They deem it enough that they have some kind of zeal for religion, how preposterous soever it may be, not observing that true religion must be conformable to the will of God as its unerring standard…It is easy to see how [their] superstition, with its false glosses, mocks God, while it tries to please him…Those, therefore, who set up a fictitious worship, merely worship and adore their own delirious fancies; indeed, they would never dare so to trifle with God, had they not previously fashioned him after their own childish conceits (John Calvin, Institutes I.iii.3).
I must make a confession of sorts. In my last post concerning the coexistence of truth and peace, I said that I do not know which is more valuable–the declaration of truth or the semblance of peace, but that is not entirely true. I do know quite clearly in my mind and soul which is chief among the two, but I have been torn lately by my fleshly desire to be accepted by men and by my heart’s desire to make God known and to see him worshiped. I must confess and repent from such fleshly desires, for, if I do not, God will not be glorified by me and my life will be in vain.
And I must agree with Mr. Bingham that there cannot be any true peace apart from the declaration of truth. We might in our worldly churches perfect some kind of passing peace with our lack of knowing its members and our lack of discipline, but the only thing that this will accomplish is Sunday mornings without incident. And we who desire true peace must recognize that this is all that some members of our churches desire. They do not come to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, but they come to worship themselves with “good” music and with nice stories.
The pastor at my local church made it gloriously clear this past Sunday that worship services are not about us. Too many that fill our church buildings today are consumers, and they come to a church looking for a concert (or the lack of a concert) and leave whenever things are boring (or are not boring enough). We as a whole do not come to church on Sunday mornings with the intention of worshiping God in Spirit and in Truth, and we definitely do not live our lives in Spirit and in Truth.
And it is typically those who desire simply to live their lives as they please and who desire to come to Sunday morning services without incident who are the ones who have their feathers ruffled by the Truth. It is they who look at the prophets and preachers of the Truth as dissenters and as makers of strife regardless of their biblical adherence, and they despise them for it. Why? Because they do not desire to serve God, but they desire to serve themselves. A heart that desires to worship God is a heart that embraces biblical conformity and rebuke. And we must all realize that we all, even the best of us, are students for eternity. We serve an infinite God and therefore, as finite beings, must spend an eternity to know our God. We will be wrong, and we must be willing to be transformed by the Word through the power of the Spirit.
We, who would be voluntary worshipers of God because of the great love with which he has loved us, must desire and cultivate the desire to worship God as he prescribes in holy Scripture. If we do not and if we demonstrate by our apathy that we do not care about how we worship the Almighty, we show clearly that we do not come to worship God at all but come to worship ourselves. He who would come to worship God must worship him in Spirit and in Truth–there is no other way. Paul testifies that the Israelites had great zeal and passion for God, but their worship apart from the Truth led them straight to eternal destruction (cf. Rom. 10:2). We who claim to worship Jesus Christ are not exempted from this fate simply because we say we worship Jesus Christ. If we spend our lives bearing the title Christian but we do not strive daily to conform our lives to his Word and thereby worship God, we will find ourselves damned at the Judgment.
What value can be placed upon a semblance of peace if it avoids the Truth and destroys in the End? I plead with you, do not desire peace for peace’s sake, and do not avoid the Truth that God has given to us in Scripture, for the Lord our God is a jealous God and will destroy those who do not worship him as he prescribes.