Well, good evening. It is indeed a delight to be here. And I do bring you greeting from the African Christian University in Lusaka, Zambia, and from the Kabwata Baptist Church from my brother and friend and yours, Conrad Mbewe, who actually was here and is on his way back that direction. From my family, my dear wife Bridgette of 30 years in a row as of this June, and our nine children. Seven of them are with us there in Lusaka, and the other two, two oldest children are here, and our first two grandchildren are also here in the US, which is arguably the most difficult thing about being that far away.
But we’ve been there for four years now, and people ask us if we are fully adjusted. No. No, we are not. I don’t know that we will ever be fully adjusted, but we are fully committed and fully delighted to be where the Lord has us and to be a part of the work that the Lord is doing there. Please pray for us, as exciting things are happening at ACU. We’ve just completed the fourth year at the university; and Lord willing, next year we will have our first graduates. So, yeah, these are exciting times, and challenging times as well.
Well, my assignment tonight is to address the issue of the sufficiency of Scripture, but in the context of the pragmatism of our age, the pragmatism of our day. And lest you think that pragmatism is something out there, I want you to understand that pragmatism is very much something in here. It is the air we breathe. It is our default philosophy.
What I’d like to do is sort of define pragmatism for you, because we kind of think we understand what it is. I want to give you a couple of definitions, one more simplistic, practical definition, and then a little more detailed technical definition. Then I want to look at how pragmatism has influenced and impacted the way we live in general and bring that all the way to the way we live, in particular, and apply it to one aspect of our theological life, and that is our worship, and we’ll look at a particular passage of Scripture that does that. And I will apologize already to Jay Flowers, because that particular passage of Scripture is not the one that I told him I would be dealing with tonight; but I’m already up here.
Pragmatism, a simple definition. At its simplest, pragmatism is this: Something is true only insofar as it works. Something is true only insofar as it works. If it works, then it’s true. Philosophically this is the idea similar to something that we would say: “The end justifies the means.”
In general terms, pragmatism asserts that any theory that proves itself more successful in predicting and controlling our world than its rivals can be considered to be nearer to truth. If it predicts and controls our world better than its rivals, then it is nearer the truth. Pragmatism would not argue for absolute truth, for objective truth, because for there to be absolute and object truth, there has to be a truth giver out there to whom we must all submit. But pragmatism doesn’t operate that way, it doesn’t see truth that way, and it doesn’t find truth that way.
A more technical definition from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that very broadly understands knowing the world as inseparable from agency within it. So it is very experiential. Did you see how that would be problematic for us in our biblical worldview, where knowing the world is not contingent upon our agency in it, but our relationship with the God who made it?
But pragmatism does not share that assumption. Its general idea has attracted a remarkably rich and, at times, contrary range of interpretations, including, first, that all philosophical concepts should be tested via scientific experimentation. What about our philosophical concept, that there is one God who created all things. Riddle me that batman. How do you test that one by scientific experimentation? Well, you don’t, so you dismiss it out of hand as a pragmatist. Or, the idea that a claim is true if and only if it is useful; or relatedly, if a philosophical theory does not contribute directly to social progress, then it is not worth much.
It has to contribute to social progress. And I know the question that you’re asking: “Who determines how we define social progress?” For example, today social progress is same-sex marriage, social progress is that LGBTQAI-plus-plus-plus movement. And I’m not even making that up, by the way. But that’s considered social progress.
Today social progress is one of the greatest male athletes in the history of the Olympics saying, “Not a male.” Bruce Jenner, Gold Medal Decathlon. Here’s what I’m wondering: Did a woman win the decathlon? Think about that. If Bruce Jenner is a woman and has always been a woman, then that would mean we’d have to say that a woman won the decathlon. But if Bruce Jenner hasn’t always been a woman and a man won a decathlon, how do we justify the idea that Bruce Jenner now actually is a woman? Just asking.
So, these are the ideas of pragmatism. It’s very experiential, it’s very existential what is true. What is true is that which works. Closely related to this is the idea of pragmatic utilitarianism, which is not exactly the same. But pragmatic utilitarianism is the idea that something is best from an ethical perspective when it does the most good for the most people.
Some names associated with pragmatism – and pragmatism is very much homegrown. It is the American philosophy founded in the late 19th and early 20th century by pioneers like William James. And if you don’t know his name, you know the name John Dewey. John Dewey is one of the founders of modern American education, and modern American education is built on the philosophy of pragmatism.
