God’s Not Like “Whatever, Dude,” About The Way He’s Approached in Worship

Social media is a strange universe to live in. There’s a lot of stupidity, but there’s also a lot that can be learned from various trending issues.

Such was the case recently when Christian social media was up in arms (and rightly so) about Cory Asbury’s worship song Reckless Love, and whether or not churches should use it in their worship services. Discussion centered around the use of the word “reckless” to describe God’s love for us and whether or not that was a semantically and theologically appropriate adjective. “Relentless” was suggested as an alternative lyric. “Reckless” was defended as an appropriate lyric. And then Cory Asbury’s explanation of the song came to light and did further injury to his doctrinal cause.

It was all a very interesting and helpful discussion, but, to some degree, it was a rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic.

‘Cause we’ve hit the ice berg, folks. And the ship is taking on water.

Focusing on the word “reckless” missed the point – at least the big picture point. You see, Reckless Love was produced by Bethel Music. And Cory Asbury is a “worship leader, songwriter and pastor” with the Bethel Music Collective. Prior to joining Bethel, he spent eight years as a worship leader with the International House of Prayer (IHOP).

Why is this important? Because Bethel “Church” in Redding, California, and IHOP are, functionally, ground zero for the New Apostolic Reformation heresy. Heresy. Not, “They just have a more expressive, contemporary style of worship,”. Not, “It’s a secondary theological issue we can agree to disagree on.” Heresy. Denial of the deity of Christ. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Demonstrably false prophecy that the head of IHOP, Mike Bickle, has publicly rejoiced in (He estimates that 80% of IHOP’s “prophecies” are false.) And that’s just the tip of our metaphorical ice berg when it comes to the NAR.

IHOP and Bethel are, by biblical definition, not Christian organizations and certainly not Christian churches. They are pagan centers of idol worship just as much as the Old Testament temples of Baal were. The only difference is that, instead of being creative and coming up with their own name for their god, they’ve stolen the name Jesus and blasphemously baptized their idol with that moniker.

The point in this whole debate is not the word “reckless”. The point is that Christian churches should not have anything whatsoever to do with idol worshiping pagans as they approach God in worship. Yet Sunday after Sunday churches use Bethel music, Jesus Culture music, Hillsong music, and the like, in their worship of God.

And it’s not just that churches are using music from the temples of Baal in their worship services. We have women who usurp the teaching and leadership roles in the church that God has reserved for men – many even going so far as to preach to men and/or hold the position of “pastor”. We have men setting themselves up as pastors who do not meet the Bible’s qualifications. We have churches that let anyone – Believer or not – participate in the Lord’s Supper. We have pastors who welcome false teachers and their materials into their churches with open arms and castigate anyone who dares point out the false doctrine being taught. We have preachers who have forsaken God’s mandate to preach the Word and use the sermon time to talk about themselves, deliver self-help tips, or perform a stand up comedy routine.

And everybody seems to think God’s up there in Heaven going, “Cool! Whatever y’all want to do in the name of worship is just fine and dandy with Me. You do you.”

Well, He’s not.

God demands – and has every right to do so – that He be approached properly. In reverence. In awe. In holy fear. With clean hands and a pure heart.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek the face of the God of Jacob.
Psalm 24:3-6

Let’s take a stroll through Scripture and be taught by those who learned that lesson the hard way…


Most of the time, when we read the story of Cain and Abel, we focus on the fact that Cain killed his righteous brother. But we tend to gloss over the event that precipitated the murder. Cain and Abel both brought offerings to the Lord. God accepted Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s.

Scripture doesn’t tell us why God found Cain’s offering unacceptable. The Levitical laws delineating offerings and sacrifices hadn’t yet been given, and even if they had, grain offerings and other offerings of vegetation were perfectly appropriate if offered at the right time and for the right reason. Was it because Cain had a wrong attitude or motive when he gave his offering? Or maybe because he offered God leftover produce instead of his firstfruits? We don’t know. What we do know is that God had a standard of how He was to be worshiped, Cain violated it, and God expressed His displeasure.

