Worship with Obedience – May 26, 2023

In Christ’s answer to the Samaritan Woman in John 4, He informs us that we are to worship in Spirit. While we are to worship the right One, the right way, we are also to worship with the right heart. So we must ask the question, what does it mean to worship God in Spirit? There are three vital things to consider when we discuss worshipping God in Spirit. Over the past two weeks, we looked at the first two: Worship in Spirit involves our emotions, and worship in Spirit involves our devotion. Today we conclude our series on worship in the church with the final thing to consider: Worship in Spirit involves obedience.

This final principle arises out of one of the minor prophets. Consider Micah 6:6-8, “With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased withthousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” 8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Judah was heading towards destruction. As we saw a few weeks ago from Amos 5, this was not because worship failed to occur. Instead, it was because the worship was not how God had prescribed. Micah poses the question to Judah about what exactly pleases God. In truth, we need to ask this same question often. From this interaction, we must draw two important conclusions.

First, we must understand that God is not impressed with empty ritualism. Micah poses to Judah acts of extreme sacrifice. In this, he asks, “Will God be pleased if I simply go through the prescribed rituals?” “What if we offer thousands of rams?” Now he ups the ante. “What if we go beyond God’s requirements and do extreme acts?” “What if we offer 10,000 rivers of oil?” What if we make the most extreme sacrifice to God possible and offer our firstborn?” But Micah notes that God is not interested in empty ritualism. You can go through all the rituals you want. But it does not make your worship authentic. You can stand when you are supposed to and sit when you are supposed to. You can ensure your church uses the right hymnbook, instruments, Bible version, and anything else you think is important. Still, God is not interested in empty rituals.

Instead, we see secondly from Micah that God desires an obedient heart. Micah states that God has already told us what pleases Him. Micah summarizes it in three statements. First, we are to do justice. God desires more that we act righteously and justly than that we make incredible sacrifices. Justice is who God is. It was His very justice that sent Jesus to the cross.

Second, we are to love mercy. While this would seem to negate justice, this is mercy found on the cross of Christ. Rather than show kindness (or compassion or steadfast love), particularly to those less fortunate and less successful, the people of Israel pursued a ruthless policy of exploitation, greed, fraud, and murder. God desired that they would develop the inward character of holiness through mercy. We are not to look down on the less fortunate or the sinful. Instead, we are to act in mercy towards them. This is a reminder that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Proverbs 3:3 informs us that mercy is to be imprinted on us like a jewel around our neck. We are to be known as merciful people.

Finally, Micah states that this means we are to walk humbly. God is honored by a church marked by humility. Too many believe we don’t need to learn at church. We are here to instruct others (as though God has given us the spiritual gift of counsel). But 1 Peter 5:5 informs us that God will go to war against the proud. God is not impressed with your intellect, abilities, finances, personality, or social status. James 1:17 informs us that it all comes from Him anyway. So, we are to be humble people. People marked by mercy and love. Any worship that does not come from this kind of heart fails to approach God rightly.

While not comprehensive, we have looked at some important principles in worship over the last two months. We are to worship in truth. This means we remember God’s glory and worship for Him, not ourselves. We also recognize that God is a God of truth. Everything we do and say should be driven by and come out of the truth of God’s Word. We care more about the questions, “is it true?” and “is it right?” than about the questions, “do people like this?” and “will this get people to come here?” We must worship the right One, the right way. So we sing the Word, pray the Word, read the Word, preach the Word, and picture the Word in the ordinances. Worship in truth also means that we seek one another’s edification in worship. We care more about others’ spiritual growth than about our preferences. We humbly serve one another. And we don’t make this church about us! Finally, we sing together. We all sing to one another. We sing joyfully, boldly, and triumphantly.

But we also worship in Spirit. If we worship in truth but go through the motions, we have fallen into the other ditch. We respond in naturally emotional ways. This means that sometimes we will raise our hands, sometimes we will clap, sometimes we will shout, sometimes we will rejoice, and sometimes we will mourn. But we will not suppress our emotions because others think it is weird. This means that we will worship with devotion. Sunday will lead to worship all week. God will dominate every area of life. We will seek Him with everything that we have. We will love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind.

And finally, we will worship with obedience. When God convicts, we will respond. We will obey the Word. This must entail a humble, teachable spirit. No one is better than anyone else. We cannot look on with disdain or ridicule at others. We cannot throw a fit when we don’t get our way or others do things differently than we wanted. We must love justice, mercy, and humility. Every Sunday should be a picture of the Kingdom of God. We should love gathering with our church body and joyfully participate. We should worship the right One, the right way, with the right heart.

Worship with Devotion – May 19, 2023

As we discussed worshipping in truth the last few weeks, there is a danger. As we have worked through these foundational principles, the message has been that we must avoid being worked into an emotional frenzy devoid of truth. Just because something makes us feel good does not make it right. However, often to avoid this ditch of emotionalism in worship, we end up in another ditch. We become stoic, passive, and hard. We have seen that we must worship God in truth. We must worship the right One the right way. However, in Christ’s answer to the Samaritan Woman in John 4, He also informs us that we are to worship in Spirit. We are to worship the right One, the right way, with the right heart. So we must ask the question, what does it mean to worship God in Spirit? There are three vital things to consider when we discuss worshipping God in Spirit. Last week we looked at the first: Worship in Spirit involves our emotions. This week we will look at the second: Worship in Spirit involves our devotion.