Gone are the classics and the idea that the humanities serve as the greatest foundation upon which the education of the next generation can be built. It has been replaced by the idea that education is practical, pragmatic, and vocational in nature, that students are just cogs in a machine, who are there to be prepared for jobs outside of school, not individuals made in the image of God who are there to be shaped and molded as thinkers. But how does this manifest itself? Well, it manifests itself in a number of ways; I want to talk about a couple of them, not just education, but how about also the area of politics.
Politics has become increasingly pragmatic. How do we determine the best candidates? Have you seen a voter guide? You get a voter guide. And so, down one side will be the names of all the candidates, and across the top will be ten or so issues. That’s why, right, we reduced the whole thing to just a few issues. And, men, we will say how the person voted on a particular issue, not necessarily their philosophical position or why they voted the way they did on a particular issue. It’s just, “Here’s what you need to know.” It’s a very pragmatic approach to politics.
Identity politics is another application of pragmatism. We want to know how a candidate fairs in relation to particular groups of people. And so, this group of people hold these particular issues in high esteem. How does this candidate do on the issues that are pulled out and related to this group of people, and then that group of people, and then that group of people, and so on, and so on, and so forth? And if you find yourself most pleasing to the largest number of people, congratulations, you’re elected. This is pure pragmatism, pure pragmatism.
What about the way we do church? There are a number of ways that pragmatism has infiltrated and, I would argue, infected the way we understand the church, the way we understand God, and the way we understand the Christian faith. Let me give you a couple in particular.
One is evangelism. We’ve become incredibly pragmatic as it relates to evangelism. What is true, what is right in terms of evangelism? Whatever gets the greatest number of people to respond.
Here’s an article about a former firefighter here in Southern California who now uses a fire engine as an evangelism tool. It’s a 1976 fire engine that he takes around to different events. He says, and I quote, “Police departments have given us favor, and all have supported our ministry and allowed us to park on main streets and share the good news. The attention derived by the fire engine and the barriers that come down due to most people trusting firemen has quickened our ability to deliver the gospel to families.”
It’s right because it works. And when you talk to a pragmatist about methodologies like this, and when you say to the pragmatists, “Hold on, let’s open our Bibles and try to determine whether or not this fits within the context and confine of what God says about evangelism,” the response is usually, “Why are you trying to put God in a box? We’re reaching people. Are you actually arguing against our methodologies that are reaching people? Do you know how many people have made decisions? Do you know how many people have been baptized, and you’re against our methodology?”
And oftentimes, because these methodologies are so successful – and if you’re listening right now and not watching me, there’s air quotes. And oftentimes, they’re far more successful than other more conventional methods. And so, here’s one rebuttal that I’ve heard: “Well, I’ll tell you what; I’ll take our way of reaching people over your way of not reaching people every day, because we’re reaching people.” Pure, unadulterated pragmatism.
And for the most part, we have little idea how to combat this or even argue against it. In fact, if we’re honest, some of you might be sitting there right now going, “Well, I don’t know that I see anything wrong with that.” We’ll talk later. But that’s not what I want to really get to. I want to look at this particular issue, this issue of worship, because I would argue that our worship is the area where pragmatism rears its ugly head the most.
When it comes to our worship, we tend to be very pragmatic, and we tend to fall into one of a few categories. There are those who gather together for worship, and their goal – and remember, pragmatism: How do we determine the truth of a thing? By whether or not it works. So when it comes to worship, you have to ask yourself, “What are we trying to do?” before you can answer the question, “Does it work?” And for some people, the goal is appeasement. We gather together to appease God. This would be sort of a Roman Catholic view, if you will, that, “When we gather together we are dispensing grace, we are dealing with our sin problems, and we are appeasing God.”
Others gather not for appeasement, but for manipulation. This would be more the charismatic approach to worship: “When we gather and worship, our desire is to get God’s attention so that we can move His hand. We have to work ourselves into a particular kind of frenzy so that the glory and the power can fall; and when the glory and the power falls, then we can extract from God the things that we want and need from God. Victory is in your praise. Healing and salvation is in your praise. It’s in your praise, it’s in your praise,” – not in Christ.
By the way, I’m quoting a very popular gospel song right now; some of you know exactly what I’m doing, right? “It’s in your praise. When praises go up,” – huh? – “blessings come down,” right? This is the manipulative view of worship.