Aaron and Israel

It’s shortly after the Exodus. The Israelites have seen God perform ten – count them – ten plagues on Pharaoh for his idolatry and failure to bow the knee to God’s command to let Israel go. They saw God destroy the entire Egyptian army in the Red Sea. And now, their fearless leader, Moses, has trekked up Mount Sinai and is late getting back. The people are worried and restless.

Does Aaron lead them to pray? Trust God? Be patient? Nope. He fashions an idol for them – a golden calf. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he wasn’t even creative enough to come up with his own name for this idol. He stole God’s character and work and blasphemously baptized the idol with that moniker. He led the people to worship the false god as though it were the true God. (Does that ring any bells?)

“These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings.

Surely God gave them a pass, right? I mean, Moses broke the tablets of the Ten Commandments when he came down from the mountain before they even had a chance to read the first and second Commandments that prohibited what they were doing.

Uh uh. God told Moses to get out of the way so He could fire bomb Israel off the face of the Earth and start over with him. It was only after Moses pleaded with God to stay His hand that God relented and allowed for the lesser punishment of having the Levites kill 3,000 of them with the sword and sent a plague on the rest of them.

Doesn’t exactly sound like an “anything goes in worship” kind of God, does He?

Nadab and Abihu

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.

Are you seeing a pattern here? God is so not OK with people approaching Him irreverently, via idol worship, or in any other way He deems inappropriate that He’s willing to kill them.


God sends Saul and his army on a mission to defeat the Amalekites. His instructions are simple: completely destroy everything. “Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

But Saul’s a smart guy, see? He knows better. He goes in and destroys all the worthless stuff, but saves the good stuff for himself. It’ll be OK with God, he reasons, because he’s going to take some of the really nice sheep and make a big, showy sacrifice. Like a rich man pitching pennies to an urchin shoeshine boy.

And when Samuel confronts Saul about his rebellion, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you pounce on the spoil and do what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”, Saul has the temerity to say, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord.” Because he was going to perform an act of worship. And the fact that he was doing it his way instead of God’s way didn’t matter. In Saul’s mind, it was the outward act that counted and God should have accepted it.

God didn’t see it that way:

And Samuel said,
“Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
and to listen than the fat of rams.
For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has also rejected you from being king.”

God is not pleased with worship offered by hands dirtied with sin and rebellion. Saul paid the price: his throne and God’s favor.


Uzziah started off well as king of Judah. He listened to the counsel of Zechariah, obeyed God, and prospered. But after a while, prosperity can make you proud, and that’s just what happened to Uzziah.

He became so proud, in fact, that he took it upon himself to enter the sanctuary of the temple and offer incense to God on the altar. That was a position of leadership restricted to the priests. Uzziah had never been installed as a priest because he wasn’t biblically qualified to hold the office of priest, much like many who take on the role of pastor today.

Bravely, Azariah and eighty of his fellow priests stood up to the presumptuous king – at the risk of their lives, but in defense of proper worship as commanded in God’s Word – rebuked Uzziah, and kicked him out of the temple. “You have done wrong,” they said, “and it will bring you no honor from the Lord God.”

Well! Uzziah was hot with anger. How dare these mere priests stop him – the king whom God had blessed and prospered – from worshiping God any way he wanted to!

Guess who God sided with? The priests who were upholding His Word and His standard of worship. God struck Uzziah with leprosy for the remainder of his life, which exiled him from the palace and a royal burial, and effectively ended his reign.

The Pharisees

Hypocrites! Blind guides! Fools! Blind men! Greedy! Self-indulgent! Whitewashed tombs! Lawless! Serpents! Brood of vipers! Murderers!

How would you like to be dressed down like that by Jesus? You’re teaching the Scriptures. You’re tithing to the nth degree. You’re traveling over land and sea to proselytize. You’re behaving with outward righteousness. You’re memorializing the prophets. As far as you can tell, you’re doing pretty well with this holiness thing.

And here comes the Messiah – the One you’re (supposedly) doing all of this for – and He shames you. Publicly. He exposes your blackness of heart to the commoners you want looking up to you. All because God’s way is for you to worship Him in spirit and in truth, but you insist on doing it your way- for all your deeds to be seen by others, and because you love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

You’re approaching God in arrogance and selfishness, and He will have none of it. You won’t die to self, so He – if only temporarily – kills your pride.

