Devil Shanked My Worship Set
31 July, 2015 § Leave a comment
Recently the elders in my church investigated the goings on at Bethel Church in Redding California, because they were thinking about attending a Worship Workshop they had coming up. Prior to their investigation the only thing we knew about Bethel was that their worship ROCKS! Yeah, there were some conversations about gold dust and angel feathers but it was passed off as “They’re just pentecostals, what do you expect,” but the theology expressed in these anthems is top notch, any church would agree with such praise and adoration to the Father. Needless to say, not long into their investigation they happened upon the supposed Holy Spirit of Bethel Church Kundalini . There are other articles and videos about the goings on at Bethel so that I don’t have to repeat what has has been said. The same goes for Brian Houston’s declaration that Christians and Muslims serve the same God seen through different eyes. Hillsong, Houston’s band, sing some pretty fantastic worship, but what I want to answer in this article is whether or not we should still listen and worship to these anthems when we know that they are offered up to idols. So far as I know, my handling of this issue is unique so if I err, it is your responsibility (as well as the Holy Spirit) to correct me. So here we go.
Pretty much every believer that I know listens to and worships differently in private than they do on a Sunday morning (this may point to an unhealthy dichotomy within the church but that is another article). My point is that in public or private we are the church worshiping God in everything that we do. So, is it possible then to worship the true and living God with an anthem that has been written and performed to a false god? To widen my scope I am going to include in here any song ever written whose lyrics could be rightly applied to God but none the less were written for another purpose.The reason I widen my scope so broadly is that in the past I have heard Christians complain about touchy feely songs sung to Jesus that could be sung to your wife or girlfriend, so I will address that a little later. First let us take a look at the scriptures and try to discern the Spirit of God on this matter.
16 “And in that day, declares the LORD, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18 And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19 And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD.
To put some context on these verses, Hosea is a prophet in the Old Testament whom God has commanded to marry the prostitute Gomer. Gomer has it in her head that her prostitution is what paid the bills, bought her food, clothed her back etc… and so she returns to it, time and time again. God says to her and to the nation of Israel, “Don’t you realize that you are spurring the giver of life,” He does not pull punches but goes down through verse by verse detailing their harlotry. By chapter 2 God presents hope for the nation in that they return to the true and living God and attribute to God all that they had been attributing to the objects of their harlotry, namely the false god Baal.
This is the heart of idolatry, to attribute to the creation what rightly belongs to the creator. It is most clearly seen in
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.
The first step in dealing with these sorts of issues is to recognize them for what they are, which is acts of idolatry. The truth about who God is, and what He has done never changes, what makes it idolatry is that it is not directed towards the one who deserves it, it is actually directed to a non-being, or at worst a demon which brings us to what Paul says about our response to idolatry.
1 Corinthians 8
Now concerning[a] food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.[b]
4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating[c] in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged,[d] if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Holy-Long-Passage-Batman! Don’t lose the meaning in the example–Paul is not just talking about meat here–he is talking about all things offered up to idols when they should have been offered up to God. We can take a consumer view of this passage in saying that anything and everything that you take into yourself–eyes, ears, nose, taste, touch–Paul says in verse 8,will not affect your relationship with God. This goes totally against all religions that say that what happens in the body affects the soul and therefore can get in between you and God. The Holy Spirit through Paul says that the real humdinger is if you cause your brother or sister to stumble when his or her conscience is weak. He goes so far as to remind us that our brother or sister is one for whom Christ died–meaning, that you will land yourself on the wrong side of the desk of your Dad Almighty. Keep in mind that this is all in the context of what Paul is saying–there is no other God but our God. That covers the non-being side of it, but at worst we could be partaking with demons. Take a look at this.
1 Corinthians 10:18-21
18 Consider the people of Israel:d are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
The real danger, if I might be so dramatic, is that we will end up participating in the world because of what we have ingested, heard, seen, felt, or smelt. I won’t mention names but the thought that we could be missing out on the blessings of God, be it gold dust or angel feathers or whatever made a member of the body of Christ desirous of the end result of Bethel’s worship–indeed they know also of another couple outside of our body who are seriously considering going to participate in Bethel’s fellowship because of these things. Paul warns us not about the meat or the songs but of the community of those who actively present to non-beings or demons the things that rightly belong to God. So now that we have God’s mind on idolatry and and its lack of place in the life of the believer, let’s address whether or not these songs can be redeemed.
I mentioned the scope of this question at the start of the article, that it encompasses not only those songs written for religious purposes but also those written which could rightly be sung to God. This of course presupposes that you know who God is, and what He’s done and who you are so that you can properly worship him. The true worship of God cannot by any means be separated from a right and all encompassing understanding of who God is and what He has done–in other words, the gospel. However I’m not about to lay out a gospel centered approach to worship because that is beyond the scope of this article.
The second step to dealing with the songs of a fallen brother or sister is to interrogate the lyrics.The first question that I would ask of a song being considered for public use (having already listened to it ad nauseum in private) is do I believe it? and if I believe it, does it match up with scripture? If it does, we’re golden, if not I have some repenting to do. If the song clears then I must also ask of myself, why do I want to sing this song? Does it pass Philippians 4:8–honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy? I think, honestly, we set ourselves up for disappointment when after all of these and similar checks we allow through those songs that fit the bill and then we are let down because none of them are from our heart to God’s.
To ask if we can still sing and worship to a song written for a false god is to ask the wrong question and reveal our need for the gospel to reform our understanding of worship.
Can you tell I’m itching to write a different article?
At root this is about the question of whether or not all truth is God’s truth–whether or not all lyrics displaying an accurate understanding of who God is and what He has done are game for use in our public or private worship or if the Devil truly does shank our worship set every time the apostasy of a certain church who publishes their worship comes to light. I think in certain ways it is not one or the other but both and, and that there is a way to beat the devil at his own game, and it is to sing a new song unto the LORD.
There is a reason that we are extolled in Psalm 96 to sing a new song unto the LORD. It is because in all that has been written about God, there is yet more words and combinations of words and exhalations of his mightiness and mighty works and the truth of who He is and what He has done that we need not despair how many songs have been ripped from the songbook of heaven because it is our life’s purpose to bring God the glory that He deserves, and believe God when He says that all men fall short of the glory of God and in bringing glory to God. So, write! Sing! Bring glory to God for what He has done for us! Not for Bethel, not for Brian Houston, for us! Refuse to rely solely on the health of another’s spirit to bring honor and glory to God, but in working out your own salvation with fear and trembling offer to God the glory due His name each and every single day. If we make this our goal, it will not lessen the grief we feel when another falls, but it will protect us from making the same misjudgement of the character of God for the sake of a community built around idolatry.