The Rebellious Church
Karen Pansler-Lam, J.D.
The rebellious Church embraces
a worldly false gospel of hedonism,
I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t even sing or speak. I sat silent and still on the church pew.
Last month, my husband and I went to Victory Church, an Assemblies of God church in Lakeland, Florida. We were so upset by what we saw and heard that we refused to stay for the sermon. Before the Sunday morning service started, large projection screens flashed information about upcoming Christmas church events to Bobby Helms singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” Michael Jackson singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and other secular songs. Now, listen, my dear friend, this was in an evangelical church!
On the platform – stage – were drums, electric guitars, and other instruments that produce loud sounds more like noise rather than sacred music. When the musicians played, if I had closed my eyes, I would have thought I was at a secular rock concert. The “worship” songs were poorly written and wholly inappropriate for congregational singing. The only Christmas song I recognized was “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” But I was so grief-stricken by what I was seeing and hearing that I sat like a rock. I sat silent. I could not even join in singing this old beloved Christmas hymn that was being debased by a church rock band. Now I know how Ezra felt when he was told that the people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, had not separated themselves from the heathen: “And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied” (Ezra 9:1 - 3).
Yes, my dear friend, I was grief-stricken.
There was no sanctity.
There was no reverence.
There was no difference between holy and unholy worship.
The worship was profane.
The worship was irreverent.
The worship was unholy.
The worship was rebellious.
At the front of the “sanctuary” was a large golden idol – the Oscar statuette – awarded for Hollywood movies. This idol symbolized the theme for the pastor’s Christmas message series: Christmas at the Movies. In reality, this idol actually symbolizes the current trend of the church: entertaining and worldly worship to please man, not sacred worship to please God.
Today religious leaders preach a false prophecy that God is dissatisfied with old-time religion and wants to do a “new thing.” They preach that old-time religion is old-fashioned. This new thing makes Christianity more appealing to the general public. In other words, Christianity will be more popular if it’s worldly and entertaining. So, bring popular culture into the church and you will attract more people. These religious leaders pronounce that this new thing of popular Christianity is a vision from God.
My dear friend, this new thing is not a vision from God. This new thing is a false vision. It is a false vision from their own heart: “Then the Lord said unto me, The prophets prophesy lies in my name: I sent them not, neither have I commanded them, neither spake unto them: they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of nought, and the deceit of their heart” (Jeremiah 14:14). This new thing is a false vision conceived in their rebellious heart. Rebellious Christians have gone awhoring after the heathen. They have adopted heathen music and other carnal pleasures and have boldly brought them into the sanctuary. This new thing, or popular Christianity, is another name for false Christianity.
The new worldly worship of popular Christianity makes no separation between the sanctuary and the profane place. And God commands that we put a difference between holy and unholy: “And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean” (Leviticus 10:10). By bringing in worldly worship to please the carnal flesh, so-called Christians offer unclean worship. They offer unholy worship. They offer rebellious worship.
Instead of the church being a house of prayer (Matthew 21:13), rebellious Christians have turned it into a place of reveling to please the lusts of the flesh. Instead of a house of spirituality, it is a house of carnality. Rebellious Christians fail to heed God’s command “Ye shall keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:30). We show reverence to the Lord’s house by offering worship that is pleasing to Him, not us. We revere God in the sanctuary when we sing beautiful sacred hymns and songs, when we dress in our Sunday best, and when we worship Him in the beauty of holiness. We make a joyful noise unto the Lord with emphasis on the spiritual, not the carnal. The church is to be a sacred sanctuary from the carnality of the world. Therefore, the spirit of the church must be different than the spirit of the world.
As you know, my friend, the spirit of the world is carnal reveling. And this carnal reveling is being brought into the church and renamed worship. False prophets proclaiming false visions lead the rebellion against sacred worship and offer false worship because they lust after recognition and popularity and money. So, in order to increase church membership, thereby increasing tithes and offerings, they offer carnal worship. But the Bible warns us repeatedly about false visions and false prophets and false worship:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the
words of the prophets that prophesy unto you:
they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not
out of the mouth of the Lord. Jeremiah
Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned
mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and
profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the
clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among
them. Ezekiel 22:26
For there are many unruly and vain talkers and
deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:
Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching
things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake…Wherefore rebuke
them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.
