In Christendom today, there are few greater subjects than the issue of worship & praise in the form of music and singing at the localities of the various church buildings in our towns and cities. Terms fly about such as "corporate worship, worship evangelism, worship conferences, experiencing worship, passion for worship...etc.". You can drive around almost any town in this country and find churches, all having their big sign on the building, "Come Worship God With Us" or "Come Celebrate With Us". You can search through several forms and publications and you will always find adds for experienced "worship leaders" in various churches around the country. Requirements range from five years experience or more, to decrees in music at an approved seminary. I was surprised to see a requirement from a church that the person have fund raising skills; well, I really wasn't surprised, I know, I am a "worship leader".
The first thing a "worship leader" must possess in order to get a JOB at your local mega church is talent. The next thing in line is theology, in other words, you must agree with the Senior Pastor and or Board Members on the issue of sound doctrine so they can rely on your loyalty to their church. Thirdly, you must know the style of songs that people like to sing and be able to arrange them so as to provide an acceptable "worship experience" for the "worshippers".
In this article it is my aim to discover the worship & praise that pleases God and that which does not. You might be saying right now in your mind, "What do you mean? I am saying nice things about God, to God, I am telling everyone around me how great he is, I am lifting up his name! And are you suggesting that he isn't happy with that? What about the scripture that says "rejoice in all things"? What about the scripture that says, "God inhabits the praises of his people"? Certainly God is pleased with the loud noises, skillful sounds and the radical way that we praise him, how could he not be?" Well I am here to tell you that I perceive great deception over the issue of music in our churches. And I do not believe that God receives the noise, sounds or the words with any pleasure at all. Please let me lay out my case and see if this isn't true!
I will began to open the Word on this issue, but first let me describe an earthly experience that does relate, seeing we are created in the image of God. I am a father of seven children, my relationship is different with each child. Some of my older children are more knowledgeable of me and who I am. Some of my younger children don't get it, they are simply doing what they believe they have to do to please me. When my younger children wish to express their affection for me, many times shortly following is a request for something they want from me. When my older children express their love and appreciation of me, it is based on knowledge and I find it almost always sincere. Let me ask you, who would a godly man delight in receiving praise from, my older children or my younger children? How about this analogy? My children have been very disobedient today and I am righteously angry with their rebellion. What if they came up to me and looked straight into my face with puppy dog eyes and said, "We love you! Oh you are so wonderful!" and then proceeded to turn around, go outside and play, laugh and shout! I tell you I would be in the house boiling over with righteous anger, wouldn't you? They have no regard for me, they just want to eat my food and sleep in my house! While they love to praise me with their lips, yet their heart is far off from me! If they love me, shouldn't they obey me?
Listen to the Word of God: Psalm 50:7-23
Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O israel, and I will testify against thee; I am God even thy God. I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings, to have been continually before me.
Comment: No, he will not reprove you for your great worship services, he is way past that, God will not take anything from you! Read on!
I will take no bullock out of thy house, nor he goats out of thy folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beast of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?
Comment: God doesn't need your praises, he doesn't accept them and isn't well pleased at all! Read on!
Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.
Comment: The above verses are directed to the righteous ONLY.
But unto the wicked, God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth? Seeing thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind thee. When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers. Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit. Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son. These things hast thou done and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself; but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes. Now consider this, ye that forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
Comment: The preceding word clearly communicates that God does not want worship, vows or praise from wicked men. That sign on your church inviting all in for worship, is clear evidence that you do not understand or accept these realities about God. God does not want wicked men to worship him because they are liars, they hate instruction, they cast his Word behind them! Can you see the anger of God in the above passages? And notice that the above scriptures clearly mention slandering a brother. Jesus said "if you have a problem or ought with your brother you should leave your gifts at the altar and first go and make things right with your brother and then come and offer your gifts at the altar." Professing Christians that have problems, slander, disunity with their brothers, are not invited to worship, God won't receive it!
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.
Comment: The above verse needs to be seen in light of all scripture. Let me rephrase the above passage just so you see what is actually being said. "Anyone who has the living Words of God in his heart, so he can then order his conversation aright (remember out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks), to him and him only will God show his salvation and to that person who offers praise unto God in Spirit and in Truth, they and only they, glorify the Lord."
