Worship or Entertainment?

Tickets to Worship for Entertainment?

Tickets to Worship or for Entertainment?

Looking back over our first year of blogging, it is clear that the most visited feature of this site is our Discernment in Music (DiM) where we take a Biblical look at the most popular songs being played on “Christian Radio” today. The concern is that we’ve allowed our minds and hearts to be filled with anything calling itself “Christian” without carefully examining what is being conveyed by these songs either directly or by inference. Many of these songs are working their way into Churches for “Praise and Worship”, so we really need to make sure what we preach (with or without musical accompaniment) is in keeping with sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Toward the end of the Fall, we here in the Georgia started getting a lot of concert events hosted by local Churches and Christian Radio stations. There are some Artists who draw large crowds these days all on their own: Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and Toby Mac. In some of the more remote/rural areas, it’s hard to get one of the big names to do a concert so what event planners will do is set up Music Festivals to bring several artists together. Local stations will often promote these events heavily, offering free tickets as incentives for community engagement, but for the most part tickets to the event are purchased for anywhere from $15 to $35 per adult. Touring, ticket sales, and Album/iTunes sales are the basis for the careers of these musicians and their production team. This is their job. This is what they do to earn their salaries. Yet, within the Christian Community, we also include all of this as their Ministry. Is that true in every case?

***Edit: Some artists do the concert events for free so that ticket sales can go toward a local Charity or fund raiser. These should still not be sold as “worship”, but I wanted to make it clear that the money isn’t always going to the artists***

At the close of one such musical event last fall (2014), there was a comment made that seemed to stop everything in its tracks… like in the movies where someone makes an awkward comment in a huge house party and everyone freezes and you hear the Vinyl Record come to a screeching halt.

“…So come on out and join us on [Day] starting at [Time] for a night of worship and celebration…”

Are we paying for the opportunity to worship God, or are we paying for a night of musical entertainment? I can understand if you just rolled your eyes, or let out a sigh of exasperation… but while you are still here and reading, think about the question one more time. What are we paying for to attend one of these concert events? What is the advertisement on Christian radio actually selling? Are they selling a chance to experience skillful music and dazzling lights or are they selling “worship”? Let’s pause that thought for the moment, to consider its implications.

Entertainment

I’m not implying that there is anything inherently wrong with entertainment. I attended a Tim Hawkins comedy show at a local church on a Friday night. Nothing wrong with laughter, and Tim Hawkins is a professing Christian. His theology for the most part is sound, and he’s quite skilled as a musician and he understands comedy well. However, despite the fact that he plays the guitar, his event wasn’t advertised a worship event. The call to attend was to enjoy a night of comedy. Laughter isn’t a form of worship found in the Bible. Tim does try to present the Gospel during a set or between bits, but we aren’t buying tickets to a sermon, and they aren’t trying to sell sermon tickets. I can’t imagine anyone in attendance thinking to themselves, “wow, I’m really worshiping Jesus right now by enjoying these jokes”. It simply isn’t what we consider to be an act of worship, and rightly so. Can the Gospel be preached at such an event? Absolutely. Can something funny be shared in a sermon without drawing away from the Word of God? Yes. But we don’t confuse the two categories. One is entertainment, the other is Church, but everything can point to Christ (and we should endeavor to point to Christ in all that we do).

Worship

Let’s talk a little bit about Worship as it is described in the Bible. Searching (admittedly I’m not searching in the Hebrew) in the ESV for “worship”, the earliest mentions of the word are in conjunction with offering of sacrifices to God.

Genesis 22:1-5 (ESV) | The Sacrifice of Isaac
1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

There isn’t always a mention of a burnt offering. In place of a burnt offering, there is sometimes a prayer of thanksgiving or of praise clearly uttered to the Lord God, such as in the case of Jacob’s servant when tasked with finding a suitable wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24:12-28 (ESV) | A Wife for Isaac
12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

15 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. 16 The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up. 17 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” 18 She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink.19 When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” 20 So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. 21 The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the Lord had prospered his journey or not.

22 When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold ring weighing a half shekel, and two bracelets for her arms weighing ten gold shekels, 23 and said, “Please tell me whose daughter you are. Is there room in your father’s house for us to spend the night?” 24 She said to him, “I am the daughter of Bethuel the son of Milcah, whom she bore to Nahor.” 25 She added, “We have plenty of both straw and fodder, and room to spend the night.” 26 The man bowed his head and worshiped the Lord 27 and said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the Lord has led me in the way to the house of my master’s kinsmen.” 28 Then the young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things.

Before the Law, and the Mosaic covenant, this is what the Lord God considered to be Worship. We know this, because this portion of the Law was dictated to Moses by God. But we also know that the Laws within the Mosaic Covenant defined right Worship, and that God made clear that Israel was NOT to worship God ways that they learned from the fallen world. Rather than pick through the Old Testament, let us jump to the book of Hebrews, to see this explained after the cross of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 9:1-14 (ESV) | The Earthly Holy Place
1 Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. 2 For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, 4 having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. 5 Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

6 These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties, 7 but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people. 8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing 9 (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, 10 but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come,then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Let’s unpack this a bit. The Laws, the specific rituals of the priesthood and of the people (offerings, washings, consecration/fasting, etc.) and the blood of animals where all regulations of worship. This is what it was to Worship the Living God under the Old Covenant. All of these forms of worship pointed to Jesus Christ whose blood would finally succeed where previous forms of worship failed, in that it would purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. What are we to do now? We still offer sacrifices to God in our worship, but what sacrifices do we offer?

