. Sin was all around them and they became so familiar with it that it didn’t seem so sinful to them after a while.
3. They came to enjoy the Moabite music and feasting, and, finally, their mode of idol worship.
4. The leaders were instrumental in causing many to think that there would be nothing wrong with fraternizing with the heathens around them.
The Spirit of Prophecy makes it very plain that Israel of old is the type of the modern Church of God—the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The experiences that they went through can be seen in our church’s history. Are we now experiencing the apostasy at the Jordan?
Sensual indulgence weakens the mind and debases the soul. The moral and intellectual powers are benumbed and paralyzed by the gratification of the animal propensities; and it is impossible for the slave of passion to realize the sacred obligation of the law of God, to appreciate the atonement, or to place a right value upon the soul…
By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts, man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed will become pleasant to him...Satan is using every means to make crime and debasing vice popular. We cannot walk the streets of our cities without encountering flaring notices of crime presented in some novel or to be acted at some theater. The mind is educated to familiarity with sin…
Those who would not fall a prey to Satan’s devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest (Patriarchs and Prophets, 458-460).
Then there is the problem of the way people dress and act that we encounter every day. This, also, becomes a means whereby Satan entices us to sin. Let us bring the points that led to Israel’s downfall to our modern age.
The Pursuit of Pleasure
Has there ever been a time in Earth’s history when more time is spent on pleasure than the present? I believe it is right for us to take some time to be with our families and to enjoy some relaxation after having exerted ourselves in work. But never should this be to the exclusion of time spent with God in His word and on our knees. In fact, God should be our first priority every day.
Familiarity with Evil
The children of Israel were enticed to sin by watching and seeing the evil on every side. Satan has now made such advances in this day and age that we do not need to leave our home in order to see and hear evil. Now he has brought the evil into the privacy of our homes. Television has bridged the gap.
Satan was very cunning in how he brought the evil into our homes. Originally, the programs were “innocent” and captivating. Then gradually, the programs became more violent and sensual. The ads also began with innocence. Now there is hardly a program that one as a Christian can watch and know that it would be approved of in heaven. Watching the news is also alarming. The ads that are put in between the news items are not fit for Christians to see. Even the news items themselves are so graphic, that we have become hardened to scenes of violence and crime. This is just how Satan wants it to be.
Then there are the violent and often demonic games that nearly every home has. Our children play these games by the hour, never realizing that Satan is stealing their souls. All of this is causing us to find the study of God’s Word boring and uninteresting. And yet, when we feed our souls on the Word of God and commune with Him, the “things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace!” It all depends on whom we will worship.
When we pray, we should ask God to help us instantly recognize what Satan is suggesting so we can resist the thought, or take our eyes away from seeing evil. How often after we see an immoral suggestion, Satan plays that scene over and over again in our minds trying to break us down so that we will fall when the opportunity comes! The admonition to “Guard well the avenues of the soul” should be taken very seriously. Whom do we intend to worship?
Music is a very controversial subject. The music we listen to and participate in will tell whom we worship! Rick Warren, in his book, The Purpose-Driven Life says this:
Worship has nothing to do with the style or volume or speed of a song. God loves all kinds of music because he invented it all—fast and slow, loud and soft, old and new. You probably don’t like it all, but God does! If it is offered to God in spirit and truth, it is an act of worship…
Christians often disagree over the style of music used in worship…But there is no biblical style! There are no musical notes in the Bible; we don’t even have the instruments they used in Bible.
There is no such thing as ‘Christian’ music; there are only Christian lyrics. It is the words that make a song sacred, not the tune. There are no spiritual tunes.i
Compare the above statements with what the inspired writings say about music:
The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings. The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its work of converting the souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit’s working…
The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with such a confusion of noise and multitude of sounds as passed before me last January. Satan works amid the din and confusion of such music, which, properly conducted, would be a praise and glory to God. He makes its effect like the poison sting of the serpent…Satan will make music a snare by the way in which it is conducted (2 Selected Messages, 36-38).
We are admonished that the character of our music can elevate our thoughts and feelings or degenerate them (See 2T, 322).
I realize that this quote refers to worldly music, but I also believe that it can apply to so-called Christian rock. Listening to the beat and the grating singing sounds that come along with even Christian rock only causes one to become insensitive to the sounds and words of worldly rock. Only the words are different.
To me, Contemporary Christian music is the station that I tune in on the radio, thinking that I’m hearing secular music because it sounds so hip – until I catch the words and realize the lyric has a slightly different intent. I am happy to see that Christian music is moving into the 20th century, and that in some cases, the distinction between Christian and secular music is being blurred.ii
Richard Harrington, writing in the Washington Post, says that the religious recording industry recognizes the terrific sales potential in pushing more “positive pop” into the churches. He says it is capitalizing on its opportunity to make big sales by fusing current popular musical styles with religious words.iii
In his book Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? Paul Baker writes this:
“Christian rock” entered the churches—not through Christian musicians who sought to glorify the Lord—but by unsaved, secular rock performers who capitalized on religious themes.iv
What is today hailed by church administrators, pastors, and youth leaders as a great victory…is actually a device of the devil to destroy everyone in the churches…
Rock music, by its very history and what it does in the lives of those who tamper with it, is unholy. To attempt to use it “to glorify God” is blasphemy…Rock music began as a rebellious sexual style of music. It remains that today. It is offensive to God and to genuine Christians who love Him and seek to obey His Word, the Bible…trying to unite a holy message with the unholy music of the world is an abomination in the eyes of God.v
When you read about the children of Israel joining with the Moabites in their celebration, can you see a parallel in the Christian Church today joining in the worship celebration using the music of the world. We have been warned that this would happen before the Second Coming of Jesus.
Dr. Juanita McElwain writes this:
The same exact rhythms are used…in African and Indian music, in rock music and in music used in meetings of faith healers. The god comes, whenever he is called by anyone using those rhythms...Does the god come to celebration-type worship services, when the god’s rhythm is played in Christian rock music, even though the people present do not realize they are calling a god? There is quite a strong consensus that the god does come.vi
There are many testimonials of Christian young people who were bound by Satan as they were listening to Christian rock. It has only been by sincere confession and turning away from listening to this music, asking God to cover them with His precious blood, that victory was gained. In some cases they said it took months of daily prayer and Bible study to regain the Christian experience that they had lost because of the “Christian” music they had been listening to. The question remains, whom will you worship?
I would like to encourage you not to get lost in the apostasy at the Jordan as the children of Israel did. My primary objective in writing this article was to point people to the dangers that are surrounding us. God has an adversary who has a plan to delude people in the name of our precious Saviour. I want to challenge you to study and pray that you will not be led by the subtlety of Satan. Let the Word of God be your final authority.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).
i Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life (Michigan: Zondervan, 2002): 65-66.
ii Alan O’Day, Contemporary Christian Music (November 1982).
iii Vance Ferrel, Inside Rock Music (Tennessee: Evolution Facts, 2006): 45-46.
iv Paul Baker, Why Should the Devil Have all the Good Music? (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979): 15.
v Vance Ferrel, Inside Rock Music (Tennessee: Evolution Facts, 2006): 46-47.
vi Dr. Juanita McElwain, Demon Possession and Music.
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