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May 23, 2016

Worship-tainment and the Doctrine of Special Prominence

By Anthony Wade

A look at a seldom discussed element of false teaching - false worship.


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But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. -- John 4: 23-24 (ESV)

One of the least talked about areas of false doctrine resides in the realm of what our modern day worship has become. This "worshiptainment" is a poorly disguised substitute for what worship is supposed to be. This should be a time of reverent awe about the nature of the God we serve. It should be a humbling time. A time also of joy certainly but joy in who God is. Instead it has become a time to reinforce things we feel God has promised us, acting like petulant children who scream at their parents for the toy they were promised if they behaved. It has become "an experience" to market to unbelievers. Like a cool concert or laser light show. It has become entertainment beloved; filled with smoke machines and club lighting. It should be of no surprise that true worship would devolve into this carnal slop once we started applying the purpose driven church growth schemes.

The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. -- 1Corinthians 2: 14

This verse makes it abundantly clear that the things of God are utter foolishness to those who are perishing. That is why true worship does not resonate with them. They do not yet see themselves as "the wretch." How could they without the indwelt Holy Spirit? So when Rick Warren canvassed the neighborhood when he was opening Saddleback Church he discovered that they did not like to hear the old hymns and wanted more "modern" music. Well of course Rick. The old hymns contain correct doctrine! The things of God are utter foolishness to them! Not to mention that the notion of man as this reprehensible sinner that needs amazing grace is simply not going to sell. How great thou art? Then why is there all this suffering in the world? No beloved. The average goat still believes they are a pretty good person, especially compared to some of the people they see on the six o'clock news. Their pride will not allow them to view themselves as a wretch. Even though it is not well with their soul, they do not realize it yet and singing about it just doesn't make any sense. But Warren and the purpose driven acolytes talk about "crusty old hymns" or the fact that we need to be relevant to this new generation through more relevant music when that is not the problem at all. It is the theology that the unsaved do not like, not the beat. So they raise the decibel level and crank up the smoke machine but what is lost in the haze is that we now sing a different song:

It's your inheritance, Get your inheritance

You are the seed, By faith receive

The blessing of Abraham

The head not the tail, Above not beneath, A lender not a borrower

Get your inheritance!

It is not worship to tell God what He owes us. He owes us nothing. But think about this from the standpoint of the unregenerate heart. This is a song they can sing! Especially if they have been told they are saved but really are not. This nonsense only furthers the myth in their own minds about their salvation. It is the gospel of me. It is further reinforced by pastors who strip mine the Bible to create these cute little sermonettes about how great we are instead of how great thou art. Warren himself once wrote that for Easter, pastors should not preach the Gospel so the visitors had a reason to come back the next week! Instead he said, start a series on improving their marriage. Beloved, God did not give us the Bible to improve our marriage. This story is not about us. We were not standing in the Valley of Elah staring our Goliath down. The Bible is about God and His plan for redeeming us through the sacrifice of the cross. The Bible is about Jesus Christ. From Genesis through Revelation. Thus it should follow that "worship" should be only about Jesus Christ. One of the most popular worship songs in churches today is "How He Loves Us." The refrain, or hook, is the repeating of -- "oh how He loves us." Our worshiptainment has become so carnally based these days that many cannot even see how this is not worshiping God. It is worshiping us. It is not worship to tell God how much He loves us. It only serves one purpose and that is to feed the flesh. This is what we must do since 80% of our congregations are not actually saved. The 20% that are? They are starved by the very men charged with tending to them. If they dare say anything they are labeled selfish. Just this year, mega-church heretic Andy Stanley said that those people who attended small churches are just selfish. Anther mega church heretic, Perry Noble called those seeking a deeper understanding of His Word the "jackasses" in his church. This is simply how the new breed of teachers have been taught beloved. They have fallen for the lie that the church is for the unsaved. Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying the church is not for the unsaved? Yes, that is exactly what the Bible teaches us. The church is for the community of believers to grow from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity. The job of a pastor is to tend to this growth. Now, do we want the unsaved to come to church? Of course because there they are supposed to hear the Gospel and guess what?

