Obedience brings blessings, but sometimes we are unable to receive them.
Psalms 149 and 150 both say to praise the Lord with the timbrel and dance. This is not a cheeky suggestion from a Bible college sophomore; it is a Holy Spirit-inspired picture of exuberant worship, and it is a command. It is a command that we must sing as we sing the Psalms — a thing we are also commanded to do. Ought we then to dance before the Lord?
Well, yes. If we must sing the command to dance, then surely we ought also to dance. If there is “a time to mourn and a time to dance,” then there is a time to dance. Obviously not every day and every occasion, but there will be times when dancing is appropriate, and when it is, we ought to do it.
If we were equipped to obey that command today, then dancing before the Lord would be a blessing to us all.
But in the overwhelming majority of North American churches, we aren’t equipped. If we all got up and tried to dance in church today, it would most definitely not be a blessing. Some of us wouldn’t have a clue what to do. Some of us have done all our dancing in nightclubs, and would bring a form of dance that’s not really well suited for worship. Some of us would be rightly scandalized by dance moves better suited to the bedroom than the house of God. Some of us would be wrongly scandalized that there was dance at all. Some of us who actually have talent would be badly scandalized by the well-meaning antics of those of us who don’t. It would be an utter disaster. Whatever “praise His name with the dance” means, surely that is not it; “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.”
So to sum up: there’s a biblical command to obey, and we are falling woefully short of it. We ought to obey, and yet we dare not; making the attempt would produce utter chaos — and there are also commands against that. Our pietistic, individualistic upbringing in the faith tells us that God’s commands, once understood, must be immediately obeyed. And yet this is clearly impossible in this case. What are we to do? How are we to think about such a situation?
What we have before us is the result of a long, long disobedience. Once upon a time, Our People knew how to dance before the Lord. By the Red Sea, Miriam and the women went out with timbrels and dances. David danced before the ark. Today, we’ve lost touch with the ability to praise the Lord with the dance. At some point in our history, we decided that it wasn’t that important, and a generation that knew how didn’t pass it on to the next generation. It’s not just about dancing, either. We’ve been worshiping God with our brains alone for so long that we’ve forgotten how to kneel, raise our hands, bow down, and so on — all things that the Psalms also talk about doing. Now we’re so far removed from obedience that the very idea of dancing or other physical action before the Lord — an obviously biblical idea — seems so strange to us that we don’t know where to start.
But this is exactly what happens with long disobedience. What you do shapes how you think, until the habit is so ingrained that doing it another way — in this case, an obedient way — is unthinkable. We have been neglecting our bodies’ role in worship for so long that our disobedience has warped us. We’re so far gone that we are unable to receive the life-giving blessings of obedience as blessings, which is to say that the wages of sin is death.
The solution? Simple, but not easy. We start heading back the right direction. Maybe we can’t dance in church this week. Or next. Or next year. Maybe the first step is a cautious lesson on Exodus 15. Maybe that’s too much; maybe a cautious lesson on kneeling, from Psalm 95. Maybe it’s the worship leader inviting people to lift their hands during one part of one song. I don’t know what it would be in your church. But whatever it is, we need to start moving back in the direction of obedience.
As we move wisely, and God blesses our efforts, we will begin to experience the first glimmerings of the blessings of obedience. With that encouragement, we will need to continue, and just be faithful to do the next thing, as God gives opportunity. The project may take a year, or a decade. Maybe a century — but so what? The goal is to be as faithful as Providence permits in the situation Providence has placed us in.
Meanwhile, we ought not to be surprised that we have unmet needs.
This is not punishment; it’s not God being vindictive. God made our lives rich and multifaceted, and made us to need His grace and provision in every last facet of our lives. To that end, He makes us aware of our needs, and He fulfills those needs. He does this through means — and different means for different needs. We need to talk with Him, and He has given us prayer as a means of grace in that area. We need to eat, and “He has caused vegetation to grow for the service of man, that he may bring forth food from the earth.” But when you need to talk to God, eating a potato doesn’t meet that need; likewise, when you need physical nourishment, praying does little to ease the ache in your stomach. When we cut ourselves off from God’s grace dispensed through a particular means, we are cutting off an area of our life from His blessing.
So when we neglect the commands having to do with using our bodies in worship, we are refusing to receive grace in a particular area of our lives. That area will suffer, because God is trying to give us something good, and we won’t take it.
But then you’re thinking, “I never kneel in worship, and I certainly never dance! But I’m doing fine.”
No. No, you’re not. You’re willfully falling short of something God explicitly says to do; in what universe is that going to be okay? This dynamic — thinking you’re okay although disobedient — is what it means to be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and it’s another consequence of long disobedience. Let this go for a while, and the Chinese proverb becomes true: “The fake becomes real; the real becomes fake.” The truncated and distorted spirituality that eventually results from refusing to say “Yes” to God’s good gifts becomes “real” spirituality in your mind. You grow accustomed to starvation in certain areas of your life, and deeply suspicious of anyone who tells you that those pangs of hunger and thirst for righteousness really could be satisfied. The real thing becomes “fake” to you; you don’t believe it anymore. At best, this leads to a needlessly painful and truncated life; at worst, to abandoning the faith because it doesn’t work.
Again, the solution is simple, but not easy: obey. We obey to the best of our ability, paltry as it may be, incrementally if necessary, as wisely as we can. We look forward to the blessings of obedience, and to becoming the sort of people who can experience them as blessings. And in the meanwhile, we cry to God for mercy; it’s a prayer He delights to answer.
Why do you judge people Tim? You’re told not to:
Colossians 2:16-18 16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. 18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and how angels worship God, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind . . .
Festivals, include dancing. You have just told everyone they are sinning and disobedient if they do not dance.
Do you really think that is the nature of the imperative in these Psalms?
I have said that when we do not dance, we fall short of the biblical picture of worship, including two commands in the Psalms. That’s my claim. Do you dispute it?
I have not said that we will never attain a meaningful measure of sanctification unless we dance. I have not said that God will not accept our worship if we do not dance. I have not said that people who do not dance are second-class Christians. In short, I have not judged people who do not dance. I have said, however, that God is seeking to give us a blessing there, and we won’t have the blessings of obedience without, well, obedience.
And in fact, I myself fall woefully short of the biblical picture of worship on this point, as you know. We’ve worshiped together many times; have you ever seen me dance? I very rarely dance in worship; I simply don’t know how. As God provides a way to remedy that shortcoming, I’ll take advantage of it. In the meantime, I know that my worship, while not all it could be, is nevertheless fully accepted because of Christ.
So that’s where I’m at. Do you think I am a legalist? Am I in sin? Am I violating Scripture?
Yes I do think you are a legalist. In reference to someone who chooses not to dance you say:
You’re willfully falling short of something God explicitly says to do; in what universe is that going to be okay? This dynamic — thinking you’re okay although disobedient — is what it means to be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and it’s another consequence of long disobedience.
You have called people sinful and disobedient if they do not dance. You are the opposite of a Independent Fundamental Baptist who says dancing is sin. You are saying not dancing is sin.You are judging people based upon how they worship and you are told not to. End of story.
Secondly, how else would the Psalmist call people to worship without an imperative? It is possible to call people to do things, without creating a law that if broken equals disobedient sin. If I say, “relax, enjoy yourself, have a cup of tea (all English imperatives)” and you simply relax, you have gotten the heart of my desire for you.
If I say “worship God, dance, sing, play the saxaphone,” and you worship you are fulfilling my desire for you no matter what you do.
Yes, you are a legalist and do not realize it.
I guess we are all sinning if we do not play the timbrel also?
Well, I appreciate your honesty, anyhow.
Okay. Let’s add nuance in three particular areas here.
First: The vision of Psalms 149 and 150 is corporate; it would be a rare person who could play all those instruments and dance too, and nobody could do them all at once. I didn’t say this right up front, and I’m sorry; it would have helped us both quite a bit. The community fulfills the commands together. Every last instrument, hand-clap and dance move does not become the responsibility of every last individual.
