Memory Text: “But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14, NKJV).
Introduction: Commenting in his blog on ‘conformity, compromise and crisis in worship’, William Earnhardt makes a very strong statement saying, “Things that used to shock the world several years ago are now freely accepted by the church.” It is indeed a very powerful statement and also very shocking to hear it being said about the ‘remnant’ church. Perhaps he is right!
What is conformity? The dictionary gives us three meanings:
- Doing and thinking as others – behaviour or thought that is socially acceptable or expected.
- Following of standard – compliance with a fixed standard, regulation, or requirement.
- Agreement in form – agreement, correspondence, or similarity in structure, manner, or character.
Looking at the way things are happening and gradually taking place in our churches is shocking! Our worship music is changing, our attitudes towards worship are changing, and our worship style is changing. We are finding ourselves caught between the world and the church standard. It seems as though sin which must be called by its right name is now relative. We compare and say well, it wasn’t as bad as the other one. This dress is not that immodest if you consider what they wear for the proms or on weddings because our children are growing in a different culture. Often we also have hard time to decide whether to serve healthy juice drinks or soft drinks or wine at the wedding receptions and social gatherings because we will have guests coming from other community as well who hold a good social status in our society.
Today some churches are measuring their success as though it is a worldly business. Instead of comparing themselves to the word of God, they like to look at the financial growth of numbers just like any other worldly business.
Some of our educational institutions which are suppose to be strong centers of nurture and Spiritual growth in ‘Truth’ have gradually changed their programs to compete with the outside world, losing its vision and the mission of the church on which it was established. Some have died and are shut down!
Ellen G. White admonishes us saying, “If there was ever a time when we should watch and pray in real earnest, it is now. There may be supposable things that appear as good things, and yet they need to be carefully considered with much prayer, for they are specious devices of the enemy to lead souls in a path which lies so close to the path of truth that it will be scarcely distinguishable from the path which leads to holiness and heaven. (TM p. 229)
So, are we trying to follow Jesus, or just make sure we are not following the world too closely? Is the Bible our guide, or are society and the Bible our guide? Before we know it, we will be finding ourselves in conformity, compromise and crisis in worship and crisis in the church. Are we going to follow God’s Word, or just stay a few paces behind the world?
Let us dive into our study with this thought!
Genesis 6:5 – The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.
Jeremiah 17: 5 – Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the LORD.
Romans 3:9-12 – There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
Question: What do conformity, compromise, and crisis have to do with worship? Throughout the Scripture, we are warned that the human heart is deceitful and people are corrupt; no one is immune from evil. We are born with corrupt and fallen natures, and we carry that fallen nature in us. We have to be careful, how we understand evil. Things that the world or our culture and our society might view as fine, as normal, as “just the way things are,” could be precisely what the Bible condemns as wrong, sinful, even evil.
In Old Testament times, the biggest spiritual problem for the Israelites seemed to be Baal worship. What do we know about Baal worship? Read Hosea 4:11-14.
Baal was a Canaanite storm-fertility cult god that was believed to be responsible for the fertility of animals and crops. Baal was a god that looked like a person standing with a spear in one hand and a club in the other.
Some scholars suggest that the Canaanites believed that the mythical Baal died every year when the rains stopped and then came back to life again when the rains started again the next rainy season. The word Baal means “lord,” “possessor,” or “husband.” Baal was a Semitic god.
The Canaanites believed that Baal dwelt in holy trees, springs, mountain summits, rocks, etc., and spoke of each of these local gods as the Baal, i.e., “lord,” of that particular locality. (Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary article on Baal)
The claim was that Baal promoted fertility of crops, animals, and, no doubt, humans too. Thus, if one did not want to starve, especially in drought years, he needed to worship Baal. Israel seemed to be irresistibly attracted by those gods of the nations around them. (Numbers 25)
Question: Do we do anything like that? If we worship God, do we also carry a rabbit’s foot for luck? Or hang a horse shoe at the door? Is it wrong to carry insurance if you believe God can and will protect you?
The Art (and Evil) of Compromise – Read 1 Kings 11:1–13.
It is said that politics is the art of compromise. The text tells us that Solomon had many foreign wives and ‘his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God,’… On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
Solomon is an example of someone who started out with a marvelous connection with God and had almost every advantage one could possibly imagine. With all of his wisdom, couldn’t he see where things were going? But, it seems that wives and money spoiled him, and his downward course is proverbial.