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. -- Romans 1: 16 (ESV)

Only the Gospel has the power to save them! Not our little church growth schemes. Not our carnal leadership conferences. Not our faux prayer events. Certainly not carnal worshiptainment followed by a 30 minute motivational discourse about how they too can go from the prison to the palace like Joseph in just one day concluded by a two sentence prayer pretending they are now saved. We want the unsaved to visit church because they are supposed to hear the Gospel there. Not just in the message but in the worship as well. They do not like the crusty old hymns because they feel conviction through them. That is how the Holy Spirit draws them to the foot of the cross. They need to hear that they are a wretch and then if the sermon actually proclaims the Gospel they will understand why they are such. They need to hear how great God is because they are still their own God. Instead they hear man centered worship that lifts up man, followed by a sermon that feeds the flesh of man, concluded by a prayer to receive a false god that somehow is ok with all of this carnality being conducted in His name. This brings us to our key verses for today. Often referred to when discussing worship, but rarely exposited correctly or fully.

Let us break down the pertinent facts starting with the fact that God is spirit. We have often heard this verse but perhaps we do not understand the point Jesus was making and in order to do that we need to understand the context. Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well. The Samaritans were reviled by the Jewish people in this day. They were considered half-breeds. The Samaritans however felt the Jews were wrong on many fronts including worship. In the context we see the woman ask Jesus about their differences. The Samaritans worshiped God on Mount Gerizim while the Jewish people insisted that Jerusalem was the only allowable place for worship. Jesus answers that it is not the location that matters when worshiping God. Yet in the middle of His response is this declaration that God is spirit. Let us turn to commentary for some insight:

"Better, God is spirit. His will has been expressed in the seeking. But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual. The appeal is here made to a doctrine of special prominence in the Samaritan theology. They had altered a number of passages in the Pentateuch, which seemed to them to speak of God in language properly applicable to man, and to ascribe to Him human form and feelings. But to believe in the spiritual essence of God contained its own answer both as to place and mode of worship. -- Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Very interesting beloved. So it appears that the Samaritans had twisted some scripture in order to bring God down to the level of man. This doctrine of Special Prominence should sound familiar as we have been discussing it this entire devotional. Sure it is not exactly like what the Samaritans were teaching but the essentials are the same. The doctrine of Special Prominence reduces God to a more palatable level for us. And the worship reinforces the teachings. Instead of how great thou art -- it is how much He loves us. These may seem similar but they are not. They are light years apart. The lyrics for How Great Thou Art speaks to the fact that God created the entire universe and how insignificant we are in relation to that. It glorifies God. It deifies God. It reminds us of our place in the cosmic scheme of things. How He Loves Us teaches us that God is jealous for us. That we are His portion. And of course, oh how He loves us. Over and over again. And over again. That glorifies man. While it may not deify man, it strips God of His status as deity. It brings Him down to our level. Perhaps this is just human nature. To realize that God is spirit is to recognize that we are not comparable to Him. To realize God is spirit is to lift Him above us and to bow our nature down to His. It requires the humility that is simply lacking in us by nature and certainly not encouraged within modern worship that demands blessings and tells God we are His portion. Oh and calls it all worship. The Samaritan theology of Special Prominence is alive and well beloved and it robs God of who He is.

The next fact from the key verses is that the time to end this is now. Sure these verses were penned a couple thousand years ago but to God that was yesterday. The hour is already here beloved. The Bible warns us over and over again about redeeming the time we have left to present the Gospel to the lost. We have to get to the point where playing church is simply not tolerated. No more singing Highway to Hell or Purple Rain during worship (both happened in the past month). This is not a joke. It is not worshiptainment. Jesus is coming back and he will not be singing how much He loves us.