That isn’t a license to just blow it off. The picture of worship there presented is still something we are invited to be part of, with blessings that attend a positive response to God’s invitation. We could quibble back and forth about the precise nature of the imperative, but let’s just go with ‘Invitation’ rather than ‘Do It Now Or Else’ (which is what you’re arguing for, correct?). Even then, that doesn’t make it okay for us as a community to simply decide, “No thanks, Yahweh, we’ll just worship You however we want.” Didn’t work out well for Cain, the guys with the golden calf, Nadab, Abihu, Jeroboam and his golden calves…I could go on. However, that’s not the whole story either. There’s also David with the showbread, Namaan in the house of Rimmon, Hezekiah’s unclean Passover celebrants. God looks on the heart. A heart that, taking one thing with another, is seeking to serve Him in the best way presently possible — God blesses that. But a heart that simply prefers to blow off God’s expressed desires is not what He’s looking for, not in an individual and not in a group, movement or generation, either.
With respect to dance in particular, God has expressed a desire that the vast majority of people can fulfill. Maybe not everybody can be a harpist, but in culture after culture, through all the ages of the world, people have danced, from the highest to the lowest, youngest to oldest. We’re not talking about a concert piano; we’re talking about moving our bodies, and we all do it every day. Dance is simply not beyond our reach; we only think it is because we’ve forgotten how, and we don’t want to try to re-learn. We don’t want to accept that, contrary to our tradition, God may have given standards for our worship, and this is a heart issue that we need to address.
The third area of nuance concerns your reading of Colossians. When Paul rebuked the Corinthians regarding their conduct in eating and drinking the Lord’s Table in 1 Cor. 11:17-34, would you say he violated his own instructions in Col. 2?
Of course he didn’t, because he was dealing with willful sin in the body (such as disunity,teacher worship, adultery, etc) not HOW they practiced the supper. Completely different issue.
The fact that you compare the call to dance to Israel worshipping a golden calf shows how far you have gone with this thing…too far.
The issue with the golden calf was who or what they were worshipping not HOW.
We are called to worship God and according to Romans 14, if we do so in peace, joy and in the Holy Spirit then we are obedient (14:17-18).
You claim otherwise.
You cannot tell me “thou shalt not murder” and “dance” are similar commands. One is a command with consequences, the other is a call to give thanks out of love and worship (not the fear of disobedience). Big difference.
This isn’t a “nuance” thing. Its you reading an idea of God into the Psalms that isn’t there. He never says, “dance or be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
You are putting words in Gods mouth. Dangerous business.
By the way, I have an article on Col. 2:18 that argues my point about the “worship angels offer to God.” Very compelling. I’d hate to see you go that route and continue to judge people according to such patterns.
Also, I am not saying ignore the call to dance. Dance! But never out of fear and the threat that you are sinfully disobedient. That’s ridiculous.
The issue at hand here is what draws people to worship God? You want to draw people to dance correct? Imagine this:
A husband takes his wife to dinner when suddenly their favorite lovesong comes on.
He holds out his hand and says, “dance with me or else you are in violation of the command to love your husband. If you continue in this disobedience you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of your sin. Oh, and I’ll be nice for a while if you choose to remain disobedient, because your arrogance proboblay stems from the enlightenment. Maybe you should chant a few prayers of St. Patrick when we return home.”
This mans wife would look at him crazy.
Now imagine this:
The song comes on, the man holds out his hand and invites his wife to dance. Out of love, joy and thankfulness she rises to the ocassion.
What I am describing is grace. The call to worship is not a command that uses fear as a motivating factor. Nor does it slander us if we do not. It invites us to experience the True and Living.
You present a giant jerk in the sky who peers down through the clouds and says, “dance my pretties! You sinful disobedient children of mine! Stop your arrogance and dance for me! Muhahahhahahahaha!”
Its sad really.
Secondly, Nadab and Abihu, Cain, etc. are examples of men who brought improper sacrifice for sin.
Do we dance to atone for our sin? No. The command is completely different and if God felt otherwise you and I would have been consumed with fire by now.
You and I don’t know each other very well, and I don’t know how many lurkers there are to this discussion. However, I might well imagine a similar level of discomfort as you have felt and articulated so far. I felt it myself. But there’s another issue I’d like to get at.
I know Tim pretty well; could I ask you a personal question?
You’ve accused Tim of being a legalist; that is certainly not what I see at a deeper level.
What do you think Tim values most in this discussion?
Tim values a fuller experience of God in worship. His desire is to see people grow closer to God. He feels the church has heavily emphasized knowledge and has left out other forms of worship that involve the use of the body, etc.
To that extent, sure, he’s not a legalist . . . but he does struggle with legalistic tendancies and does not fully understand God’s grace in this area.
In an attempt to invite people to experience God in worship, he has called others “sinners” for not following what he believes to be proper worship.
He has said certain traditions are disobedient, a charge that is pretty serious and uncalled for.
Some traditions do not dance because they are trying to not be “of this world.” Granted, I disagree with this view, but their are attempting to be obedient. They are just a weaker brother according to Rom. 14.
Paul tells us how to deal with that, and he does not say, “tell them they are sinning.” He actually says they have the freedom to follow their conscience and then tells us not to judge one another or split the body over this issue.
Tim compares dancing vs. not dancing to worshipping a gold calf vs. worshipping Yahweh. That, I believe is a legalistic mentality.
We all have the potential to slip into a legalistic mentality about any idea we feel strongly about.
Sadly, I believe Tim has . . . I see his point, his desire and his argument, he is simply using the wrong means to bring it about: telling everyone they are sinners.
I’ll have to admit that I’m enjoying this discussion so far. There is only one thing I’d like to add/ask at this point. I’m wondering that since Paul in the NT Epistles also gives us some injunctions concerning worship, things like singing in our hearts to the Lord & allowing the Word of Christ to dwell in us richly, & in fact I think I have those backwards, the latter should lead to the former, but my point is shouldn’t we as believers today place more weight on these NT injunctions to the church directly rather than OT ones mainly to Israel? I’m not arguing with you, just a question that came to mind. I also wouldn’t say disregard the OT ones, just to put more weight on the NT ones for us today. Thanks for your time! God Bless you.
Hi David. Some good questions.
Thanks for the feedback, Josiah. I feel some resonance there between you and Tim and appreciate your insight into what he has brought to the table.
I noticed that Tim acknowledged his failure to be “up front” with community in this whole discussion. I also noticed that even though he himself has not individually danced in worship (by his own admission) he doesn’t himself feel “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Where do you see the problem, if any, with our current model of corporate worship? My sense is that the question of “dance” only points to a deeper fundamental problem—how do you see it?
Fundamental problem with worship? Not sure really. Not sure there is an overarching problem as Tim contends. I know what I have seen and experienced, and I do not see a whole lot of issues.
I have worshipped with people who do not dance, do not play the harp, do not even have the Psalms because they do not have a translation of the OT. They worship God from the heart and it’s a joy to worship with them.
I have worshipped in traditional churches, worshipped alongside people who enjoy liturgical services, etc. and they worship God from the heart and it’s a joy to worship with them.
Differences in worship is not the issue. Trying to find some external, new form (or old) that will somehow fix everything is not the solution, nor ever will be.
People need to focus on Jesus and worship Him. We can do that in all sorts of ways.
Tim is attempting to get at some overarching problem. I’m not sure that’s the issue either. I think each church is it’s own case and may have issues because of other problems. I do not think it’s because they do not have a Sunday morning service that looks like the 2nd Temple (or the Heavenly one for that matter).
It’s all about worshipping God. If your congregation needs something else to help bring it home . . . go for it. Consider your audience. If they do not, or are afraid to, stop causing them to sin. Ultimately, we have to take it case by case, congregation by congregation, person by person, etc.
