Worship Methods Biblical or Culturally Relevant?
Does It Matter to God?
"Unless correct ideas of true worship and true reverence are impressed upon the people, there will be a growing tendency to place the sacred and eternal on a level with common things, and those professing the truth will be an offense to God and a disgrace to religion." Testimonies, vol. 5, 500.
Does God Leave It Up to Us?
"God…does not leave men to rely on their human judgment.…They are required to have correct views of duty.…They must take God’s word, and walk in accordance with His revealed will." Signs of the Times, July 24, 1884.
"He who is infinite in wisdom has given explicit directions in regard to His own worship, and all who desire to serve Him should." Ibid., July 8, 1880. "From the sacredness which was attached to the earthly sanctuary, Christians may learn how they should regard the place where the Lord meets with His people.…God Himself gave the order of His service.…" The Faith I Live By, 189.
"An enemy has been at work to destroy our faith in the sacredness of Christian worship." Child Guidance, 541.
Strange Fire/Sacred 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." Leviticus 10:1.
"As the prayers and praise of the people are ascending before God, two of the sons of Aaron took each his censer…and used strange fire, contrary to the Lord’s commandment. And the wrath of God was kindled against Nadab and Abihu for their disobedience, and a fire went out from the Lord, and devoured them in the sight of the people. By this judgment God designed to teach the people that they must approach Him with reverence and awe, and in His own appointed manner." Signs of the Times, July 17, 1884.
Sacred Fire—God’s Method of Worship, Following His Way
"The holy principles that God has given are represented by the sacred fire.…" Christian Leadership, 31. "Aaron’s sons did not realize the necessity of explicitly following the requirements of God.…Contrary to God’s express direction they dishonored Him by offering common fire instead of sacred." Review and Herald, July 29, 1873. "Do not take worldly ideas as your criterion. Let there be no departure from the Lord’s methods of working. Use not common fire, but the sacred fire of the Lord’s kindling." Testimonies, vol. 7, 267. "…the sacred fire which God Himself had kindled, and which He had commanded should be used." Gospel Workers, 20.
Strange Fire—Methods of Men, the World (Culturally Relevant)
"The truth of God has not been magnified in His believing people.…They conform to the world, and depend upon it for their influence. They allow the world to convert them and introduce the common fire to take the place of the sacred, that they may, in their line of work, meet the world’s standard. There must not be these efforts made to ape the world’s customs. This is common, not sacred fire." The Gospel of Health, November 1, 1898. "Men supposed to be sensible men, having discerning minds, will follow their own light, light which heaven has not originated. They will use strange fire in their service, but the Lord will not accept them." The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 4, 1820. "Unless the change takes place [born again], we cannot serve God aright. Our work will be defective; earthly plans will be brought in; strange fire, dishonoring to God will be offered." The Youth’s Instructor, September 9, 1897. "You have mingled with your offerings strange fire, which God has forbidden.…You have acted in your own unsanctified way, and not in God’s way." Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 310.
We Are Not to Mingle the Common (Worldly) With Sacred
"The Lord designs that everything connected with His work shall be treated as sacred.…that no common fire is to be used in place of the sacred fire, that common things are not to be mingled with God’s appointed agencies." Review and Herald, September 27, 1898. "We must keep the way of the Lord, and speak and act as standing in His sight, living by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, that no strange fire shall mingle with that which is holy." Ibid., May 27, 1890.
Evangelism—The Greatest Excuse for Using Worldly Methods
"Common fire has been used in place of the sacred. Plans, contrary to truth and righteousness, are introduced in a subtle manner on the plea that this must be done, and that must be done, because it is for the advancement of the cause of God. But it is the devising of men.…" Christian Leadership, 31.
