Saturday, February 17, 2007

How have we despised your name?

In Fundamentalism today, those who hold to a strict non-CCM standard within their churches are becoming more and more rare. Indeed, it is quite common for self-proclaimed Fundamentalist to openly embrace many of the popular CCM artists and groups of our day. It doesn’t take long surfing through Fundamentalist blogdom to find positive references to Casting Crowns, Third Day, Chris Tomlin, etc. Even among those in our ranks who oppose CCM, the trend is to treat this development as not a big deal. These contemporary worship styles are just different “varieties of ice cream” -- nothing to get worked up over and certainly nothing to separate over. We are talking about preferences here and there are lots of good Christians who worship differently than we do, or so they say.

I will admit that some differences in worship style are really no more significant than one’s favorite flavor of ice cream. And while it may not always be easy to tell when a particular group or song has crossed the line, I think we need to be careful not to dismiss this subject area by trivializing the issues involved. I think we will find, if we study it out, that God takes deviant worship very seriously. Recently, I took a quick look at what God had to say about polluted offerings in the book of Malachi. Here’s what I found:

Primarily, God’s wants worshipers to give Him the honor and fear that His name deserves. The priests were despising God’s name by offering polluted sacrifices and He asks, “Where is my honor?…where is my fear?” (1:6-7) It wasn’t there and in case anyone thinks this is not a big deal to God, consider His reaction -- it is stunning. Verse 1:10 says that (1) God has no pleasure in such worshipers; (2) God will not accept such worship; and (3) it would be better to bar the door and shut down the worship service! That certainly sounds like separation to me.

Some may say, however, that Malachi is Old Testament and with the coming of Christ New Testament believers are free to worship God without such OT worries. While it is true that Christ has made us free from the law and these OT ceremonial worship patterns, it is not true that these OT warnings no longer apply in any way to our worship today. In fact, after the author of the book of Hebrews spends almost his entire time explaining the superiority of Christ and how His coming does away with the ineffectual old covenant and its sacrificial system, he nevertheless says that NT believers do have an altar and we do have sacrifices to perform (Heb. 13: 10, 15). How can that be?

Well, the conclusion of the author’s argument is that our inheritance (which we need to faithfully strive after) includes or consummates in a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Thus we need to be grateful and offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe (Heb 12:28). That word “worship” is used in Hebrews to describe the service of the priests under the old covenant sacrificial system. Old Testament priests were to worship/serve God with honor and fear (Mal 1:6) and so are New Testament believer priests (Heb 12:28).

It is interesting to observe the parallels between the opening chapters of Malachi and the closing verses of Hebrews. In both books the primary issue is the honor of God’s name (cf., Mal. 1:6, 11; Heb. 13:15). Besides polluted worship, Malachi will go on to identify several other issues that also appear in Hebrews, namely improper instruction (cf., Mal. 2:1-9; Heb. 13:7), impure worshipers (cf., Mal. 2:13-16; Heb. 13:4), and lovers of money (cf., Mal. 3:6-12; Heb. 13:5). Hebrews refers to God as a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29), while Malachi refers to the day when the Lord that will set the arrogant and evildoers ablaze (Mal. 4:1). It is almost as if the author of Hebrews had Malachi in mind as he was finishing his exhortation.

So, when the author of Hebrews says that we need to worship God with reverence and awe (12:28), when he says that we should offer a sacrifice of praise to God to acknowledge His name (13:15, using the technical term for an OT sacrifice), I think it would behoove us to consider, from the OT in general and Malachi in particular, what that means and how not to despise God’s great name. And if deviant worship resulted in God separating from the worshipers in Malachi’s day, what would be His reaction be to deviant worship today? It seems to me that we in Fundamentalism ought to be much more concerned about the ramifications of polluted offerings in our churches today.


At 1:03 PM, Blogger Andy Rupert said...

May God open the eyes of many people to these truths.

At 9:57 PM, Blogger John Bensley said...

Very well said. The freedom that we have now isn't freedom to dishonor His holy name with worldly, artificial, self-directed, idol worship.


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