Saturday, August 11, 2012

Godfrey on Worship: parts one and two

This long response to a wonderful article by Robert Godfrey will take multiple posts.  It's a result of taking a vacation and reading without responding.  Now I've responded so much that I believe this will take seven posts.

First, read this wonderful article by Michael Horton.  It's an easy read, not very long, and every line is solid gold.

The real article I refer to here, is by Ligonier fellow Robert Godfrey.  "Pleasing God in our Worship."
This is a break from reading Early Church Fathers, but also in response to reading the Didache and the chapter on early worship in the ancient church.  How do we worship and organize our church today?  Does it match what the apostles did?  Here is my commentary and agreements on what Godfrey wrote in his article starting with the first two sections:

“You may have heard the story of two men debating issues of worship. They had quite different ideas on the subject and were unable to persuade one another. At the end of the frustrating discussion one of the men said to the other, “Well, you worship God in your way, and I will worship him in his.””

Granted, I’m pretty loose on worship styles.  I love organs.  I love electric guitars.  I even love songs of all ages.  And pretty much, each local church will worship their own way, but it does matter how we worship God.  He never told us to worship him in our own way.  Many times, he’s said not to worship him the same way the pagans worship their gods.  There is so much worshiping of God the way the new agers worship whoever today, both in contemporary and traditional churches.  And there’s plenty that honors God and points to Christ in both contemporary and traditional churches.

This line that Godfrey quotes is on point, “Differences over worship can also reflect quite different theologies and methodologies in the Christian community. For that reason the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals briefly addressed the issue of worship in its Cambridge Declaration. The Declaration stated as its basic concern: “Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith.””

Then, he starts into Scriptural exposition: “All Christians need to cultivate a life with God that is growing and developing. If we are not growing, we will stagnate or die. The corporate, official worship of God’s people is a crucial and essential means God has given to help us grow. Think of the words of Hebrews 10:19-22:

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Notice that Godfrey did not say that growth means more members in the church.  It means, the people already in the church are learning about God and growing in faith and holiness.  Our worship should be intended to grow people in knowledge of the Lord and what he teaches in Scripture.  If your music helps with that, then great.  If your music is purely emotional, then beware of your members not growing in faith.

John Calvin rightly calls our hearts “idol factories”.  We are so tempted to not only worship whatever is not God, but worship the correct God the wrong way.  This is our Holy Creator God we are talking about.  The one who mercifully saved us through Christ’s atoning sacrifice and who did not have to do so.  We must not simply walk into his presence as if we are entitled to it.  It’s a gift and should be treated with respect and awe.

Robert Godfrey refers to the Israelites at Mount Sinai and the whole golden calf debacle.  Aaron and the people really thought they were worshiping the correct God in some new, trendy style.  Or told himself they were doing that.  When Moses came down the mountain, he had to throw the commandments to pieces and melt the calf, making the people drink the water where it melted. 

Again, new and trendy is not always bad, but breaking the second commandment to not worship God through a graven image is bad.  Godrey also refer to the churches who cling to their tradition to preserve museums, the usually super-liberal churches. 

“Jesus warned against allowing traditions to dominate and subvert the Word of God: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (Matt. 15:6). Jesus was not speaking about worship when he made that statement, but then he used Isaiah 29:13, which is about worship, to support his words:
These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are but rules
taught by men.
(vv. 8-9)
He was saying that our service to God, whether in life generally or in corporate worship, must not be determined by tradition but must follow the teaching of God in the Bible.”

So either extreme can err in worshiping some idol or God like he is some idol.  He quotes another excellent saying from the Cambridge Declaration.  “The Bible alone teaches all that is necessary for our salvation from sin and is the standard by which all Christian behavior must be measured.”

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