A Prescribed Form of Holiness

I visited in an evangelical (charismatic-type) church one Sunday morning where the focus was definitely on JOY.  Being enthused.  “Raise your arms high and praise the Lord because Christians are happy people.”  They are Up & Doing people.

Looking around me and observing various actions, I could see that a person might be tempted to seek attention by his actions during praise-worship.  A person could be tempted to act or sound “moved by the Spirit” for peer approval.  I left it to God to judge the sincerity of their expressions; He loves it when His people “worship Him in spirit and in truth.” John 4:24

It has been said that sheep can’t drink from splashing, frothing water.  The Lord’s sheep can’t really feed, either, where there’s a lot of commotion.  When I was a girl I attended a nearby church where members of the congregation would stand up at any time during the service and shout “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord” if they heard something profound.

I’ll leave their motives to God, but I found this very distracting.  it was hard to concentrate and feed on the message.  And since no one ever talked to me –a shy, stray neighbor child– after the service was over, I never got to ask about this form of praise.  (I’m thinking that in God’s Book a sincere expression of interest or concern for others beats a loud “Praise the Lord” any day.)

Folks who aren’t the enthusiastic, up & doing type may get dragged along –or pushed along– trying to be joyful because this is what Christians must be.  For some folks it could end up being a lot of self-propelled joy instead of genuine Spirit-led praise.  You can end up a slave to acting joyful.  (And maybe everyone ends up wishing for someone to really CARE about them.)

Amongst some Christians, joy and enthusiasm are not the primary words.  Rather, humility and “a meek and quiet spirit” are the emphasized virtues.  People who are by nature exuberant are encouraged (maybe not verbally as much as by peer pressure) to “Hush it.  Don’t boast of experiences.  Let other people talk.”

There’s merit in that thought, too.  Sometimes enthusiasm gets pushy.  The quiet ones feel trampled; the “talkers” are rattling away and it seems their thoughts don’t count.  And in a crowd of “meek & humbles” those who are by nature exuberant Up & Doers can feel suppressed or criticized.  Worse, when the Lord does give someone like this a thought to share, they keep silent for fear of censure.  The fear of man takes over; Bible studies and Sunday School discussions are lifeless.  You can end up a slave to acting humble.

Other groups may point to another of the spiritual fruits that’s the KEY to Christian living.  Perhaps it’s patience or temperance.  Some groups have a ban on laughter because the Bible talks about “the laughter of fools.”

Perhaps gentleness.  Everyone should talk softly–nothing “loud”.  (I met a lady like that once; her talking and laughing were all well-moderated.)  Even healthy eating.  The Bible says we should be temperate in all things, but a person can end up a slave to acting “temperate in all things” in order to fit into a certain group.

As I watched folks raising their arms and praising the Lord that morning, it struck me that the key is FREEDOM.  Jesus came to set us free, not to make us slaves to a self-prescribed form of holiness.  Am I — are you — free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?  As He prompts us, can we be silent or share the thoughts He gives us?  Lift up our voices and praise Him, quietly pray, or weep with those that weep?

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”  Ecclesiastes 3:1-7

“Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4.

I may feel people need to liven up, tone it down, laugh more, sober up, etc.  But God knows the heart of each one.  He knows if we are living in the freedom of the Spirit or the bondage of peer pressure.  My brothers & sisters may express a concern and help me along if they feel I’m just “acting holy” but ultimately God will be my Judge.  And there’s no pretense with Him.

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6 thoughts on “A Prescribed Form of Holiness

  1. Excellent post. You start out by pointing out a flaw in a particular worship style. Then you point out how this exact same flaw could exist in an opposing worship style. Back on August 22, my daily devotion covered part of 1 Corinthians 14 where Paul discusses worship services and tells us that worship service should be orderly. The most important thing he says there, which relates to your post, is that everything should be done in love.

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  2. “The key is FREEDOM.” So true. And if we truly have freedom to worship and live as God directs, we’ll also be set free from judging others because we know they also have FREEDOM in their spirit to worship Him and live as He directs. We are all so unique. Yet, we believers are all one body. Each body part has a different purpose. Each worship style may reach some who wouldn’t have come to Christ in a different setting perhaps because of their personality, preferences, style, past experience, etc. God uses each and every one of us and I’m so thankful for that. A dear friend of mine who is struggling with cancer felt the need to end her most recent update e-mail to those on her prayer list with “May our Lord help us to appreciate that Body, and be active in it, according to His plan. Let us never belittle or hurt it, thru loose lips, thru calloused heart, thru apathy.” Oh, that we all would live like that. Just think of what God could do in this world through us if we truly showed love one to another. Thank you for your well written blog entry, Christine.

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  3. I’ll add one thought on the idea of judging. The Word judges sin. When the Bible says it’s wrong, it’s wrong; we can take our stand on that. And Paul says to beware, for false teachers will creep in and we need to “try the spirits, whether they be of God.” Sad to say, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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    • Good post Christine – extremes on either side can be detrimental to someone (we’re told not to be a “stumbling block”).
      And I say “Amen!” to your comment above. I cringe at times when I hear “Judge not, lest ye be judged” as I wait to hear how it’s being used. I think I understand the verse and know that it doesn’t negate what you mentioned – If the Bible says it’s a sin, it’s a sin.

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