What God Does Not Accept
"The Lord of heaven does not accept the strange fire offered to Him." Pamphlet 46, 38. "Some in positions of trust have been…allowed to make decisions, to advocate methods, to carry out plans, which are not of the Lord’s devising. The enemy has been given an opportunity to control men, and to manage the work which God has shown should be kept pure and sacred, that it may be looked upon with reverence by all who claim to believe the truth. When men entrusted with responsibilities, neglect to cherish that which is sacred, and use common fire in God’s service, God will despise their offering to Him." Pamphlet 080, 10. "God will not accept your common fire. He wants you to use the sacred fire which He has kindled on the divine altar." Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, 198.
Using Strange Fire is a Sin—Punishable with Death!
"Aaron’s sons took the common fire which God did not accept, and they offered insult to the infinite God by presenting this strange fire before Him. God consumed them by fire for their positive disregard of His express directions." Review and Herald, March 25, 1875. "At the hour of worship, as the prayers and praise of the people were ascending to God, Nadab and Abihu…trans-gressed God’s command by using ‘strange fire’…For this sin, a fire went out from the Lord and devoured them in the sight of the people." Gospel Workers, 20. "Nadab and Abihu failed to reverence the command of God to offer sacred fire upon their censers with the incense before Him. God had forbidden them, upon pain of death, to present the common fire before Him with the incense." Testimonies, vol. 3, 295. "Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that…walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." Isaiah 50:11, 12. "It is difficult for men who begin to walk in the sparks of their own kindling to discern that it is not a sacred but common fire, until they lie down in sorrow." The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, vol. 3, 1297.
Sacred Fire—Worships with Solemnity and Awe
"How few realize how solemn a thing it is to approach the throne of God. Angels bow before that throne with veiled faces, yet men who are stained by sin rush heedlessly into the divine presence. Let us remember that the holy angels approach the throne of God in reverence and holy fear. It is because men do not know God or Jesus Christ whom He has sent, that they take improper attitudes and improper words in their petitions." Review and Herald, May 28, 1895. "True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realization of His presence." Education, 247.
A Fearful Awe is Felt—When We Enter into God’s Presence
"God is greatly to be reverenced; wherever His presence is clearly realized, sinful man will bow in the most humble attitude, and from the depths of the soul cry out, ‘How dreadful is this place!’" Signs of the Time, February 26, 1880.
"I was shown that when God sent His angels anciently to minister or communicate to individuals, and these persons learned that they had seen and talked with an angel, they were struck with awe and were afraid that they should die. They had so exalted views of the terrible majesty and power of God that they thought it would destroy them to be brought into close connection with one direct from His holy presence. I was referred to Judges 13:21, 22: ‘Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.’ Judges 6:22, 23: ‘And when Gideon perceived that He was an angel of the Lord, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord God! For because I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face. And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.’ Joshua 5:15: ‘…And the Captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.’ If angels were thus feared and honored because they came from the presence of God, with how much greater reverence should God Himself be regarded." Testimonies, vol. 1, 410. "What impression did this vision make on the prophet? Thus he described it: ‘Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Isaiah had denounced woes upon others for their apostasy and separation from God.…But now he sees himself in danger. He is himself ‘a man of unclean lips.’ He had no disposition to exalt himself. O how little he was in his own wisdom, how unworthy, how unfitted for sacred service. He was overwhelmed with a sense of his own weakness and sinfulness." The Bible Echo, September 9, 1895.
Angels Veil Their Faces—Humbled to Nothing, No Identity
"The angels veil their faces in His presence. The cherubim and the bright and holy seraphim approach His throne with solemn reverence. How much more should we, finite, sinful beings, come in a reverent manner before the Lord, our Maker!" God’s Amazing Grace, 94.
Bow Down—In the Presence of God
"O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God; and we are the people of His pasture .…" "And Moses and Aaron went…unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them." Num-
bers 20:6. "Joshua…lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there stood a man…captain of the host of the LORD.…And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship and said unto Him, What saith my lord unto His servant? And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place where those standest is holy. And Joshua did so." Joshua 5:13–15.