So, there’s the appeasement view and the manipulative view. And for most of us, that’s not where we find ourselves. Most of us, we’re struggling with pragmatism in our worship, find ourselves in this last category, and that is the cathartic view: worship as catharsis, and emotional catharsis. We need an experience, we need an encounter. What does this look like? On more than one occasion and most – all of the pastors I know who are committed to sound, biblical, theological ministry have had this experience.
There are several experiences that as pastors break our hearts. I mean, they break our hearts. That experience when that couple comes in to you, and their bags are already packed. They’ve been having trouble for months, if not years, but they never said anything until it was too late – breaks your heart.
But there are other things that they don’t just break your heart, there are some things that make you glad you’re saved, because if you weren’t – I’m not even going to – y’all don’t know me well enough for me to – okay. But there’s some things you are like, “I’m glad I’m a Christian.”
I’m glad God’s got ahold of my heart right now, because there are things that I would like to do that I’m not going to, and one of them is this: When someone says, “Pastor, we love the teaching at this church. I mean, we’ve never in our lives been around teaching like the teaching at this church. Our lives have been enriched, we have grown so much under the teaching at this church. The music is just a little different than what we’re used to.” Here’s what doesn’t follow: “But because the teaching is important, we’re going” – no-no-no-no-no-no-no. “So we’ve decided that we’re going to go to another church.” Wait; what? And what they mean is, “We just don’t experience the emotional catharsis that we’re looking for here.”
It’s pragmatism, it’s pragmatism, and it’s because the goal is wrong, the starting point is wrong, what you’re aiming at is wrong. And pragmatism is not just wrong, pragmatism is dangerous. And there’s a passage of Scripture found in 2 Samuel chapter 6 that I think explains, expresses, and demonstrates the danger of pragmatism.
When it comes to the way that we approach worship, there are a couple of historical ideas that we have about worship. Coming out of the Reformation there were two main ideas. There was a Lutheran/Anglican idea that was called the normative principle. And the normative principle of worship basically said that in our worship – and think about this. We’re coming out of the Reformation. We understand worship from a Roman Catholic perspective, and we understand that theologically that’s wrong, it’s inappropriate. That’s not what we’re doing in worship. But what do we do? What do we let go of and what do we keep? Well, from the Lutheran/Anglican perspective, the idea was in worship, we do those things that God prescribes in His Word plus anything that is not expressly prohibited. That’s the Lutheran/Anglican idea.
The Puritan idea was known as the regulative principle, and the regulative principle states that we can and must only incorporate in our worship those things that are expressly prescribed in Scripture and nothing else, nothing else. Sam Waldon has illustrated it this way: “It’s as though Mr. Anglican and Mr. Puritan were going to build a building for God. And Mr. Puritan says, ‘God has given us very specific blueprints, and we’re going to build the building exactly as God’s blueprint outlines it,’ and the Anglican says, ‘We’re going to use that blueprint, but we’re going to put our own spin on it.’ The two will not build the same building. But that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing is that one of those buildings is not going to please God.”
I told you we just celebrated our 30th anniversary. Let me illustrate it for you this way – shared this with the students on Monday at the university. But imagine this. Imagine that the 30-year anniversary is coming up, and Bridgette and I are celebrating our 30th anniversary, and this is huge, it’s huge, it’s huge. I mean, you don’t understand, folks, this is huge. My wife and I, last two generations, both sides of our families: 25 marriages, 22 divorces. We have made 30 years in a row; it’s big stuff, okay.
And so, imagine 30th anniversary, and I’m going to give my wife a gift for our 30th anniversary. First of all, 30th anniversary, you don’t give a gift, you give multiple gifts – for those of you who are wondering. When you get there, just hold on to that.
And so, there’s going to be these multiple gifts. And there’s a couple of ways that I can choose the gifts. One of the ways that I can choose the gift is, I can get a Ph.D. in my wifeology, and learn her and watch her and question her and listen to her and see what she likes and what makes her tick, and try to figure that out, and then get a number of gifts. One gift that’s a sure thing: “I see this, I know you like this,” and another gift that says, “I’ve investigated and asked some folks, and they pointed me in this direction,” and another gift that says, “Both of those could have been wrong, so there’s that.” And so, you give her those gifts.
Or, there’s another way. I could say, “You know, I really like watches.” And I do. I really like watches. They don’t necessarily have to be expensive watches; sometimes just a watch with a story. But I just – I like watches. I mean, watches – I’m passionate about watches. Passionate about watches, I’m passionate about Bridgette; I’ll get Bridgette a watch. What? You don’t even have to be married to know that’s wrong, right?