In Matthew 22, as the Sadducees attempted to trap Jesus, they sent a lawyer to ask him about the greatest commandment. In response, Jesus gave a lesson about worship. “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’” (Matthew 22:37). Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5. And by this, He informs us that worship of God requires devotion. We should note two things about this devotion.

First, we should note that this devotion is complete. God commands that we love Him with all our heart, soul, and mind [might]. To the ancient Hebrews, the heart referred to the core of one’s being. It was the very center of one’s person. Central to their very identity. The term soul is closest to what we would call emotion and was the word Jesus used when he cried out in the garden of Gethsemane. Again this love was not to be a stoic, passive, or hard love, but rather one that resulted in great emotion. When this is the case, everyone knows about this love. It’s the picture in movies where the boy and girl’s eyes meet, fireworks explode, birds sing, music plays, and everyone knows they are in love. It is the picture of the parent sitting up all night in anguish with a sick child, tenderly brushing back their hair as they cool their brow with a cool cloth. It is the picture of the spouse married for decades grieving at the graveside of their departed companion. This is the kind of emotion that we are to have in our love for God. Mind corresponds to what is usually translated might in Deuteronomy 6:5. Mind is used here in the sense of intellectual, willful vigor and determination, carrying the meaning of mental endeavor and strength.

Therefore, Christ says we should love God in every way possible. Love for God and the corresponding worship of God cannot simply be a part of who we are. It must be who we are completely. Love for God cannot be something we accomplish on Sunday. Instead, love for God must be the central aspect of our being that drives everything we do. Note that God says we are to love Him with ALL of our heart, soul, and mind. God is not interested in a part of us. He requires all of us. So worship in Spirit involves our complete devotion to Him – every aspect, every place, every minute devoted to God.

This concept builds then into the second aspect of this devotion. When the devotion is complete, it is also caring. Jesus’ answer to the lawyer did not stop in verse 38. He stated, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt 22:39). When we worship in Spirit with complete devotion to God, it pours out into the way that we interact with others. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Every Sunday, we ask God to help us remember that Cambria Baptist Church does not belong to any one of us. He alone purchased it with the blood of His Son. This means that no matter how long we have been at this church (50 years or one week) and how much we have given to it, it is still not about us. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.

Some of us struggle with this principle of complete devotion to God. We love ourselves. We have our opinion and don’t like anyone who contradicts that opinion. But to worship God in Spirit, we must get over ourselves. And instead, sacrificially love our neighbor. We cannot say that we love God while we are simultaneously standing in conflict with our neighbor. Worshipping in Spirit means that we love. We love God, and we love our neighbor.

Worship with Emotion! – May 12, 2023

As Jesus traveled through Samaria, he stopped at a well and conversed with a woman of ill repute. Very quickly in the conversation, this lady recognized that Jesus was a man of incredible wisdom. So, she asked him a question to distract him from the heart-probing questions he was asking her. So she went to the hot-button issue of the day, the worship war between the Jews and Samaritans. The Jews believed God said what he meant and that true worship needed to involve the temple. However, the Samaritans believed that as long as they had the right heart, they could worship on a mountain they had set apart for worship. The woman inquired about Jesus’ thoughts on the matter. Jesus replied with incredible wisdom, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

Over the past several weeks, we have focused on the second half of Jesus’ answer. Worship that honors God must be true worship. In other words, we need to worship the right One the right way. So we have examined four foundational principles from God’s Word to help us in that endeavor: Our worship should be to God alone and for God alone, our worship should be how God requires, a primary purpose for congregational worship is the edification of fellow believers, and the church is congregational so we should emphasize congregational singing.

As we emphasize worshipping God in truth, there is a danger. As we have worked through these foundational principles, the message has been that we must avoid being worked into an emotional frenzy devoid of truth. Just because something makes us feel good does not make it right.

However, often to avoid the ditch of emotionalism in worship, we end up in another ditch. We become stoic, passive, and hard. While we must worship God in truth (we must worship the right One the right way), Christ also informs us that we are to worship in Spirit. We are to worship the right One, the right way, with the right heart. So we must ask the question, what does it mean to worship God in spirit? There are three critical things to consider when we discuss worshipping God in spirit.

Today we will examine the first. We should understand that worshipping in spirit involves our emotions. This point arises from several texts. However, today, I will point to just three. “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1). “Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord!” (Psalm 134:2). “I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling” (1 Timothy 2:8). From these texts we see that God does not desire a dry ritualism. Sadly, to ensure we are true, we have interpreted that as a message that worship should be devoid of emotion. We must be stoic and bland. We must stand rigid and be careful lest any smile come across our faces.

As good Baptists, we maintain austerity and severity as we worship. But sometimes, someone gets out of line. The song’s message, or the Bible’s content, begins to take hold in an individual’s heart. And before they know it, a tingling begins in their arms, and those arms begin to rise up in praise to God. And the next thing we know, here is this person, in the middle of our service, holding up their hands while the worship takes place. And like all good Baptists, we do what we do. We all stop and stare at them while thinking, “what a weirdo.”