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God thou wilt not despise. Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Comment: God does not want sacrifice. The Baal worshippers think for their great sounds and loud noise and many words, that God will hear them! Baal worshippers have a god who is sleeping, they have to play more skillfully, get more people to join in, they have to pump the crowds up by what ever means. Their god is sleeping and must be wakened! That is why the Baal worshippers have a national day of prayer, they figure if they can get enough people praying at the same time, that their god will hear and arise to make himself known! Simply saying that your God is the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob and that Jesus is your Lord and king doesn't make it so. So God says here that he will not despise a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart. Romans says, that we are to present ourselves a living sacrifice. Simply offering great music and words sung with the greatest passion doesn't cut it before a Holy God. When God is no longer angry with a rebellious people and he has brought judgment to the house of God, then he will be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, as the spiritual walls of Jerusalem are built.
WORSHIP GOD IN TRUTH
Jesus said in St. John 4:23 that we must worship him in spirit and in truth if we are true worshippers. So you get your song list together and you think, "here is a song we haven't sung for a while, rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice" So you go to church and lead the church in the song and believe you are rejoicing in truth? You can't rejoice in truth, just because you decide to, it is God that brings about rejoicing! Haven't you read the in the scripture were it says, "Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice"? You cannot pretend when it comes to rejoicing, either he has caused you to rejoice and hear gladness or perhaps he has fed you with wormwood. Ever thought about that?
When you sing that song aren't you just trying to hype up the people so they will get up and clap and crack a smile on their face and are happy when offering time comes around? You certainly are not rejoicing in truth! Haven't you read when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt, what did Jesus say? "If these people were to hold their peace the very rocks would cry out!" Why is it that people only want to see rejoicing and never want to see mourning? It is because they are fake and not rejoicing in truth! They figure that they will be perceived as weak in the faith if they are not rejoicing all the time? What ever happened to "blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted"? What ever happened to "weep with them that weep and rejoice with them that rejoice"? When the scripture teaches to rejoice in all things, you need to understand what it is saying in context. The Bible does not teach that godly men are always in a state of rejoicing. When people rejoice and God has not done it, this is a great evil, it is iniquity. It is written, "rejoice not in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth" It is time to get real brothers!
There is much of talk about "passion for God". And I have no problem with this other than the fact that our churches today are not founded on the living Word of God. When a person is changed, regenerated inside, circumcised in heart, their passions change, they no longer want what they wanted before, they no longer love what they loved before. This change comes about as the Word of God takes root in our hearts. If the people are not those who have the living Word of God in their hearts, they do not know God. They must then construct an image of that which is not God, but one who's image they love, this is idolatry. So, it is impossible for such a people to have passion for the true God. How can you love that which you don't know? Furthermore, how can you worship that which you don't know in Spirit and in Truth? This is impossible! Just because people seem to have a "passion for worship" does not mean that they have a passion and love for God. They worship the god they have erected in their own mind, not the sovereign God of truth.
Zeph. 2:15 This is the rejoicing city that dwelt carelessly, that said in her heart, I am, and there is none beside me: how is she become a desolation, a place for beasts to lie down in! every one that passeth by her shall hiss, and wag his hand.
WORSHIP GOD IN SPIRIT
As you probably know, it can be clearly seen that God is a God of his Word. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God, the same was made flesh and dwelt among men. This Word is not simply a group of writings found written thousands of years ago, this Word is a person. There is one that is the testifier of this living Word, even the Holy Ghost. He does not testify of himself, but he testifies of the things concerning Jesus, the Word of God. The Holy Ghost is the comforter of the true believers, and brings to remembrance to the true believer the things needed for the time, season or hour. No one can worship God in Spirit, unless they posses the Holy Ghost inside. Remember where the scripture says, "if you abide in me and my Words abide in you, you shall ask what ever you will and it shall be done"? Do you believe that? I do. One who walks in the Spirit, not fulfilling the evil desires of the flesh, does not pray for anything that is not in the Spirit, neither does such a person worship God from his human intellect, but worships God in Spirit.
It is the Holy Ghost that must give us the utterance of prayer and it is the Holy Ghost that must give us the utterance of worship. It is impossible to worship God in Spirit when people in various churches want to uphold traditions rather than the Word of life. They establish singing programs, bulletins, that shut out completely the leading and utterance of the Holy Spirit. What if all prayers were pre written, would you read a pre written prayer and say it was an acceptable prayer? Thank God, prayers are not usually considered a performance, unfortunately, singing is considered a performance. Allowing to much freedom in worship, just may lead to a poor performance and after all we tape our services and sell the tapes. So we have left the idea of worship by the utterance of the Spirit of God and have become like the world in performance and showmanship and we wonder why our praises are not sweet before the Lord!