The Corinthian Church

You’ve probably never seen a Lord’s Supper as messed up as the way the Corinthian church was doing it. Some people were going without while others were getting drunk. The “important” people got to go first while the poor and lower class went to the back of the line. People were using the Lord’s Table as an opportunity for selfishness rather than putting self aside and focusing on the fact that the purpose of this meal was to proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

That wasn’t acceptable to God. He didn’t want the church observing the Lord’s Supper just any old way. It was dishonoring to Christ and shameful to His church.

So God declared that “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”

“But all of that was back in Bible times!” you might protest. “God isn’t killing anybody these days for worshiping Him improperly. In fact, some of the worst violators of God’s Word are rich ‘Christian’ celebrities!”

That’s right, they are. Exactly like God said they would be: “teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.” And woe betide them when they stand before Christ in judgment. Because judgment is coming for them:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 7:21-23

God is high and He is holy, and so are His standards for those who approach Him. He expects His people to obey His Word about how He is to be worshiped.

“I, the Lord, do not change,” God says in the Old Testament. The New Testament tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God hasn’t mellowed out or calmed down or gotten more tolerant. The God who poured out His wrath on those who blasphemed Him with unbiblical worship in the Old Testament is the same God we worship this side of the cross. Nothing escapes His notice. He doesn’t let sin slide. Whether in this life, or the next, or both, there will be a reckoning for unbiblical worship.

When it comes to worship, God is not a “whatever” kind of God.

Additional Resources:

Why Our Church No Longer Plays Bethel or Hillsong Music (or Elevation or Jesus Culture), and Neither Should Yours

Reckless Love, Reckless Theology at Matter of Theology

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ Numbers 25

num 25 3


Numbers 25

While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”

And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

10 And the Lord said to Moses, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, has turned back my wrath from the people of Israel, in that he was jealous with my jealousy among them, so that I did not consume the people of Israel in my jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him my covenant of peace, 13 and it shall be to him and to his descendants after him the covenant of a perpetual priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the people of Israel.’”

14 The name of the slain man of Israel, who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, chief of a father’s house belonging to the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was the tribal head of a father’s house in Midian.

16 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Harass the Midianites and strike them down, 18 for they have harassed you with their wiles, with which they beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of the chief of Midian, their sister, who was killed on the day of the plague on account of Peor.”

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. What verse 1 mean when it says, “the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab”?

2. Why was God angry with Israel (v.3)?

3. How does 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 relate to Numbers 25:1-5?

4. Why does God not want His people to fraternize with unbelievers?

5. Is this chapter a descriptive or a prescriptive passage? How can we know that this passsage is not telling us it is all right for Christians to kill idol worshipers today?

Faith, Obedience, Old Testament, Sunday School, Trust

Trust and Obey ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 3-2-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 9 ~ Feb. 23-Mar. 1
Numbers 1-15, Psalm 90
Trust and Obey

Not a grief or a loss, not a frown or a cross, but is blest if we trust and obey.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

Dilemma → The People’s Response → Moses/Leadership’s Response ←→ God’s Response

Today, we’re taking a look at four incidents from this week’s reading which follow the paradigm above. All start out with a problem. We’ll look at how the people responded to that problem, how Moses and the other leaders responded, and how God responded, which will show us how we should respond to the dilemmas we face: with trust in, and obedience to, God.

 A Generic Gripe (Numbers 11:1-3)

The Dilemma (11:1):
This seems to have been a general discontent with the aggravations that come with marching around the desert. Various translations mention “hardships,” “adversity,” and “misfortunes.” We can’t tell from this verse whether these were hardships of their own making (as two of the subsequent problems were) or they were just things that came up outside their control.

Israel’s Response (11:1-2, Psalm 142:1-2):
Israel’s response was to gripe. How was this different from Psalm 142:2, where David said, “I pour out my complaint before him; I tell my trouble before him.”? Check out verse 1: David said, “I cry out to the Lord…I plead for mercy to the Lord.” David was crying out to the Lord. Israel was crying out against the Lord (“in the hearing of the Lord”).

