The Challenge of Worship

Steve Viars June 8, 2003

- This summer many of our church members will go camping.
- in fact, several families left right after school was out and have been camping this week.
- I thought about them when I was outside at night this with as cold as it’s been---I hope they took plenty of blankets...but some people really like camping.

- in many of those families, especially those with small children, the dad will take a few minutes and go over some of the dangers that need to be avoided...
1.  They might talk about never going swimming alone...
2. Or not talking to strangers...
3.  Or to be careful around the fire, or with matches, or knives...
- but in whatever form it takes, its the “let’s go over the dangers of camping” speech.

- now, why is that dad doing that?
- is it to convince the family that it’s so dangerous that they shouldn’t even go?...of course not.
- is it to ruin the trip by making everyone so uptight that they can’t enjoy what they’re doing?
- no, the goal isn’t to stop the trip, or ruin the trip...
- the goal is to have a realistic picture of the dangers so they can be avoided, and everyone can therefore have the best time possible.

- there’s a sense in which that’s what we plan to do this morning.
- last week we began a new series entitled Passionately Pursuing our God in Worship and Music.
- our goal this summer is to study what God’s Word says about this all-important topic...and we hope to take significant strides forward in our ability to worship our Lord both individually and especially when we come together for corporate worship.
- this morning we’re going to have the “Let’s go over the dangers speech.”
- we’re talking about The Challenge of Worship.
- in a sentence, we want to make the obvious but all-important point, not all worship pleases God.
- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible first of all to Genesis chapter 4.
- page 3 in the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.

- now, this morning, we’re going to be studying the Scriptures a bit differently.
- normally we go to one passage of Scripture, and generally stay right in that text.
- this morning, we’re actually going to be looking at five different passages of Scripture, to illustrate 5 ways worship can go bad.
- now, before we look at our first passage in Genesis 4, let’s think about the big picture of what we’re trying to gain from these stories.
1.  We’re not primarily concerned with learning about how other people in history failed in their worship.
- if this is just a time to mentally criticize someone else, it won’t be time well spent.
- remember, the apostle Paul told us this about the stories in the OT - 1 Corinthians 10:11 - Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
- so that means this—we’re looking at these stories to see principles, or trends, or habits that occur in the hearts of men and women, so we can in turn evaluate ourselves...
- and I hope the question the you will be asking continually as we go through the study is...Lord, are there any ways in which any of these tendencies are also occurring in my heart and life?
- have I failed to see the danger?...failed to see the challenge...and do I need to make adjustments in that aspect of my worship life?
- It’s like David said...Psalm 139:23-24 - Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;  And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
2.  For each failure listed in Scripture, there is a positive alternative.
- this could become a very negative presentation this morning...to the point that we just throw up our hands and say...let’s not even try to worship...
- or we’ll do it, but we’re going to be so uptight that we can’t even enjoy it or focus also on all the good things...
- no, this is just like a good “dangers of camping speech”...the goal is to proceed along with great enthusiasm, but with healthy respect for the subject.
- It’s like Solomon said - Proverbs 14:16 - A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless.

- for our first challenge, we’re looking at the second half of Genesis 4.
- these verses tell the story of the descendants of Cain.
- remember that Adam and Eve had two sons...Cain and Able...and the Scripture illustrates the depravity of the human race apart from God by recording that the first relationship between brothers ended in murder.
- of course that leaves the question, what happened to Cain and his offspring?
- unfortunately, that’s a pretty sad tale...but what’s important for our study this morning, the story includes music...we’re about to read the first recorded song in the Bible.
- read Genesis 4:16-26.