I’m not sure, either, but I know our church here is Colorado Springs has been grappling with some similar dissonance and is going through some deeper reflection on worship than we ever have before. I am the current facilitator of our leadership group and don’t sense it is at all like the “worship wars” of the 80s and 90s. It’s something deeper. Something that speaks to a different model of community in our culture and goes not only beyond individuals but also beyond individual congregations. We have been invited by several other local churches to consider sharing our facility with them, and it is obvious that we don’t have the same worship styles. How do we approach that question? Up to this point, we have been, like “My way or the highway,” but we are now starting to consider these requests at a deeper level. No answers, yet.
I’ve got one more question for you. I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on the state of the evangelical church at large in North America. I have a very strong sense that I believe is from the Spirit that is asking me—not individually but “corporately”—to think through what it would mean for the church at large to suddenly be “in exile.” Sort of like Israel at the verge of the Babylonian captivity, Jeremiah-style. If that is the case—impending “exile” (metaphorically speaking), then do we still keep our focus on individuals and individual congregations, case by case? How would you work your way through that “thought experiment”? What does it mean to worship God in exile with no temple any longer?
Oh, and I was still wondering about your response to my previous question: If Tim is not dancing, even though he “heard” the invitation, and still doesn’t feel “hardened by the deceitfulness…,” who would be the ones sinning?
We’ve been in exile and will continue to be in exile until the Millennium and I think that is part of my point. There is flexibility in worship without the Temple and outside of the Land.
Spiritual exile as a whole? If we are in exile (how can we know), I’m sure it’s not because we do not worship according to some standard. Creating, or finding that “standard” is what has led to division and other problems.
If we are in spiritual exile I’m sure it has to do with ignoring greater commands such love your neighbor, spread the gospel, give to the poor, etc. We are so wrapped up in materialism and our own agenda that we, at large, have forgotten the basics.
In other words, we are not following the heart of God’s commands but are too preoccupied with the external. Kind of like Israel ignoring widows, fatherless and poor, which led to prophetic warnings from Isaiah, etc.
We are consumed with new carpets for the sanctuary, giant worship services, and other non-essentials, at the cost of making him known throughout the world and in our own backyard.
If we are in exile, it’s because we have ignored our duty as priests to the world, not priests to ourselves. We’ve done a find job of that for 2,000 years.
Who would be the ones sinning? The one sitting in the service looking at everyone as “sinners.”
Thanks, Josiah, for you candor. I agree with the central thrust of your picture of exile and the last 2000 years. I like the figure of “priests.”
To the extent that I have come to know Tim personally, I also believe that you two are much closer than might seem on the surface. I too initially felt that Tim was advocating some kind of “standard” of worship, but I no longer believe that is the case—if what one means by “standard” is a prescriptive set of guidelines that all must follow to not be in sin. The picture of worship in ancient Israel was HIGHLY prescriptive, but they went into exile and the people of God are still in exile, as you have opined.
If I recall correctly, one of Tim’s first posts on “River Ecclesiology” had to do with Ps 137, a psalm depicting the subjective grief of Babylonian exile, and it does not have a prescriptive tone at all, it is one of sacred devotion and the desire for a return to pure joy in worship:
137:1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! 6 If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy.
I’m thinking that Pss 149 and 150 may well reflect an exile mentality as well, and anything but a rigidly prescriptive “standard.”
I’m interested along these lines in Tim’s response to David Wyatt’s question, because it speaks to the issue of whether or how we can compare our situation in the “church” to that of Israel in exile.
Thanks for weighing in; you’re always welcome here.
The attention to NT commands that you’re describing is exactly what got me to my present convictions. If you’ll pardon a little autobiography, I didn’t start out looking at the OT. I started out in exactly the passages you mentioned.
The commands that you mentioned, from Eph. 5:18-21 and Col. 3:16, will drive you straight back into the psalms — that’s how I got there. Once I began singing the Psalms, I began to notice that I was singing about things like kneeling, bowing down, dancing, and the like — things which I was not doing. So I began finding ways to accept those invitations and do them, and found that obedience was met with blessing. I presented a paper on this (again, hitting it from a NT angle) at GES in 2010. The title is “Return to Obedience” and you can find it here: https://fullcontactchristianity.org/ges/
Jim and Josiah,
Got to take K to the doctor, so more later, but real quick a bit on Ps. 137 and exile:
I believe the fifth book of the psalter is arranged in a narrative structure that starts in the land, proceeds into exile, and then asks the key question in Ps. 137: How can we sing the songs of Yahweh in a foreign land? It’s a big deal, because the instruments were invented, choristers organized, and songs written as a musical complement to the animal sacrifices. In the absence of the one, can they do the other?
Psalm 138 begins to answer the question: “I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You.” It’s a psalm of David, but he endured his own time of exile among the idol-worshipping Philistines and elsewhere; if he could praise, then so could Israel in Babylon.
139 famously continues the praise based on God’s constant presence with His own no matter where they are.
140 calls out for deliverance from the wicked — certainly still applicable in Babylon.
141 asks God to accept prayer as incense, and lifted hands as the evening ascension offering.
142 is a request to return from exile, cribbed from David.
143-44 ask for rescue from enemies and foreigners
145-46 are the crown of exhilic praise, and then…
147 has them back in Jerusalem, praising God.
148-150 are a crown of praise offered once again in the (special) presence of God, in the assembly of the saints in Jerusalem.
As to the fittingness of those psalms for our present situation, of course 149-150 don’t fit. We’re citizens of a city that is presently in heaven, and not on earth. We are, in that sense at least, still in exile. But then, when we gather in worship, we are standing in that city, on Zion, in the Holy of Holies, and if we can’t see the Lord on His throne surrounded by clouds of angels, well, we walk by faith and not by sight. Where would psalms 149-150 be more appropriate?
Yeah, it was rhetorical, but if you’ve got an answer, go for it.
As is our custom, there’s a lot here to respond to, and I’d have to be unbelievably boring and pedantic to cover it all. So I’m going to try to pull out the key points that will address the rest by inference. If I pass over something you want to hear an answer to, please be assured that it’s not deliberate, and feel free to call it to my attention. (Oh, and before I forget, I’d love to see your article on Col. 2. Please send it.)
Regarding dancing and the husband/wife analogy you used, you’re exactly right. The call to dance is an invitation, out of love. That’s exactly the case, and I’ve said that all along, brother, if only you’d heard me. I don’t think you’ve thought it through far enough, though. If the man continually invites his wife to dance because he loves her, but she continually refuses her husband’ overtures, not out of inability but simply because she’d rather not (analogous to “I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?”) – don’t you see a problem there? And isn’t it obvious that she’s missing out on something?
But yes, it’s a loving invitation, as are all the commands of God.
The problem seems to be that you don’t see how the command to love your brother or be faithful to your wife is exactly the same sort of thing. It’s not the case that we’re faithful to our wives because we’re scared God will smite us, but we dance out of joy and love – or anyway, it shouldn’t be. You can’t split the commands up into ‘law’ and ‘invitation’ like that. Perfect love casts out fear, and it works just as well with “thou shalt not murder” as it does with “praise Yahweh with the dance.” The difference between law and invitation is not on the page but in the heart of the hearer. The irony is that we actually seem to mostly agree on dance; it’s adultery and murder we disagree about.
I have a bit more to say about this, and I want to touch on the golden calf/Cain/Nadab/Abihu thing, but duty calls. More later.
I really like your NT injunctions leading to the Psalms concept! I want to think on this more. I’ve always just adored the Psalms, & this does make sense, the point I was making was just a difference of degrees. But I’ve not thought it through deeply enough yet, but it will be a labor of love. God bless you bro. Tim, I greatly appreciate you as a brother in Christ, as I do you all.
I see your point and have thought it through. What of the wife who just doesn’t like to dance? What of the wife who says, “I’d rather sit and talk.”
God is big and recognizes the needs and desires of His people. He loves them, and does not look down on anyone who would rather talk then dance.
That’s grace. You limit God to a man that keeps asking his wife to dance and eventually gets ticked off and calls her a sinner.
That’s a sad marriage.
