This repost is a combination of three posts from June 2008.
We live in an irreverent society. In fact, it is in vogue to be irreverent, and in many cases the more irreverent, the better. What does it mean to be irreverent? Well, the dictionary defines the word irreverent as having or showing a lack of respect, and the thesaurus gives the word disrespectful as its synonym. We live in a time when it is hip, cool, and popular to be irreverent. However, if you examine irreverence closely, you will find at its heart is rebellion, and that is exactly what the heart of man is, rebellious. Unfortunately, like so many other things, this irreverence has made its way into the church bringing its rebellious heart along with it.
One of the culprits that has allowed this societal irreverence to make its way into the church has been the paradigm shift that has taken place over the last couple of decades in the place and purpose of the church. Where once the church was the place where believers gathered to corporately express their mutual praise, adoration, and thanksgiving, it has now become a place where unbelievers are enticed, entreated, and entertained. Where once the purpose of the church was to honor God, glorify God, and give witness to His majesty, its purpose now is to attract as many people as possible, by any means possible. Where once the focus was on God, His glory, and His holiness, the focus now is on the individual and his felt needs. In short, people no longer come to church for God, they come to church for themselves. The church has ceased to honor God and has chosen to honor man. It reminds me of Malachi 1:6 "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect? says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name."
Think about it, be honest, and ask yourself these questions. Why do I go to church? For whom am I going to church? What is my motivation for going to church? Do I get disappointed if I don't get anything out of the music or the sermon? Am I focused on blessing God, being a blessing to others, or getting a blessing for myself? Am I disappointed if the music is not how I like it? Do I only like and appreciate the sermons if they make me feel better about myself or cover an area of self-improvement? Am I here to extol God, if not, then why am I here.? The church has become like Romans 1:21 where they know God, but do not honor Him as God.
Another area of irreverence in the church can be seen in the casual attitude and dress. You get the sense that people are telling God that He should, He must, and He will accept them as they are. Is this how you feel in your heart of hearts, that God should accept you like you are, without any concern of whether you are acceptable to God, whether your attitude is acceptable to God, whether your dress is acceptable to God, or whether your lifestyle is acceptable to God? Would you wear what you wear to church to a state dinner with the President? If not, why not? Would you tell the President he must accept you just like you are? So you hold the President in greater esteem than you do the God who gave His Son to secure your eternal salvation? What does this say about your attitude towards God? Listen to the words of God in Leviticus 10:3 after He slew Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, for approaching Him in a disrespectful way, "By those who come near Me I will be treated as holy, and before all the people I will be honored." And what was Aaron's response to this as verse three ends? "And Aaron, therefore, kept silent."
When women wear tops to church that reveal their breasts or midriffs are they treating the Lord as holy? When they wear tops or pants that look like they are either sprayed on or shrink wrapped so that the whole contour of their front or backside is entirely visible leaving little to the imagination, are they doing so to honor the Lord, or to say, "Hey, look at me!" When husbands and fathers allow their wives and daughters to go to church dressed in such a manner are they honoring the Lord, or are they fearing their wives and daughters more than they fear the Lord? Isaiah 8:13 tells us, "It is the Lord of hosts whom you shall regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, and He shall be your dread." Men, what are you saying to the Lord when you come in to appear before Him dressed for the beach or the golf course? In the presence of the Lord is not a place to be "hot" or a place to chill out. By your demeanor, your attitude, or your dress are you regarding the Lord as holy? Are you showing Him the respect that is due Him, the Almighty God?
You might be thinking to yourself, "Wait a minute, you are picking on the contemporary church crowd. What about the coat and tie traditional crowd?" Honestly, they can be just as guilty. Let's look at Isaiah 29:13 "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote." Wearing your Sunday best, repeating the liturgy, praying out of a prayer book, and singing three hymns accompanied by an organ does not make you reverent. Much of the contemporary movement was a reaction to the lifeless, heartless, traditional service where the reverence was ritualized, not internalized. Reverence begins in the heart and its attitude towards God, and at the heart of true worship is reverence towards God. Part of why we are to gather together is to corporately revere God; and in that corporate reverence is a testimony to the greatness of this God who commands such honor and respect.