But I would like to propose to you today that they are not the ones who are weird; instead, we are weird. In the natural course of life, when we hear great news or are confronted with some message of incredible nature, we do not respond with stoicism. Instead, we react with joyful explanations, raising hands, clapping, and enthusiasm. But somehow, that is wiped out when we walk through the church doors. We could use some good old enthusiastic emotional responses to worship. We should not look at someone as strange or immature when they raise their hands or clap. In fact, the Bible tells us we ought to do these things.

I don’t think the Bible commands unnatural, forced, or manipulated reactions to worship. The moment it becomes forced or rote, it becomes a dry ritualism. But I do think that what these passages are saying is that worship should engender natural emotional responses. In his commentary on 1 Timothy, Kistemaker notes, “Posture in prayer is never a matter of indifference. The slouching position of the body while one is supposed to be praying is an abomination to the Lord. On the other hand, it is also true that Scripture nowhere prescribes one, and only one, correct posture during prayer. Different positions of arms, hands, and of the body as a whole are indicated. All of these are permissible as long as they symbolize different aspects of the worshiper’s reverent attitude, and as long as they truly interpret the sentiments of the heart.”

This principle would also apply to singing, reading Scripture, receiving the preached Word, or picturing the Gospel in the ordinances. These all should engender natural responses in us that are appropriate to the message from God. So, if the singing overwhelms your soul and you want to raise your hands, then by all means, raise your hands. And the rest of us should not look at them with disdain. If the Spirit’s conviction leads you to bow your head in prayer, then do so. But what should never happen is a stoic, passive, or hard response to the worship. That response is indicative of a heart that is hard to the Gospel. I am not proposing forced or false emotions. But I suggest that we should be engaged in worship involving our emotions. To worship in the spirit involves our emotions.

Let the People Sing! – May 5, 2023

An essential principle in worship is the principle of the Congregational church. The church is a congregation. The church is a body of Christ. It is not a group of individuals but a body of one. So, when Paul noted that spirit-filled believers sing, he did not limit it to only the gifted. Consider again Ephesians 5:18-19, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Note that we all are to address one another. In other words, everyone should be singing (Col 3:16).

Everyone is to sing in worship to God. Congregational singing paints the picture of the people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation redeemed by God’s blood singing together before His throne in the eternal kingdom. Vibrant singing reveals a healthy church. When no one is singing, it reveals a dead church. Sadly, many churches have replaced the congregation singing with a few gifted singers performing. To this, I reply, “Let the people sing!” Congregational singing should be the crown jewel of musical worship in the church. If the sound of worship in the church is to be the people singing, four principles must apply.

First, the music chosen for worship in the church must be singable. In other words, the music should lend itself easily to the average congregation member. Many songs performed by Christian artists do not lend themselves well to congregational singing. They were written for a single performer, not a group of untrained musicians. A song with a broad range (too high and too low), excessive or irregular syncopation, and irregular rhythm and meter create a challenging environment for congregational singing. These kinds of songs make the average member mumble, not sing wholeheartedly. For this reason, we usually try to choose hymns and songs written for congregational singing.

Second, the music chosen for worship in the church must be tasteful. The genre, volume, and instrumentation should serve the sound of the congregation, not the other way around. If the genre is of a worldly nature, the godly members of the congregation will not be able to participate in good conscience. Further, the style of the music must fit the lyrics. Some styles of music do not fit the message of the song. As a result, the message is lost. Some styles of music are inappropriate for a song. As a result, the message is lost. One would not sing the lyrics of lament to a Susa march, nor would one sing the lyrics of rejoicing in a funeral dirge.

Further, If the music is too loud, the beautiful sound of the congregation raising their voices in praise to God will be drowned out. If the instrumentation is too complex, ornate, or boisterous, the congregation’s attention is drawn away from the lyrics in worship. The guitar riff or piano solo might be impressive but distracts from the song’s message. The congregation should drive the singing, not the genre, volume, or instrumentation.

A key idea to remember is that the church is not a concert hall but a banquet hall. The congregation does not gather to be entertained but to feast on the Word. The music, the prayer, the reading, and the preaching must serve this purpose. As a result, what one listens to in private worship may not be appropriate or helpful in congregational worship. The music must serve the congregation in worship.

Third, and most importantly, the music chosen for worship in the church must be Biblical. Whether a song is new or old, loved or hated, preferred or tolerated, it has no place in the church if the lyrics are not Biblical. Further, the lyrics must be clearly Biblical. The song’s purpose in our mouth is edification and evangelism (Ps 40:3). If the lyrics are ambiguous or unbiblical, these dual purposes are destroyed. Too much modern “Christian” music could be sung to one’s boyfriend without changing anything. God is not our boyfriend. Some sacrifice truth for poetic license. Is reckless really the way we should describe God’s love? (Hint: look up the definition of reckless. To describe God’s love this way is heretical). These songs have no place in worship. Too many “Good Ole” songs have no clear message. What does it mean to bring in sheaves, and why are we doing it? And who in the world are we walking with in some garden at night by ourselves? The music must be unambiguous, clear, and above all, Biblically true. The church is the place of the Book. The songs must be songs of the Book.