Secondly, I did hear you…until you ruined the whole post by calling the church at large “sinfully disobedient.” Why do you not see this as a problem. That’s the issue I’m addressing. You say one thing and then, out the side of your mouth, you condemn everyone.
There’s a reason why, for me this conversation is all learning. I’ve been considering closely what both you and Tim are offering. I’m leaning to your presentation, because I hate law. I hate legalism. I run away from them to God and hide. I’ve been “running from the law” since I started reading the Bible. Because I know that violation and separation are not too far behind. Instinctively, having a command in worship seems like the least fitting place, right?
I’d like to share experience. Sorry this is long, but.
Our church has prohibited dance on its premises till about three years ago, which makes it unprecedented in 150 years. Lately a woman at our church has begun a ministry of teaching ballet for free to members and homeschool children, and as our worship leader saw his daughters dancing, he wondered why it could not be part of our Sunday services? So in January this ballet instructor of ours was approached to prepare a worship dance for last Palm Sunday services. We had four months to prepare the routine which is generous. I’ve been dancing all my life, but not so much ballet, and always by inspiration in the moment, from the heart. Not a rule-driven person, never will be one, by nature, you’re getting the picture I bet.
I often cried tears of frustration, seeing how hard it is for me compared to others. It’s so stifling. I can’t just dance with joy, at all, if I’m thinking about steps. And if I don’t have joy, I shut down. Seriously, it’s an ugly vortex of negativity. My best friend who met me every week prayed for me because she knew I was doubting I could or should do it.
That unpleasant sensation of needing to conform was like chains on my feet, and even worse, chains on my heart! I felt it deserved no place in between me and the LORD. Yet I felt a responsibility to be prepared. I needed to either get over it or get out. I prayed for joy to overwhelm the process and He answered! My attitude changed. During those months we also prayed for our congregation that their hearts would be made ready. We have that common Baptist conversation (debate really) over style of worship; it’s fervent, decades-long, and there was particular concern that the first service (classical) would be shocked by the dance.
We danced waving palm branches – with joy – in a simple ballet/lyrical routine, welcoming the King to Jerusalem. The wardrobe and movements were tasteful and sophisticated. We got nothing except positive feedback. To our surprise, it was the first service (classical service) folk who went out of their way that morning to come over and thank us and give approval – but of course, this makes sense because our church brims with love. And our instructor was careful to respect them in the choices she made to begin with; they must have felt it. Now, we know it more than ever, since we infrequently cross worship paths with the older generation.
There are a few things that I learned.
First, practicing routines is grueling in terms of fostering a sense of acceptability with God during the acquiring phase. But – I appreciated the net effect, and so did others. Once it’s learned it is made replete with the identical joy in Him, if not even more joy than dance led by inspiration, for having a finished product to offer.
Second, the older generation really lives in God’s grace. I truly believe unity was increased, because many were interested to hear how it was received by the congregation. Can you imagine the church’s joy in hearing the report, “we have only heard good things”? Many people told me that they felt something happen in their heart toward God.
Third, the scriptures. If my instructor had not been building us up with what the Bible has to say about dance, I would not have believed God’s heart for it, and I could not have prayed for the church. I really had to hear how God feels about it in order to be assured dance was righteous and worthwhile. Too often I think of commands as hindrance to being in His Presence. But in this process they ironically were my source of confidence and peace to dive into His Presence.
This is only the ministry experience side, not going into the larger debate of movement and its doctrine. Would you mind examining those lessons learned, because I would like to know what you think. I have been neck deep in trying to understand this and I see it easily from your concern.
That’s great. I think you have a lot of good points and I would not argue against your experience at all.
Let me try to clarify my point.
I’m not against the commands of God.
I’m just not pursuaded that the type of command the Psalmist utters is a “do or be punished” kind of command.
Therefore, I believe Tim’s argument (the church at large is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and is suffering the consequences, etc.) is a charge that stems from something else Tim is struggling with.
Tim desires worship reformation. Your church seems to have gone about it in the right way. Can you imagine if one of your arguments was, “listen, I know that we have a long tradition that sees dance as sin, but the Bible says not dancing is sin. So stop sinning and let me dance.” Would you have had the same results?
I don’t go to your church, but I doubt it would have gone over well. Telling people they are sinners does not inspire anyone to dance. Tim wants people to dance in church. He shouldn’t fight fire with fire, or legalism with more legalism. It’s fruitless and only upsets people. Plus, it paints a picture of God that is incorrect.
That’s the main idea that I am trying to get across here.
I appreciate your story. Very compelling. It’s good to see church’s open up to other forms of worship. We all need to do this . . . because too many of us are wrapped up in fear . . . fear that we are not following a God inspired form of worship.
We all need a great deal of further reflection, myself included. I’m really only about four years into this; I shudder to remember some of the missteps I made when I was only a year or two in. A lot there that I wouldn’t do again, but we were doing our best to honor God with our labor of love, and He was kind to us. He has rained down blessings every step of the way, and still does. Take your time; the journey is long, and every part of it is worth it.
Thanks so much for bearing with the length! Yes that is why I am agreeing with you. You say it better than I; I shouldn’t have said that I “hate” commandments. Just that how they are presented and how they are used (1 Tim 1:5-11) needs care. Part of that is the responsibility of others and part of that is my own responsibility. No one commanded me or called me a sinner, but it was just as bad as that or more so, and I’m the one who chose to put myself in that position! I think it is interesting how the same effort morphed from life-giving to death-giving to life-giving. I feel like I had to travel that path in Romans 7-8 in order to view it as something God not only wanted, but also supplies.
Life-giving: “I was alive once without the law” (Rom7:9). I could have enjoyed God’s Presence well enough without venturing into preparing a routine.
Death-giving: But once I engaged the routine, I was stuck in a death-experience. So even though I delighted in offering this before Him, in my mind, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good” (Rom 7:21).
Life-giving: The whole reason why the Spirit is free from law is because Jesus condemned sin in the flesh. If I am walking and conforming to Christ instead of the law, then, the righteous requirement of the law will be fulfilled in me (Rom 8:4). And for me, it was.
I believe that any exploration into God’s heart, God’s commands to see if there be anything He’d want from us, is going to produce the same pattern in Romans 7-8. In God’s eyes the only obedience there is is the kind God provides in Romans 8 — and unfortunately for Pharisee-fighters, the obedience of those in the Spirit looks exactly the same on the outside.
Now I think that this process of wrestling to find life in the midst of dealing with God’s standards, is just right. Legalism looks like the same issue but I think they are merely related.
The Galatians slipped from the identity as born of the freewoman, children of promise, going back to desiring to be under the law. That path would only produce bondage, and he called them bewitched.
Care is needed here, and on this I would ask you to look and let me know. When the Pharisees discussed righteousness, they turned away widows and sinners with great faith and love. When Jesus discussed righteousness, He turned away Pharisees – the self-righteous, those who thought they already had enough righteousness not needing to stretch themselves up to the height of God’s holy standards.
I think you are right on on presentation. I agree that law shouldn’t come between us and God’s Presence. Could you elaborate where Tim’s negativity falls… as being before the transition of Romans 7 in to Romans 8, or is he in Galatians 3?
Thanks so much for the conversation. I am getting a lot of Romans better because of this meditation, which I might share on my blog sometime. 🙂
I am challenged by your post and I’ve enjoyed following this conversation and I share many of Josaih’s concerns. I’ve heard you mention how the church is missing the dance aspect of worship before and I walked away thinking, “Yea, we probably SHOULD…” and that was the end of it. But you’ve made a compelling point here regarding that “should”. Since when did I think it was OK to be invited by God to obedience and then shun that invitation? This will definitely require some increased consideration.
In regards to the discussion and Josiah’s concern of legalism and condemnation, I’m framing the issue in my mind a certain way and I would like your feeback on it if you’d oblige me. It seems like we have to decide between two points.