I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and
before all the people I will be glorified.
Thou hast despised mine holy things, and hast
profaned my sabbaths. Ezekiel
Woe unto you, pastors and other religious leaders who offer worldly worship in order to collect more money in tithes and offerings! You are blind! You are ignorant! You are dumb dogs! You are greedy dogs! “His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter” (Isaiah 56:10, 11).
And the people are also guilty because they are rebellious children who desire to be deceived. Rebellious people desire to hear lies, not truth. Rebellious people want religious leaders to prophesy deceits. “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the Lord: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isaiah 30:9, 10).
We must offer acceptable worship to God. God does not leave us to invent forms of worship. The Bible repeatedly warns us that self-willed worship is unacceptable to God.
The offering of Cain was unacceptable to God because he offered fruit instead of a blood sacrifice. “And the Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect” (Genesis 4:4, 5).
And Nadab and Abihu were killed by God for offering strange fire: “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1, 2). The fire was wrong because it was fire of their own kindling. They deliberately and wantonly took fire from another source other than the flame on the brazen altar (Lev. 19:24). The strange fire represented their own self-willed spirit rather than the Spirit of God. And God sent fire to devour them.
And the book of Samuel tells us that God struck Uzzah dead when he touched the ark of God to keep it from falling (2 Samuel 6:7). Even though Uzzah had good intentions, God had expressly forbidden them to touch any holy thing. Good intentions never justify disobeying God.
God struck Nadab and Abihu and Uzzah dead to teach the priests and the people “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22). God’s will must prevail over self-will. Self-willed worship is offensive to God. Self-willed worship despises the authority of God. And God is not to be trifled with. He “will be sanctified in them that come nigh” to Him (Exodus 19:22; Deuteronomy 32:48-51; Isaiah 5:16; Ezekiel 20:41). We may not commit acts of wanton and willful disobedience in the public worship of God. And self-willed worship is a great offence against the holiness of God. We may not profane the sacred sanctuary by disregarding decencies and reverence. Self-willed worship is rebellious worship. Self-willed worship is unclean worship.
Offering unclean worldly worship to God is offering strange fire before the Lord. One aspect of this new worldly worship is polluting the church with “Christian” rock music. As you know, music plays an important role in Christian worship. Christian music must distance us from the daily secular world and invite us to enter the holy sanctuary with a sense of the sacred. Christian music must be sacred and beautiful. Christian hymns are songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. “Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness” (I Chronicles 16:29). Christian hymns are songs of praise to God, and for God. In other words, they are meant to please Him, not us. Worship must be God-centered, not man-centered. We must approach God with a reverent spirit that distinguishes it from the loud reveling of the primitive and banal ranting of worldly rock music.
However, today in churches across America, drums and electronic instruments such as electric guitars, electric pianos, and electric organs that are widely used in worldly rock music now blare forth loud reveling called worship. Wake up, my dear friend! Rock music is rooted in the carnal. It must remain in honky tonks, bars, nightclubs, and sex and drug frenzied rock concerts. To bring carnal music into the sanctuary is to turn the house of God into the synagogue of Satan. Christian rock music is not true worship; it’s reveling. And reveling is false worship. Reveling means a noisy festivity. It comes from Old French reveler, to make noise, “to rebel,” from Latin rebelare. And it is one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-21). Reveling and worshipping are not the same. Reveling is not worshipping.
Sacred music is wholly set apart from secular music because its primary purpose is worship to please God, not to please man. It is Christian music of the highest rank because of its lasting religious significance. Sacred hymns and songs have spiritual depth and are doctrinally sound. They exalt God with reverence. Sacred music impresses us with the majesty, holiness, greatness, wisdom, and faithfulness of God. It is reverent. It is holy. It is doctrinal. It is spiritual. Great hymns are worthy of respect. Great hymns are great music.
