But the time is coming--indeed it's here now--when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. -- John 4: 23 (NLT)
The enemy uses many different schemes in his relentless attack against the Body of Christ. We talk all the time about the various false teachings and gospels that corrupt the church today. We see obviously heretical teachings rise to the top of the Christian book sales and become mainstreamed in churches that are losing their discernment day by day. We see theories of church growth that are based on carnality instead of the Spirit of God. Recently however, God has made me far more sensitive to something we do not spend a great deal of time talking about -- false worship.
First I think it is important that we recognize what worship is supposed to be. I am not sure if it is taught nearly enough in the modern church. The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people. Worship is a divine connection to God. It is the lifting up and magnifying of who God is in our lives, what He has done and what He has promised to do. Worship is always about God. While praise and worship of God is not restricted to just the musical realm, that is primarily what we are dealing with today. During the act of worship our entire focus needs to be on God. Lyrics are only worth what we believe them to be in relation to God. When we sing Amazing Grace we must realize that we are the wretch the song sings about! Worship is not about liking the lyrics it is about relating to them and what they say about God. We also need to be sensitive to the fact that worship lyrics will often add to our theology -- what we believe. If we sing over and over again that it is better to have one day in the courts of the Lord than a thousand elsewhere we should believe that in our hearts. That lyric is taken directly from the Word of God and it highlights why it is vitally important that what we sing is actually theologically accurate. If it is not we are essentially adding false doctrine to what we believe. I have seen the rise of leaven filled worship music and I believe it is an insidious plot of Satan to taint what Christians believe and deny God of the worship He so rightly deserves. Even if only small portions are inaccurate the damage is done. The active poison ingredient in rat poison is a small fraction but it is enough to kill the rat.
Secondly, it is important to realize what worship is not. Worship is not intended to be entertainment for the saints. Yet so often people comment on a particular worship song in terms of their personal like or dislike. That is not what worship is about beloved. The issue is not whether or not you liked it but if God found it pleasing. Our mind should not be wandering during worship. We should not be bored; waiting for the sermon. Also, there is a difference between Christian music and praise and worship. The music industry is inundated with Christian music but that is not what we are speaking about. For example, there is a song called "Stained Glass Masquerade" which details the profound problem with wearing church masks. It is an incredibly powerful song but it is not praise and worship, nor do I think would the artists claim it to be so. It is not a song that should be a part of a worship set in a church and I assume it is not because the lyrics are obviously not about God but about church itself. The real problem is that most false worship we see these days is simply not this obvious. They contain catchy choruses and flashy music. They contain smatterings of completely accurate theology surrounded by lumps of leaven. They often drone on and on consistently reinforcing what is wrong by claiming to seek some deeper level of worship. The volume is often raised to levels it need not be set at and the drum beats drive people towards and emotional response disguised as a spiritual move. Yes, we can experience an emotional response through worship but without a move of the Holy Spirit it is meaningless. Remember, the object is for God to be worshipped not for ourselves to achieve a certain level of experience.
Now that the groundwork has been laid, I want to look at the two most prevalent forms of false worship I see today. Surely there will be more but these two are what jump out to me as I listen. Realize beloved that discernment is critical for a believer.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. -- 1John 4: 1 (ESV)
We are not mindless robots called upon to recite lyrics every Sunday! Think about what you are saying with those lyrics. Think about if they line up with the Word of God. Listen to the Spirit within you. I was just at a service last week when I heard a song for the first time, and three lines in my Spirit was telling me something was wrong. I think sometimes in the modern church we confuse what discernment really is. It is not intuition. It is being able to differentiate between what is from the Spirit of God and what is from other spirits. Just as many false prophets have gone out into the world there is also false worship. Please realize this is not an indictment against those who write the songs, produce the songs, sing the songs, or even like the songs. It is an indictment of the songs themselves. This is a direct result of poor theology and poor discipleship. It does not matter how sincere the writer or the singer is. You can be sincere and sincerely wrong as my pastor likes to say. When David moved the ark to Jerusalem without following the explicit instructions from God about who and how the ark was to be handled it cost the life of Uzzah. Was David sincere in his motives? Absolutely! Was his heart in the right place? Absolutely! Did any of that matter to God? Not one bit. We like to comfort ourselves by thinking God knows our heart but God cares about our obedience.
The first form of false worship I see all the time now is music that seeks to alter the true relationship we are supposed to have with God. It seeks to turn Christ into our buddy instead of our Lord and Savior. Is God our friend? Well that all depends upon us:
adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred
toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of
God. - James 4: 4 (NIV)
You are my friends if you do what I command. - John 15: 14 (NIV)
Such wicked people are detestable to the Lord, but he offers his friendship to the godly. - Proverbs 3: 32 (NLT)
Everyone wants to sing about friendship with God but we are not so quick to want to talk about where we stand with the world, if we are following the commands of God, or if we are living godly lives. Yes, God called Abraham friend but remember that Abraham followed God when He told him to leave everything behind and go to a foreign land. When we hear direction from God that makes us uncomfortable we often seek any reason we can to avoid it. Abraham was also willing to take a knife to the child of promise because of his faith. The bottom line is that Abraham was considered a friend of God because he allowed God to be his Lord first. That is what these three verses above mean beloved. We choose to not be a friend of the world because we have turned our lives over to our Lord. He is Lord over our lives. We do what He commands and seek a godly life because our old lives have been crucified with Christ. Celebrate that -- worship that.
Perhaps the more unseemly version of this false worship however is directed towards women. It is essentially "worship-erotica" where Jesus has become over-sexualized. Now, just for a moment imagine these are not intended to be worship song lyrics:
The time of singing has come - And the sound of love can be heard in the land - I lay my head on Your heart - Take me to Your chambers, lead me by the hand
Your love is extravagant - Your friendship, it is intimate - I feel like moving to the rhythm of Your grace - Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place - Your love is extravagant
Sweetness overflows, pouring from your lips - Kisses from above, let the heavens drip - When it's just me and you, I can't remember storms - All I can do is melt into your arms