Listen to me. That’s the difference between regulative and normative worship. Normative worship says, “This pleases me, I will give it to God as worship.” Or worse yet, “This pleases lost people, so we will give it to God as worship,” whereas regulative worship says, “I will look and investigate and listen and hear exactly what God says. He delights in worship, and I will give Him that, because my starting point in worship is not man and what satisfies him, but God and what satisfies Him.” And again, I said this is not just wrong, but it’s dangerous, it’s dangerous. That’s why we’re in 2 Samuel chapter 6 where we see the danger of responding to God in ways that do not accord with His specific instructions for worship.
Now a couple of things here. We know that in 2 Samuel chapter 6, this is the story when the ark is coming back to the city of David after David has been anointed as king. And the ark is on a cart, and Uzzah is behind the ark, and the ox stumbles, and Uzzah, who loves the Lord, who loves Israel, who loves David, who loves the ark, and who is sincere, reaches out and touches the ark; and God kills him. There’s pragmatism for you. He saw a problem, he had good intentions, and he tried to address the problem.
But I want to suggest something else. I want to suggest that 2 Samuel chapter 6 is not about Uzzah’s pragmatism, but about David’s, and I’m going to make that argument based on a couple of things. First of all, if you look at this text, Uzzah’s name appears in this chapter five times; two are those times are referring to what God did to Uzzah. David’s name in those first fifteen verses appears eleven times – eleven times compared to five. And by the way, two of the five are referring to what God does to Uzzah.
So, I think it’s important for us to learn about the danger of Uzzah’s pragmatism, but I think it’s more important for us to learn from David’s pragmatism. The first thing we learn about this is that pragmatism is not based on our hearts being turned away from God. David is a man after God’s own heart and he’s wrong here.
In chapter 5, he listens to God and he obeys God, and he defeats the Philistines not once, but twice, which is why we read in the last verse of chapter 5, “And David did as the Lord commanded him, and struck down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.” He obeyed God. He came before the Lord to find out whether or not he should go out after the Philistines. The first time, the Lord said, “Yes.” Second time, He said, “No, don’t go face them directly, go around the rear, wait for the sign, and you’ll defeat them,” and he defeated them twice.
So before we get to chapter 6, David has been anointed as king. He is the warrior king. He came to the attention of the people as a young man who was a warrior who defeated this giant, Goliath, and now he becomes the king; and immediately he’s a warrior king who is going to war on behalf of the God whom he loves and the people whom he loves and represents. So his pragmatism is not a byproduct of his heart being turned away from God.
Why is that important? It’s important because that’s how we get lulled into pragmatism. This guy who’s using the firetruck, he’s not using the firetruck because he’s a reprobate who hates the Lord; he loves God and wants to see people saved. But his starting point is wrong. The Scriptures are not sufficient in his mind for evangelism. And I’m going to argue here that the Scripture’s not sufficient to David for this particular act of worship.
Verse 1: “David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.” That’s a lot of people. It’s going to be a huge procession, thirty thousand. It’s a military procession. “And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah, to bring up from there the ark of God which is called by the name of the Lord of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim. And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart, with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.” Now we’ll talk more specifically about this later.
But, “carrying the ark on a new cart,” – not the directions that they got from the Levitical code. Where do we see this? Do you remember when the Philistines took the ark and it didn’t go well with them? And the Philistines said, “We need to get this thing out of here. What do we do?” They put it on a new cart and sent it away; and it worked. It worked. The ark got back where it was supposed to go, and all the bad stuff stopped happening to the Philistines. Therefore, from a pragmatic perspective, putting the ark on a new cart and sending it out worked.
But was it prescribed? No, it wasn’t. So David is already wrong. He’s already leading Israel astray; and I’m going to argue that Uzzah’s pragmatic failure that cost him his life was a direct result of David’s pragmatic failure as king, because the goal was not just to get the ark into the place that was built for it. The goal was not just to get the ark into the city of David. The goal was to do it in accordance with God’s command.
Verse 5: “And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord.” There’s the other thing. His heart’s turned toward God, and he’s passionate about God. Pragmatism, it’s not indicative of a lack of passion.
“They were celebrating before the Lord with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.” How natural is that? There is a procession. David is the new king, and the new king comes down and says, “We’re going to take the ark.”