I.  This first challenge is about Lamech – an example of Selfish Worship


- several of the passages we’ll study this morning contain a contrast...in this case...
A.  Note the contrast between the wicked line of Cain and the godly line of Seth.
- Cain’s descendants are trying to build a city instead of obeying God’s command to multiply and fill the earth...
- Cain’s descendants are already practicing polygamy...
- and Cain’s descendants are already glorifying murder....
- whereas in contrast in the line of Seth...the child God gave Eve to replace her son Able whom Cain murdered...and the Bible says of the line of Seth....”then men began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

- now , for our purposes this morning, please notice this...
B.  The wickedness of Cain’s descendants was demonstrated in part by their music.
- here’s this man named Lamech in verse 23, and he brings his two wives around him...and he brags to them...and the grammar in Hebrew is a bit vague here...
- either he is saying that he’s already murdered a man for offending him...
- or that he certainly is willing to murder a man for offending him...but either way it’s bad...
- and the amazing thing is...this is a musical family...his son Jabal is the inventor of stringed instruments and wind instruments...but they’re being used for an evil purpose.
- they’re being used to boast of his willingness to harm others in order to magnify himself.
- now, a person might say...if this is the first recorded song in the Bible, and it’s already this bad...maybe we ought to just avoid all music...
- in other words, the dangers of camping are so bad, let’s not even go on the trip.

- we probably need to throw these balancing ideas in...
- though this is the first recorded song in the order in which the Bible was given to us, Lamech and his descendants are not the first musicians...
- you say...now you’re really confusing me...
- do you know who the first musician was?...God Himself...did you know that?....God sings.
- Zephaniah 3:17 - The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.?
- we also know there was singing when the world was created...do you remember when God was talking to Job in Job 38, and he said that at creation...Job 38:7 - When the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy?
- the “sons of God” in that text, by the way, were angels singing together as they praised God for the glory of creation...
- and also by the way, who would one of those angels have been, who was singing on this day but who eventually led a rebellion against God...which would have occurred between Gen 1 and Genesis 3?....Satan....who was also a musician...which, frankly, explains a lot about the text we have in front of us this morning, and the topic we have before us this summer.

- now, let’s go back to this man Lamech...he brings his wives to him and sings them this song...
- hear me now, you wives of Lamech...hearken unto my speech...
- for I’ve killed a man who wounded me, and a boy because he hurt me...
- and then he twists God’s promise to Cain when he says that if God will avenge Cain seven fold---He’ll avenge me seventy-seven fold.
- so not only will I continue to kill others if necessary...but I’m so happy about it that I’m going to invoke God’s blessing and sing you a song!
- what does this tell us?

B.  Music is a powerful window to the heart.
- this man is using this song to glorify himself and his evil desires and plans.
- some music reveals a heart of rebellion...
- some music reveals a heart of pride...
- some music reveals a heart of lust, or a heart of anger...

- and in this first contrast of cultures in the Bible, Lamech’s evil heart is manifested by his evil song.
- the apostle John would later say this...1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
- now, we’ll have to do a lot more work on that text this summer, because often it is misused and misapplied...but for our purposes right now...at the very beginning of human history...people are already misusing music...because their hearts are evil.
- in fact, do you realize that its only going to be two more chapters before we read these chilling words - Genesis 6:5 - Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
- and that ultimately takes us to this...
C.  Music reveals your god.
- Lamech worshipped himself, and his lusts, and passions, and his desire for revenge and superiority over others...and his music was just an outgrowth of his idolatrous heart.

- can I just pause and ask you...what does your music reveal about your heart, and your God?
- this can become a very selfish topic, in a wide variety of ways...
- I don’t care if my music might cause someone else to stumble because it’s too close to the line of what might be wrong --- that’s selfishness.
- I don’t care if my music might makes it harder for someone else to understand God because its using outdated forms and language --- that’s what I grew up with and that’s what I demand – that’s selfishness.
- I want to participate in music to glorify me and draw attention to my gifts --- that’s selfishness.
- I insist on having all my preferences honored all the time --- that’s selfishness.
- I want music to make me feel a particular way and I don’t care if it honors God --- that’s selfishness.

- now, here’s the other side...its possible to choose music that helps us be the exact opposite of this man Lamech -  Psalm 30:4 - Sing praise to the LORD, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name.
- so yes, selfish worship is a danger...but that shouldn’t make us cancel the trip.

- now, let me ask you to turn to Leviticus chapter 10 [page 81 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]
- this is the sad story of...


II.  Nadab and Abihu – and it illustrates Unbiblical Worship.


- these two young men were the sons of Aaron, the priest who served next to Moses...
- and of course the book of Leviticus is all about God’s holiness, and the proper way to worship Him...
- read Leviticus 10:1-3

- now, what did these men do?
A.  They tried to worship in ways that violated God’s commands.
- the text says --- they “offered strange fire before the Lord”.
- something “which He had not commanded them”
- and I realize we might be tempted to ask...why would God be so swift and severe with people who worshipped in a way that violated His commands?
- perhaps a better question would be --- why is God so patient and longsuffering with us when we worship in a way that violates His commands?

- one of the things that has grieved me about this topic is that many of the leading voices are people who have not taken the time to ground their opinions in rightly interpreted Scripture.
- David Peterson - Vitality and meaning will not be restored to Christian gatherings until those who lead and those who participate can recover a biblical perspective on their meetings, seeing them in relation to God’s total plan and purpose for His people. 

- I’d like to commend the many who took me up on the challenge of purchasing Milo Thompson’s book which discusses many of the over 600 passages in the Bible on music.
- In fact, I understand that we ran out of copies...[and that there was even a bit of a brawl over who was going to get the final few --- I trust that has been resolved through biblical repentance and forgiveness!] --- but there are more copies available in the MRC.
- John Frame – in commenting about this passage in Leviticus, said this – John Frame - Therefore, we must seek above all to do what pleases Him.  To do this, we cannot trust our own imaginations.  Nadab and Abihu trusted their own wisdom, and God judged them severely.  Can any of us trust ourselves to determine, apart from Scripture, what God does and does not like in worship?  Our finitude and sin disqualify us from making such judgments.  For such a serious decision—potentially a life-and-death decision—we must seek God’s own wisdom, the revelation of His own heart.  We must ask the Scriptures what God wants us to do in worship.  Then, as we worship, we must do those things—and only those things.

- another note we need to make about this text is this...
B.  This event is especially unfortunate because these were the sons of Aaron.
- and the application just comes screaming out, doesn’t it?
- for those of us who still have children at home, we have the privilege and responsibility of studying these matters with our kids.
- why not read through Thompson’s book, or Frame’s book, as a family?
- or study the many verses in the Bible on worship, or singing, or music?

- and I realize that some might say...but my kids might ask a question I don’t know...
- what’s wrong with that?...that might drive the parent back to the Scriptures...or asking a friend, or a pastor, or coming to one of these informal discussion nights [which, by the way, are certainly going to be open to young people as well].

- and by the way, young people...I want to encourage you, regardless of your age, to allow your parents to teach you about music...
- and if they are trying to talk to you about this topic, and you won’t listen...you need to think long and hard about Nadab and Abihu...
- what did Paul say?...these events occurred as examples, and are written for our instruction.
- and you might say --- well, my parents won’t let me listen to everything I want to listen to, so I’m going to rebel and refuse to let them teach or discipline me...
- can I love on you right now...please listen carefully to this verse...Proverbs 15:5 -  A fool rejects his father’s discipline, But he who regards reproof is sensible.

- the overall point is...I hope all of us will be praying for, and working toward the  development of a biblical theology of worship and music...that we would have that as individuals, and as a church...if we accomplish that this summer, we’ve accomplished a lot.
- now please turn to II Samuel 6 – page 231 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you.
- this is another one of those passages that contains a contrast...but in this case it is actually a three-fold contrast.
- read II Samuel 6:1-23
- [point out after verse 2 – the ark of the covenant was a piece of furniture made during the time of Moses which symbolized God’s special presence among His chosen people --- there had been very explicit commands about how the ark was to be moved --- there were rings on the corners and poles were to be inserted through the rings --- it was never to be touched directly...]

III.  The danger here, illustrated by Uzzah – Indifferent Worship


- there was a casualness to all of this that failed to give worship the attention and focus it deserved.
- and this three-fold contrast is very clear, isn’t it?
A.  Uzzah – “whatever”
- its just worship, its just God...what’s the big deal?
- contrast that to David...
B.  David – wholeheartedly worshipping God.
- did you notice that emphasis in the text?
- v. 5 – all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals...
- now please tell me, is that what the Scripture says?
- and then what is recorded in verse 14?
- v. 14 – and David was dancing before the Lord with all his might.
- did I read that correctly?
- let’s not be afraid to be what?...to be biblical.

