Greetings MOL Family!
Thank you for joining us in today’s study, as we continue from last week’s lesson on “The Icy Winds of Formalism”…
With All of My Being
Let’s go back to the statement in Volume 9:
The evil of formal worship cannot be too strongly depicted, but no words can properly set forth the deep blessedness of genuine worship. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, pg. 143
Now here are two things put in contrast. On one side is the formal worship which is so evil, and on the other side is the blessedness of genuine worship. What does ‘genuine’ mean? True, real, sincere. What’s the opposite? Counterfeit, put on, pretense. This is warm, glowing; the other is frozen. It may be beautiful, like those frozen people I was telling you about, but oh, friends, it’s dead. And between these two things there is no affinity. There is no fellowship.
Which do you enjoy: the rigid, frigid routine of formal worship, or the glad, spontaneous inspiration of a service filled with the Spirit of God, where human individuality is played upon by the Holy Spirit, and men and women and children take part because they love Jesus and love to witness for Him? Ah, what a difference there is in the two things!
“Well,” someone says, “can’t we have both?” God forgive us, my friends. God forgive us. I come back:
The evil of formal worship cannot be too strongly depicted, but no words can properly set forth the deep blessedness of genuine worship. When human beings sing with the spirit and the understanding, heavenly musicians take up the strain and join in the song of thanksgiving. – Ibid
Isn’t that wonderful, friends? Now that’s what we read there in Corinthians. Paul said, “I am going to sing with…” what? The spirit and the understanding. In other words, my whole heart and soul and mind are going to be in this thing. It isn’t going to be some parroting off certain phrases that I can sing or pray or go through with my mind a thousand miles away. No, all of my being is going to be poured forth in prayer, in praise, in song, in sermon, in response, in testimony, in worship, all the way through.
Friends, what do you say? Let’s get away from the rigid, frigid way of worship. And let us go back to the early apostolic, primitive church and find there the inspiration for worship. What do you say?
A Thank Offering To God
Now with this, I’d like to put an interesting statement in Volume 6. This is the chapter on the observance of the Sabbath. Volume 6, page 362:
We do not obtain a hundredth part of the blessing we should obtain from assembling together to worship God. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, pg. 362
Think of that statement! We can have more than a hundred times as much. Why not have it? Well, what do we need? We need to get away from this frozen program. We need to get into a spirit of worship like the early church had. Then we’ll have the Pentecostal blessing. Perhaps I ought to put it the other way around: if we have the Pentecostal blessing, we’ll have this spontaneous, inspired, joyous, glorious experience of witnessing for God.
Now, we have on page 367, an example of what the prophet is talking about here:
Then as you meet from Sabbath to Sabbath, sing praises to Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…Let the love of Christ be the burden of the speaker’s utterance. Let it be expressed in simple language in every song of praise. Let the inspiration of the Spirit of God dictate your prayers. As the word of life is spoken, let your heartfelt response testify that you receive the message as from heaven. This is very old-fashioned, I know; but it will be a thank offering to God for the bread of life given to the hungry soul. – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, page 367
Now, what is that talking about, anyway, friends? What is that particular last expression there talking about? Let me read it again:
As the word of life is spoken, let your heartfelt response testify that you receive the message as from heaven. This is very old-fashioned, I know… – Ibid
Turn to the 106th Psalm and notice the 48th verse, and perhaps it’ll be a bit clearer.
Blessed [be] the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD. – Psalm 106:480
Now, dear friends, I don’t want to be irreverent, but I want to misread this verse for you so you’ll see what I’m trying to get at here: “…And let all the ministers say, Amen…” Is that what it says? “…And let all the elders say, Amen…” Is that what it says? “…And let all the deacons say, Amen…” What does it say? “…Let all the people say, Amen…”
There was a man that once got locked in a cold storage place. He worked there and he’d gone in there for some reason, just as everybody was leaving. Somehow, he got locked in there, and he knew he wasn’t going to be able to get out until the next morning when somebody came. Do you know what he did? He was in there all alone but surrounded with great big blocks of ice. This was in the days when they used blocks of ice for cold storage. He decided that his life depended on activity, and he spent the night pushing those blocks of ice around.
And if you should chance to land in a frozen atmosphere, I suggest to you, friends, that instead of yielding to the influence of the icy environment, you get busy and keep warm by earnest activity and by earnest expression every chance you get.
Now, you know there are races of people who are quite expressive. Some parts of the world, it’s a common thing for a whole volley of ‘Amens’ to be heard. Is that right? Yes. Does the Lord like it? Well, He put it down here in His Book: “…Let all the people say, Amen…”
As the word of life is spoken, let your heartfelt response testify that you receive the message as from heaven. This is very old-fashioned, I know… – Testimonies for the Church, Volume 6, pg. 367
Yes it is, friends, very old-fashioned. It goes clear back to the Bible days:
…But it will be a thank offering to God for the bread of life given to the hungry soul. This response to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit will be a strength to your own soul and an encouragement to others. It will give some evidence that there are in God’s building living stones that emit light. – Ibid
Oh, friends, I’d rather be in a little congregation with life than in a great cathedral with a thousand worshipers in a dead language droning over some formal worship. What do you say?