Hebrews 13 (ESV) | Sacrifices Pleasing to God
1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. 3 Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. 4 Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say,

“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”

7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9 Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them. 10 We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat. 11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp. 12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. 14 For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.

20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon. 24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings. 25 Grace be with all of you.

Declaring the mighty works of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and bearing the reproach of the world are pleasing acts of worship. Music isn’t even mentioned here. Does that make music sinful? Nope. It doesn’t make music anything. We’ve over-cooked the role of music in our modern-day understanding of “Worship”. We’ve done it in our churches and we’ve done it on the Radio, and we’ve done it in our Entertainment.

Conclusion

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with being entertained, especially not in a God-honoring format. That doesn’t mean that such entertainment also qualifies as “worship”. But how you conduct yourself in such environments matters. We were created to worship God, but our sinful nature is eager to worship anything other than God. Most often our sinful flesh urges us to worship ourselves and our desires. And we tend to do so much more flamboyantly than we do for God… and this was true even in the Old Testament (Exodus 32). Christians who attend concerts for entertainment simply need to guard their hearts from false teaching and false worship. Having a “praise band” in your church is fine, if what they are doing is indeed an act of worship to the Living God and not a form of entertainment for the congregation (that’s a very difficult “if” to evaluate by the way). The “praise band” does not worship God for the congregation, even when they are doing it well with the right heart. The call to worship is for everyone, not just the ones on the stage, and we dare not “sell” opportunities to Worship a Living God. Can ministry happen at such events? Yes. Can worship take place at such events? yes. Is that what we should be selling? No.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Praise the Name of the Lord

fireworksThis week, I’d like to start by reading Psalms 148.

Psalms 148 | Praise the Name of the Lord
1 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
2 Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

3 Praise him, sun and moon,
praise him, all you shining stars!
4 Praise him, you highest heavens,
and you waters above the heavens!

5 Let them praise the name of the Lord!
For he commanded and they were created.
6 And he established them forever and ever;
he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth,
you great sea creatures and all deeps,
8 fire and hail, snow and mist,
stormy wind fulfilling his word!

9 Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
10 Beasts and all livestock,
creeping things and flying birds!

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,
princes and all rulers of the earth!
12 Young men and maidens together,
old men and children!

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted;
his majesty is above earth and heaven.
14 He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his saints,
for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!

Let everything… everything… praise the Name of the Lord. Amen! This Psalm was read in our Church service last Sunday during corporate worship. It is a beautiful Psalm. As we were reading through it, a thought crossed my mind regarding idolatry. How great is the sin of man and the curse on the Earth as a result. Remember the temptation that the father of lies brought to Eve?

Genesis 3:1-5 (ESV) 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The original sin, was committed under the false promise of becoming like God. Idolatry. You see, we are familiar with the idolatry of worshiping things created by man (engraved images, carved idols, Asherah poles, etc.) and the idolatry of hero-worship, the love of money, and the love of self. However, there is yet another form of idolatry that is alive and growing today that must be struck down. The undue worship of God’s creation. The sun, moon, stars, mountains, hills, oceans, rivers, beasts, birds… nature… “mother earth”. Ever think about all of the pagan religions and the objects of their worship? Paul’s letter to the Romans (Gentiles) begins by addressing this rejection of God, the Creator.

Romans 1:18-32 (ESV) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Sin. What were the first commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai?

Exodus 20:1-7 (ESV)1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

And which did Jesus say was the Greatest Commandment?

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV) 34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

This is a serious, and ever-present problem for mankind. It is the underpinning of every sin… the desire to worship anything other than the One True God. Do you truly think that mankind has somehow evolved beyond Israel’s continual idolatry (Asherah Poles and Baal)? No, my friends, we are the same as we were in those days… in some ways even worse.

David understood the heart of men… and he is described as a man after God’s own heart. He gave us this and many other Psalms as a reminder that we are to Praise the Name of the Lord. Not only mankind, but every created thing is to praise His Name. All of Creation points to God, and serves to worship and honor Him.

Psalm 96 (ESV) | Worship in the Splendor of Holiness

1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
3 Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6 Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.

7 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
8 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering, and come into his courts!
9 Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
tremble before him, all the earth!

10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!
Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved;
he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice;
let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
12 let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
13 before the Lord, for he comes,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness,
and the peoples in his faithfulness.

This weekend, here in the US, we celebrate our Independence Day (July 4th). Don’t let patriotism, rise to the level of idol worship. God has no need of this nation. There is only one earthly nation blessed by God, who is described as the apple of His eye. Our hope rests in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the Resurrection, and the Great Day of the Lord. Therefore, let us always and forever more praise the Name of the Lord.

May the Lord Bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge