Some Christians always seem to desire something different in the worship or work of the church. They think that change will reinvigorate them or make things better. They seek new cars, houses, jobs, and possessions to fix their boredom and discontent. They feel their marriage is dead so they seek illicit affairs or divorce to find a new spouse. Yet change eventually settles into a new reality and the old boredom and discontent returns because they treated the symptoms and not the root problem.
People do not seek to change things that are effective and fulfilling. It is no surprise that some people feel that the worship is dead, the church is dead, and that we are going through the motions, boring each other to death, with some self-satisfaction that we have done God’s will. When someone reads a popular religious book extolling the value of a new way of operating the church, worshiping, doing God’s work, or introducing practices that were considered long forgotten, it is no surprise when they feel that they have found the magic cure.
If some would look into their own heart they might see if that they are lacking in love, commitment, or total dedication to God in their lives and are looking for a “worship experience” or something in the church—the externals—to fill what should be filled from within. Some are very shallow in their faith, it is a part of their life and not life itself, so they are very sensitive to worship or the church not satisfying their needs and become restless. Some are looking for an experience instead of building a complete life in God.
Some reading the section above may nod approvingly and with disdain upon such brethren. Do not be quick to judge the dissatisfied and look down on their instability because it may be that we have settled for less than offering the best to God in worship and in the work of the church. Some people are quite content to the point of stagnation:
- Why do we need to learn new songs? Aren’t the old ones good enough?
- Why did that brother spend so much time talking before the Lord’s Supper? Doesn’t he know we just need to pray and pass the plates?
- Why did the song leader sing more than five songs? Doesn’t he know we have lunch waiting?
- Why are the elders and preachers urging us to practice hospitality, doing things with one another, and serving those in need?
Some are satisfied with continual dry worship and inactivity as a church—it fits their life. Like the person who seeks innovations in worship and the work of the church, if some who settle for less than the best would look into their own heart they might see if that they are lacking in love, commitment, or total dedication to God in their lives and, instead of looking for a “worship experience,” they want to fulfill their duty or commitment and get on with their lives.
Like the innovator, some are very shallow in their faith, it is a part of their life and not life itself, so they are content to come to services, mumble their songs, respectfully bow in prayer, look attentive to most of the sermon (with a couple of naps), and feel that they have been faithful in their duty and return to a life that mostly revolves around their needs, not God’s work.
This was a problem in the Old Testament. Consider the cries of the shepherd prophet Amos:
4“Come to Bethel, and transgress;
to Gilgal, and multiply transgression;
bring your sacrifices every morning,
your tithes every three days;
5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened,
and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them;
for so you love to do, O people of Israel!”
declares the Lord God.
The people were coming to the places of worship but offer worship but multiplied transgressions for their own satisfaction, not to God’s glory. They enjoyed it but God did not.
21“I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
God hated (twice emphasized) their feasts and would not accept them just because they were offered. He was not satisfied with motions or emotion. He wanted the selfless worship of holy people.
Malachi 1:6-10: If you follow the link to the passage in Malachi you will find a condemnation of the people who did not offer the best. God wished that they would lock the doors and not waste their time and His.
Can we not live in ease in Zion?
Amos 6:3-7: Follow this link to Amos 6. The children of God were in luxurious ease, amusing themselves with idle music and feeding their faces when work needed to be done. If Amos were to come among brethren today would he sound a similar alarm? Stretching out on our couches and easy chairs, eating the bounty of our pantry and refrigerator, watching television, playing on the Internet, investing countless hours in our hobbies and earthly activities until the calendar and the clock tell us, it is the appointed time to serve God. We search the house and car for the Bible and class book, go to the building and find our regular seat, go through the motions of worship, and returned to our regularly scheduled program.
I’m not saying that is true of you, but you had better make sure that it is not true of you and I have to make sure it is not true of me because to paraphrase the words of God to Amos and Malachi said He would rather the doors of the church be locked so that we would not waste our time or His on vain worship that He hates and noisy songs that do not honor Him.
We do not need innovations, we need to do what God commands. Our worship must be done decently and in order, 1 Corinthians 14:40. Our worship must be offered with zeal and enthusiasm. We must live holy and dedicated lives devoted to serving God and not our own needs and comforts.
We must live and worship in the spirit of the New Testament Christians
- Acts 2:42-47 – Devoted to God’s word, devoted to supporting one another spiritually and materially, Sacrificed possessions to take care of each other, Daily worship, Thankful to God
- Acts 4:32-34 – United in heart and soul, Forsook a claim on material possessions preferring to meet the needs of their brethren. They enthusiastically preached the gospel even amidst persecution.
- Acts 5:42, 6:7 – They enthusiastically taught the gospel.
- Acts 8:4 – those scattered from the persecution preached.
- Acts 11:19-25 – Passion for the gospel led to growth.
- Acts 13:2-3 – Sent preachers into foreign places.
- Acts 17:6 – their teaching turned the world upside down.
- They helped brethren in need in faraway places as churches and individuals
- Acts 11:27-30 – Judean famine
- 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 – Giving of themselves then of their wealth
They rejected the immorality of the world, repented of their wickedness, and tried to live pure and holy lives, Titus 2:11-14. They encouraged one another to live holy lives. They were united. They enthusiastically preached the gospel to others and sent messengers throughout the world. They willingly sacrificed what they had to relieve the need and suffering of their brethren. They did all of this without formal programs or man-made organizations: They fervently loved God and one another and it was expressed in their teaching and practice.
The brethren continued these practices as recorded by early writings. Let us reflect on their example coupled with what we have already read from the scriptures. Consider this testimony of the early church from Aristides – delivered the Apology around the year 125, when Hadrian visited Athens
Apology SectionXV. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food.; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.
I have been both the bored and the stagnant in my life and don’t want to go there again. If we are living and worshiping as we ought, we will not become bored and discontent and become susceptible to any innovation or cure that is offered.