Jump Start #2928
Romans 10:2 “For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”
The apostle Paul’s description of his own people is very frank and honest. They were excited about God but they didn’t have the proper understanding nor knowledge of God. And, that very statement presents to us two likely situations in our times today. It is something we are all too aware of.
First, there are those who are excited about God but they don’t know God. This is evident through the modern church. Parking lots are filled on Sunday mornings. People are coming. Gospel rock concerts are sold out across the country. Religious merchandise sells better than books these days. People are excited. There is a zeal, No need to work on that front. But what’s missing is the knowledge aspect. Excited people want to jump up and down for God. They want to scream and shout for God. Raise your arms and sing for joy. Sounds wonderful. How could anyone, especially in these days of cultural digression, say anything negative about this. They love God. But what’s missing and what’s missing is so important, is that according to knowledge aspect. They are worshipping as they want to. They are doing as they feel like. Excited, yes. Biblical, no. And, there is a difference. Read about Aaron’s golden calf. The people were shouting, dancing and having a great time. I doubt anyone said, “Do I have to go?” But it wasn’t according to knowledge. Cain’s sacrifice. Aaron’s golden calf. Nadab’s strange fire. Jeroboam’s temple. These all remind us that worship can insult rather than praise God. Our excitement may not be what Heaven sees in this. Worship must follow God’s instructions. There is a pattern and it needs to be followed. When ignored, we risk the danger of doing what we want rather than what He wants.
Second, the opposite of this passage is just as dangerous. It is possible to worship God according to knowledge but without zeal. When that happens a person just goes through the motions. Little thought is given. No heart is put into the worship. We sing but we don’t think about what we are saying. We bow our heads but our minds are somewhere else. We put the cracker and juice in our mouths but the Lord doesn’t cross our minds. Worship becomes stale and lifeless. Same songs. Same sermons. Same routine. Like zombies, we march in lifeless and we march out lifeless. The only excitement is seeing our friends and talking about sports, the weather and the garden.
I have run into families that recognized these two situations. They were faced with a choice. Here is a church that follows the pattern of the N.T. but it’s lacking zeal and excitement. It’s dull. But across town is another congregation. They push the envelope on what they do. From the moment you walk into the doors, you feel great about being there. The atmosphere, the ascetics, the choice of songs, the tempo of the sermon, is all upbeat, thrilling and exciting. They do things that are not true to the Biblical pattern. They take liberties and even cross the line of right and wrong, but it sure is exciting. The kids love it. They can’t wait to go back. And, here a family must decide. Zeal without knowledge church or knowledge without zeal church. Which will it be? Much too often, the choice is made based upon feelings. The zeal church wins.
Why does it have to be one or the other? Why can’t a congregation be zealous and Biblical? Why can’t zeal and knowledge co-exist in the same worship service? Many denominations recognize this difference by offering a traditional and a contemporary worship. The younger people go to the temporary. The older people to the traditional. When the older folks die out, so will the traditional worship. All the younger people know is the contemporary style. I saw a sign the other day on a church that offered, “Traditional and Modern” worship services. I thought they ought to rephrase that to: Modern and Antique or Modern and Old Fashioned.
First, we need to put some thoughts into our worship. The selection of songs, the flow of the sermon, the prayers can all be energized. One doesn’t have to stoop to being a stand up comic to put more zeal into what he is leading the church in. Even older songs can be sung with some pep and feeling. Put some thought into those prayers. The days of just throwing things together are over. We are worshipping our God. Put your best into it each time.
Second, don’t toss out the Biblical in order to find more zeal. That is the solution some go to and it’s not a good solution. It creates more problems. Reverence can’t be manufactured. The pep rally atmosphere, usually dies about as quickly as it started. There is nothing to it. It’s like cotton candy. It tastes great but there’s nothing to it. We need to move beyond the superficial, feeling based emotions to a truth based worship. People need to learn about the nature of worship. They need to see their responsibility in worshipping God and not rely upon what the song leader, the preacher or others are doing. Those are merely aids to what we ought to be doing, worshipping and honoring God from our hearts. Lessons about worship, classes about worship ought to help.
Third, our young people are being drawn to zeal based churches that lack Biblical knowledge. We need to see this. We need to address this. We need to teach them. Our classes and our worship needs to be heart felt and challenging. We need to provide substance for coming storms. We need to build foundations that will stand when the flood waters of troubles come. This is where zeal without knowledge fails. As long as the sun is shinning, zeal wins. But when storm clouds roll in, then the zeal runs and hides. Then it’s what do you know and what do you believe. And, if all you have been doing is jumping up and down and clapping your hands, you won’t know. Your little house of faith will collapse because it was built upon zeal and fun and not the word of God. These are things that folks need to know.
Fourth, we must remind ourselves that worship first and foremost is for the Lord. We are to honor the Lord. We someone says, “I don’t get much out of church anymore,” it’s probably because they have not put much into it. Worship is about what you bring to the Lord. If we come empty, we’ll leave empty. If the center and focus is ourselves and our feelings then we have replaced the Lord as the one who is being worshipped. Because I like it doesn’t mean God does. Because I don’t like it does not mean that God agrees with me. Our attention is upon the mighty and awesome Lord of Heaven and earth. He loves you. He blesses you. He is there for you.
Zeal or knowledge? It ought to be zeal with knowledge. That’s our goal. That’s the way it ought to be.