It’s hardly an understatement to say that, in the 21st century, the effort of churches to accommodate your personal preferences as to worship “style” is unprecedented in history. There’s a good reason that worship has, perhaps until this current and its most previous century, been constant for those who know and honor the one true God. He determines what acceptable worship is … not us.
Thus, it’s possibly a pertinent consideration to make when assessing a church’s allegiance to Scripture, the book in which God reveals not only details about His nature, will, and plans, but also His expectations of His creatures. Acceptable worship is found therein; He’s told mankind throughout the ages what He accepts and what He rejects when it comes to worship. It ain’t about us; it’s about Him.
If, as many do, a church offers multiple services – increasingly called worship “experiences” – intended to reflect the desired styles targeted to the whims, wishes, and entertainment preferences of the participating pew-sitters, it may just be a clue that church cares little for the divine dictates regarding acceptable worship. Instead, for them, it’s all about you. Surely a Sovereign God rejects such man-centered, and falsely called, “worship.”
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Acts 2:42
Yet, while the enemy from Genesis is constantly engaged in his favorite and primary battle tactic – attacking the Word of God – he’s achieved some battle ground in the 21st century by playing on man’s depraved pride, encouraging worship on our terms rather than God’s. Doubtless, Satan cares nothing that you worship “God,” so long as it’s the wrong God as is evidenced by illicit, self-centered worship. When worship becomes about you, it is – by definition – no longer about Him.
“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” Isaiah 42:8
The recent Ligonier Ministries research survey uncovered, however, the prevalence of another technique of the enemy that is increasingly gaining acceptance in the world, and within the church. If man-centered, style-driven worship isn’t bad enough, tweaking the focus of worship is deceptively equal. This Scripture-denying notion is that God accepts worship from all religions, and it’s a widely held notion.
The research found that nearly two-thirds of Americans (64%) agree with the statement that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” That finding alone may not be particularly surprising given the state of 21st-century American culture in which “tolerance” is the narrative of the day.
But broken out from within that research is a staggering result. Nearly half (48%) of professing evangelicals agreed that an indiscriminate God equally welcomes the worship of the Jew, the Muslim, and the Christian. Put another way, all three worship, effectively, the same God.
Regardless of whether you view this as a half-full/half-empty cup, the result is the same … half! Come Sunday morning just consider that sitting around you will not only be the token goats but also perhaps professing believers who think that God equally accepts the worship of a modern Muslim or a modern Jew.
Such a notion is blasphemous.
Judaism is a dead religion. It has no living God. We may like to think fondly of it because God created it and used it in His unfolding, progressive, Old Testament revelation, but the Jews of today, either genetic or political, are not standing in God’s favor. Like every other religion that rejects Christ, modern Jews have no preferential providence on which to rely. They have rejected the Messiah and now live in a gospel-void system of man-made works-righteousness. Evangelicals who agree that Judaism is a Scripturally-agreeable path to God may do so out of nobly intentioned nostalgia, but certainly not from Biblically-informed understanding.
God brought Judaism to a divinely decreed death in the first century with the coming of the promised Messiah. Christ is the new covenant. (Luke 22:20) So perspicuous was God in His plans to decimate the Judaic system that He allowed the complete destruction of its temple in 70 AD, as Christ predicted to His disciples. (Mark 13:1-2) There is no temple, because, with the rending of the curtain at Christ’s crucifixion, God would no longer be worshiped in one singular, holy place. He would become resident in all those whom He has chosen, and, since Pentecost, His Holy Spirit has been the guarantor of this better covenant. (2 Corinthians 1:22) Christ took, once and for all, the position of great high priest. (Hebrews 14:1) Jews today, in denial of Christ, have neither temple nor priest. God is not accepting their worship.
As for Islam, while it is viewed as one of the three preeminent monotheistic religions of the world, its “theistic” focus is not the God of the Christian Scriptures, nor is it the God familiar to us through the Old Testament revelation. Allah is not another name for God; it’s another name for a false god.