A. Do the psalms prescribe dance during worship?
B. Is it Biblically appropriate to point out the sinful nature of rejecting a Biblical prescription?
Those two questions seem very different to me. In a fact, I’m not sure the terms “condemnation” or “legalism” can be applied to B. B seems pretty self-veryfing to me, what do you think? Therefore, it seems that any conversation should surround where we stand on question A. If A is answered in the affirmitive, then any illumination of sin that flows out of A is not condemnation and the man pointing it out is not a legalist. Am I thinking about this correctly?
I agree that your A and B questions can be separated, and I’m with you on your basic take. Obviously I think the answer to A is yes (and Josiah thinks no), but I wanted to speak first to B.
B isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems. First, granting that the answer to A is yes, that doesn’t automatically get me off the hook. It’s possible to be sinfully condemning of people who are in actual sin. You can see this a lot in the Gospels. Prostitution and drunkenness are legit sins, but Jesus still takes issue with the Pharisees’ attitude toward the hookers and drunks that He hangs out with.
Second, there’s a wisdom issue in play. Saying “Hey, this is wrong” isn’t going to be a sin if it’s true. But is it wise to say it that way, to this person, right now?
This is a fair question, and it’s here that Josiah’s concerns are most valid. The job (per Heb.10:24) is to study one another in order to stir up love and good deeds. If worship dance is an act of love for God, a good deed that needs to be stirred up, then I need to ask how I might most effectively do that.
For some people, the answer may not be “Show them the command.” That approach seems to have provoked you to begin moving in the right direction, and it worked for me and my partner Joe as well. It worked with the church I pastored in CA. I just talked last week with a group of church leaders about this, and took the same approach with them, with wonderful results. Nobody felt condemned or fearful; it was a joy to explore what God had laid before us, and while we all recognized that it will take time to get there, they left the meeting with a conviction that this is a direction they need to explore further.
Alas, not everyone responds the same way. In the short term, some people need to be seduced into obedience rather than commanded — they’ll be perfectly happy to do something if it seems a rich, rewarding thing to do, as long as nobody tells them they have to.
In fact, this is the issue with Josiah. He was perfectly happy to engage in most of what we’re doing in worship, as long as he thought that we were saying it was optional but very rewarding. The trouble started when he realized that we were actually saying that it’s necessary and very rewarding, and that continues to be the issue here on the blog. Josiah’s not opposed to dancing, and this is all to his credit. He is opposed to being told he must. (Of course he answers A differently than I do.)
In a case like this, there’s an issue with commands that needs to be sorted out, which is what Josiah and I are presently trying to do (and we’ll get back to it, as soon as he’s done talking with Michele). But there’s also the dance issue, and in a given context, I might be right to say that dance is commanded, but it might be vastly more effective to just say, “Hey, our people used to know how to do this, and it seems like a pretty cool idea. Let’s try it and see what happens.” (This leaves unaddressed the question of what God wants in worship, and that will have to be sorted out later – but you can’t do everything at once. It’s a question of which problem to solve first.)
I’d be happy to pursue A further if you like, but this comment is too long already, so let’s save it for the next round.
Wow, I guess I should have actually looked at Psalm 149. Has anyone read this Psalm?
The imperative in 149:3 “let them praise His name . . .” The prepositional phrase is “with dance . . . timbrel and harp.”
I would say that prepositional phrase is optional . . . kind of like the v. 5 & 6:
Psalm 149:5-6 Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand,
So are we sinfully disobedient if we do not sing aloud on our beds? Should we carry swords to church?
I mean, those are imperatives!
It seems the point is found in v. 4:
Psalm 149:3-4 Let them praise His name . . . Let them sing praises to Him . . . 4 For the LORD takes pleasure in His people.
The Lord takes pleasure in his people, no matter the form of praise they present. If not, then we are trully in sin if we do not bring swords to church and sing every night before we doze to sleep.
I don’t know if I’ve understood your concern. In the case that it is a Romans 7 situation, I’m thinking about the time I spent there and the longer I stayed, the worse it was. I don’t want you or anyone to get stuck there. When my teacher, who I admire, teaches, I have decided in myself to paraphrase the message of 1 Tim 1 and exercise discernment of his teaching with this test: “Don’t you dare talk about the law without referring to the Spirit in the same breath.” And I’ve been tracking this thread since the beginning because I feel strongly along your lines.
If I take a look at Tim’s post I think he did refer to the Spirit while talking law, however he has a responsibility as a teacher and minister to get you to Romans 8 not just on paper but all the way. And you have a responsibility to get there too. I hope that you both are preparing for that concentrated reconciliation. It is in Romans 8 that God accomplishes both His grace and His truth, which is essentially the camps you and he stand to gain.
If I take a look at the end of Romans 7 and then begin reading 8, it’s still mysterious to me exactly how that gulf from death through law and life through law is bridged. It is a rough transition that doesn’t fully make sense. I am very thankful that with prayer it was nevertheless to be believed, since I experienced Romans 8 from 7 I believe it can be for anyone even if it is a mystery how the doctrine is moving there.
It is a privilege to speak here, to me, thanks.
We’ve got a whole truckload of passages we need to discuss, and Psalm 149 is sitting right on the top of the load. I’m looking forward to that discussion, but I’ll give you a chance to finish your conversation with Michele before I jump back in. I know you’re busy, and I’m happy to wait my turn.
I don’t know if I’ve understood your concern.
I will state mine again.
First, Col. 2 and Rom. 14, tell us not to judge one another in matters of worship. So . . .
Second, in my opinion, Tim is trying to get to Romans 8 by Romans 7 and comes across as a Galatians 1.
It’s vice-versa. That’s the whole point of Romans 6-8. By recognizing I am completely accepted by God (dead to sin and alive to God, Romans 6), I, out of thankfulness, respond to God. I am not called to respond because of the condemnation of the Law. As a matter of fact, Romans 7 seems to say it will turn me away. Simple really.
Thanks for successfully dodging my point. But, I’ll state mine again.
There are all kinds of imperatives in the Scripture that you do not keep. I mean, your shirt is a violation of the Mosaic Law.
Psalm 149 has imperatives in it that call people to carry swords and sing in their beds. What do you do with that? Should we bring swords and sleeping bags to church?
You can’t say no. If so, you are in direct opposition to God’s written desire.
I’m concerned as well.
Two comments and a question.
Regarding your response to Michele, you acknowledged you weren’t sure you had understood her concern. I know Michele pretty well. I can assure you that you did not understand her, yet rather than make any attempt to clarify what Michele was talking about, you assumed that she misunderstood you. I don’t believe you have been in any way subtle or confusing in expressing your concerns repeatedly, and I believe she understood you quite well.
Secondly, your approach to Romans 6-8 is not really supported by the text. The recognition in Romans 6 is not at all one’s “acceptance by God” (that was the subject of 5:1-11)—it is to rather to “reckon” (to appropriate) one’s new identity in Christ so that one who is in Christ is never duped into believing it is ever “ok” to sin or that one EVER has to be a slave to sin any longer. Romans 7 takes off on the phrase “the weakness of your flesh” in 6:19 to show that anyone who insists on pursuing God out of self-sufficient flesh will ABSOLUTELY be enslaved by sin and condemned by the Law.
That GOOD work of the Law (7:11-14) is PRECISELY the incentive that “calls one to respond,” as you put it, because gratitude to God is NEVER enough to carry that freight whenever one is operating out of self-sufficient flesh. The “thanks” at the end of Romans 7 is for being delivered through Jesus from the slavery, or penal servitude of 7:14-25 that a believer operating by the flesh subjects himself to—without the Law the person who tries to pursue God in his own strength would be more sluggish in conceding his self-imposed condemnation to slavery when sin is given a “beachhead” in the flesh rather than the freedom that comes from following the Spirit (7:5-6; 7:25; 8:1-4).
And now the question: Are you teachable? I mean that in all seriousness. Tim and Michele have both humbly accepted my teaching when it has been supported by Scripture and by approaching the text as a coherent narrative from beginning to end. This is because they have been willing to set aside long and tenaciously held beliefs when the text compels. From your tone in this exchange I’m not sure you are willing, but then again I don’t really know you. You seem to be taking the whole discussion way too personally. I’d be overjoyed to be proved wrong.
