By Bob Kauflin
I’d like to continue addressing a topic I began a couple weeks ago, that is, identifying the idols we may serve in our hearts even as we gather to worship God with His people. In previous posts we looked at music, tradition, creativity, experience, and liturgy. Here’s one more (well really, two).
I hesitate to include “biblical knowledge” as a potential idol. The reason I do is that we can wrongly pursue a knowledge of doctrine that is distinct from a knowledge of God Himself. We have to acknowledge this possibility or we easily fall into the error of the Pharisees, who took more pride in their “rightness” than in their relationship with God. We too, can be more impressed with the accurate theology in our songs than the fact that God has shown us mercy in Jesus Christ.
Doctrine and theology, humbly studied and applied, always lead us to fear, love, and worship God more, not less. For that reason, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for pursuing a knowledge of Scripture that didn’t lead to Him. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40, ESV) As we grow in our understanding of and love for God’s Word, it should always produce a corresponding humility and godliness in us. How tragic that those who defend certain ways of worshipping God most vocally often disgregard the humility God esteems most highly. (Is. 66:2)
On the other side of the coin, we can exalt our ignorance of Scripture as we worship God, claiming that “words get in the way of worship.” At some point in the future I plan to share on the primacy of God’s Word in our worship. For now, it’s enough to say that when we don’t intentionally value God’s Word as the controlling influence and primary substance of our worship, other authorities rush in to fill its place. We are not more spiritual, nor closer to God, nor more mature if we think we don’t need words to communicate with God. God has always placed His Word at the center of our communion with Him, whether that be through song, prayer, or preaching. Through God’s Word we best come to know Who He is, who we are, and how we are to relate to Him. (Ex. 20; 1 Kings 8:9; Ex. 34:6-7; Josh 1:7-8; 2 Chron. 31:2-4; 34:29-33; Ps. 119; Ps. 19:7-11; Mt. 15:8; Acts 13:48-49; Col. 3:16; 1 Tim. 4:13)