Arguably one of the most recognizable images in the world is the Islamic Dome of the Rock shrine currently occupying the former site of Judaism’s temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Islamic shrine on this perennially contested ground was originally constructed in 691, to be rebuilt in 1021 following the collapse of the original lead dome. The structure, beyond its gold-leaf-over-aluminum dome, includes several Quranic-sourced inscriptions describing the idolatrous target of worshippers within.
“In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate. Say: He is God, the One! God, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. Muḥammad is the Messenger of God, the blessing of God be on him.”
This Arabic text is included on the exterior and interior facades of the shrine, as well as in other locations around it, including the lesser-known copper plaques at its eastern and northern portals.
But note what those words affirm. “There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate … He begetteth not nor was begotten.”
Not only does this deny the Trinity, it also expressly denies the Incarnation. There is no begotten Son. Though Muslims will affirm a historical Jesus, it most certainly is not the Jesus of Scripture, not the “only begotten Son” of God familiar to Christians. (John 3:16)
As with modern Jews who engage in a divinely deceased religion, so too for pagans who follow Islam: the one true God of Scripture is absent and distinctly variant from the one they each respectively claim to worship. Jews, in their denial of Christ, worship an absent God while Muslims merely worship a false god. Neither worships the Christian God of Scripture who, in these last days, has spoken to us by His Son. (Hebrews 1:1-4) Monotheism, for Islam, is not a benefactor if that single God happens to be nothing more than false, pagan, and idolatrous. For Jews, monotheism is equally useless as the living God supremely, capitally executed their religion and they failed to follow Him when “the Word became flesh” and dwelt among them. (John 1:14)
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23
The identity of the God we worship is not unrevealed. He has, since Genesis 1:1, revealed Himself to us. The apostle Paul affirms, for those far removed from those days of Eden, that God is not unknown to us, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:19)
But the enemy, in this battle for truth, prefers to make indistinguishable that very known God. In modern churches – not too many days hence – will be services adroitly planned and performed on the basis of the desires, pleasures, and preferences of those attendant pew-sitters. It’s a far cry from the Lord’s three-pointed exhortation from Luke’s Gospel. If in our worship we choose not to “deny ourselves,” instead to cater intentionally to our wishes, how can it be said that true worship of the true God has occurred? Certainly, the enemy loves to have it so.
The father of lies may be winning the worship wars in the modern evangelical church by encouraging us not to “deny himself” and to focus more on our stylistic preferences than on God’s expectations, but he’s not merely re-orienting worship away from God and towards us. He’s also deceiving many about exactly who is being worshipped. If this Sunday morning you’d have no problem if the worship tech wizard in your church’s control booth should synonymously and seamlessly interweave “Jesus” and “Allah” on the big screen behind the pulpit-free platform, you need to- for the sake of your very soul – follow the apostolically commanded exhortation, “Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith.” (2 Corinthians 13:5)
It’s one thing for the world to have no understanding of God, but it’s quite another for professing believers to misidentify Him. Perhaps if pastors and churches would spend less time on whiz-bang light shows, emotions-driven music, and stylized worship “experiences” and more in actually doing as they are commanded – Preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2) – professing pew-sitters wouldn’t be so inclined to mistake the pagan idol of Allah or the absent deity of dead Judaism for the Holy God of His fully-revealed Word.
God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). Neither will He be merciful on the grounds of mistaken identity. He has made certain that we can know Him. He has revealed Himself to us through His Word. That Word became flesh, and that Word became Text. We’ve no excuse.
This Sunday … skip “churches” where the 7-11 “praise” music, mantra-like contemplative it’s-all-about-you nonsense is choreographed for the benefit of your personal “experience”. Go where “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2) is the spotlight of the show, where Christ in that Word is exalted, and worship the One True God in reverence and awe. (Hebrews 12:28) Jews and Muslims won’t be worshipping Him, but authentic Christians will … because we know exactly who He is. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]