Not so sure we are saying anything different. If I am guilty of anything, it’s poor writing and an inability to express what I am trying to say.
Romans 6:5 – I am united to Christ (accepted by Him, His own, His child, etc)
Romans 6: 6 – I am to consider myself dead indeed to sin and alive to God, no longer a slave of sin but a slave of righteousness (I have gone from His enemy, to His servant . . . sounds rather accepting).
It would seem Paul is further clarifying his idea in Romans 5:1-11.
And yes, if a person is in the flesh, the Law only condemns them . . . that’s about it. It doesn’t empower them to keep it.
Not sure I see the point where we disagree.
Ultimately, it seems to me that God’s grace is what motivates us to keep the law, not condemning people with the Law (unless they are in gross sin and need condemned by the law).
And, I do not see “not dancing” as a gross sin.
If I have been rude, it wasn’t intentional. I really do not understand what you are getting at. I made an attempt to respond, but I probably didn’t do very well.
Still waiting to see someone deal with all those other imperatives in Psalm 149, such as:
Psalm 149:6-8 6 Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, And a two-edged sword in their hand, 7 To execute vengeance on the nations, And punishments on the peoples; 8 To bind their kings with chains, And their nobles with fetters of iron;
How do I keep those? Is God upset with me if I do not?
Thanks for the measured response. You blessed me. Yes, I think some convergence is coming into focus on Rom 5-7, but it may not be the best locus to address Tim’s “Missing Out on Life” thesis in this post. I do see some lack of semantic clarity in our use of terms like “commands,” and I’d love to deal with the imperatives in Ps 149 (and elsewhere in the OT), but to be fair, I’ll let Tim take a crack first. Plus, got a big day tomorrow and it’s an hour past my (geriatric) bedtime.
But thanks, I do appreciate the tone.
I am listening to your comments, and thinking and am writing a reply now. I don’t think you were rude so don’t worry 🙂
I know you’re waiting to hear about Romans 14 and Col 2, from Tim and how that tempers Psalm 149, and I look forward to reading that response. But before you get into that I want to hear a bit about your heart and its pursuits as you approach the topic.
Jim and Tim and I are pressing in with a discussion of Romans 8, because speaking for myself, I believe in your legitimacy. Let me tell you something about hanging out with these guys: I am hardly ever right, these guys are smarter than me by eons. But it doesn’t alter my legitimacy. They don’t treat me that way either. It could turn out that you, like I, might be wrong about most things on paper at the end of the day. I’m not phased because in my case my attention is elsewhere, upon trying to be righteous in fact (going all the way and put to death the deeds of the flesh, not give up somewhere in 7); therefore, I am, according to this pursuit, in the right place at the right time. I believe in you the same. It isn’t being mentally error-free that makes someone legit. It’s participation with humility that makes someone legit. As long as this is, for you a pursuit earnestly searching for the truth and for reconciliation of believers to one another, I give you all my support and encouragement.
You said: “That’s the whole point of Romans 6-8. By recognizing I am completely accepted by God (dead to sin and alive to God, Romans 6), I, out of thankfulness, respond to God. I am not called to respond because of the condemnation of the Law. As a matter of fact, Romans 7 seems to say it will turn me away. Simple really.”
There is a step in between I’d like to point out. Accepted by God, Rom 5, identified with Christ in His death that “we also should walk in newness of life,” the first part of 6. The first step is like you acknowledge, reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God. Step two – the one I don’t know if you’ve conceptualized? The man who does all this reckoning has a mind that delights in the law of God in the inward man. Again, being mentally error-free doesn’t translate to a life filled by transformation! Rom 7:22-23. Does his mind have an effect on his body? No, his body, he finds, has a will of its own. It obeys sin, not God! I can reckon all day long, is the conclusion of 7. Only until I’m walking in the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh (replacing those behaviors with my new identity), am I, by everyone’s observation, in fact, fulfilling the righteous requirements of the law. This section isn’t imputation. This is hope for a truly righteous life which any law would affirm. So law is not abolished because it is still the goal in essence.
I think you know this! You said, “Out of love, joy and thankfulness she rises to the ocassion. What I am describing is grace. The call to worship is not a command that uses fear as a motivating factor. Nor does it slander us if we do not. It invites us to experience the True and Living.”
You’re describing Spirit-led transformation, and that is exactly what I point to. I don’t think this is different than your current doctrine at all. It’s all here. But now if you go back to saying something like, “Worshiping in the Spirit is the same as worshiping with license” do you see how your position is at odds with the achievement of Romans 8:4?
Let me more thoroughly paint a picture of the man who stays in Romans 7 too long, more than just with the dance testimony. The man in Romans 7 has all the mental correct-ness. He loves what is right. But he doesn’t like hearing about the righteous requirements of the law. In fact if walking by the Spirit becomes too elusive, he would rather never hear a law ever again, so that he could hope to remain in fellowship with God. And he has discomfort with fellow Christians talking about the law. He asks that grace blur the importance between what is right and what is wrong – but only because he can’t figure out why he isn’t living up to the reckoning of himself dead to sin.
I speak all this, from experience. I am that guy, who stayed in Romans 7 way too long, to the point where I didn’t know if I really believed anymore there could be such fulfillment of the law according to the Spirit. I made it, so can all. I suspect you may have already and I might only be succeeding at articulating the details. I want you to hold on to your seat at the table, just like I do though I am a nobody. We both show up to see what God wants and what God can do, that’s all we can do, and if we do this much we are just as excellent as any of the saints.
Can you tell me more about your heart and your hope for fulfillment of the law’s righteousness, since your flags are up on Tim discussing righteousness?
Thanks so much for listening! God bless you!
No matter what you might think of me, I’m just being polite to my sister and following the Lord’s leading here. I know you’re anxious to address Psalm 149 and the other passages in play, and I give you my word, brother, we’ll be doing that. In fact, I wrote my reply to you (re. the psalm) yesterday morning; it’s been ready to post for more than a day. But I’m convinced that if we dive into it right this minute, we’ll run right past the point Michele has been seeking to make, and by your own admission, you’ve not understood her yet. I am deeply convicted that she’s got something to offer that may turn out to be very important for subsequent discussion. So – what with it being my virtual living room and all – I’m asking that we hear her out, have that part of the conversation, and then tackle our part of it. The issues between you and me aren’t going anywhere. It won’t hurt anything to wait a few days while Michele has her say, and if my past experiences with Michele are any indication, it will turn out very much to our benefit to hear her well.
But now if you go back to saying something like, “Worshiping in the Spirit is the same as worshiping with license” do you see how your position is at odds with the achievement of Romans 8:4?
Let me more thoroughly paint a picture of the man who stays in Romans 7 too long, more than just with the dance testimony. The man in Romans 7 has all the mental correct-ness. He loves what is right. But he doesn’t like hearing about the righteous requirements of the law. In fact if walking by the Spirit becomes too elusive, he would rather never hear a law ever again, so that he could hope to remain in fellowship with God. And he has discomfort with fellow Christians talking about the law. He asks that grace blur the importance between what is right and what is wrong – but only because he can’t figure out why he isn’t living up to the reckoning of himself dead to sin.
I speak all this, from experience. I am that guy, who stayed in Romans 7 way too long, to the point where I didn’t know if I really believed anymore there could be such fulfillment of the law according to the Spirit.
I think I understand where you are coming from. Basically, a person can get so caught up in their position in Christ that they never want to fulfill or hear anything about the Law. In other words, everything becomes ok, or subjective, because I am “free in Christ” sort of idea?
“Let Grace cover it all, and let’s never hear what is right and wrong” – Is that what you are saying?
If so, that is not at all what I am saying. If I said this, then I could not tell Tim, based upon Col. 2 and Rom. 14, that he is wrong for condemning people.
I’ll try to explain why I brought Romans 6-8 up in the first place.