You may think that this was really an Old Testament issue, and the New Testament God of grace and love is not so harsh and demanding. Read I Corinthians 11:17-34 about the Corinthians attitude and handling of the Lord's supper. Check out verses 27-32, "Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgement to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world." What was God's discipline upon members of this church (which so resembles the American church of today)? Many were weak, many were sick, and a number (obviously more than one) slept (were dead). Go read Acts 5 about God's dealings with Ananias and Sapphira. Would God do this today? Well, you might be familiar with the Waco pastor who, was electrocuted in the baptistry in front of his congregation after leading them in a prayer saying, "Surprise me, Lord. "Let not many of you become teachers, for as such, you will incur a stricter judgement."
If you noticed in the section above where I quoted from I Corinthians, the Corinthians were so spiritually dull that Paul had to tell them that the reason some were sick, or weak, or dead was because of God's hand of discipline among them. They could not see it themselves. Take a step back and take a good look at your church. Could the same thing be happening there? Has it been happening and no one has been able to see it because of the spiritual shallowness of the congregation? Could this be going on in American churches and no one is noticing?
This irreverence in the American church is not just in the worship service, but pervades every area of Christian life. Recently my family and I were at Jason's Deli one evening when another family sat down next to us. One of the men was wearing a "religious" tee shirt, and thought, I'm quite sure, that he was providing a cool witness of his Christianity with its catchy wording, as if it is the catchy wording that provides the witness. I sat there with a mouth full of turkey croissant sandwich thinking, "This guy's not serious," and slowly shaking my head at the irreverence he was projecting, all the while he was probably thinking how cool his tee shirt is because of its hip phrasing that will witness to the unchurched, for why else would he wear it. The tee shirt said, "GETTING DOWN WITH THE MOST HIGH," and went on to quote Psalm 91:1 "He who dwells in the shadow of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty." And of course it had all the fancy graphics most of these tee shirts have. Can anyone seriously think for one minute that they or anyone one else can "get down" with God, the Most High? This tee shirt pictures God as some home boy you can hang out with, dance with, crack jokes and cruise the hood with. The irony of this is that because God is the Almighty, the One and only God, the Creator of Sustainer of all that exists, the One who holds our life breath and our ways in His hand, the One to whom the angels constantly cry, 'Holy, Holy, Holy,' He is not going to be getting down with us...at any time. This, to me was the same attitude that Nadab and Abihu had, and, as we have seen, God did not get down with them, but struck them down. Look at the reverence Jesus, His own Son and fully God as well, showed to Him during His life upon this earth. This tee shirt is indicative of the irreverent attitude towards God that if rife in the American church today. Where is the respect for God as God, and all that He is as God, in the church in our land today?
Another area in Christianity that smacks of irreverence is in the books and music. I am not going to get into all the issues with the music because that should be another post series, but just listen to the lyrics, compare them with the Scriptures, and see how much of what is passing off as worship and praise is veiled irreverence. The same can be said about books, and there are way too many to mention, but I will single out one because it is such a good example. It is John Eldredge's "Wild At Heart." It is one of the biggest pieces of heresy I have ever come across, and the heresy involves the very person of God and how He is presented in this book, and the presentation of God in this book is the height of irreverence as it portrays Him as just like sinful man.
Worship is not limited to our gathering on Sunday, but is to be lived out every day as we see in Romans 12:1 "Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living an holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." So we see that our lives, therefore our lifestyle, should be one of worship. How does God say that we should worship Him? Psalm 2:11 "Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling." So our lifestyle, yes, our very life, should be one of reverence, filled with rejoicing and trembling. To revere is to honor, to show respect, to pay homage all because it is what is due. This is the kind of life we are to live before Him, Coram Deo, before His face. Our lifestyle should not spit in His face, ridicule Him, or present Him as less than He is or other than He is. In Romans Paul tells us to give honor to whom honor is due. Well, who is due more honor than our heavenly Father, our Great Redeemer, and our Friend. Read John 17 and see the honor, the respect, the homage the Son pays to the Father. Should we not do the same in every area of our life?
Judgement begins with the household of God. Let us examine ourselves and our own households for attitudes or displays of irreverence towards our God. Let us look at our own lifestyle, thoughts and attitudes. Let us come before our God with reverence and awe, and let all that we do reflect the high regard and esteem we hold for our wonderful Savior and our God.