Question: How did this apostasy impact worship, faith, and the whole religious system of Israel?
It is pretty clear that Solomon’s downfall took years. There was a gradual, slight change in attitudes; and eventually, we read the words of 1 Kings 11:1-13. Solomon actually came to the place where he sacrificed his own children to Molech. (1 Kings 11:7). Satan is an absolute master at the art of compromise. He will find every possible excuse to make sin seem okay. But, so often we seem to believe there is nothing we can do about it. Is there?
Question: When we come to worship God, are we truly sincere? Is our worship of God confined to the church service and the Sabbath school class? What happens during the rest of the week? What is it that God really wants? (Micah 6:6-8)
Counterfeit Worship –
In 1 Kings 11, we have the narrative of Ahijah who came to Jeroboam, Solomon’s servant, with a message that he would become king over ten of the tribes of Israel (vss. 26–31). But the prophet made it clear to Jeroboam that his success would depend on his faithfulness to God’s commandments (vss. 37, 38).
But Jeroboam wanted to listen to his heart and not God. He was threatened by the possibility that some of his people might continue to worship in Jerusalem. So, he selfishly constructed temples in his territory in Bethel and Dan with golden bull calves representing the fertility gods. In many ways this new worship resembled the worship of Yahweh. Read 1Kings 12:25-33.
Notice the ways in which this new worship violated God’s commands. They:
1. Offered sacrifices and ordained non-Levite priests (vss. 31-33).
2. Made calves of gold to worship (vs. 28).
3. Made Bethel a place of worship (vs. 29).
4. Made Dan a place of worship (vs. 29).
5. Instituted a rival feast to the Feast of Tabernacles (vs. 32).
6. Built shrines on high places (vs. 31).
(Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, for Tuesday, August 16)
Jeroboam wanted his false worship to be as much like what happened in Jerusalem as possible. He even claimed that the golden bull calves were the gods that had brought them out of Egypt! (1 Kings 12:28) Where did he get that idea? (Exodus 32:4)
Question: How often do we–like Jeroboam–believe that we can make our own rules?
Elijah and the Prophets of Baal –
Things went from bad to worse, especially when it came to the question of worship under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. It is here we come to the famous story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. It is here where we can see just how far compromise had taken them.
Question: What can we learn about the worship of Baal from the behavior of those prophets on the top of Mount Carmel?
They were leaping, crying, prophesying–probably accompanied by music–cutting themselves, and spilling their own blood as part of their worship. They had a passion for their faith and their god, even a zeal that suggested the sincerity of their beliefs.
Question: Are there any Christian groups worshiping like that in our day? How do we worship God today?
Yes, today too, many Christian worship services remind us at times of something like this: a lot of emotion, a lot of hype, and a lot of noise. Some think that the more sounds they make, the louder the music, the more emotional excitement generated, the better the worship service. But our worship must be dignified, respectful, and impressive to everyone looking on.
Perhaps one of the most important lessons from this account is that all worship must be focused on the true Lord, on the Creator. True worship needs to be grounded in the Word of God, pointing the worshiper to the Lord and His activity in history, says the author.
- · Our worship should be with a simple prayer like of Elijah, “Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God’ ” (vs. 37).
- Our worship services should always present worshipers with the question that Elijah asked Israel. “‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him’ ” (vs. 21, NIV).
- Our worship experience should force us to look inside our hearts and see where our true love and devotion are: on the Lord or on anything else, says the author.
There must have been a period of revival following the experience on Mount Carmel. Elijah went down in Israelite history and in Christian history as a mighty warrior for God.
A. W. Tozer, a well-known preacher of the twentieth century who died in 1963, often preached against the worship of the “god of entertainment,” suggesting that no matter how hard they try churches cannot compete with the world’s idea of entertainment. It is the cross of Jesus Christ, says Tozer, not entertainment, that will win souls to Christ. See A. W. Tozer, Tozer On Worship and Entertainment, compiled by James L. Snyder (Camp Hill, Penn.: Wing Spread Publishers, 1997), pp. 108, 109.
We must always remember how we worship and whom we worship.
God Bless You!!!