God’s Response (11:1):
God’s anger was literally kindled. Why such a harsh response to a little complaining? We’ll see more clearly in the next incident.

Moses’ Response/God’s Response (11:2):
Moses intercedes in a picture of the way Christ intercedes for us. He gets between the sinful people and God’s wrath and pleads their case before Him. God’s wrath abates, not because there’s anything righteous in the people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding.

 Where’s The Beef? (Numbers 11:4-35)

 The Dilemma (11:4-9):
“Waaah…we’re tired of the same old food day after day!” Notice, it wasn’t that they didn’t have food and were crying out to God to help them and keep them from starving. God had provided plenty of the food He thought best for them. He even delivered it right to their doorsteps—they didn’t have to go out and hunt! But that wasn’t good enough.

Israel’s Response (11:4-6,10, Philippians 3:19, Romans 1:25):
Israel’s response to this dilemma (which wasn’t really a dilemma at all—this was about what they preferred—it was a problem of their own making) was to turn their noses up at what God had provided for them and cry out against Him.

Their complaint was a disdain for all God had done for them in delivering them from Egypt. They didn’t want to do things God’s way anymore. They actually preferred going back to (and thought they had it better under) slavery! And for what? Food. The kind of food they missed and preferred. The food of their old way of life. The fruit of slavery.

Their complaint was essentially a contempt for and rejection of God’s salvation because they were willing to toss it all aside for something as paltry as a different kind of food. “They worshiped and served the creation rather than the creator.”

What are some ways we do the same thing? (Thinking we had it better when we were lost and longing for the things we had back then.)

Moses’ Response (11:10-15, Philippians 4:13, Matthew 11:28):
Moses had had it with these rebellious, childish people, and he cried out passionately to the Lord about it. This “friend of God” was not rejecting God or His ways. He was saying, “You’ve asked me to lead and care for this people, and I want to comply, but I can’t. It’s too hard. I need Your help!” His response was not to reject God (as was the case with the Israelites’ complaint), but to trust God and ask for His help in obeying Him.

When it is our desire to take up our cross daily, God has promised to either give us the strength to carry it (Phil. 4:13) or lift it off our backs permanently (Matt. 11:28).

God’s Response (11:16-35, Psalm 37:4):
Two different complaints. Two different motives. Two different responses: God showed kindness to Moses, but anger towards the Israelites.

Yet, in a way, the same response. God gave both Moses and the people what they asked for. (Actually, He gave the people much more than they asked for!) When Moses got what he wanted, it was a blessing because He was asking according to God’s will and out of a desire to obey Him. This is what Ps. 37:4 is talking about when it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” When the people got what they wanted, it was a curse because God gave them what they never should have wanted in the first place.

Power Play (Numbers 12)

The Dilemma (12:1-2):
Miriam and Aaron were annoyed with Moses for some unclear-to-us reason having to do with Moses’ new wife. Whether they were opposed to her because she was a Cushite or because she had done something to tick them off, we don’t know.

Miriam and Aaron’s Response (12:1-2):
Their annoyance led Miriam and Aaron to grumble against Moses. And once they started grumbling against him- which was really grumbling against God, because God had called Moses, placed him in authority, and spoke through him- it was easy enough to convince themselves that they should be in charge, or at least equal to Moses. “And the Lord heard it,” indicates that they were implicating God in their complaint. Here is another incident that’s a problem of the complainant’s own making.

God’s Response (12:4-10, 14-15):
Again, God’s anger is “kindled.” He comes down personally, since they are denouncing Him personally by way of Moses, and sets them straight. “Yes, there is a difference between y’all and Moses. No, you’re not equal to him. Moses is the one I’ve put in this position, not either of you.” Miriam’s name being mentioned first (v.1) and the fact that God gave her leprosy but not Aaron, probably indicate that she was the instigator in this situation.