I believe the most effective motivation for encouraging people is their position in Christ. Telling people they are in gross sin, or in violation of God’s commands, is necessary when gross sin actually exists (hence 1 Cor).
Not dancing is a not a gross sin. In fact, I would contend it is not a sin at all.
I am not saying I do not want to hear right from wrong. I just happen to think differently about what right and wrong is.
(In comes Col. 2 and Rom. 14): At the very least, I think some people (and congregations) do not dance because they have a weak a conscience. Since it is a sin to tell a weak brother to man up and eat meat (or dance in this case), I think Tim is in violation of the Spirit of Rom. 14.
Basically, I do not think “fulfilling the Law in light of Romans 6-8” even applies to “dance or do not dance.” Why? Because I do not think it is a Law.
I confess, yes, I do think worship form is a lot more subjective than we think (again, especially in light of light of Col. 2 and Rom. 14).
But, if someone does think “dance” is a Law, they might as well motivate people to keep the Law kinda like Romans 6-8, rather than Exodus 20 (giant pillars of flame and huge lightning bolts create runners instead of dancers).
That’s all I’m trying to say here.
Thanks for exploring at my request the potential issues that stop-short of Spirit-led fulfillment of God’s law. I hear what you say above and I hear what you are not saying and it sounds fair and fitting. I’d choose to let Tim take over unless you are interested in replying, because I think we agree on everything except one unresolved bit. Here is the bit,
You said, “Basically, I do not think “fulfilling the Law in light of Romans 6-8” even applies to “dance or do not dance.” Why? Because I do not think it is a Law.”
If we change the language from “law” to “the righteous requirements of the law,” how does that affect understanding?
Instead of thinking about right/wrong, black/white, flesh/Spirit, how do we measure the attainment of excellence in giving to God what He is worthy?
Thanks Josiah, it has been a true privilege to talk with you.
Since Michele’s tagged me in, let’s start with our backlog of passages we need to discuss.
Psalm 149 – As with the time when Jesus stopped reading Isaiah in mid-sentence in the Nazareth synagogue (Lu.8:16-21//Isa.61:1-2), it’s a matter of knowing where you are in the story. The time for praise is already here, and the time for vengeance is not yet upon us. When that day comes, God will execute His vengeance in the manner He has ordained – and between now and then, we should carry out His praise in the manner He has ordained.
I’m grateful that you chose to give Ps. 149 a more careful reading. I’d recommend you do the same with the passages that follow here; it seems to me you made some snap judgments that closer observation would have prevented.
1Cor. 11 – The way they observed the supper was exactly the point. Read the passage; Paul gives explicit instructions about waiting for one another when they observe the Table, and about moderation at the Table as well. The Corinthians had a whole bunch of other problems too, some of which were leaking over into their communion practice, but Paul certainly did instruct them on how to worship at the Table.
Cain/Nadab/Abihu – There’s no indication in the text that these are sin offerings. (Are you maybe channeling McIlwain here?) Abel’s is a firstfruits offering; it says so explicitly. Nadab & Abihu are offering incense, not a sacrifice for sin. The closest a sin offering gets to that is sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of incense – not what they were doing.
Golden Calves – With both Aaron and Jeroboam, these are not idols for Baal worship; they are introduced with “This is your god who brought you up out of Egypt.” It’s easy to look at these situations and just say “That’s not Yahweh worship” – but the reason it’s so easy is precisely because Yahweh’s prescribed manner of worship looked nothing like that. Which is kinda my point.
We see prescriptions for worship throughout these passages, Old Covenant and New, and this raises one of two major problems with reading Col. 2 and Rom. 14 in a way that prohibits prescriptions for worship. You’re setting those passages at odds with the rest of the Bible; that’s a problem that needs resolving. The other problem — and this may be the one to tackle first — you’re going to need to give a serious explanation for how you’re understanding those passages to yeild your conclusions. In other words, I see the equation, and I see that you think x=3, but I I need you to show your work, because I’m not sure how you got that answer. (Speaking of which, I’d still like to see that article you mentioned on Col.2.)
You wrote, “God is big and recognizes the needs and desires of His people. He loves them, and does not look down on anyone who would rather talk than dance.”
I never said God was looking down on anybody. I said God was trying to give good gifts to us all, but we as a community have refused His gifts in this particular area. The way we worship matters in the positive way because God knows what is good both for us as worshippers and for those who observe our worship as a testimony to what sort of God He is (something reflected, for example, in 1 Cor. 14 — another passage chock-full of prescriptions for worship). You keep trying to straw-man a certain view of God onto me, and I just don’t see Him that way. It’s not what I live, not what I teach, not what I’m saying — and most of the people around me seem able to recognize it. That you hear a condemning God in what I’m saying says more about you than it does about me; it strongly suggests a liturgical antinomianism that rebels against the very idea of prescriptions for worship, and hears any prescription as a condemnation. I suspect this is why you feel like I “say one thing and then, out the side of [my] mouth…condemn everyone.” God lovingly invites us to worship, and this invitation contains prescriptions which do not impair the loving invitation.
Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and His Body does the same – “The righteous requirement of the Law [is] fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” There’s a large difference between (1) looking at the Law from the vantage of Romans 6-7 – trying to be righteous through an arrangement of mental furniture (and failing because the law of sin is stronger than the law of your mind), and (2) looking at the law from the vantage of Romans 8, where its righteous requirements are met by walking with the Spirit, by whom we put to death the deeds of the body. When it comes to worship at least, you show no sign of understanding the latter, even when it’s being lived out right in front of you. If we get far enough into the discussion, this is something we’re going to want to explore.
Tim, Jim, Josiah, Et al,
I have really been enjoying reading your discussion(read lurking). But I feel that there is one point that has not been discussed ad really does need to be.
The church is full of sinners. This is a fact, all of them, no matter whether they dance or not, are dirty rotten sinners. We all fail, we all fall short of God’s intended fullness of life. It seems that Tim is simply making an observation, and not judging or condemning at all. The message of Grace is not that we no longer sin, but that the sins that we do and will commit do not and cannot condemn us.
Tim never placed any judgement against the people living in intentional sin, or stated that they were in some way under condemnation. Rather, he is just saying that they are missing the mark(sinning), by not experiencing worship of God in all the ways HE has designed for us to experience it.
Sin, in any form, whether it is murder, adultery, or disobedient worship cannot condemn the person who has believed in Christ(Rom8:1). It does, however, rob us of the ability to fulfill our intended purpose. We were created to be bearers of God’s image, and every thing that we do that fails to accurately reflect that image deprives us of experiencing God’s very best for us.
Men of Praise Motorcycle Ministry
Tim: Psalm 149 – As with the time when Jesus stopped reading Isaiah in mid-sentence in the Nazareth synagogue (Lu.8:16-21//Isa.61:1-2), it’s a matter of knowing where you are in the story. The time for praise is already here, and the time for vengeance is not yet upon us. When that day comes, God will execute His vengeance in the manner He has ordained – and between now and then, we should carry out His praise in the manner He has ordained.
Me: Then . . . do you sing in your bed at night? If not, you are not following God’s ordained plan and are sinfully disobedient. And, ought we to bring sleeping bags to church?
Tim: I’m grateful that you chose to give Ps. 149 a more careful reading. I’d recommend you do the same with the passages that follow here; it seems to me you made some snap judgments that closer observation would have prevented.
Me: I appreciate your critique, but I disagree.
Tim: 1Cor. 11 – The way they observed the supper was exactly the point. Read the passage; Paul gives explicit instructions about waiting for one another when they observe the Table, and about moderation at the Table as well. The Corinthians had a whole bunch of other problems too, some of which were leaking over into their communion practice, but Paul certainly did instruct them on how to worship at the Table.
Me: My friend, HOW they observed the supper was not exactly the point. The point is they were being selfish and divisive. Your read of the Psalms is similar to your read of 1 Cor. 11. You miss the heart and focus on the external motion.