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called faithful and true, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame on fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords. - Revelation 19: 11-16 (ESV)

Eyes of fire, dipped in blood, Jesus returns as a warrior King. Then it will be too late. It will be too late for those who spent decades singing about how great they were. Thankfully there is still time for us to put God back as spirit but it is running short. The next thing that may get overlooked is that there is such a thing as false worshipers. Jesus is directly implying this by referring to "true worshipers." In order to understand what would make a false worshiper we must see how Jesus defines a true worshiper. This is defined as someone who engages in worship in spirit and truth. Let us deal first with spirit. The ultimate irony is that the human spirit is the house for the divine spirit of God for those that are saved. That something so pure could come and dwell in something so inherently evil. That is the power of God beloved. To turn someone who is as depraved as is described in the third chapter of Romans into someone saved by the grace and mercy of almighty God. Hallelujah! Let us return however to the overall context. Remember that the question the Samaritan woman asked was in relation to where worship took place on this physical coil we call earth. That is the truth behind the answer of worshiping in spirit. The where does not matter. The physical attributes of this world do not matter. Do not reduce worship down to carnal elements and pretend that is what is required for it to be true worship. It is the indwelt Holy Spirit connecting to the spirit that is God. It transcends whatever constraints we might try and place upon it. Then how do we know true worship from false worship? That is where the truth comes in. True worshipers understand that besides worshiping in spirit it must be rooted in the truth of the Word of God. For example, one of the more disturbing trends in modern worshiptainment is the over-sexualization of the relationship we have with Christ. What better way to bring Him down to the level of man then to sing about being in an actual physical relationship with Him? Here are some popular lyrics from the worship leader of the International House of Prayer; a hotbed for heresy:

You have wanted me

Just one pulse of Your heart

You were wooing me

God is a lover, looking for a lover

So He fashioned me

Besides being closer to soft core pornography than worship this trend is very prominent within many circles of the church today. This is especially true for younger women in the faith. The problem of course is this is false worship. That is the point Jesus is making in the key verses. While the redeemed will worship in spirit and truth; the unregenerate will pretend to worship. Their faux worship will be marked by the marginalization of God to bring Him down to the level of man and the lyrics not being grounded in the truth of the Word. That is what we see today beloved. I do not mean a mention of a Bible verse here or there. False worship violates the Word on general principle. God might be a lover in the sense that He loves us but that is not how that song is portraying Him. He is not wooing us like some star crossed lover in a Harlequin Romance novel. Yes it is true that God loves us but singing how much He loves us is not worshiping Him. While there is one verse in the Bible that presents us as His portion, the entirety of Scripture teaches the reverse. To present God as being jealous without the context of worshiping false gods is in itself false. I know this is a hard teaching but the vast majority of churches today do not worship the Lord in spirit or truth. They worship the carnality of man disguised in false piety. They incite an emotional reaction from people and then pawn it off as being "spiritual." Because they are primarily dealing with unregenerate goats, they simply do not know the difference. They will continue to sing and dance about how much God loves them, how much they are due the blessings of Abraham, and how He is just a lover looking for them right up until the moment that they stand before Him and He says He never knew them.

The final point from the key verses today is that God is seeker true worshipers and that should be a source of great comfort to us. The Father is seeking such people to worship Him. True worshipers who understand that He is spirit. That His ways are so far above our ways. That He spoke the entire universe into existence. This is not someone we should be singing about wanting to date. This is not someone we merely want to sing about being our friend. This is our Lord. This is our King. This is someone worth worshiping. True worshipers understand the nature of their own wickedly deceptive hearts and thus consent to be governed by the written Word of God. We understand that the Word is God. We do not view scripture and doctrine as a box that keeps God in but rather that keeps our polluted thinking out. It is the spirit that leads us into all truth and it is the truth that assures us that our worship is true. The hour is coming and in fact is now here beloved. True worshipers are lining up to testify to the awesome nature of a God in sight of the wretchedness of our own depravity. A God who saved us in spite of ourselves, while we were yet sinners. It is for these reasons that regardless of what the devil and this world throw at us we can still sing how well it is indeed with our soul. On the other side the false worshipers are lining up as well. With their hands outstretched they gleefully sing about getting their blessing right now. With prideful hearts they sing about how the creator of the universe is jealous for them and oh how He loves them. With lustful carnal flesh they sing about being His lover. In doing so they drag Him down to the level of man and abandon the truth of Scripture. Engaging in the centuries old heresy of special prominence. These two sides are lining up beloved. The Father is seeking one of these. Make sure you line up on the right side.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- May 23, 2016

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.