Deut 12_1-14 Worshiping God His way (1)
Worshipping God His way
Do not worship as everyone sees fit
25th June 2006, am Wynnum
The Word of God in our midst
Call to worship
We have a strong city; God makes salvation its walls and ramparts. Open the gates that the righteous nation may enter, the nation that keeps faith. (Isaiah 26:1-2)
Grace to you from God our Father, Jesus Christ our Lord and the Holy Spirit.
Doxology Hymn no 64: “Praise to the holiest in the height”
Prayer of Adoration and Invocation
Scripture Reading Hebrews 12:18-29
Prayer Confession of sins
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord, is the Rock eternal. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
Hymn 497: “How blest is he
Offering and Dedication
Prayer for others
Hymn 562: “Master, speak for I am listening”
Scripture Reading Deuteronomy 12:1-14
Sermon “Worshipping God His way”
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we continue to her the Word of God from Deuteronomy we stand amazed by the detail given to worship. Chapter 12 not only gives us certain principles as to how we should not worship the Lord, but it gives us definite principles as to how we should worship God.
Our Sub-ordinate Standard, the Westminster Confession of Faith gives us an understanding what of is known as the Regulative principle in worship.
Chapter 21 states:
The light of nature shows that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and does good to all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.
This was the position of the Reformers in 1643. In 1689 the Reformed Baptist Puritans gathered to formulate the London Baptist Confession and stated basically the same principles.
True worship for the Presbyterian Church is very important. When ministers and elders are ordained they are asked to answer to a set of questions, which include this one: “Do you own and accept the purity of worship as practiced in this Church?”
Unfortunately, many don’t understand what this question means. How do we know it? Just attend the worship services in some of our churches and you will know why. I asked an exit student one day about the vows he made, including this one, and his reply was that he had asked many ordained ministers what it means, and they couldn’t tell him, so he though it is not that important then. Little wonder that worship services in our denomination in last few years became more and more entertainment oriented. There are also the “seeker-services” dressed up as worship services.
Don’t understand my criticism of these services wrongly. The Bible is not against friendly and joyful service. The fact of the matter is that God commands us to have joy in Him. Just further down this same chapter we find this command: “… you, your sons and daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levites from your towns … are to rejoice before the Lord your God in everything you put your hand to.” This phrase is repeated twice, and is constantly used when it refers to biblical worship. It is not a suggestion; joyful worship is a command. We will get to that as we work our way through this chapter.
Worship God his way
There are two verses in the paragraph we read today from Deuteronomy 12 helping us to understand what is known as the Regulative principle in worship. This first is found in verse 4:
; You must not worship the Lord your God in their [the way the other nations] way. (Deuteronomy 12:4)
The other is verse 8:
You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit, (Deuteronomy 12:8)
Samuel Waldron writes: "It seems that one of the major intellectual stumbling blocks which hinders men from embracing the Regulative Principle is that it involves the idea that the church and its worship is ordered in a regulated way different from the rest of life. In the rest of life God gives men the great precepts and general principles of his word and within the bounds of these directions allows them to order their lives as seems best to them. He does not give them minute directions as to how they shall build their houses or pursue their secular vocations. The Regulative principle, on the other hand, involves a limitation on human initiative in freedom not characteristic of the rest of life. It clearly assumes that there is a distinction between the way the church and its worship is to be ordered and the way the rest of human society and conduct is to be ordered. Thus, the Regulative Principle is liable to strike many as oppressive, peculiar, and, therefore, suspiciously out of accord with God’s dealings with mankind and the rest of life."
; Do not worship the Lord in their [the nations’] way
Let’s just look at the first way in which we should not worship God, that’s the principle set in verse 4: “You must not worship the Lord your God their way.”
This verse is preceded by the command in verses 2-3: it refers to the high places of pagan worship and the worship under every spreading tree. There these pagan nations erected their altars, their sacred stones, and there they bowed down to their idols.
; God’s command to his people was to, upon entering the Promised Land, smash the idols, pull down the altars and sacred stones, burn the poles and wipe out the names of the gods from those places.
; The principle was not simply to prevent the people from being enticed to worship other gods, but to worship God according to the principles followed by the pagans worshipping their gods.
God cannot be worshipped in ways other than what He expressly ordained. To then take principles of other religions, sugar coat it with a Bible verse or two, and introduce it into Christian worship is, according to the Word, idolatry.
If the God of the universe is holy, then there is a right and wrong way of approaching this God. In God’s word Jesus Christ has given mankind not only the ability to approach God but also all of the directives are by which we may approach him. His atonement assures this to the elect.