And understand, the ark – this is a picture of the presence of God. God sits enthroned here – Israel’s God who is going to be in the midst of Israel’s city, who is going to protect Israel, who is going to commune with Israel. “David is coming to our place to take the ark, and me and my brother are going to lead it all the way. Greatest day of my life. I love the Lord. I love my nation Israel. I love my new king. And I’m following behind; and the music is going, and we are glorifying and honoring our God; and the ox stumbles, and the ark looks like it’s going to fall. I cannot let the ark fall.” Natural. Not malicious, but strictly forbidden. And God doesn’t say, “Oh, your heart was in the right place.” He dies.
Look at the response – or look what it has in verse 7: “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah. God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark.” This is instant. And then look at David’s response.
Now what should David’s response be? If he’s not thinking pragmatically here, if he’s not thinking that this should have been okay, his response should have been immediately to recognize his sin, immediately to recognize his error and to fall on his face in repentance. But the pragmatist David does not do that. “David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah.” God was angry because Uzzah violated the law; David was angry because God was just.
“That place is called Perez-uzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day.” He’s angry, he’s afraid. This is a man after God’s own heart. This is the psalmist. He’s angry at God and he’s afraid of God. “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?”
Think about that question: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” “You didn’t do things the right way. This man died because you didn’t do things the right way. And now instead of recognizing your sin and your pragmatism and going back to the law of God and doing what God says the way He says do it, you sit there and you say, ‘I just can’t – if this wasn’t enough, what do we do?’”
Verse 10: “So David was not willing to take the ark of the Lord into the city of David.” See those three responses? He’s angry, he’s afraid, and he’s not willing to take the ark. What’s the ark? Presence of God. That belongs in Jerusalem, that belongs with the people of God; and in this moment of pragmatic theology, he’s not willing to have God near. That’s how messed up he is at this moment. Essentially he’s saying, “I’m not willing. I’m not willing to have God near, not just to me, but to Israel.”
“But David took it aside to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.” Here’s what’s interesting about the rest of that verse. He took it aside, he didn’t just leave it there, which means that they moved it again. “How come you can move it there but not just move it on to Jerusalem?” “And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and all his household.”
Now come down to verse 12: “And it was told to David the king,” – boy, what I would really love to see here in verse 12 is, “And David the king realized his error. He realized his sin and he repented, and he” – we don’t see that, but that did happen.
“It was told to David, ‘The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.’ So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the city of David with rejoicing. And when those who bore the ark of the Lord had gone six steps, he sacrificed and ox and a fattened animal. And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”
Now in order to understand this rightly – and we’ll look at this. We’ll read this, and then conclude this with some final thoughts. Go to 1 Chronicles 15. First Chronicles 15 puts a finer point on the matter; because you might think because you hear that, right, they came back and they got the ark and they’re taking the ark, and they took six steps and then they sacrificed. Well, maybe God responded because they were more sincere. Maybe He responded because they were more contrite, right? Maybe that’s what brought success. Maybe there was the appeasement model, right? They appeased the Lord. Or maybe there was this manipulation model, right: “Praises went up right this time, so the blessings came down right this time.” Maybe there were those models.
No. In 1 Chronicles 15, we understand exactly what happened. Verse 1: “David built houses for himself in the city of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said that no one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the Lord had chosen them to carry the ark of the Lord and to minister to Him forever. And David assembled Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which he had prepared for it. And David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites.”
Go down to verse 11: “Then David summoned the priests Zadok and Abiathar, and the Levites Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel, and Amminadab, and said to them, ‘You are the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites. Consecrate yourselves, you and your brothers, so that you may bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel, to the place that I have prepared for it. Because you did not carry it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not seek Him according to the rule – not because we weren’t sorry enough, not because we weren’t loud enough, not because we weren’t emotional enough, but because we did not obey the rule. He told us specifically how to do this.” Verse 14: “So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord, the God of Israel. And the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord,” because His Word is sufficient.
Now what do we do with this? In the last moments that I have left, there’s a couple of things. Here’s number one. Our worship must be offered in accordance with God’s dictates. Our worship must be offered in accordance with God’s dictates.
Here’s what you don’t hear me saying. You don’t hear me saying that our passion for God doesn’t matter. You don’t hear me saying that we should be wooden, legalistic, rule-oriented. No. You don’t hear me saying that. But what governs us is the Word of God. The Word of God is sufficient, it’s sufficient. That’s where we start. I love Bruce Leafblad’s definition of worship: “True worship happens when we set our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on the Lord, praising Him for who He is and for what He has done.”
Our worship is Word-oriented. It has to be Word-oriented. It must have happen in accordance with His dictates. How do we know those dictates? We know those dictates from His sufficient Word. It must be Word-oriented.
