Will innovation please God on his day, in his house, during his service?

We are looking at the question of God’s jurisdiction over worship by His people, and whether God imposes duties on his ministers and his people in their acts of service. Worship on the first day of the week is called “service.”

God is particularly angry that his ministers have rejected his role as king in belittling the 10 commandments and the system of rule of which they are a summary. “For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law” (Malachai 2:8).

One area in which Christians reject God’s jurisdiction is in the tithe. The famous passage about robbing God by withholding the tithe is in the third chapter of Malachi. The tithe, authorized by God’s propriety in us under the first commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me”), is a loving duty every Christian owes his church.

Many assemblies refuse to teach the tithe because they no longer hold to church discipline. One local church, evidently seeking to raise funds by means other than the tithe, says on its website it did not mention “money” until being open six months. Is the King pleased at this innovation?

THE TIMES FREE PRESS, when it covers “emerging” or marketing-driven churches, suggests that the innovators are saving churchgoers and the inquiring souls from a familiar tedium: “Doing church.”  “Pastors of alternative Christian gatherings say less judgmental, more inclusive, more creative churches, such as the former Mosaic Church and its Club Fathom outreach, are drawing increasingly large numbers. And they haven’t had to water down their messages,” a newspaper report said before Club Fathom closed.

The rise of the hip, cool, antic-driven worship service and marketing-oriented assembly is an understandable reaction. “Traditional” churches have lost the antithesis of biblical doctrine and lost their savor; are they fit to be trodden underfoot of men? Lost in the “traditional” church in Chattanooga and other cities is the terrific drama of man’s fall, the plan of salvation, the gift of repentance, the wrath of God against sin, the temptations of the flesh and comforting and defiant doctrines of grace. If one is true to the Scriptures, there is no lack of terrific material to preach, sing and pray in service to God.

And so many Christians view the Lord’s Day and worship service as duties to look past, not to look to. They look beyond it, not at it. God’s people take a low view of the Lord’s Day and of the worship service rather than a high and edifying view. John Calvin was one who had a very high view of the role of the church.

“If it be inquired, then, by what things chiefly the Christian religion has a standing existence amongst us, and maintains its truth, it will be found that the following two not only occupy the principal place, but comprehend under them all the other parts, and consequently the whole substance of Christianity, viz., a knowledge, first, of the mode in which God is duly worshipped; and, secondly, of the source from which salvation is to be obtained.” (From the tract by John Calvin titled “The Necessity of Reforming the Church,” in the recently republished seven-volume set,  John Calvin: Tracts and Letters, Vol. 1, Tracts: Part 1, p. 126.)

THE PROPHET AMOS tells how God’s people chafed at the Lord’s Day and wanted it to be done with. “Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales by deceit, that we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals — even sell the bad wheat?” (Amos 8:4).

God promised judgment in that day, and in our day He has bought heaping dustbins of it upon Chattanooga and every city in the nation in every area of life.

They range from abortion to fraudulent currency, from the tyranny of experts to the petty tyranny of media, from manmade concoctions such as H1N1 to gut-knotting white bread. “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord God, ‘That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.’” God’s people will wander left and right, north and east seeking the word, “but shall not find it,” the king avers.

Nobody I know would go to an earthly king or governor, such as the monarch of Thailand I mentioned the other day, without first consulting the book of protocol.

But many Christians think of going to God’s house on Sunday and granting full sway for man to do as he pleases. A man bowing before the king of Thailand, say, conforms in detail to the dictates of his majesty. One coming before God on the Lord’s Day has a similar duty, if only he can be encouraged by God’s grace to see it that way.

David Tulis, a deacon at Brainerd Hills Presbyterian Church, is married and the father of four children.