Dr Matthew McMahon writes: “Worship for the Christian should be an expression of God’s heart back to God. We ought to reflect back to God how wonderful and most blessed He is. It is impossible to worship God by human invention. It is impossible to worship God by human ingenuity. It is impossible to worship God in an atmosphere that has not been structured and ordered by God and His word.”
The command of verses 2-3 is to prevent the people of God to even use the same places as the pagan nations did to worship God. Now it seems in many instances the Israelites obeyed the commandment of the Lord to destroy the idols, the poles and altars of the pagans, but they then started using these sites as a place of worship of God. Of certain kings, it is stated that they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but they did not remove the high places. For instance:
Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there. (2 Kings 12:2-3)
Where these kings went wrong was to allow worship other than temple worship where people worshipped God according to their own principles. This of course introduced the worship of God and other gods, and in the end it got watered down to just the worship of pagan gods.
From this we learn that worshipping God is more than showing acts of worship by trying to sanctify or consecrate what is intrinsically pagan worship, or allowing things to be part of worship that are expressly prohibited by God. This means that we need to understand that all things that may be given a “symbolic” value which are not unchristian in itself on one hand, but which are not instituted by God on the other hand, cannot be part of Christian worship. I am going to be radical and use an example: where do candles, and the lighting of candles come from? Where do prayer walls for people to pin their prayers to God and for others come from? Where does “holy smoke” come from? And rosary beads? Where does pagan music and so-called “café churches” come from?
; The second principle: You are not to do as we do here today, everyone as he sees fit
Let’s go back to that paragraph from the Westminster Confession:
“… the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself; and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imaginations, and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way, not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures."
It might seem paradoxical here, but the Great God of the universe limits us in the expression of our worship. The limitation is this: if it is not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures, it is unacceptable in the eyes of God. We cannot do as we see fit, even if it looks good, intends good or feels good.
There are four arguments based on the Scripture in this regard:
; 1. It is the prerogative of God alone to determine the terms on which sinners may approach Him in worship.
Remember how we, in Adam, rebelled against God and how we were cast out of the presence of God? Fact is, to now endeavour to enter the presence of God on our own terms and worship Him in terms of what we see right, is not acceptable in the eyes of God.
McMahon writes: “Should God decree that He will be worshipped only by those wearing white T-shirts, He would have the right to do so. If God did decree that every Christian should wear a white T-shirt to worship Him, I would imagine that all Christians, who truly love the Lord, will go out and buy a whole bunch of white T-shirts so that they never run out again. They would come to church wearing the white T-shirt that God commanded they wear for worship. God is the one who commands worship of us. What arrogance for man to think that he has the least business in determining how God will be worshipped!”
2) The introduction of extra Biblical practices into worship inevitably has a tendency to impact on Biblical worship and weaken God’s will for worship.
The very sinful nature of mankind assures us that once we introduce into the worship what God has not ordained, these things, and not the ordained things will be the focal point of worship. It is therefore not shocking to hear of Christian churches worshipping, and Christians getting together or extended ties of “worship” without reading the Word of God and listening to the expounding of the Word. Fact is, if the Bible is not read, God has not spoken, and of worship no-one can speak.
Worship services then become times of fellowship, and “worship” is another word for singing, and the worship leader indicates the bloke who holds on to the microphone while the others make a noise. In these services there is no sermon anymore; it is reduced to a talk; people are not challenged to repent from their sins, because it might be offensive to call people sinners. The result is an illiterate Christendom. We have the Bible, and we buy it in numerous versions, and the makers of Bible covers make a fortune, but we still don’t know how to handle the Bible as the sword of the Spirit; we still don’t know how to defend our faith!
; 3. If sinful men were to add any unappointed elements into worship, they would, by this action, be calling into question the wisdom of Jesus Christ and the complete sufficiency of the Scriptures alone.
Now this is exactly what we were alluding to just a while ago. If we understood the importance of the Scriptures to know God, know ourselves and to be equipped as God’s people for service in this world, we will not allow anything else to impose on the time we spend in the presence of God to read, study and do this Word.
; 4. The Bible explicitly condemns all worship that is not commanded by God.
We have already stated this point.
Next time, God permits, we will hear the Word of God about joyful worship. And then, some time later, we will tackle the whole issue of corporate worship as the gathering of God’s people as opposed to Christian fellowship.
Hymn no 335: “Saviour again to Your dear Name”
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)