Finally, the music chosen for worship in the church must be familiar. This is not to say that the church should refrain from singing new songs. However, there should be a balance to the new music introduced into the church. When people know a song, they will sing it out. The amount of new music a church can handle must be carefully evaluated on a congregation-by-congregation basis. If a church looks around its auditorium and people barely sing, it is doing it wrong. Let the people sing!

Worship is to make us more like Christ. As we enter the throne room of God, we see his glory and proclaim it to those around us. This means that when we gather together on Sunday, you look to make those around you more like Christ through your worship. Your singing is so that those next to you might hear the lyrics and agree. You remind them that they are not alone. When you pray, you encourage those around you that God is accessible. When you listen eagerly to the Word, you remind those around you that we serve a God of the Word and that he gives answers for life. Worship is for edification.

For edification to happen, the church must be a banquet hall, not a concert hall. We do not gather to be impressed by one’s musical or intellectual prowess, for that distracts from worship for God alone to God alone. Instead, we gather to feast on the Word! So we sing the Word, pray the Word, read the Word, preach the Word, and picture the Word in the ordinances so that we might go out and live the Word. To this end, we seek to obey the command to sing to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. We all sing. A healthy church sings. A dying church stands in silence. So let the people sing!

While our world tells us to have it our way, we must stand countercultural and state that we would rather have it God’s way. But we must understand that God’s way is not always the most emotionally stimulating way. God’s way is not always the most enjoyable way. God’s way is often a way of pain and hardship. God’s way is a way of sacrifice and edification. But God’s way is the only way to approach Him in worship and find lasting peace and joy.

Worship Should Not Be Selfish – April 28, 2023

A primary purpose for congregational worship is the edification of fellow believers. This principle sets corporate worship apart from all-of-life worship. Due to this focus, many activities are appropriate for believers in all-of-life worship but not for corporate worship. As a primary purpose of corporate worship is edification, we can draw out three essential principles. Last week we examined that edification is corporate, not individual.

Since the worship of the body of Christ is corporate, not individual, our worship must be saturated with grace. Since a healthy body of Christ is diverse in age, race, and taste, personal preferences and standards will vary. This being the case, corporate worship must be saturated with grace towards one another. This leads us to the second principle: edification means more than preference. Edification means more than asking, “Do people like this?” While some preferences in worship may be fun, entertaining, creative, and satisfying, they are not appropriate for corporate worship if they do not build up the whole body into maturity in Christ. Even if the preferences use the gifts of members and encourage some, if the preferences do not build up the whole body of Christ, they are not appropriate for corporate worship. While some preferences may be suitable for private worship, not all preferences are appropriate for the body of Christ.

Further, the church must ensure that the worship is cross-generational. No generation in the body of Christ takes precedence over another. We do not focus on the old at the expense of the young or the young at the expense of the old. The church is one body. The question in edification must be, “Does this drive people to the cross of Christ and the Word?”


1 Corinthians 14 provides some necessary insights into the nature of edification in corporate worship. In this passage, Paul provides guidance for speaking in tongues in the worship service (as a cessationist, I believe that the gift of tongues in the church has since ceased. However, the principles in this passage apply to all of corporate worship). In this passage, Paul argues that an accompanying interpretation must be provided when tongues are used in a corporate worship service. Because, without interpretation, no one would understand the speaker, and the body would not be edified. While an experience may be powerful, emotionally charged, and moving, if it does not edify the body, it is not appropriate.

Consider Paul’s statements throughout 1 Corinthians 14, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up” (1 Corinthians 14:1-5).

Here edification means house building. The primary responsibility of Christians to each other is to build each other up. In Ephesians 4, we learn that a primary purpose of the church is to bring each believer into full spiritual maturity. Paul continues in 1 Corinthians 14:12, “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” Once again, notice that the focus is building up the church, the assembly of all the believers. Finally, in verses 16-19, he states, “Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.” And in verse 26, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.”

In verse 26, Paul insists that when Christians come to their meetings prepared with a song or any other spiritual exercise, they must consider how that song or spiritual exercise will build up the whole body. “In other words, if you are so eager to minister spiritual gifts, minister them in the way God intended: for the benefit of the church, in particular for the church’s edification. Again the clear word is that this gift is for public, not private, use and benefit” (MacArthur, 1 Corinthians, 375). Because you are to edify your fellow believer in your worship, your preference cannot stand central. Instead, you are to prefer your fellow believer.

This second principle leads then into the final principle regarding edification: edification is intelligible (easily understandable). The body cannot be edified without intelligible, intentional, and precise wording. You will notice that throughout Scripture, God is a God of words. John 1 calls Christ the Word. The Scripture is referred to as the Word of God. God communicates in intelligible, intentional, and precise words.

This principle greatly limits the use of arts in worship because they are imprecise and open to various interpretations. A primary principle from 1 Corinthians 14 is that understandable language is necessary for edification (note verses 7-12). Only intelligible language possesses the precise language necessary for body growth. While language can be misunderstood, other forms of communication contain more ambiguity, lack of preciseness, and greater intelligibility. Other forms of communication lead more easily to differing interpretations. Arts, by definition, invite differing interpretations and are more open-ended. Worship should be precise, not ambiguous. So, words should be central in worship.