Moses’ Response (12:11-13):
Again, Moses intercedes between the sinner and the wrath of God and asks, trusting in God’s grace, for Miriam’s healing. God grants his petition, but not right away. God wants Miriam to understand how serious her disobedience is, so He allows her to experience His chastening for a week. But after her time of discipline is over, God’s grace allowed her back into the camp to be reconciled to Moses and the people.

Ten Were Bad, Two Were Good (Numbers 13:25-14:35)

The Dilemma (13:25-33):
The spies came back and gave an accurate report of what they saw. The land itself was awesome, but the people were strong, militarily, and the cities were strongly fortified. All of the spies and the people who heard their report were understandably afraid. This was not a problem of their own making.

Israel’s Response (14:1-4, Exodus 3:8):
Again, the people’s immediate response to fear was not to trust in the Lord and obey Him, but to rebel. Again, their response was to quickly abandon and disdain all God had done for them. They tossed aside His salvation in favor of slavery and what they thought would be safety. They knew what God had promised (Ex. 3:8- compare to 13:29) and called Him a liar (14:3- compare to Ex. 3:8). Again, they cried out against the Lord instead of crying out to Him.

Joshua and Caleb’s Response (14:5-9, 13:30):
Nowhere do we see Caleb and Joshua {13:30, 14:6-9} denying or minimizing the difficulty and scariness of the situation, but confirming it. They knew what people like the Hittites, et al, were capable of doing to their enemies. They were well aware of Israel’s military weakness and disadvantage.

Yet, instead of letting what they could see and experience determine reality, they trusted God’s word and promises to them to determine reality. They had seen what God was capable of doing to His enemies. They saw what He had done to Pharaoh’s army without their even having to fight, and trusted that, if He had promised them this land, He could do something like that again.

Moses’ Response (14:13-19):
Again, Moses stands between the sinful people and God’s wrath- just like Jesus does for us- pleading with God to forgive them so that God’s name will be glorified. He calls God to act in accordance with His own character: slow to anger, steadfast love, forgiving.

God’s Response (14:20-35):
Again, God grants the request of the intercessor (Moses), not because of the sinful people, but because of the righteousness of the one interceding, and because of His own character. Though they will still suffer the consequences of their sin, God pardons sinners.

What Can We Learn?

1. When we have a problem, need, or desire, God wants us to bring it to Him in prayer with a heart submissive to His will. He desires for us to cry out to him, not against Him.

2. Sometimes, we’re the problem. Sometimes we’re in anguish over a problem that’s not really a problem, but a selfish or ungodly desire we’re not even supposed to have.

3. When we face difficult situations, God wants us to calm down, trust His word and His promises, and obey Him, not reject Him in order to do things our own way. Like the song says, “there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Idolatry, Sunday School, Worship

Worship Gone Wrong, Worship Gone Right ~ Sunday School Lesson ~ 2-16-14

sunday school

These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.

Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 7 ~ Feb. 9-15
Exodus 30-Leviticus 10
Worship Gone Wrong ~ Worship Gone Right

Think about the last time you were invited over to someone’s house for dinner or a visit. Even if it was your closest friend’s house, did you go into her kitchen and start rearranging her cabinets so the dishes would be the way you like them? Refold her towels into thirds instead of halves? Insist on fried chicken when she had planned baked? Would you like it if your closest friend came to your house and started doing things like that?

What’s your favorite flower? Mine is pink roses, and my husband knows this very well. Would it have been loving for my husband to give me a cactus for Valentine’s Day—even though he knows I can’t stand them –because that’s the plant he likes best?

We all have a certain way we like things done at our own homes for certain reasons. We have all been given gifts that make us feel loved and cherished (and some gifts that haven’t). God is no different. When we come into His house to worship Him, we abide by His “house rules” out of love and respect for Him. We are to offer Him the worship He desires, not because it makes us happy or comfortable, but because that’s what makes Him “feel loved.”

This week’s reading was all about worship. Worship done the right way – God’s way, and worship done the wrong way – man’s way.

