Liturgicide

For those who want to do it, one of the best devices for hiding from God is something called liturgy. I say this as one advocating liturgical reform in the Church, and as one who has taught repeatedly that liturgy is inescapable.

But developed liturgy, researched liturgy, biblical liturgy, remains a snare. A certain kind of sinful heart gravitates toward it, seeing—not a wonderful way to praise and honor God—but rather a way of decorating a self-centered life, seeming to be religious while denying the power of it.

“Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream” (Amos 5:23-24).

Throughout the Old Testament, this sin is addressed repeatedly, almost as though God thought it might be a problem for us. And nowhere are we encouraged to believe that the temptations facing the Israelites would evaporate in the New Covenant—quite the reverse.

So then, if you have a developed sense of liturgy, and pride in it, or satisfaction with it, or a sense of superiority because of it, and at the same time are cutting yourself a great deal of slack in the personal holiness department, then God wants you to find a little community church in the country with a liturgy that looks like it was developed by the Kiwanis, and learn how to worship there.

A liturgical reformation is occurring, and it is a good thing. At the same time, I have seen numerous examples of people carving out a little space for their personal autonomy in this reformation, ignoring the warnings of Scripture on this very point.

There is not a causal relationship between developed liturgy, thought-through liturgy, and the sin, but there is a causal relationship between this kind of liturgy and the temptation. You can only ignore the reality of this temptation only by ignoring the Word.

The developed liturgy that God receives is not offered up by those who ape the world, speak foul language, smoke cigarettes in the hope of becoming C.S. Lewis, watch degrading movies they shouldn’t, adopt the posture of faux-sophisticates—however much they might be adepts on the liturgical drill team.

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