Corporate worship is for the edification of the saints. Each Sunday, we glorify God by edifying one another in our worship. This means that we will not do anything to bring in unbelievers, for that is not the purpose of our service. We do other activities to evangelize the lost. But our worship on Sunday is for edification.

More Principles for Worship – April 21, 2023

For years, a large burger chain used the slogan, “Have it your way.” This slogan caught the American Consumer mentality that we should get whatever we want, however we want. When I go into a burger restaurant, I should be able to tell them how I want it made. This concept has expanded into other areas of consumerism in that we have the ability to gain designer products for just about anything. We can have it our way from clothing to tools to trips.

Unfortunately, this same consumeristic mentality has trickled into the church. We begin to expect to have church our way. Specifically, we expect to worship our way. But is this the way that worship should operate? Over the past few weeks, we have examined the topic of worship and the church. We have looked at two foundational principles we must understand if we are to accomplish the biblical purpose of the church: Our worship should be to God alone and for God alone, and our worship should be how God requires. With these foundational principles in mind, we will spend the next few weeks examining a few other essential principles that will help explain why we do what we do in worship at Cambria.

First, the Christian should understand that a primary purpose for congregational worship is the edification of fellow believers (Eph 5:18-19; Col 3:16; 1 Cor 14). Why is congregational worship important? We hear people often say that they can worship God without the church. Several Biblical truths render this statement asinine, but in line with our discussion today, this statement reveals a complete misunderstanding of worship.

While worship is all about God, and worship is not primarily about us, Scripture does indicate that a primary purpose for congregational worship is edification. Consider Ephesians 5:18-19 and note that a sign of the indwelling work of the Spirit of God in our hearts is that we sing to one another. Paul states nothing about singing in your car to God or in the quietness of your home to God (although I would hope we do this). Instead, the sign that we are walking in the Spirit of God is that we sing to address one another to God. That word addressing (λαλουντες, from λαλεω) could also be translated as communicating. In this context, Paul states that believers are to use their voices to communicate with one another in song.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul informs us that when the Word richly dwells in us (when we live in line with the Word of God), three things result: teaching, admonishing, and singing. Teaching is the importation of positive truth. Admonishing is the negative side of teaching. It means to warn people of the consequences of their behavior. Further, admonishing has the element of strong encouragement. It is generally practical and moral rather than abstract or theological. Paul’s address here that the Word richly dwelling in us (being people of the Word) results in teaching, instructing, and singing suggests that singing is a means of mutual edification and a vehicle of praise to God.

A primary purpose for congregational worship is the edification of fellow believers. This principle sets corporate worship apart from all-of-life worship. Due to this focus, many activities are appropriate for believers in all-of-life worship but not for corporate worship. As a primary purpose of corporate worship is edification, we can draw out three important principles. We will look at the first today and the other two in the coming weeks.

First, edification is corporate, not individual. The church is not about the individual. The church is about the body (we spent much time discussing this in 2019 in our foundations messages available on our website). As such, the individual should not ask, “What can I get out of this service?” Instead, each individual should ask, “What can I give to the body, and how can I serve the body?”

This principle means that the goal of corporate worship is not individual (or even corporate) entertainment but edification and worship. The church is to sing to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col. 3:16). So, all worship ought to lead to the maturing of the body of Christ.

This principle also has some ramifications on our thinking about the purpose of music. It means that every part of our service is a form of worship for the edification of the body. The music, the Bible reading, the praying, the preaching, and the observance of the ordinances are all worship. This means that music should never simply be a lead into the preaching.

But it also holds sway over the purpose of our gathering. So far, we have seen that worship is to God and for God alone accomplished through the edification of the body of Christ. Now notice what is not here, evangelism. The purpose of the church’s corporate worship is not evangelism but edification. Corporate worship is not to bring in unbelievers but to edify believers. So we don’t bring in unbelievers at any cost but worship in truth at any cost.

However, since we are gospel people, and the primary expression of God’s glory is the amazing reality of the impartation and outworking of the Gospel, the Gospel should saturate our services. The message of the Gospel should be all over the worship service. As a result, evangelism should happen in every service. So please understand what I am saying. I am not saying we do not want unbelievers in the service. We desperately want them to hear the Gospel. I am saying that the service is not for them (designed and purposed for them) but for believers. I am saying that evangelism is a byproduct, not a purpose of worship. No music in the Bible is ever characterized as being or intended to be evangelistic. It is always pictured in the context of the body of Christ to the body of Christ. This means that our singing is for the body of Christ.

The Regulative Principle for Worship, Part 2 – April 14, 2023

God does not simply care that we worship. He also cares about how we worship. Last week we looked at the Old Testament justification for the regulative principle. However, the book of Galatians clearly teaches that the Law no longer binds us. Instead, we live in a state of Grace. So, we must ask, “How does Grace impact the prescriptions for worship?”

God does not change. As a result, He still cares about how we approach Him. We must therefore ask if God has given us instructions for our worship today. The answer is that He has. Throughout the New Testament are instructions on how we are to approach God. These serve as our guidelines today. And since God commands how we approach Him, we cannot approach Him any way we want. How has God commanded that we approach Him?

