We love quoting them and throwing them at people. We love using their weight to defeat the devil and prove our position. We love memorizing it and building up our faith with it. That is the Scriptures. Yet we can find ourselves holding onto scriptures that are in themselves at odds with the new covenant life that Jesus ushered in. We can stand upon stuff and actually believe in a theology that is in effect unscriptural. We mindlessly accept and take everything with literal eyes because it happens to be in the untouchable word of God. I have through this week been thinking particularly about the Psalms and how many of these we sing in worship songs and quote when talking about church life and gathering. These parts that I want to quote today are at total odds with the Christianity that Jesus introduced, or even with the teaching of the epistles and apostles. We need to be careful what we take in because we then end up believing and living in a theology that is less than what Jesus intended for us. We build up a belief system that is more in line with the old testament temple worship than we do with resurrection life. The way most of us live and believe totally undoes the work of Jesus through the cross and resurrection. We may point the finger at the Jewish nation still waiting for a messiah, but we live in the same way but with a bigger book of Scriptures, half of which we say we believe has been fulfilled, it is just in living it the penny has not dropped, because we build an unscriptural scriptural pattern. Let me give a few example…
Musicians Are Not Theologians.
I often hear that some worship songs are not very theologically sound. This may be true, but at the end of the day worship leaders are not theologians they are poets, song writers, dreamers etc. They communicate a feeling, a journey, the heart and not necessarily truth. I have no problem with that. I think the same is true in scripture. We have a collection of Psalms that represent songs and poems from the heart of musicians and song writers. These guys were not trying to write the truth but wanted to communicate truth through their lyrics and hearts. There was a flow of honesty and connectivity to the eternal but not an intention of building up a theology of gathering or worship services or church.
Psalm 5:7 “But as for me I will come into your house in the multitude of your mercy; In fear of you I will worship toward your holy temple.”
This is also echoed in Psalm 122, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord’. In the days of tabernacles and temples this was a valid expression of worship. There was a physical place to go to for worship at particular times. This was seen as the house of the Lord. Yet theologically it was incorrect even looking through the old testament. Jacob experienced the house of God in the desert. God told David through the prophet Nathan that He could not be contained inside physical walls and that He lived in man, Ezekiel saw a vision of something so much bigger than a physical temple. When Jesus died and cried it is finished the curtain in the temple was torn in two. No longer was there any containment on where the presence of God would dwell. The expression of the house of God moved from a physical locality to human beings. We are the house of God, He dwells within man. We are His building. We can no longer go up to the house of the Lord because we are the house of the Lord. We are the temple of God, there is no longer any holy place or temple any holier than what we are. That is why going to church is so theologically unsound and yet we never consider calling anyone a heretic that lives by that theology because in the word we are called to go to the house of the Lord. This verse also speaks of worshipping through fear. Obedience because of the fear of the repercussions of not doing. God will punish you if you do not worship. You must do the religious stuff or God will not be happy. The law is our saviour. Doing x, y and z will bring us salvation. Attending the temple and doing the religious actions will alleviate our guilt. This is all pre-cross theology. This has nothing to do with the victory won for us by Jesus. This leads to the pressure of temple attendance and having to be in church. I have no odds against any sort of gathering, what I do have odds with is the pressure, guilt, force and unhealthy emphasis on being together in meetings over relationship with Christ and one another. I cannot go to church because I am the church, why then do we put a sort of fear in that unless we gather we become immature and are open and susceptible to error. Surely the idea of gathering is to build people up to live dependant on God and not dependant on the gathering. This is at odds with the freedom of all that Christ won for us. Most of church survives on an old theology that acts as if Christ never happened.
Psalm 24:3 “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.”
You would think each week we approach a temple that cries out ‘unclean, unclean.’ Verses are used to bring reproach on people for all the bad things they have done through the week. We scoff at the Catholics for having confessionals and living as they like because as long as they confess to the priest they will be fine, but we love nothing more than a ride of guilt inducing language and wrong theology. You cannot come into God’s presence like that or He will reject you or not accept your worship, so you better repent, clean up and get sorted. Guilt flies around the room every time a communion table is placed in front of people. If you eat this bread and drink this cup in an unworthy manner you eat and drink judgement on yourself. No wonder so many are sick. If you have been a sinner this week let the bread and cup pass by. Shame we never look at people through the lens of Jesus blood. There were many who had the cry of unclean in Jesus day but he loved to draw these people into His crowd. The lepers, the tax collectors, the dodgy women, all drawn in and touched by Jesus. Each time according to the custom and law He would have made Himself ceremonially unclean, but He showed what forgiveness was all about. Not only healed but clean. What is it about the house of the Lord that makes it such a holy place where sinners should feel uncomfortable? No wonder people stop coming when they blow it. No wonder people struggle to share together when they struggle with stuff like pornography, alcohol and even smoking. For goodness sake through grace we can live before him with boldness. We are justified. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Psalm 100:4 “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.”
I hear it all the time, that worship is a gateway into his presence. Let us enter into worship and get into God’s presence. Thanksgiving will be like a doorway to discovering God. If we really do some good worship He may even incline His ear and come and meet with us. That is why we need to come into the courts of the sanctuary and sing songs and mean what we sing because after all he inhabits the praises of his people. Let us get something straight here, worship does not usher in his presence. He does not live in songs. The quality of our band and singers does not determine how much of God we are going to get on a Sunday. Our songs may wake us up a bit to the knowledge of God being there but that is a sad reflection on the way we live the rest of the week. We live as if the only way we connect with God is through good worship. No wonder we get depressed the rest of the week. No wonder we need the worship leaders and CD’s to get us into the presence to connect with the almighty. If all a worship leader has done has inbred a dependence on songs then he or she has taught you nothing about living worship. We no longer have need of gates and courts because we no longer live under the temple system. He lives and moves and has his being in and through us continually. Our lives become living worship to Him. We just need to wake up and discover Christ in us and then music and song becomes and expression of what we live rather than seeking Him while He may be found. He found us and lives with us and in us. No song or lack of song will change that. We do not need emotional worship to bring in the presence, He is already here.
He is More Than a Song.
These are just a handful of examples amongst many. We need to be careful what we hold onto because it effects the way we live and worship. It effects how we view gathering and church. it effects the pressure we put on one another, which in reality is pointless guilt inducing. It is time we grasped onto truth revealed not truth concealed. The Psalms are amazing, I love them, they help me at times to discover God in so many ways, but not to build a theology of temple worship. A realisation that song writers did not make theologians back then either. That not all scripture is for building theology anyway. The breath of God may be upon it but it is expressions of men’s hearts that is important not the exact phrase or song. If the opposite were true we would still be seeking justice on some people by having their eyes poked out. Never heard a theology built on that. Be careful what you read, hear or sing. Take it as an expression of heart and not necessarily truth to build truth upon and certainly not to build a worshipping community upon. Because what you may be building may be more old covenant than you really realise.