Keep Silent—In His Presence
"The Lord is in His holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before Him." Habakkuk 2:20. "When the worshipers enter the place of meeting, they should do so with decorum, passing quietly to their seats.…Common talking, whispering, and laughing should not be permitted in the house of worship, either before or after the service." My Life Today, 286. "If some have to wait a few minutes before the meeting begins, let them maintain a true spirit of devotion by silent meditation, keeping the heart uplifted to God in prayer.… "Testimonies, vol. 5, 492. "Do not have so little reverence for the house and worship of God as to communicate with one another during the sermon. If those who commit this fault could see the angels of God looking upon them and marking their doings, they would be filled with shame and abhorrence of themselves." Child Guidance, 542. "When the benediction is pronounced, all should still be quiet, as if fearful of losing the peace of Christ. Let all pass out without jostling or loud talking, feeling that they are in the presence of God, that His eye is resting upon them, and they must act as in His visible presence. Let there be no stopping in the aisles to visit or gossip.…The precincts of the church should be invested with a sacred reverence. It should not be made a place to meet old friends and visit and introduce common thoughts and worldly business transactions." Testimonies, vol. 5, 493.
Put Off Thy Shoes—Put Off That Which is Man-Made
"Study and ponder and often repeat those words of Holy Writ that show how the place marked by God’s special presence should be regarded. ‘Put off thy shoes from off thy feet,’ He commanded Moses at the burning bush; ‘for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ Exodus 3:5." Education, 243. "There should be a solemn awe upon the worshipers as they enter the sanctuary, and they should leave behind all common worldly thoughts, for it is the place where God reveals His presence. It is as the audience chamber of the great and eternal God; therefore pride and passion, dissension and self-esteem, selfishness, and covetousness, which God pronounces idolatry, are inappropriate for such a place." Child Guidance, 543. "Teach them to have the highest reverence for the house of God and to understand that when they enter the Lord’s house it should be with hearts that are softened and subdued by such thoughts as these: ‘God is here; this is His house. I must have pure thoughts and the holiest motives. I must have no pride, envy, jealousy, evil surmising, hatred, or deception in my heart, for I am coming into the presence of the holy God.’" Testimonies, vol. 5, 494.
Theatrical Style—Strange Fire (Methods of the World)
"Some ministers make the mistake of supposing that success depends on drawing a large congregation by outward display, and then delivering the message of truth in a theatrical style. But this is using common fire instead of the sacred fire of God’s kindling. The Lord is not glorified by this manner of working." Gospel Workers, 383. "God…is as particular and exact in His requirements now as He was in the days of Moses. But in the sanctuaries of worship in our day, with the songs of praise, the prayers, and the teaching from the pulpit, there is not merely strange fire, but positive defilement." Ellen G. White comments, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1111.
Are We to Use Drama to Present the Gospel?
"The work in the large cities is to be done after Christ’s order, not after the order of a theatrical performance. It is not a theatrical performance that glorifies God.…" Testimonies, vol. 9, 142. "Do not encourage the men who are to engage in this [our] work to think that they must proclaim the solemn, sacred message in a theatrical style. Not one jot or tittle of anything theatrical is to be brought into our work. God’s cause is to have a sacred, heavenly mold. Let everything connected with the giving of the message for this time bear the divine impress. Let nothing of a theatrical nature be permitted, for this would spoil the sacredness of the work." Evangelism, 137. "Our success will depend on carrying forward the work in the simplicity in which Christ carried it forward, without any theatrical display." Ibid., 139. "Ministers in the desk have no license to behave like theatrical performers, assuming attitudes and expressions calculated for effect. They do not occupy the sacred desk as actors, but as teachers of solemn truths." Ibid., 640.
What Spirit is Behind the use of Drama in Religious Services?
"Through the drama he [Satan] has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice." The Adventist Home, 515. "Can the Lord Jesus Christ accept these theatrical exhibitions as service done for Him? Can He be glorified thereby? No. All this kind of work is done in the service of another leader." Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, 335. "We must be guarded, for Satan is determined, if possible, to intermingle with religious services his evil influence. Let there be no theatrical display, for this will not help to strengthen belief in the Word of God. Rather, it will divert attention to the human instrument." Selected Messages, Book 2, 23.