Just so you know, I have no problem with skillful playing before the Lord and I do believe that playing and singing can be skillful and influenced by the utterance of the Holy Ghost without compromise. There is also great speeches, great prayers and great sermons that are in fact uttered skillfully by the Holy Ghost through his servants. I also believe that gifted worship leaders, write new songs unto the Lord as the Holy Ghost gives utterance. However, when skillfulness, crowd response, and other similar things become the measuring line for success in the Christian church, it has become like the world and such is destined to failure and ultimately the fiery judgment of a righteous angry God. Oh, how God is mocked when the wicked sing his praises, turning the local churches into nothing more than a concert hall or in some cases a three ring circus!
1 <<Maschil of Asaph.>> O God, why hast
thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep
of thy pasture?
2 Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt.
3 Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations; even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the sanctuary.
4 Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy congregations; they set up their ensigns for signs.
5 A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon the thick trees.
6 But now they break down the carved work thereof at once with axes and hammers.
7 They have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.
8 They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
9 We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.
10 O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever?
11 Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right hand? pluck it out of thy bosom.
The above passage is taken from Psalm 74, written by Asaph, a lead musician in the court of David, the king of Israel. Notice what verse five of this chapter says, at that time, those who were famous, were those who were skillful in cutting down trees and wood carving. In America today, the famous are skilled musicians and actors. Having skilled musicians in church is no different than having skilled wood craftsmen, erecting idols before the people. Isn't it true that skilled musicians in our churches are esteemed as if they have a Holy Ghost gifting? Haven't you heard it said before, "that person is really gifted by God, I wish I could play like that"? Where in scripture does it say that musicians receive their gifting from the Holy Ghost? Could it be that spiritual gifting is different than talent that many of us were born with? If in fact we use the talents we've received at birth to bring glory to the name of God, it will not happen because we are talented and decide to let God use our talents, but it will happen because the Lord has found it in his good pleasure to bring forth living Words of God by the working of the Holy Ghost, not by the will of men, but the will of God, truly and clearly lifting up his name. Men that use the gifts given by birth, write songs, even though they may be theologically correct, outside the working of and function of the Holy Ghost, are simply lighting their own candle, and walking by the light of the candle they have lit. One problem with these human made candles, they don't last long, although they may be bright for the moment, but shortly extinguish. Many so called worship leaders of our time are no more than professional candle makers. They have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. This is great evil!
I HAVE COMMANDED MY SANCTIFIED ONES, I HAVE ALSO CALLED MY MIGHTY ONES
FOR MINE ANGER, EVEN THEM THAT REJOICE IN MY HIGHNESS
Let us discuss how we can rejoice in his highness. Notice we are told of a time and season here in Isaiah 13, that God would be very angry. He has called out two groups of people here, his sanctified ones and his mighty ones and then he gives a hint on who they are, they are those who rejoice in his highness. How do we rejoice in his highness? Most of you think that all you have to do is write a song where you repeat over and over, "we rejoice in your highness"! No, I don't think so! This has nothing to do with lip service, this instead speaks of a state of mournfulness in the heart of those who recognize the present apostasy and do not esteem the weak and beggarly things of this world as of God. The way I rejoice in the highness of God, is discerning the things that measure up to the greatness of God and speaking the truth regarding them. I don't esteem your churches "worship experience" because I rejoice only in the highness of God! I don't rejoice in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth. You say it is of God? Ok, I know the high standards of a Holy God, by his Word in my heart. Does this thing you want me to rejoice with you in, meet those high standards? If not, don't expect me to hooray your show, I will not! You want to rejoice in truth? Then mourn! You don't believe me? Listen to the Word of God:
So you want to rejoice in his highness and pray that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass? Then mourn, be sorrowful for the solemn assembly, find the reproach a burden! Why is it that all you "worship leaders" love to sing the first verse above as a song, but you have a unique way of pretending that you don't see the verse following. How can you then say that you are worshiping him in truth? You really need to let God do the rejoicing over you, but as for you and your place, you need to mourn! Through out the scriptures whenever a time comes to express joy by rejoicing in the Lord, there is always a truthful reason, we are never instructed to rejoice as some kind of act that makes God think we love him and are please with him.
DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Can't you see the spiritual application of the above earthly truths?
We need to change the ministry name from "Music Ministry" to "The Spirit of Truth and Song Ministries". We are not in church to calm the demons of Saul as David did with the harp, or are we? Boy I hope not! We are to be ministers of the Word of Truth, through the vehicle of song and music. We need to get the Word in front of the music and song, rather then the music and song in front of the Word, as it is typically in today's church. Most importantly, remember, unless God does it, our effort will never be enough. We rely on the mercy and grace of God. Without his favor, our songs and words are nothing more than filthy rags, a thing of the world! May we cry out, mourn, weep, looking up to God the author and finisher of our faith, that we may be able to offer sacrifices of praise acceptable to the Lord our God in a day of evil, reproach and judgment!