First, we see that we are to pray the Word. Our worship should be bathed in prayer. Consider Christ’s condemnation of the temple worship of His day, “He said to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers’” (Matt 21:13). In response to the trials the early church faced, they immediately responded in prayer (Acts 4:24-26). Yet even our prayer comes with instructions (Matt 6:7-13). Jesus commands us not to fill our prayer with empty ritualistic platitudes. Instead, He gives us a prayer saturated in Scripture. So, we are to pray the Word. This is why we have numerous prayer times on Sunday mornings. We try to pray a lot.

Next, 1 Timothy 4:13 commands us to read the Word. The word of God is what sanctifies believers. As a result, we are commanded to read the Word together. This is why we have two times every Sunday morning devoted to the public reading of the Word.

Third, we are to sing the Word. We covered this a little last week. But the point here is that singing is a commanded part of worship. A church that does not sing is a church that does not worship. Consider again Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph 5:18-19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).

A few weeks ago, we focused on the fact that our singing is to be Word saturated. It is to be true. So, we must ask our songs, “what does this song actually say?” Is the song saying anything, and is it true? However, the point this week is that God commands us to sing to one another. Some have said, “I don’t sing for the sake of those around me. I have a terrible voice, and no one around me wants to hear it.” Others take the opportunity of singing to demonstrate how gifted they are. Both come from a faulty view of worship. You see, the singing in the church is not for entertainment but for edification, teaching, and admonishment. God does not command that only gifted people sing, but that we all sing one to another.

So, let me be frank. If you stand silently while the congregation sings, you are doing your fellow members a disservice. You are violating a clear command of Scripture. And you are not approaching God properly. Further, if you choose to make the singing time a dazzling display of your musical prowess, you are doing the body of Christ a disservice by distracting them from the song’s message, and you are not worshipping God properly.

This is why the song that the congregation sings must be singable. Most modern Christian songs today were written for performance, not corporate singing. As a result, they contain musical elements which the average church member cannot handle. So, we attempt to introduce singable songs. We will address this concept further in the coming weeks.

Fourth, 2 Timothy 4:1-5 commands that we are to preach the Word. The preaching of the Word is necessary for the worship and spiritual growth of the church. We should note two things about this preaching. First, it is the Word that is to be preached. The pastor should not preach personal opinions or another person’s thoughts. God commands the pastor to expound the Word. Second, expository preaching will not be popular. Today many churches have chosen to downplay the preaching of the Word for this reason. But we are to love the preaching of the Word.

All of this is done so that we might worship through living the Word (Josh 1:8; Eph 2:10; Rom 12:1-2). Sunday worship means nothing if it is not followed by Monday-Saturday obedience. A true believer follows the Word every day. The church sings the Word, reads the Word, prays the Word, and preaches the Word so that Christians will live the Word.

You will note that every aspect of the worship prescribed by God is saturated with the Word. The Word is God’s tool for change in life and understanding the demands of God. God has commanded that we pray, read, sing and preach God’s words back to him. In other words, the church gathers around the Word. The Word is primary. As a result, the Bible must saturate every aspect of worship. The Word is to be read, prayed, sung, and preached.

Since the Word is central to all worship, truth is the basis for all worship. The giving of the Law demonstrates that God cares about how He is worshiped. As a result, all worship should be Bible-based and Bible-saturated. For the Word of God is Truth. When songs are sung in worship, they must be saturated with truth. When prayers are prayed, they must be saturated with truth. When the Word of God is preached, it must be saturated with truth. The question must be asked through every portion of worship, “Is it true?” Tradition cannot take precedence over truth. Preference cannot take precedence over truth. Worship is not worship if it is not true. All worship must be Bible-saturated.

The regulative principle not only keeps us from foolish attempts to gather crowds (like clowns, performing interpretive dances, or WWF-style themes for Sunday series), it also keeps us centered on what is eternally significant and serves to fulfill the purpose of the church of making disciples of Jesus for the glory of God. God created us to worship, so everyone worships something. Our call as God’s people is to worship the right One in the right way. We must take worship seriously. We should not treat it like any other gathering when we gather with God’s people. This is a sacred time with a sacred people for a sacred purpose. Our worship must reflect who God is.

The Regulative Principle for Worship – April 7, 2023

Have you ever paused to consider what should be accomplished in a church service? What is necessary for it to be considered worship? Often tradition, our upbringing, our various biases, and our culture determine what we think worship should look like. However, God cares deeply about how we worship him. He stated, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:24). Since God cares how we should worship, what is the proper way to worship?

In John 4, Jesus met the woman at the well and began proclaiming the gospel to her. In her discomfort, she tried to deflect the conversation and seized on the worship war of that day. Does true worship take place in Jerusalem or on the mountain? The Samaritans argued that worship took place in the spirit. Hence, they were justified in not going to the temple in Jerusalem. The pure-blooded Israelites argued that you had to go to the temple. Who was right? Jesus states that they were both wrong. God had dictated how they were to approach worship. That meant that the temple was necessary. However, God also said that worship must be about God and not man, and in this, Israel failed. True worship must be in spirit and truth.