Worship Gone Wrong: Man’s Way (Exodus 32)

32:1-2: Worship goes wrong when we take our focus off God.
Moses didn’t bring them out of Egypt, God did. But the people’s focus was only on the temporal and tangible. They hounded Aaron to give them a god they could see and worship their own way rather than an invisible God whose ways were holy and different from theirs. They were not thinking about what God wanted but what they wanted.

32:2-14: Worship goes wrong when the pastor is more interested in pleasing the people (or himself) than pleasing God.
Rather than leading the people and holding up God’s standard for them, Aaron gave in to their base desires. Contrast this with Moses who was more interested in God’s glory, His name being honored among the heathens, and His covenant promises, than Moses’ own self interest of being made a “great nation”.

32:4-6: Worship goes wrong when we paste God’s name on man made rituals.
Notice that they essentially called the golden calf “God” and claimed that worshiping it was actually worshiping God. This was not a situation in which they were inventing a new god to worship.

32:15-19: Worship goes wrong when we break God’s law (Exodus 19-20:21).
The people had heard from the very mouth of God himself, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them…” Those are the first and second Commandments! They knew God’s Law and intentionally broke it. Our worship is unacceptable to God (indeed, it isn’t worship at all) when we do it while knowingly disobeying Him. (Naked church, homosexuality affirming “churches”, female pastors.)

32:25: Worship goes wrong when we give unbelievers the opportunity to mock God.
When the people “break loose” from doing things biblically with the pastor leading the way (as in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, for example), the world rightly mocks them. As a result, many unbelievers understandably take the position, “If that’s what Christianity is, I don’t want any part of it.” This is to our shame. (This is different, however, from being mocked for upholding biblical standards, such as standing against abortion or homosexuality.)

32:26-28: Worship goes wrong when people refuse to repent of their sin (Matthew 18:15-17, 1 Corinthians 5:11-13).
The three thousand men who refused to repent of their idol worship were the problem here, not the Levites. They were given every opportunity to repent and refused. This compounded their sin by forcing their brothers into a horrific situation of having to kill them.

Today, when church members refuse to repent of their sin, God has instructed us to put them outside the fellowship (after due process). This is painful for all involved, and puts brothers and sisters who are trying to faithfully follow God’s word in the awful position of having to confront and discipline people they may dearly love. It often causes a deep wound that necessarily hinders worship.

Worship Gone Right: God’s Way

God cares about the smallest details of how we approach Him in worship. (Exodus 30, 39)
He’s not an “anything goes” God. We see this in the detailed instructions about the construction of the ark, the tabernacle, and all its accessories, right down to the recipe for the anointing oil (30) and the little pomegranates on the hems of the priestly garments (39). (We’ll also see His instructions about worship to the church in the New Testament.) If God cares this much about the little details of worship, what are some things in our worship services and other church activities that we need to think about as to whether or not they’re pleasing to God?

God takes worship seriously, and so should His people (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, Acts 5:1-11, 1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
The results of the golden calf incident (32), the strange fire incident (10), as well as situations in the New Testament show us that the way we worship and conduct activities in the church is no trivial matter to God. When He gives instructions about worship, He means what He says. It is just as wrong for us in the New Testament church to disregard God’s instructions about the Lord’s supper, giving offerings, qualifications for pastors/teachers, etc., as it was for Nadab and Abihu to offer “strange fire” before the Lord.

This doesn’t mean we can’t experience and express joy during worship—God wants us to! But there are also times to weep over our sin, listen intently to God’s word, and pray fervently. What are some things that show that a church/church members take worship seriously?

The men who lead God’s people have a grave responsibility to lead biblically, and God’s people have the responsibility to follow them biblically. (Exodus 32, Leviticus 10, 2 Timothy 4:1-5)
Pastors are to be faithful to God and His requirements for worship regardless of what the people clamor for. When pastors give in to the sinful desires of their people, they both endorse and give their people the opportunity to sin. So long as the pastor is standing by Scripture, we are to follow his leadership and support him.

The results of worship gone right (Leviticus 9:22-24)
When worship is done biblically, the pastor is in right relationship with God. He’s in the right position spiritually to be a blessing to God’s people. God blesses the people, they see His glory, He is pleased with their worship, His presence is with them, and it generates more worship.