Now, here’s something interesting on music. This is in the book Evangelism, page 510:
Display is not religion nor sanctification. There is nothing more offensive in God’s sight than a display of instrumental music when those taking part are not consecrated, are not making melody in their hearts to the Lord.
…In some of our churches I have heard solos that were altogether unsuitable for the service of the Lord’s house. The long-drawn-out notes and the peculiar sounds common in operatic singing are not pleasing to the angels. They delight to hear the simple songs of praise sung in a natural tone. The songs in which every word is uttered clearly, in a musical tone, are the songs that they join us in singing. – Evangelism, pg. 510
Paul says, “I will sing with the spirit and with the understanding.” Now, he’s talking about his own understanding, but I think we ought to take in the understanding of the audience, too, when we speak and when we sing. What do you say, friends? Yes.
Ceremonies become multitudinous and extravagant as the vital principles of the kingdom of God are lost. – Ibid, pg. 511
Form and ceremony do not constitute the kingdom of God. – Ibid
How many times do we have to pray to God and ask Him to be with us in a service before we’ll think that the message got through? I’m not here to prescribe a form of worship. I’m dealing with some winds. And winds have an influence. I challenge you to study the experience and the spirit of the early church and the early Advent movement. We want to get back to Pentecost, don’t we? We want to get back to the power of the Advent movement when God was filling and thrilling the hearts of His people with the visitations of His Spirit.
Let me share with you another interesting statement from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 523:
Love to God is the very foundation of religion. To engage in His service merely from hope of reward or fear of punishment would avail nothing. Open apostasy would not be more offensive to God than hypocrisy and mere formal worship. – Patriarchs and Prophets, pg. 523
You see the difference between formal worship and the kind that we’re all wanting to enter is that, in God’s plan of worship, what is moving everything and everybody? Love. And the other? It’s that way because it’s frozen. The form goes right along.
In the book Gospel workers, page 177, I read:
High-flown language is inappropriate in prayer, whether the petition be offered in the pulpit, in the family circle, or in secret. Especially should the one offering public prayer use simple language, that others may understand what is said and unite with the petition. – Gospel Workers, pg. 177
Prayers offered in public should be short and to the point. – Ibid, pg. 175
May I tell you something interesting? (This really happened.) Many years ago, an evangelist was holding a large meeting in the city of Chicago. The man who had been asked to lead in prayer droned on and on and on. There was a young medical student who was clear in the back seat, and he got so weary with it that he got up to leave. But just as he did, the evangelist stepped forward and said, “Let us sing such and such a song while our brother concludes his prayer.” And the young medical student was so impressed with it that he said, “I’ll stay to hear that man.”
And he did. The evangelist was Moody. The young medical student was Grenfell, who became the great missionary to Labrador. That meeting changed the course of his life. It was because somebody had enough of the unceremonial and the informal to break into a frozen thing that was just running on and on and on.
Brethren, when you pray, pray short and to the point, this says. May I impress your hearts with it? I read it here out of the book. There are some men that I love to hear pray because I know they’re in touch with God. Oh, God help us to get to the fire of Pentecost. What do you say? Thank the Lord, friends.
All should have something to say for the Lord, for by so doing they will be blest…The remnant are to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony. Some expect to overcome alone by the blood of the Lamb, without making any special effort of their own. I saw that God has been merciful in giving us the power of speech. He has given us a tongue, and we are accountable to Him for its use. – Early Writings, pg. 114
Read the whole chapter. Now, I’m sure that the icy winds of formalism are something that, today, we’d like to get away from. They are blowing, friends. But the way to keep from being frozen is to keep warm with the love of God and to keep active. A man out in a blinding blizzard can keep alive if he’ll keep active, right? If he yields to the tendency to just ‘be comfortable,’ God pity him.
And so, my dear friends, let us, every chance we have, let us ask God to help us express His praise and our love for Him, and make Him happy.
Now dear people, remember this: the answer is not in substituting one kind of formalism for another. The thing which we’ve read here that is lacking in formal worship is the love of God. But rigid, frigid forms tend to discourage the individual response and the individual participation. Therefore, we need, first of all, to seek God in our own closet for a real experience, and then we need to come to Sabbath school and church and prayer meeting and every other meeting, to share, each in our own way, what God has given us in an individual experience with Him. Do you see?
This is the life of the Christian religion – Jesus dwelling in the heart of each one.
In next week’s study, we will be looking at another wind: “The Burning Wind of Fanatacism” – Invite a friend, and we’ll see you then…
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* This study has been adapted from classes taken by Elder W.D. Frazee.