If our worship is to be true, it must be Biblically proper. Since worship is to God and for God, we cannot worship however we want. Paul comments on this reality in his letter to the Colossians, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23). There were individuals in the Colossian church that were placing extra implementations on worship. They demanded that the believers follow specific ritualistic guidelines. In response, there was another group that was allowing worship to become a free for all. Paul states that these people had ceased worshipping God and had created a self-made religion. He says very clearly that this self-made religion was of no value. It attempted to approach God the wrong way.

From the beginning, God regulated how mankind was to approach him. This has become known as the regulative principle. In other words, we can only approach God how God tells us to. If God does not instruct us to come in a certain way, we cannot approach in that way and expect God to accept our worship.

When mankind fell into sin in the Garden of Eden, God gave instructions for how man was to approach Him. We see this in the sacrifices that he made and the clothing that he prepared. However, it is not long before we see the seriousness with which God takes worship. Genesis 4 contains the well-known narrative of Cain and Abel. However, we often miss the point of the passage. They both approached God in worship. Both made a sacrifice. Abel brought the best of his flock, and Cain brought the best of his harvest. However, God rejected Cain. Why? Not because Cain’s offering was not a sacrifice. But because this was not the way that God had regulated that they came to Him. He required the blood of a lamb. And Cain chose to attempt to approach God in his own way. The result was that God rejected his sacrifice.

Later, as Israel headed towards the promised land, God gave specific instructions on worship. In fact, the first five books of the Bible served as a manual on how to approach God. As we consider the ten commandments, we are struck that the first part is about how to approach God (Ex 20:2-6). Note that God is a jealous God. This means that we must approach God on His terms. Worship is not about us. It is about God. This means that we have to worship the right one the right way. There were severe consequences if they approached God the wrong way.

Leviticus 10 contains an engaging narrative on the consequences of improper worship. As the sons of Aaron, it was Nadab and Abihu’s God-given task to lead Israel in worship. But in this chapter, we learn that they attempted to do this in their own way. They tried to approach God with incense. But note that they did not bring the incense in the way the Lord had commanded. We might say, “but they were trying to worship.” However, God is not just concerned that we worship. He is also concerned with how we worship.

The method of worship was the problem with the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. The Pharisees had hearts for God. They worshiped. But they did so in ways God did not prescribe, so God rejected their worship. Jesus lays this out very clearly in Matthew 15:1-14. The most telling verse is a quote from the prophet Isaiah that Jesus applies to the Pharisees in verse 9, “In vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

Now we understand that the cross of Christ has placed us under Grace. The book of Galatians clearly teaches us that the law no longer binds us. Instead, we live in a state of Grace. So, we must ask, “How does Grace impact the prescriptions for worship?” This is the question we will seek to address next week.

God’s Requirements for True Worship – March 31, 2023

Worship is to God and for God. This means that our worship must be how God requires it. From the beginning, God has informed man how we are to approach Him. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden, God demonstrated to them the sacrifices that were then necessary to approach God. These sacrifices continued through Moses when God prescribed a set of laws. The first five books of our Bible testify that we cannot approach God any way we want. However, now that we are under grace in the New Covenant, has this changed? Since God does not change, the answer would be no. So how do we find out how we are to worship God? Once again, the answer is found in His Word.

Peter informs us, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:3-4). So the Word of God contains everything that we need for life and godliness. This Word contains what we need to approach (or worship) God rightly. To this end, we should consider three principles of truth in worship.

First, worship should be Biblically saturated. Throughout the Word of God, we see that when God’s people approach God in worship, they often repeat God’s words back to Him (Psalm 119:54). This is what Hannah did when she praised God in 1 Samuel 2. An examination of Hannah’s song reveals that it is saturated with Scripture.

But not only is this an example for God’s people. We also see this as a command to us today. Consider Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16. “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Eph 5:18-19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16).

When we gather, we sing to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Whatever your definition of hymns and spiritual songs is, there are a couple of facts here that are beyond argument. The first is that Psalms refers to the inspired book of the Bible, Psalms, and other songs found in the Bible. We are to sing God’s Word. Second, hymns and spiritual songs imply that the rest of the songs are to be heavily spiritual (Biblical) in nature. They are to be Scripture saturated. We also see the command about what is to occupy our minds in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

We live in an age that has relativized truth. However, truth is not fluctuating, and the truth is not relative. Truth is dogmatic. And Christ informs us that truth is found in the Word of God. In fact, beyond being found in the Word of God, the Word of God is truth itself (Jn 17:17). If we are going to worship in truth, then the Bible must saturate our worship.

Second, worship should not only be Biblically saturated, but worship must also be Biblically accurate. In 2016 Donald Trump shocked the world with his election as the president of the US. His campaign was largely successful because he tapped into the country’s mistrust of news agencies. Through his campaign, he brought the country face to face with the fact that most people do not trust the news because it often fails to be accurate.

Sadly, this downplaying of accuracy has infiltrated most of life, and the church is no exception. The Word of God is handled as though it can be used to say whatever we want. This is not a new problem. One of the final books of the Bible given to us by God addresses this very issue. “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures” (2 Pet 3:14-16). Peter states that the Scripture can sometimes be hard to understand. But that is not an excuse to fail in biblical accuracy. For note that Peter says when ignorant and unstable people twist the Scripture, they do so to their destruction. We must be accurate with the Word of God. We must handle the Word of God correctly in our worship of God.