The Bible is what guides us, that’s the difference. Notice this, because when you put these two passages together, David didn’t lose his passion. In fact, if you go back to the 2 Samuel passage, in the 2 Samuel passage, look at verses 14 and 15, 2 Samuel 6, 14 and 15: “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.” One of his wives is going to get upset about this. Remember that? “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the horn.”
So you don’t hear me saying that. Don’t hear me say, “Well, see. See, the first time they were just emotional. We can’t be emotional.” No! We are emotional people. God created us to be emotional people. Don’t give me that, “You know, I’m just not – no, not me. I’m just not an emotional person.” Yes, you are! “No, no, no, no, I’m really not. I’m just not an emotional person.” You’re a liar.
That’s something that I do. I might be wrong for it, it might just be a terrible thing to do. But when people tell me that, “I’m just not an emotional person,” I just look at them and I say, “You’re a liar.” Why do I do that? So they can get emotional.
We are emotional people and there’s nothing wrong with it. So it’s not that David was all emotion and no truth the first time, and then he comes back the next time and he says, “Okay, what are the rules? What’s the law? Fine, no more emotion, just a bit” – no. He’s more passionate afterwards than he was before, but within the confines and according to the dictates of God Himself.
The last thing is this. Not the last thing, it’s two more things. One – this is the third thing. I’ll give you the third thing and the fourth thing and I’ll be through.
The third thing is we need to remember that there are consequences, there are consequences. Now praise God for the new covenant. Amen? Praise God for Christ who is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Praise God because Christ is our Prophet, Priest, and King, which means that unlike David, the king who couldn’t touch the ark, Jesus can touch the ark and carry the ark, because He’s not only the King, but He’s also the Priest. Amen?
But here’s the other thing. He’s not only the King and the Priest, but He’s the one who sits on the ark as well, because He’s God. And not only does He carry the ark for us, but actually now we don’t need the ark because the presence of God actually dwells in us, so we get to be the ark because of the person and work of Christ. Amen? So we won’t fall dead like Uzzah.
But that wasn’t the only consequence of pragmatism. When we have a goal other than God’s goal in worship, we set ourselves up for disappointment. What happened to David? He was angry, he was afraid, and he was unwilling. Uzzah died, but David’s fellowship with God was compromised.
I’ve been there. I’ve been the pragmatic preacher who viewed success or failure of the sermon by the number of people who responded. And if not enough people respond, then you get angry, right? You get emotional. And you can even become more manipulative and move further away from the truth because your goal is wrong, your goal is wrong.
Here’s the last truth: Remember that in worship our goal is God, period, full stop. Our goal is God. Our goal is communion with God. Our goal in worship is not lost people; that’s not our goal in worship. Our goal in worship is God. Do we want to evangelize? Amen, hallelujah, praise the Lord all day, every day, twice on Sunday; yes, we do. But our goal in worship is God. Our goal in evangelism is God.
My goal in evangelism is not the lost person, my goal in evangelism is the one who died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us back to God. My goal in evangelism is that Christ might indeed have the fullness of the reward for which He died. So even in my evangelism, God is my goal. And so, if we are to measure the success of our worship, we measure whether or not we’ve communed with God in accordance with the Word of God, for the purpose of glorifying God because He’s God. And for that, His Word is sufficient. Let’s pray.
Gracious God our heavenly Father, we bow before You in humble adoration with gratitude in our hearts, grateful to You for the privilege of gathering before You in Your presence and among Your people, grateful for the privilege of setting our mind’s attention and heart’s affection on You, and for praising You for who You are and for what You’ve done, grateful for the privilege of opening Your Word and meeting You therein, grateful for the privilege of being conformed to the image of Christ as we commune with You, grateful for the privilege of having our hearts exposed and cleansed and healed, grateful to You for Your preservation and presentation of unbridled truth, wherein we see not only the successes but the failure of our forebearers like David, and are reminded that apart from Christ we all fall short; grateful to You for reminding us that we have a Prophet and Priest and King who is completely and utterly sufficient, and through whom and because of whom we can come into Your presence with exceeding great joy.
Grant by Your grace that we might continue to be reminded of this. And as we continue to be reminded of it, that we might continue to walk in it, that we might continue to be conformed to the image of Your Son, that we might continue to worship You in Spirit and in truth, until that day when time is no more and our worship is finally presented perfect and without end. We ask all these things in the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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