- but there’s someone else in this text, isn’t there?
C.  Michal – indifferent, despised those who passionately worshipped God.
- who wasn’t even present...
- and she was the daughter of whom?...the daughter of Saul...
- and instead of participating with her husband, or at least commending her husband for his willingness to enthusiastically worshipping his God, what does she do?...
- she mocks him, and ridicules him, and verse 16 says...v. 16 – she despised him in her heart.
- see, her lack of love for God came out in her unwillingness to worship, and in the hatred and bitterness she harbored in her heart for those who did.

- friend, can I ask you about the issue of indifference in worship?...
- about a “anything goes” or “whatever approach” or “when is this going to be over” attitude?
- John Frame - Therefore, it is a matter of utmost importance, literally a life-and-death matter, to know how to worship God rightly, according to His will.  The wrong kind of worship provokes God’s wrath, not His blessing.  We may not do anything we please in God’s awesome presence.  Modern Christians are far too casual about worship.  The letter to the Hebrews admonishes us to “worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’ ” (Heb. 12:28).
- some of us would do well today to spend some time asking God’s forgiveness for at times being like Uzzah, or being like Michal...too casual or too indifferent about our worship.
- now, admittedly, these are OT passages...here’s another quote to balance what we’re studying right now...
- John Frame - One sometimes hears Christians express the wish that they could speak with God personally, as He appeared to people during the biblical period.  But meetings with God in the Bible are awesome and terrible.  Job also requested an interview with God (see Job 23:1-7; 31:35-37).  But the interview God granted him was terrifying and humiliating (see chapters 38-42).  Perhaps we should be satisfied, even thankful, that our meetings with God today are less direct (though just as real, as we shall see).  Surely we can be thankful that we stand before God in Christ, who has borne the fearsome wrath of God in our place. 

- something else I’d like to add to this is, I realize that some, perhaps many, have struggled with the idea of any changes to the way we worship as a church...and I want you to know that our pastors assume the best about you...we assume that your caution is a result of the exact opposite of what we’re studying...
- you don’t want to be indifferent about worship....you want to be sure that our church is pleasing God in this area...
- and we are not asking you just to trust us, or believe it because we say it...
- we’re encouraging you to be Bereans...[develop]
- but if you have questions or comments or disagreements, we want to speak with you...you’re not going to be viewed as some kind of a troublemaker, or someone who’s just divisive...
- we are called upon to think the best about you...
- and we want to give you the same amount of time to study, and think, and pray, and process these matters as we’ve had...

- now, we’ve talked about selfish worship, and unbiblical worship, and indifferent worship...please turn over to the book of Malachi...page 676 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...
- this is the last book of the OT and it too places a significant amount of emphasis on worship.
- read Malachi 1:7-14, 3:7-14

IV.  we could call this example from the Children of Israel – Half-Hearted Worship.


- these are terrifying verses.
A.  They despised God’s name – 1:6
B.  They presented offerings that were lame and sick – 1:8
C.  They were bored with worship – 1:13
D.  They robbed God in their giving – 3:8
E.  They said that serving God was a vain thing – 3:14

- now, I want to be quick to say that I certainly don’t believe that these kinds of conditions exist in our church family to this degree, thank the Lord.
- but friend, honestly, what about worship that is half-hearted?
- is there any way in which these characteristics, even in seminal form, would exist in your heart and life?
- can I add this to the equation --- what about the issue of preparation for worship?
- being well rested...- having your family ready to go...- having the clothes laid out the night before...- getting up and getting going...- being here on time...
- Charles Haddon Spurgeon -  There should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God.  Consider whom He is in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought.  Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into His presence as men run to a fire.  Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off his shoes from his feet when God only revealed Himself in a bush.  How should we prepare ourselves when we come to Him who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus, His dear Son?  There should be no stumbling into the place of worship half asleep, no roaming here as if it were no more than going to a playhouse.  We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity.  If we are full of folly, we may shut out the truth of God from our minds.