But Christian rock music is irreverent.
Christian rock music is unholy.
Christian rock music is not doctrinal.
Christian rock music is carnal.
And just as secular rock music has no musical merit, Christian rock has no musical merit. It’s either bad or mediocre. But it’s not meant to be great music. The main purpose of Christian rock music is to act as a popular medium for false Christians to advance their rebellion against established Biblical doctrines. Christian rock is really rebellion against the established Biblical doctrines of reverence and sanctity. The real message in Christian rock is a contempt and hatred and fierceness toward true worship. Christian rock music and worldly worship is rebellion against the command to be separate from the world preached by Jesus and His disciples.
In short, in rock music, the melody takes precedence over the words. In other words, the beat is more important than the words. The strong beat is loud and primitive and overpowers the words. Among savage races, whose music has not risen above the primitive or percussive stage, the drum is the chief and often the sole instrument played. In Christian rock, the loud and strong beat of drums often predominates. And the words of Christian rock songs are generally shallow and primitive and repetitive. Worshippers are more caught up in their fleshly response to the carnal beat rather than the words. This is the lowest form of church music because the primary purpose of the strong beat and loud singing is to stimulate the flesh. It’s not true worshipping; it’s reveling. Christian rock is a lusting after the profane rock music of this world. Rock music is reveling in that which is rooted in hedonism as anyone familiar with the history of rock ‘n’ roll knows.
Early secular rock music in the 1950s and 1960s was about puppy love and quick sex. Then by the 1960s the message of rock preached against the establishment; therefore, youth were anti-establishment. Any established institutions, including the Church, were belittled, mocked, and rejected. Rock music promoted irresponsibility, promiscuity, drug use, and irreligiousness. Basically, rock centered around the individual’s hedonistic and often base desires which led to a culture of self-will, or “I will”: Immorality. Irresponsibility. Irreverence. Impudence. Insolence. Rock music preaches self-will. Rock is music with a message, and the message of secular rock music converts our youth to hedonism, individualism, and modernism.
Now, my dear friend, doesn’t this sound like the modern-day rebellious Church? The rebellious Church embraces a worldly false gospel of hedonism, individualism, and modernism. The rebellious Church has hedonistic worldly music, singing only that which pleases the flesh. And the rebellious Church assumes the insolence and irreverence of youth in its anti-establishment attitude toward the Church’s reverent and sacred worship pleasing to God and substitutes self-willed worship. And the rebellious Church assumes the ignorant attitude of youth by accepting modern ways, ideas, or style just because they’re new; and belittling the past. Rebellious Christians are false Christians. Rebellious Christians want worldly entertaining worship to satisfy the flesh. Rebellious Christians want unclean worship, including unclean music. They’re not separate from the world, they’re part of the world; and they want the Church to be a part of the world. But Paul tells us in his second letter to the Corinthians (II Corinthians 5:14 –18) to come out from among unbelievers and touch not the unclean thing:
14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Listen, friend, we cannot sit at the Lord’s table and the devil’s table: “But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (I Corinthians 10:20, 21). Singing music that is rooted in hedonism and rebellion is drinking of the cup of devils.
We must depart from those who are dividing the Church with their false vision of carnal worship. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17, 18).
Many years ago, a sinner friend of mine, John, was struggling with booze and women. He was a drunkard and a fornicator. He would go to bars and nightclubs and pick up women for one-night stands. For a short time, John desired to be free from these sinful acts. So, he began to attend a church where the piano and organ were replaced with a band. However, John said that when he went to church and heard the band, he longed to go back to the bars and nightclubs. Sadly, John never broke free from his sins. This church was guilty of causing John to stumble. The music was carnal and caused John to lust after evil. What an abomination! Woe unto rebellious religious leaders who cause sinners to stumble! Woe unto rebellious Christians who want their leaders to prophesy lies instead of truth!
My dear friend, avoid false prophets with false visions who prophesy a false worship. Our Lord said: If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:18, 19).