After reading Jeremiah 2 today, I was struck with grief over the heartbreak in God's voice as He asked the Israelites, "Why? Why have you forsaken me?" This entire chapter moved me, starting with what God remembered about His people. As we often look back on the "good ole' days" God too looked with fondness at how things used to be. Just listen to Him reminisce:
“I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after Me in the wilderness, through a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest. All who ate of it became guilty. Evil came upon them,” declares the Lord.
Israel was holy to the Lord, the first of His harvest. This was supposed to be the people in whom God would entrust the privilege of telling the world all about Him. They were to be an example to the nations on how to live holy lives dedicated to the Lord and in turn share with the world all they knew about the God of creation. But that didn't happen. Instead, they made the inheritance God gave them an abomination and they defiled the land (Jeremiah 2:7). The priests of Israel who were supposed to know the Law, didn't even know God. The rulers transgressed against God and Israel's "prophets" prophesied for false gods instead (Jeremiah 2:8). They exchanged the glory God gave them for idol worship. They forsook God and worshipped only what they created with their hands.They were the only nation at that time to throw away one god for another (Jeremiah 2:11). How horribly sad! How could they do that to God? How could they forsake the One who loved them so much He gave them everything?
Before we hasten to judge these people to whom God gave every good thing, let's look at where the church is at today. I fear we aren't much better. As Israel was enticed towards foreign gods and the pleasures they offered, they lost their reverence or fear of God. As the church seeks to make itself more compatible with the world by becoming seeker-friendly, we too are in danger of losing our fear of the Lord.
For example, many well-known Christians and churches have relaxed or changed their stance on gay-marriage. Rather than believing that God's Word never changes and that God also never changes, they have opted to ignore Scripture that condemns homosexuality in favour of man's approval. Their fear of God punishing them for their disobedience is superseded by their fear of man's disapproval. Other preachers have also exchanged God for a god that is more palatable. He is the prosperity god. This god cares so much for his children that he would never let them get sick or be poor. Everything is positive and good with this god and nothing negative ever happens to them. If it does, then these preachers blame the believer, claiming it is probably a hidden sin somewhere in the life of that individual. Prosperity preachers don't believe God uses sickness or calamity to teach valuable lessons. They don't believe being poor is a place God would have them, they simply won't accept that God might work that way. If they did, then their whole belief system would be pointless. Their faith is not in the God of the Bible, but in the god of this world.
Then there is the belief in some churches today that people have to feel comfortable in order to even step through the doors. Seeker friendly churches have removed the pews and replaced them with theatre seating. The pulpit has been replaced by a stage with proper lighting and sound. The foyer might even have a cafe that is welcoming and which provides a less-threatening atmosphere for first timers. I see nothing wrong with doing these things. But this casual approach to making people feel welcome, also brings with it a casual approach to God. You will not find fear of God in modern churches today. The word fear in Hebrew is yirah and has a wide range of meanings, one of which is reverence and awe. Yes, we are to fear God in the sense that if we do wrong it will not go unpunished, but we are also to be filled with reverence and awe. Hebrew4Christians.com says, "Yirah includes the idea of wonder, amazement, mystery, astonishment, gratitude, admiration and even worship (like the feeling you get when gazing from the edge of the Grand Canyon). The "fear of the Lord" therefore includes an overwhelming sense of the glory, worth, and beauty of the one true God."
Is this what we find on Sunday mornings? I have been to churches where the seats have drink holders, because often the congregation will bring back a coffee to sip on while "worshipping" God or listening to the sermon. Is this how we should approach a holy God? Some churches I've visited have limited the worship to two songs only, followed by a skit and the sermon. Why? One minister explained it to me like this, "We are trying to attract new people to the church. So we want them to have a good time so they will come back. But if we bog them down with songs they don't know or have lengthy prayers or sermons, we may never see them again." Once again the focus is not on reverencing God or worshipping Him, but on what "feels good".
We have done the same thing with our worship songs on Sunday morning. Worship teams have replaced the choir. The sound is turned up to excruciating levels, so that the elderly are forced to plug their ears or wait outside until the "worshipping" is done. Choruses have replaced hymns and now the congregation sings feel good tunes that have no depth and are repeated over and over again to create a sense of euphoria in our worship times. It's the same technique rock stars use to get their audiences worked up and involved with their music. Is this how Christians should worship God?
It is because we have relaxed our stance where music is concerned that we end up with blasphemous acts on Sunday morning like the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey from Rick Joyner's Morningstar Ministries. This is not reverencing God, but ridiculing His Holy Spirit.
By trying to appeal to the world around us, Christians are unfortunately becoming more like the world by chasing after false gods or concepts that have crept into the pulpit and pushed God aside. I fear, like the Israelites in Jeremiah, the Lord will say to us, "Why do you go around so much changing your way" (Jeremiah 2:36)?
EDIT: God is never changing and stays the same. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. But the world is changing and I understand why the church wants to adapt to the changing times and attitudes of the day. Music is a great way to reach a lost soul. But when we take on a more "worldly" approach to come before God (i.e. Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey) we lose the reverence and fear of God that is needed in the church today. We need to remember that the building we go to each Sunday is where we go to corporately worship a Holy God. A church that is trying to adapt to the changes in the world and its value system, is a church that is trying to change God and is in danger of apostasy.