- now, I know this is heavy...but there really is one more danger we have to add to the equation this morning...and this one is in the NT --- Mark chapter 7 – page 32 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...
- this very well may be the biggest challenge facing our kind of churches....
- read Mark 7:5-9

V.  NT Jewish Leaders – Legalistic Worship.


- one of the greatest challenges that people like you and me face is not adding ideas to the Scriptures...
- or elevating our opinions or our preferences to the level of God’s inspired word...

- now, I realize that you might say...but I have convictions about this...
- let me ask you to think about definitions for a moment...
- I personally believe the best way to define a conviction is a truth that you are willing to die for because it is clearly taught in God’s Word in an unmistakably way.
- if it doesn’t fit that definition, whatever else is left is a preference.

- and that takes us back to these people who on the one hand are saying that music is amoral ...and others who are saying – music is moral.
- to be honest with you, I think on many occasions, both are wrong.
- you say, how could that be?
- music is clearly moral, because of these hundreds of verses that we have in God’s Word...and even when just the music alone is involved, there are principles regarding the place of our emotions, and of our bodies, as well as principles that govern Christian liberty that all intersect music, even notes without words.
- so again, I am not taking the position that music is amoral --- but, many times the “music is moral” folks are stating their views in such a way that supposedly the Scripture speaks in black and white terms about every piece of music...so there’s no freedom involved, there’s no place for choices, or preferences...
- in other words, if you were as spiritual as me, or as smart as me, you’d make the exact same musical choices.
- friends, that’s making the Bible say a whole lot more than it says.
- the Bible has clear direct commands, and those help us establish biblical buoys [we’ll talk much more about this in days ahead]...much of today’s music falls well outside those buoys and can be judged as wrong, sinful, displeasing to God...
- but within those parameters, there’s a range of music that is perfectly acceptable...
- then we move into the realm of indirect principles...
- and our level of certainty changes at that point....
- there’s also a measure of freedom...we’re dealing with application of general principles and we might not always agree...
- many times, people want to take their opinions, and maybe sprinkle a few general principles over them, loosely applied, and make that the test of spirituality for everyone.
- that’s when it becomes legalistic.

- and I realize that the question on the minds of many is...well, how far is this going...tell us the end game...
- here it is as simply as I know how to explain it...
- within these parameters of biblically acceptable music, there’s a range...
- let’s say that 1 is music that is as conservative as possible...
- 10 is as progressive as possible but still within the boundaries of biblical orthodoxy...

- in the past, we’ve been a 1...you couldn’t get any more conservative unless you hauled the piano and organ away...
- right now we’re at about a 2.5.
- our goal is to be at about a 4...not a whole lot different than what Trey has been doing the last couple of weeks...

- Lord willing, in coming days, I’ll explain the biblical principles that would make us want to be a “4 out of a possible 10”, or bowling down the middle of the alley on these kinds of questions....
- again, the key word for this series is...balance...and one of the ways we achieve balance is by avoiding the tendency to confuse the traditions of men with the commandments of God.

- now, I realize that this morning some of you might say...PV, with all these dangers, I’m not sure I want to go camping!
- in other words, the worship trail is laden with too many potential challenges...

- well, let’s put all of this in its proper perspective as we close....
- one of the first recorded events of the adult life of Christ was his temptation by Satan in the wilderness...
- and it shouldn’t surprise us that the final one was about...worship.
- Satan said to our Lord, you can have all the kingdoms of the world, if you will fall down and worship me.
- and friends, I’m happy to remind you that Jesus passed the test when he said... Matthew 4:10...?Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘?You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.?

- and yes its true that there are significant challenges to worship...
- worship that is selfish, or unbiblical, or indifferent, or half-hearted, or legalistic

- but Jesus Christ can transform us, and help us learn to worship well...and yes its true that these passages we’ve studied today are there for our instruction, but also remember this...
- Romans 15:4 - For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.


- Invitation
1.  [Gospel] – Only those in Christ will be able to worship well.

2.  Any evidence of the worship habits we’ve studied today in you?

a.  selfish [Lamech] – ask God to give you a new focus.

b. unbiblical [Nadab and Abihu] – make a commitment to study

c.  indifferent [Uzzah] – ask God for passion and genuineness

d.  half-hearted – promise God you’ll give Him your best in worship

e.  legalistic – ask God for the ability to separate conviction and preference, and live accordingly

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video