Monday, April 25, 2011

Acceptable Worship in Christ Alone

The only thing acceptable in God's sight is what proceeds from Him alone. God is holy, and the highest good and only source of all goodness. The human heart is always filled with pride, and all kinds of malice, idolatry, wickedness, and envy. There is such evil in the human heart by nature that we cannot fathom it. Nothing good can possibly come from the heart of those fallen in Adam. And though the life of Jesus Christ is present in every Christian, there is only a small beginning, and the totally depraved, vile, and abominable sinful nature remains.

It is entirely evident to me now, as despite myself God has graciously taught me by His glorious law of light and liberty, more of how deceitfully wicked we really are at heart, that for a man to get the insane notion into his head that he can write a song that is worthy to be brought into the presence of Holy God in the congregation of the saints as pure, true, and spiritual worship to the Holy One, is nothing but rotten, foul, and stinking pride of the worst sort - spiritual pride.

David, and the others inspired writers of the Psalms were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God to pen the 150 Psalms, and God has not added to them, nor ever will, because His Word is sufficient, and perfect. Some say that this is a lack of diversity and is unworthy of the God who created millions of species of insect, but He eternally decreed 66 books of the Bible, and every word of it, and all the history recorded therein, all the commandments, who should write them, all the prophecy, and the lives of all those mentioned in the Bible, and of those who penned the books. And He decreed 150 Psalms to be perfectly inspired by His Spirit, to proclaim the praises of the redemption of His elect church by the promised Messiah, for His glory and honour. And He is worthy, not of the lame and blemished to be brought to Him (Mal. 1:6-14), but only for that which is perfect, as He is perfect, to be offered as praise before Him.

First of all, this tells us that Christian worship can only ever be acceptable, by being sanctified in Jesus Christ. The beloved Son of God covers the filthy rags of our pathetic worship to make it acceptable in the sight of God. He atoned for all the impurity, weakness, and carnality of our worship. But does such grace give us license to be proud before the Holy One, and lift up our hearts as if we were acceptable of ourselves? That is what we say (whether we realise it or not) to God, when we offer up the ridiculous writings of mere men as worship. Even the holy Psalms become filthy rags as we try to offer them as worship, so how much more the products of proud hymn-writers, no matter how much derived (or distorted) from Scripture (which God did not appoint to be sung, but to be preached). Such hymns may indeed be edifying, and helpful in their place, but that place is not in worship. It is not a matter of greater and lesser, but of appointed for worship, and not at all.

Shall we sin that grace may increase? By no means. Rather we must, in holy reverence granted by the Spirit of God, repent of our spiritual pride, and seek to worship with what God Himself has given approval, and to do so in spirit and in truth more and more as He causes us to grow by the powerful preaching of the Gospel. Considering our depravity, it is utter foolishness to expect that our own carnal imaginations and reasoning about what God desires in worship should ever be anything other than completely wrong and even abominable in His sight. Instead, we must humbly seek His wisdom, and ask of God in His Word revealed to us, how we ought to worship, just as we must learn from Him how we must pray. Naturally, all our own ideas about spiritual things are nonsense, and worse than folly; even directly opposed to what is godly and righteous.

Furthermore, since Christian worship can only be acceptable in Jesus Christ, knowing that there is one Mediator between God and man, and that He is the only way to the Father, we should know that anything not appointed as worship in His Word is as vain and idolatrous as seeking God outside of Christ. Again, it is idolatry to worship God according to our own ideas about what is acceptable. The Lord Jesus alone appoints how we must worship, just as He alone directs and governs all things in His church. And the church that refuses to submit to His rule, is not His bride, but a whore with which the world commits fornication. To offer anything other than the Psalms of Holy Scripture as worship is nothing less than disobedience to Christ, and seeking to have fellowship with God apart from the Mediator, Jesus Christ, by whom we were given the Psalms.

The starting principle of the godly is that he humbles himself before God, and forsakes his own thoughts, and inquires carefully of God how it is that He must be worshipped. Those who come to the Scriptures with this Christian attitude of humility, and this question, cannot escape the conclusion that there is nothing else apart from the Psalms of Scripture that God ever appoints for us to sing in worship to Him. And so all other notions and objections, no matter how persuasive must be utterly rejected as deceitful and devious lies and temptations of the devil who always seeks to corrupt the worship of God, and whose greatest ally in the church is the sinful heart of man, with all its proud natural reasoning.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So they that are in the flesh cannot please God." - Rom. 8:7-8. 

The most blind argument that can ever be made against singing the Psalms only, is that it is proud. The idolatry of offering worship that has not been appointed by God is proud. And it is natural that a church which loses the doctrine of the depravity of man, and the holiness of God, and of Christ the Mediator, and in short where Christ is no longer heard in its preaching, and the sacraments are carelessly profaned, and there is no spiritual discipline to remove the leaven of adulterers (for example), that such a lump becomes more and more leavened, so that the worship too is utterly corrupted, in that proud man-made worship is proudly offered, and the sincerity, holiness, purity, richness, and worthiness of the Psalms are no longer heard at all. The voice of the Bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, are no longer heard in such false churches. Where you hear the voice of the Bridegroom however, there you will also hear the voice of His bride, singing joyfully to her Saviour, with the words given to her by God Himself.

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