This series of 26 lessons was developed for classroom presentation from the book by David Miller that should be required reading for every preacher, elder, and Bible school teacher in the Lord’s church: “Piloting The Strait”. This book is available from a variety of bookstores, Sain Publications at www.sainpublicans.com as well as from David Miller at www.apologeticspress.org.
CHANGES IN THE CHURCH
FUEL FOR CHANGE - EMOTION
Proverbs 14:12 “THERE IS A WAY WHICH SEEMTH RIGHT UNTO A MAN, BUT THE END THEREOF are THE WAYS OF DEATH.”
During the discussion in our last lesson we covered the subject of rebellion as one of the fuels of change in the churches today. In this lesson the subject of our fuel for change is emotion. How is emotion similar to a drug in the way it operates? Why is it important to keep our emotions under control and disciplined, to keep emotions from ruling over reason? What is the relationship between emotion and spirituality?
“Spiritually” consists of being governed by the biblical content authored by the Spirit. In other words how “spiritual” we are is not determined by how big an emotional high we can get ourselves on but rather how close we live to the pattern or instructions that the Holy Spirit gave us for our conduct and worship. In the church today one of the fuels for change is the extent to which emotion and feeling affect doctrine and practice. We must be careful not to allow mere physical or emotional sensation to govern our religious practice by confusing spirituality with an emotional high. Those people who would change the way the church worships simply do not understand the relationship between spirituality, the role of emotion and the critical need for obedience in our worship (remember Cain). Who is our worship to please; ourselves or God? The changes in worship people are advocating are designed to stimulate emotions and make worshippers feel their religion and they think that the higher emotional trip they can take the more spiritual they are.
In a speaking engagement one of “our” preachers from another state describes a Sunday morning assembly where a “communion trio” sang to the congregation during the Lord’s Supper and “helped us express emotions for which the congregation knew no song.” “The congregation sat profoundly moved and with uplifted faces as tears flowed” apparently those people think that shedding tears is conclusive proof that the activity is “authentic,” spiritual and scriptural when it may be neither.
The Bible simply does not teach that stimulating the emotions is God-honoring or proof of the Spirit’s presence. God does not call upon us to “refurbish” our worship because some of our people is “feeling emotionally left out.” This preacher continues “Surely the Lord was in this place today!” These people have been conditioned to confuse emotion and newness with spirituality.
Matthew 7:13-14 “ENTER YE IN AT THE STRAIT GATE: FOR WIDE is THE GATE, AND BROAD is THE WAY, THAT LEADETH TO DESTRUCTION, AND MANY THERE BE WHICH GO I THEREAT: BECAUSE STRAIT is THE GATE, AND NARROW is THE WAY, WHICH LEADETH UNTO LIFE, AND FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT.”
For worship to achieve a state of “excellence that honors and glorifies God” it must be patterned after God’s specifications. A couple of examples:
Read Genesis 4:3-7 Cain did not bring the offering God required, Abel did, Cain’s offering was rejected, Abel’s accepted, God told Cain that he had sinned.
Leviticus 10:1-3 “AND NADAB AND ABIHU, THE SONS OF AARON, TOOK EITHER OF HIM HIS CENSER, AND PUT FIRE THEREIN, AND PUT INCENSE THEREON, AND OFFERED STRANGE FIRE BEFORE THE LORD, WHICH HE COMMANDED THEM NOT. AND THERE WENT OUT FIRE FROM THE LORD, AND DEVOURED THEM, AND THEY DIED BEFORE THE LORD. THEN MOSES SAID UNTO AARON, THIS is it THAT THE LORD SPAKE, SAYING, I WILL BE SANCTIFIED IN THEM THAT COME NIGH ME, AND BEFORE ALL THE PEOPLE WILL I BE GLORIFIED. AND AARON HELD HIS PEACE.”
Some of you may remember a movie released a few years ago called “Sister Act” that had Woopi Goldberg in the lead role. The kind of worship that is portrayed in that movie is hardly the spiritual behavior which God expects, but an excellent example of what some men are doing and calling it worship. Such behavior certainly stimulates emotions and enables worshipers to “get down” and “get with it” but God is not pleased or impressed.
John “GOD is A SPIRIT: AND THEY THAT WORSHIP him MUST WORSHIP HIM IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH.”
The concern is with fashioning worship to suit humans and what humans think and feel is spiritual and meaningful. In other words, let’s restructure worship so we can “experience” our worship and feel good, then offer that to God and expect him to accept it. Since the baby boomer generation has already rejected authority of any type its easy to ignore God’s authority and to use their own authority to create what they want. They want to free themselves from God’s authority and worship with “freedom” in their “own heart language.”
The emphasis upon the emotional expectations of the worshipper completely misunderstands and misapplies the emphasis evident in Scripture. Biblically, a warm, friendly church environment is achieved when a like-minded assembly is carefully conformed to God’s directions – not the worshipper’s desires. But we are living in a day when the overall direction of society is away from truth and rational assessment of truth or what truth is toward what “feels good.”
