The word Deuteronomy means “second-law.” Amid the recounting of Israel’s history, the Book of Deuteronomy lays out many laws and ordinances to govern both life and worship in Israel. Accordingly, special and certain legislation was necessary to preserve the sanctity of religious practice as a way of life for God’s covenant people. With this legislation is issued a warning against those that would pervert the true worship of Jehovah God. This warning carries strong implications for churches today, and should cause us all to pause to reflect on our own worship practices.
In a recent conversation with a friend, the Lord revealed to me a key aspect of worldly mentalities that I believe poses a threat to the majority of Christian congregations. No doubt, worldliness characterizes fallen mankind. And we often hear that there is such a worldly attitude at work, that the majority of mankind is collectively caught in this snare; unable to even see its own demise. But the real threat is not in the collective demise of the unbelievers. The true and most sinister of threats to the churches is in the deception of the make-believers. They consider that their evolving worldview is acceptable, but their worship habits reflect a perversion of true worship and identify them with the class of unregenerate humanity.
Our text verses in Deuteronomy express a need to be watchful of our own worship habits. The gist of the passage is that we may possibly be lured away from the Lord as we accept the worship of others as legitimate options to that which the Lord Himself has commanded. We see the worldliness of most Christian groups today, and we are confronted with the question of damage done: What does it hurt?
The stain of worldliness corrodes the pure worship of God, just as the Lord declared through Moses. Worldliness is of the world; and it appeals to fallen, sinful mankind. Be sure then that the Lord is not pleased by worldliness disguised as worship.
Let’s examine the cause and effect of worldliness in worship, being mindful to examine ourselves for its presence in our worship habits.
Is our text, we have highlighted a portion of Scripture that expressly deals with the subject of idolatry. Idolatry is the placement of something or someone in God’s position to receive worship that rightly belongs to the Lord. In this regard, idolatry is not so much a matter of worship, as it is a matter of placing something in God’s place of worship, and thereby leading others to worship the idol in the place of God.
There is a two-fold aspect to the sin of idolatry:
- Elevating something for the purpose or to the place of worship; and
- Causing others to look at the idol as being equal to God.
Here we are able to discern a direct relationship between idolatry and worldliness.
Worldliness and idolatry enter the doors of the church the same way anything else does – it is brought in by church members. Worldliness creeps in by a progression, until it has such a strong foothold, that it gains control over us, becoming our god. This progression begins as we allow the inappropriate thing into our midst; we make allowances for seemingly insignificant elements in our worship. The next step is that we accept the allowed thing. We make concession for the habits and practices of others. The third step in the progression of worldliness is that we normalize the things we’ve accepted, making it common practice. And then we standardize the practice, making it the general rule.
At this point in the progression of worldly attitude of worship, the thing that was once prohibited and viewed as being inappropriate, is now the general practice and rule – because it has been adopted by the majority. Never mind the fact that the Church has long withstood a thing; “modern” worldviews lend their own interpretation, and a spirit of “wanting to include everyone” welcomes evolving standards. Our habits have the tendency to shape who we are. This is equally so in the matter of worship. If our worship habits are worldly, our lifestyle will be worldly.
Jesus Christ did not hunt Easter eggs. He did not have a Christmas tree. And yet, these are just two examples of a standardized worldliness in the place of worship (idolatry). In fact, you would meet a great deal of opposition from Christians, if you were to suggest eliminating these now-customary things from our church practices. We have allowed the defilement of the place of worship; we have accepted this defilement until it is so commonly practiced, that we hold it as the general rule. And then we are opposed as Christians defend the “New Rules.”
Our text passage shows us the Bible’s view of, and our correct attitude toward, idolatry and any form of worldliness. The central point is that we are all accountable for the inappropriate things we allow to go on in the place of worship. As human beings, we are creatures of habit; and those worldly allowances easily progress toward idolatrous habits. The result is bondage thereto, as idolatry becomes the rule.
Child of God, this message is to you. The warnings given in Scripture that show God’s disapproval of idolatry must be heeded. If you know of an area of your life where something has become an idol, assuming the place of worship, or taking away from the true worship of God; or maybe someone is trying to convince you that a thing is “harmless” or “fun for the kids” – you have the responsibility to stand against that thing, to set the example; so that sin and idolatry will be put away from among you. Be prepared – when truth is stood for, by the Child of God – there will be resistance by those who have accepted the “New Rule” as truth.