“For people will be… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:4-5
This is a terrifyingly accurate depiction of the key danger of the contemporary worship service.
To be clear, I am referring to the rise in importance of music in church life, oftentimes to the neglect of the other ordinary means of grace, such as preaching, bible study and prayer. A younger generation has fallen in love with contemporary Christian music, to the extent that their worship is defined almost exclusively in terms of said music. These are the people who tune in during the music section of the Sunday service, tune out during the preaching portions and are mostly absent from the rest of church life outside of Sunday. These are the people who equate worship with music while turning a blind eye to their character and works.
Now, I’m not a music-phobe. I love music. I agree with Luther who expressed the sentiment that music is God’s second greatest gift after theology. The Bible is replete with examples of music being employed in the praise of God. Yet with every gift of God, our sinful hearts are certain to twist them for our own idolatrous ends. Music is no exception.
The Key Danger
The contemporary worship scene makes it possible to fool ourselves that our love of pleasure (the emotional high we can get from worship music) is love of God. The reason we can be fooled is because the lover of God can praise with the same fervency as the lover of pleasure. This is dangerous because it is idolatry of the worst kind and we remain totally unaware of it! Not only are our hearts still self-centered, but we are deceived into thinking that our self-centeredness is God-centeredness.
How can you tell whether you love pleasure or love God if, as far as appearances go, both can express love for God with the same fervency in a worship service? The only way we can differentiate between the two is that the one who loves God will not deny his power in their lives.
The Power of Godliness
That power isn’t primarily the creation of feelings of closeness to and love for God in a person’s life. While we easily associate these feelings with a measure of godliness, the godly person is not often marked by feelings of godliness. He is marked by acts of godliness, namely holy living. Holiness is God’s power at work within us, because left to our own devices, our inclination is to sin. We can only begin to progress in holiness if God is at work in us to will and to act according to his good pleasure.
There Is Hope!
It is easy for us to be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. However, let us not be deceived by appearances of godliness to think otherwise. If this is the inclination of your heart, we have a Saviour we can confess this to. He is faithful and just to forgive us for loving pleasure more than loving him. And let’s not just settle for forgiveness of sin, but ask that he work in us an inclination to love him more than we love ourselves, living holy lives that are pleasing to God.
Questions to Think Over
1. Do you love worship music because it gives you an emotional high and a sense of spiritual fulfillment, or do you love music because it helps you to express your love for God?
2. Are you growing in godliness – that is, growing in holiness? Or have you been deceived into equating godliness with spiritual highs and ‘mountaintop’ experiences?
3. What are the means God uses to grow us in holiness?