Are We to Use "Rock and Roll" Music to Present the Gospel?
"…a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan.…Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me.…A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing.…The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with such a confusion of noise and multitude of sounds as passed before me last January. Satan works amid the din and confusion of such music.…Those things which have been in the past will be in the future. Satan will make music a snare by the way in which it is conducted." Selected Messages, Book 2, 36–38.
Are We to Use Dancing in the Solemn Service?
"I went into their meetings. There was much excitement, with noise and confusion. One could not tell what was piped or what was harped. Some appeared to be in vision, and fell to the floor. Others were jumping, dancing, and shouting.…I bore my testimony in the name of the Lord, placing His rebuke upon these manifestations." Ibid., 34.
Are We to Use Humor and Laughter in the Worship Service?
"Ministers should not make a practice of relating anecdotes in the desk; it detracts from the force and solemnity of the truth presented. The relation of anecdotes or incidents which create a laugh or a light thought in the minds of the hearers is severely censurable. The truth should be clothed in chaste and dignified language." Review and Herald, August 8, 1878. "Ministers are not to…get up theatrical performances.…Let them not bring levity into the work of the ministry, but let them preach the Word in a manner that will leave a most solemn impression upon those who hear." Ibid., September 28, 1897.
Are We to Use Comic Strips in Church?
"What is the object of the ministry? Is it to mix the comical with the religious? The theater is the place for such exhibitions." Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 143.
Are We to Dress Up as Clowns to Present the Gospel?
"We need to study methods whereby we may preach the gospel.…Let no one think that God will approve of a method which will require a man to act the part of a clown, or like a man who has lost his senses. Such methods as these are wholly unnecessary and inappropriate." Signs of the Times, March 19, 1894. "The minister of Christ should be a man of prayer, a man of piety; cheerful, but never coarse and rough, jesting or frivolous. A spirit of frivolity may be in keeping with the profession of clowns and theatrical performers, but it is altogether beneath the dignity of a man who is chosen…to be [a] mouth-piece for God." Gospel Workers, 132.
Is Worship an Emotional Feeling? A Happy, "Fun" Time?
"Some are not satisfied with a meeting unless they have a powerful and happy time. They work for this, and get up an excitement of feeling. The influence of such meetings is not beneficial. When the happy flight of feeling is gone, they sink lower than before the meeting, because their happiness did not come from the right source. The most profitable meetings for spiritual advancement, are those which are characterized with solemnity and deep searching of heart; each seeking to know himself, and earnestly, and in deep humility, seeking to learn of Christ." Spiritual Gifts, vol. 4b, 152.
"If the preaching is of an emotional character, it will affect the feelings, but not the heart and conscience. Such preaching results in no lasting good.…" Testimonies, vol. 5, 301. "It is through the Word—not feeling, not excitement—that we want to influence the people to obey the truth.…A wonderful power accompanies its proclamation in our world." Selected Messages, Book 3, 375. "Feelings are often deceiving, emotions are no sure safeguard; for they are variable and subject to external circumstances." Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 126.
Improper Worship Leads to:
Rejecting God: "In seeking to bring the worship of God nearer home, Gideon was but providing to indulge the people in their indolence.… The course pursued by Gideon proved a snare…to all Israel. The irregular and unauthorized worship led the people finally to forsake the Lord altogether, to serve idols.…The services at the place of worship were celebrated with feasting and merriment, and at last became a scene of dissipation and licentiousness." Signs of the Times, July 28, 1881.
Rejection By God: "The Lord passed by Saul…because, as king of Israel, he did not follow the Lord’s requirement, but chose to follow his own plans and methods." The Youth’s Instructor, November 10, 1898.
"Ye shall keep My Sabbaths, and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord." Leviticus 19:30.
[Emphasis has been supplied.]
March 2002 Table of Contents