One of the most important questions we can ask in worship is, “Is it true?” When the speaker stands behind the pulpit and presents a message, we must ask, “Is it true?” Does what the speaker says align with what the Word of God says? When we sing songs, the question is not “How does it make me feel?” but “What is it saying, and is it true?” Just because it is old or just because it is new does not make it true. Just because it is catchy and put to music you like does not make it true. We must make sure that our worship is Biblically accurate.

We come now to the final principle; our worship must be Biblically proper. Since worship is to God and for God, we cannot worship however we want. And since God has instructed us in his Word what he desires, our worship must be Biblically proper. We must then ask how God has instructed us to worship Him. What does Biblically proper worship look like? This is a massive question that we will begin to address next week.

True Worship Is for God – March 24, 2023

Everyone worships something. As Christians, we must seek to worship the right One the right way. Last week we mentioned that we must begin this discussion with two essential principles: True worship is for God and to God. This week we want to start with that first principle. We must begin with the most foundational question to understand that true worship is for God. Why do we exist? Because the world refuses to worship God, they have come up with the happy alternative that we are nothing more than accidents of evolution. There is no purpose to our existence. However, the Bible presents the truth that we were created by God and for God (Revelation 4:11).

God created us to be worshipers of Him. This is our purpose in life. This principle means we must live for God’s glory to fulfill our created purpose (this is the only way to find purpose, satisfaction, and joy). As we follow this line, it means that worship is for God. Paul brought this home to the church in Corinth, which was in the middle of a massive civil war on worship. Some expressed superiority because they believed they had the gift of tongues. Others expressed superiority because they were so loving they could overlook blatant sin. When they celebrated the Lord’s supper, they also had a massive meal with it. The rich would bring in vast amounts of food but would rush the table to ensure they got the majority. Some refused to work but claimed God called them to be counselors and would travel from house to house, taking advantage of other members. In short, this church was a mess. Paul wrote the letter of 1 Corinthians to instruct them in part on proper worship. And in it, he states that worship is all about God. At the end of chapter 10, he makes the statement, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (v. 31). With this, Paul repeats the statement he made in chapter 6, “For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (6:20).

Since mankind’s purpose and the purpose of worship is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31; Rev. 4:11), corporate worship in the church should reflect this purpose. Further, corporate worship should train the church members to accomplish this purpose in their lives. The church’s worship on Sunday should inspire the individual member’s worship Monday through Saturday. To worship with God’s people on God’s Day before God’s throne under the authority of God’s Word is the solemn duty and distinct privilege of God’s people.

Where the church corporately and Christians individually have often gone astray is by falling into the thinking that worship is about us. When we hear a song on the radio that impacts us emotionally, we feel we have worshipped. When we leave a church service after singing our favorite songs and having our ears tickled with some moralistic devotional, we feel we have worshipped. On the other hand, when we sing songs that don’t do it for us, and the preacher exposits the Word, and it feels like meddling with our lives, we think, “Well, that really wasn’t very good worship today.” However, this thinking is due to faulty worship. Instead of worshipping God, we are worshipping ourselves. You see, true worship of God is not primarily about us.

As Paul opens the book of Romans, he comments on the decline of culture. As he presents an incredible argument for the total depravity of man, there is a verse tucked in there that has massive implications for worship in the church. “Because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:25). When we make worship about us (a creature) instead of about God (the creator) we are exchanging the truth of God for a lie. What is this lie? The lie is that we are worshipping God when, in reality, we are worshipping something far inferior.

The implication for the church is that worship cannot be about us. It must be about God. This is not to say that worship should never be emotionally stimulating. This is not to say we should never leave the service feeling good about ourselves and life. This is to say that if we think that good feelings are all there is to worship, we have begun to worship ourselves and exchange the truth of God for a lie.

This faulty worship was the very problem that plagued Israel just before God judged her with deportation. The problem was not that Israel was not worshipping. The problem was that Israel had made worship about themselves rather than about God. In his prophetic book, Amos informed Israel that God would judge them. He had no interest in their faulty worship. “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-24).

The prophet Amos addresses their worship and proclaims God’s hatred of it with words of burning eloquence. Amos uses the same words earlier to describe the attitude Israel should have toward evil in verse 15. He applies that word here to the things they think please the Lord. The routine observance of the Levitical ritual is empty because it was being done so that the people would feel good about themselves and direct God’s favor to them. He states that their religiosity is a mockery of true worship. Ezekiel echoes the reality that the very reason that God was going to judge Israel was for the impact of their improper worship. “And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes” (Ezekiel 36:23).

Since mankind’s created purpose is God’s glory and honor, the church’s worship and music should direct its members toward that goal. Worship is only for God. He alone is worthy of our worship. He is the most important audience at every service. The gathering of the church for worship is a picture and an anticipation of the heavenly gathering of God’s people. This means then that our worship gatherings should look distinct from the worship gatherings of the world. Our worship through music should look and feel different from the music concerts of the world. Our assembly should not resemble the athletic or rotary club assembly. The subject matters of our worship and music should honor God above all. The texts should drive the heart of the people to God. The focus of the service should be on God. Our worship should move the heart of God’s people to God’s throne. Most importantly, since worship is for God, we do not get to worship God any way we want. We must worship the right One in the right way.