The shift to emotion is further seen in the emphasis being placed on the “mystery” of faith and the inability of humans to “explain” God. These change agents who would tailor the church to the expectations of the baby boomer generation act as if (and they’ve been taught this) that God’s word is all a great mystery. That we cannot know right from wrong, correct doctrine from incorrect doctrine, the rational from the irrational. That they, and only they, must explain to us poor rubes who are uneducated and don’t understand the Bible what it means (and this applies to anyone who doesn’t agree with them). But the Bible affirms otherwise:
John “IT IS WRITTEN IN THE PROPHETS, AND THEY SHALL BE ALL TAUGHT OF GOD. EVERY MAN THEREFORE THAT HATH HEARD, AND HATH LEARNED OF THE FATHER, COMETH UNTO ME.”
John “SANCTIFY THEM THROUGH THY TRUTH, THY WORD IS TRUTH.”
Romans 8:14 “FOR AS MANY AS ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THEY ARE THE SONS OF GOD.”
I Thessalonians 5:21 “PROVE ALL THINGS, HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD.”
I John 4:1 “BELOVED, BELIEVE NOT EVERY SPIRIT, BUT TRY THE SPIRITS WHETHER THEY ARE OF GOD BECAUSE MANY FALSE PROPHETS ARE GONE OUT INTO THE WORLD.”
The shift to emotion in worship is most often manifested in the area of church music. For example, the cry is that our old songs have lost their meaning and the over-familiarity we have of them is regarded as being negative to our “spiritual experience.” But they don’t necessarily want to dump all those old traditional hymns but they want to jazz them up with special choirs, groups and instruments.
Notice the contrasting viewpoints: (1) the Bible’s view is to address the intellect, the mind, informing the person of the will of God. That word is calculated to then bring the whole person – emotions, body, mind and all – into obedient harmony with deity. (2) The change agent’s view is to target specifically the emotions, the physical craving for the sensational, the entertaining, the interesting. I suppose that if we just disengaged our minds and allow all this pleasurable feeling and euphoria to dominate us during our hour of worship and didn’t know any better; we could generate a situation where we would feel pretty good about ourselves. But then what are we worshipping? God or self?
What does it mean to be “spiritual?”
Biblical spirituality is not what one feels but what one comes to know and do that conforms to the will of God. The “spiritual” person in the Bible is the one who earnestly seeks to come to an understanding of God’s will and then diligently obeys that will. “Spirituality” consists of being governed by the biblical substance and content authored by the Holy Spirit.
I Corinthians 2:12-15 “NOW WE HAVE RECEIVED, NOT THE SPIRIT OF THE WORLD, BUT THE SPIRIT WHICH IS OF GOD, THAT WE MIGHT KNOW THE THINGS THAT ARE FREELY GIVEN TO US OF GOD. WHICH THINGS ALSO WE SPEAK, NOT IN THE WORDS WHICH MAN’S WISDOM TEACHETH, BUT WHICH THE HOLY GHOST TEACHETH, COMPARING SPIRITUAL THINGS WITH SPIRITUAL. BUT THE NATURAL MAN RECEIVED NOT THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD: FOR THEY ARE FOOLISHNESS UNTO HIM: NEITHER CAN HE KNOW them, BECAUSE THEY ARE SPIRITUALLY DISCERNED. BUT HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL JUDGETH ALL THINGS, YET HE HIMSELF IS JUDGED OF NO MAN.”
“Spiritual worship” entails responding rationally to God’s will with worship that is approved by Him:
Romans 12:1-2 “I BESEECH YOU THEREFORE, BRETHREN, BY THE MERCIES OF GOD, THAT YE PRESENT YOUR BODIES A LIVING SACRIFICE, HOLY, ACCEPTABLE UNTO GOD, which is YOUR REASONABLE SERVICE. AND BE NOT CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD: BUT BE YE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MIND, THAT YE MAY PROVE WHAT is THAT GOOD, AND ACCEPTABLE, AND PERFECT, WILL OF GOD.”
“Spiritual songs” are songs whose lyrics convey correct biblical concepts. The “law is spiritual” (Romans ) because its source is the Spirit and it constitutes an accurate expression of God’s will.
Yet the proponents of change leave the impression that our worship assemblies would be more “spiritual” if we would begin employing lifting up arms, dramatic presentations, handclapping, praise teams that include women song leaders, solos, choirs, etc. They simply don’t have a grasp of what God’s word says spiritual is and that these things cannot be spiritual in God’s view since they are not authorized by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.
Our Pentecostal neighbors have long since demonstrated that external stimulus and focus on physical display is no indication of true, spiritual worship. In fact, the evidence will tell us that such cheap substitutes sidetrack people from true worship.
Notice in the following scriptures, if you will; the proper relationship between emotion, reason and behavior.
When Philip encountered the Ethiopian treasurer he asked if he understood what he was reading. When the eunuch expressed his desire for assistance, Philip took a seat in the chariot with him and proceeded to explain the Bible teaching to him. Notice that Christianity is first and foremost an experience in rational knowledge. It is a mental understanding of God’s requirements, an intellectual awareness that must occur first and must take priority over every other facet of religious experience.
After listening to and thinking about the concepts taught by Philip, the treasurer “put two and two together” when he came to a body of water. Based upon what he had learned from his Bible study with Philip, he concluded that he must be baptized to please God. Notice that the second facet of true religious experience is obedient response – compliance with God commands.
After achieving a rational comprehension of God’s will, making a conscious, informed decision to conform to that will, and then enacting obedience, the treasury official “went on his way rejoicing.” Here is the proper place of emotion in the Christian religion. Here is the proper balance between human reason, divine doctrine, and human emotion.