Paul’s point in 1 Cor. 11 is, “stop being divisive and selfish.” Not, “make sure you all line up a certain way.”
That’s my point. I think you miss the heart of the commands in the Psalms.
Tim: Cain/Nadab/Abihu – There’s no indication in the text that these are sin offerings. (Are you maybe channeling McIlwain here?) Abel’s is a firstfruits offering; it says so explicitly. Nadab & Abihu are offering incense, not a sacrifice for sin. The closest a sin offering gets to that is sprinkling the blood of the sacrifice on the horns of the altar of incense – not what they were doing.
Me: Maybe I did channel a little McIllwain. But your argument has only helped me see the core of where we disagree. You argue we ascend into the Heavenly Holy of Holies every Sunday. From there, you look to the old replica and deduce proper worship form.
I disagree with your idea of Hebrews 12. Therefore, I disagree with your presumption that we need to duplicate something similar to the old replica.
I just do not see it.
If we were meant to go forth and create small temples and ornate worship services, similar to the Temple, wouldn’t there be more indication of this in Scripture?
I just don’t see it. Therefore, comparing our praise and dance to the sacrificial system is a bit off to me.
Again, if God intended certain forms, similar to the old replica, we would have been consumed with fire by now, since (in your opinion) we have long been rebellious and sinfully disobedient.
Tim: Golden Calves – With both Aaron and Jeroboam, these are not idols for Baal worship; they are introduced with “This is your god who brought you up out of Egypt.” It’s easy to look at these situations and just say “That’s not Yahweh worship” – but the reason it’s so easy is precisely because Yahweh’s prescribed manner of worship looked nothing like that. Which is kinda my point.
Me: Ummmm . . . I would argue that they were worshipping a false god: “the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, “Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” (Ex. 32:1b)
They were serving false gods. I believe that is clear.
Jeroboam made Israel sin because he violated Deut. 12:5-7. Israel was to build the temple and worship Yahweh in Jerusalem. He was in violation of clear instruction.
I’m sure you’ll say, “but there are imperatives in Psalm 149 so if we do not follow those commands then we are also in violation of clear instruction.” But I disagree. The call to dance is a description of joyous worship and I believe that is the heart of the command. If I took the Psalmists call to worship as you do then I would have to say Israel sins if they eat or dance outside the land also (Deut. 12:6).
In other words, I think you miss the heart of the command (although I admit you do understand it for a little bit . . . until you tell people they are sinners if they do not dance). I just do not see “dance” the same as “worship in Judea” or “do not kill,” “commit adultery,” etc. This is mostly because of Col. 2 and Rom. 14.
Lastly, can you not see that your example is very extreme? A WWII veteran, who grew up in an era where believers thought, “dancing leads to nakedness,” is in a Rom. 14, weaker brother category. NOT an “Israel worshipping a golden calf” category. I just cannot see Jesus running down to earth and smashing the Psalms tablet because this generation has transgressed the commands of Yahweh.
Tim: We see prescriptions for worship throughout these passages, Old Covenant and New, and this raises one of two major problems with reading Col. 2 and Rom. 14 in a way that prohibits prescriptions for worship. You’re setting those passages at odds with the rest of the Bible; that’s a problem that needs resolving. The other problem — and this may be the one to tackle first — you’re going to need to give a serious explanation for how you’re understanding those passages to yeild your conclusions. In other words, I see the equation, and I see that you think x=3, but I I need you to show your work, because I’m not sure how you got that answer. (Speaking of which, I’d still like to see that article you mentioned on Col.2.)
Me: I’ll make a copy of it and put it under your door.
I see Col. 2 and Rom. 14 in light of Paul’s actions. Yes, he worshipped at the Temple and followed certain prescriptions. But he also felt a certain level of flexibility given the age we are in.
This is why we do not worship in the land. Because we are in a different age.
And I believe he says this. He describes feasts and festivals and says, “do not let others judge you according to such things (Col 2).” This was a huge problem during 2nd Temple Judaism. Everyone was fighting about how to worship. Why? Because they thought it brought them closer to God (hence the “I’m closer to God because I follow his ordained plan but you do not” mentality). The cross puts away such arguments.
Personally, I think we worship God with our heart, soul and mind. Until we receive a tablet that explains or prescribes specific forms of worship for this age, I believe there is flexibility untill the Millennium.
Tim:You wrote, “God is big and recognizes the needs and desires of His people. He loves them, and does not look down on anyone who would rather talk than dance.”
I never said God was looking down on anybody.
Me: I’m sorry Tim. But you did. You said the church is hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Why are you not willing to admit this?
Tim: I said God was trying to give good gifts to us all, but we as a community have refused His gifts in this particular area.
Me: So, God doesn’t look down on us if we refuse his good gifts? It appears you are saying God looks down on us.
Secondly, saying the church at large has refused His good gifts is a huge judgment. It could just be a weaker brother issue. Not willful rebellion. I’d say that’s the real issue.
Tim: The way we worship matters in the positive way because God knows what is good both for us as worshippers and for those who observe our worship as a testimony to what sort of God He is (something reflected, for example, in 1 Cor. 14 — another passage chock-full of prescriptions for worship).
Me: Yes. 1 Cor. 14 gives prescriptions for worship to a sinning church. He is dealing with issues such as pride, not their sinful worship form. The form came out in disorganization, etc. because everyone was sinning. They were not sinning because they were disorganized.
Tim: You keep trying to straw-man a certain view of God onto me, and I just don’t see Him that way. It’s not what I live, not what I teach, not what I’m saying — and most of the people around me seem able to recognize it. That you hear a condemning God in what I’m saying says more about you than it does about me; it strongly suggests a liturgical antinomianism that rebels against the very idea of prescriptions for worship, and hears any prescription as a condemnation. I suspect this is why you feel like I “say one thing and then, out the side of [my] mouth…condemn everyone.” God lovingly invites us to worship, and this invitation contains prescriptions which do not impair the loving invitation.
Me: Tim. I believe you see God this way because you say:
. . . you’re thinking, “I never kneel in worship, and I certainly never dance! But I’m doing fine.”
No. No, you’re not. You’re willfully falling short of something God explicitly says to do; in what universe is that going to be okay? This dynamic — thinking you’re okay although disobedient — is what it means to be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” and it’s another consequence of long disobedience.”
This is not a straw man. You wrote it.
Secondly, I have worked with you for a year. Most people on this blog live miles away from you. I live in the same building. Brother, you DO understand grace, just not in this area, and in a few others (and I’m sure I’m guilty as well, as this blog thread demonstrates). No offense, but I hear you describing a condemning God because I’ve seen you describe him before (and demonstrate him to others . . . as have I).
This is not just an overreaction because of my liturgical-antinomianism (although I’d rather be called that than a Judaizer. Makes me feel a bit closer to Paul:).
Tim: Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and His Body does the same – “The righteous requirement of the Law [is] fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Me: And the following shows what that looks like:
Romans 14:17-19 . . . for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.
Galatians 5:22-23 . . .the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
It’s hard for me to see how Rom. 8 is saying, “if you are in the Spirit on Sunday then you will righteously fulfill the Law to dance.”
Tim: There’s a large difference between (1) looking at the Law from the vantage of Romans 6-7 – trying to be righteous through an arrangement of mental furniture (and failing because the law of sin is stronger than the law of your mind), and (2) looking at the law from the vantage of Romans 8, where its righteous requirements are met by walking with the Spirit, by whom we put to death the deeds of the body. When it comes to worship at least, you show no sign of understanding the latter, even when it’s being lived out right in front of you. If we get far enough into the discussion, this is something we’re going to want to explore.
Me: This is where we disagree. I do not think “dance” is a law. I agree with your view of Romans 6-8, I just do not see God setting up a Law with the Psalmists call to dance.
I guess I’m a liturgical anti-nomian (although I’d say we are to keep communion and other practices directly prescribed for the church). But then again, maybe I’m not.
Welp, it’s been a hoot. Gotta focus on other issues. Have a wonderful day!