“Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad; for he had desired for a long time to see Him, because he had heard many things about Him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by Him. Then he questioned Him with many words, but He answered him nothing” (Luke 23:8-9).
From the editor:
This devotion was preached to the ILC faculty, staff, and student body on May 4, 2001. Professor Steve Sippert, the writer [and preacher], acknowledges a bit of a disconnect between the Scripture text from Luke 23 and the body of the address. Says the professor: “I believe this is the result of a devotional rather than expositional approach. Thus I offer the suggestion that the text could be dropped from the article.” Nevertheless, we choose to retain the text.
While this article is a bit longer than usual Spokesman fare, the reader will surely not be “bored” in the reading; the devition came to us by recommendation of another ILC professor.
It was the first day of Vacation Bible School. At the opening devotion the pastor came out of the sacristy, bouncing a basketball right there in the front of the church! The children were very surprised. When the pastor began to speak, he said there are some things that a person shouldn’t do in church. Some things are too distracting. Certain activities and certain forms of appearance would actually steal the attention away from Jesus, where the spotlight should always be. If we all came to church with our favorite snack to eat, that would be more than distracting–it would be disrespectful. To treat Jesus like a TV show in the family living room . . . ? We can’t do that.
Now maybe you have thought to yourself, “Wouldn’t it be permissible, even beneficial if the church service had a little more comfort, a little more convenience, and a little more fun involved?” There’s a growing popular notion in today’s society that religion should be entertaining. Let’s recognize the devil’s dirty work. He wants you to swallow the lie that Jesus should be entertaining. Meanwhile, Jesus wants you to realize the truth that because He is your Savior, He deserves your grateful attention and your thoughtful devotion.
Herod was glad to see Jesus on the morning of Good Friday because “he hoped to see some miracle done by Him” (Lk. 23:8). Many people today–though not as crassly as Herod did–are walking in the same steps nonetheless. They are willing to experiment with Christianity as long as it’s fun, as long as it appeals to their sense of instant gratification. Many pastors and churches are willing to cater to this viewpoint. They replace the meaningful elements of worship with things more appealing to the flesh. They replace sacred hymns, liturgy, and Law-and-Gospel preaching with skits, puppet shows, and other popular forms of presentation. Consequently, church has more the look of a talk show than a worship service. And yes, people love it. They flock in great numbers to be entertained on Sunday morning.
Perhaps this sort of thing has a certain appeal to us as well. How often have we thought, “This service is getting boring; I’d rather be doing something else right now”? Where does that come from–this thought of “boring” worship? Is there something wrong with the gospel or the way that the Bible portrays Jesus? Of course not! There’s something wrong with us. Our corrupted heart is just too ready to go along with the idea, “If you amuse me, if you entertain me, then I’ll pay attention.” Our human nature wants everything to be fun, including the Sunday service. If we assume that worship is boring, then we’re letting sin take over on two fronts at least. Showing disrespect to God is sin #1. Depriving yourself of what you need the most is sin #2.
By virtue of its content, Christianity is not entertaining. It’s not even comfortable. Look at the core problem of your sin. When you come to terms with that reality, you’re bound to have negative, unpleasant feelings. God’s law says you’re guilty; so you feel guilty. God’s law says that you and I deserve death and hell; so yes, there’s fear of judgment. And then the law says that you can’t do anything to get yourself out of this predicament. How does that make you feel? Helpless! Full of despair! Shall we get rid of the law to remove those negative feelings? Can we make the law a little more fun or a little easier to take? It’s just not possible, when the fact of the matter is this: God has to crush us with the heavy hand of His law in order to heal and bring about the recovery of the gospel.
Even the gospel has a message far removed from human entertainment. If the opportunity came along to watch a surgical operation, you would not expect to be amused by what you saw. It’s blood and guts there on the operating table. A person’s life hangs in the balance. Well, the same goes for the cross of Christ. There’s nothing amusing about the Lord’s suffering or the torment of His crucifixion or the God-forsakenness that He felt, although each of these things will make you better off. He suffered your punishment from God and purchased your forgiveness and your place in heaven. No, it won’t entertain you, but the cross of Christ will surely change your life and make it last forever.
Let’s back up to a previous thought–the troublesome idea that “worship is boring.” I want to help you overcome that feeling. There is a way to readjust the attitude. Before you enter the worship area in chapel or in church, stop and ask yourself: “What’s going to happen here?” Expect the sacred. Expect the uncommon. God is coming to meet us in His Word. Do you remember what the Lord said to Moses at the burning bush? “Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
You enter the holy ground of God’s house, not to be overwhelmed but rather to be served at His table. We get to “trade up” every time we are at the gathering of Christian worship. Here’s the standing invitation from your Lord. You should bring all the guilt for every sin you’ve done. Confess it, own up to it, and have it replaced with the guarantee of His forgiveness. You should bring all of your fears–especially the fear of death and hell–and have them replaced with the promise of eternal life and the comfort of God’s refuge. You should bring all the troubles and sorrows that are bothering you and have them replaced with the confidence and the joy that comes from knowing Christ as the all-conquering Savior. Jesus wants you to dump all your bad on Him and take home with you all the good things that He has to offer.
As a consumer I have noticed two distinct tendencies in the market place. Either the quality goods are too expensive, or the bargain goods are cheaply made. It’s so difficult to get good quality at a low price. Just think–in the Word of God you get the riches of His grace at no cost to you! Therefore, dear Christian, if the mind starts to wander and those feelings of boredom creep in, you can revisit the model of Christian worship.
For your own sake remember the following: 1) church is sacred, you’re on holy ground, and therefore it’s too important to daydream or get distracted. Remember: 2) the Word is what you need for spiritual safety and blessing. And remember: 3) that Christian worship is the best deal you can get, which makes it time well spent and the best thing for you.
No, it won’t be entertaining, but the Lord assures you it will be life-saving. Amen.