A short time ago, I stumbled across this video on YouTube --- André Rieu & His Johann Strauss Orchestra performing "Hallelujah" as a tribute to Leonard Cohen, live in London. Taken from the DVD "Christmas in London". You may watch it [ Here ].
FIRST, let me say that in aesthetic terms, it is overwhelmingly beautiful. The three female singers are gorgeous and their voices are captivating. The music truly transports you into emotional ecstasy and the production setting is transcendent. As a musical production, it is beyond reproach. It is clear from the shots of the audience that they are likewise carried away by the "spiritual" extravagance !!
And herein lies the problem !!! As you watch the faces and actions of large numbers of the people in the audience, they do NOT appear to be merely enjoying a beautiful and magnificent musical experience, but are rather being caught up into a state of "Transcendent Experience or Spirituality". Most church services would be in envy to have their worshippers caught up into such an obvious state of emotional and exalted bliss, joy rapture, and WORSHIP !!
However, as Shakespeare would say, "Therein lies the rub" - for exactly WHO or WHAT are they "worshipping" ?? Some MIGHT be worshiping their "concept of god", but many are no doubt merely "worshipping" the emotional and sentimental fervor that it was the explicit intent of the producers of this extravaganza to elicit. Just because you sprinkle a musical selection with a few mentions of "god" or punctuate it with a barrage of "Hallelujahs", that DOES NOT make it into an act of praise or worship to the TRUE God !!!!
Shakespeare also astutely observed in Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2 -- "The vision I saw may be the devil, and the devil has the power to assume a pleasing disguise, and so he may be taking advantage of my weakness and sadness to bring about my damnation. I need better evidence than the vision to work with."
The Bible states it this way:
I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough! No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions. **** 2 Corinthians 11:3,4,14,15
Take a moment to examine the words (the lyrics appear at the end of this article). It is VERY difficult to understand precisely WHAT the point of most of the lyrics is. Perhaps it is not wise to search too deeply for a "point", as they may have merely been intended to provide a poetic framework for the music. Whatever such point may or may NOT be, there is NOTHING worshipful, reverential, loving or adoring toward God in most of them.
They appear to reflect a bitter, rejected, dejected, hardened, lost and resentful attitude on the part of the one uttering them. Perhaps he (she) was one who once knew God and has now lost faith - "Maybe there's a God above -- You say I took the name in vain, I don't even know the name".
In any case, this scene portrays (to ME at least) a glaring cameo of the plight that is affecting the people of THIS nation (USA) and perhaps the ENTIRE world. We are truly a people walking in (spiritual) darkness. We have lost the light of reason, ethics, morality and mostly - of GOD. We no longer have ANY standard by which to measure and discern right from wrong, good from evil, black from white. The rudder of our personal and national ship is broken, and we are rushing headlong toward the edge of the abyss. We are like the proverbial "herd of lemmings" or the children following the wicked "Pied Piper" to their imprisonment and/or doom
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! **** Isaiah 5:20
The average life is empty and bankrupt of direction and meaning. We don't know who or what we are, why we are here or where we are going - and at the same time we are terrified at the possibility of finding out. Perhaps if we take the time and courage to peer inward, we REALLY will see that it is as empty as we fear it might be (what will we do then ??)
As a nation, we have increasingly (and admittedly with GOOD reason in MANY cases) turned our backs upon the sham, empty, formalized, material, hypocritical, "Institutes of Religion" and traveled abroad in search of TRUE, "Inner Spiritual Renewal". The problem is, like too many at the concert, ALL that we have found is an empty, sentimental, emotional "Contentless Transcendent Experience or Spirituality". This is being packaged and sold by the selfsame school of "charlatans and hucksters" who had managed to infiltrate and corrupt the TRUE places of worship that so many of the seekers had fled from !!
Where there is no vision, the people perish (When there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint - NET Bible) **** Proverbs 29:18
My people have committed a double wrong: they have rejected me (God), the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns (water basins) for themselves,
My people have committed a double wrong: they have rejected me (God), the fountain of life-giving water, and they have dug cisterns (water basins) for themselves,cracked cisterns which cannot even hold water. **** Jeremiah 2:13
For those of you from the "School of Ultra-literal Conservatism", I have searched the Bible (in vain, unfortunately) for ONE specific verse that will sum up the point that I want to make. Sorry to say, I was not able to find one. If you are unable (or unwilling) to interpolate scripture verses in order to derive their underlying meaning and message, and then apply THAT result to specific situations, then I fear that this article is NOT for YOU !
The Jewish Pharisees - and their modern day counterparts in the "Religious Establishment" - had taken the basic "Word of God" and "interpreted" it into thousands of legalistic "teachings", defining specific "right-and- wrong" for practically EVERY conceivable circumstance and situation !! God has given to us (His Church) something infinitely better - His indwelling Holy Spirit to enable us to discern (AND apply) the TRUE meaning of His Living Word, His Heart, His Mind and His Written Word (we have the "mind of Christ").
I believe that the Truth of which I speak can be summed up in the following two scripture verses:
This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. **** Matthew 15:8,9
You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, But a time is coming – and now is here – when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such people to be his worshipers. God is spirit, and the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." **** John 4:22-24
God does NOT want some EMPTY worship offered up in MEANINGLESS words of rote that they received from men, no matter HOW beautiful the words may be (He does NOT want this in our prayers, either) !!
He is looking to be worshipped in SPIRIT - by individuals who are themselves indwelt by His living Holy Spirit (for ONLY the Spirit knows the mind [spirit] of God). He is looking to be worshipped in TRUTH - as to who and what HE is and who and what WE are, and of the TRUE relationship between each.
I am brought to remembrance of the Israelites, right after their deliverance from the bondage of Egypt. While Moses was up on the mountain receiving the Word from God, they were down below, encouraging Aaron to make for them an idol in the form of a golden calf - and the people WORSHIPPED saying, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.". Then Aaron "proclaimed a feast to Yahweh".
Many years later, both Israel and Judah, under the leadership of various corrupt kings, would continually provoke God to anger by their worship on "the High Places". These were shrines (usually in the mountains) where the people would go to pay homage to the various pagan and heathen deities of the local peoples while mixing in a little worship for Yahweh (just to be on the safe side).
The following is a difficult passage to rightly understand. One interpretation seems to be that while the Israelites were offering up EXTERNAL "worship" to God through their religious rituals according to the Law, all the time they were REALLY worshipping their idols or false gods in their hearts.
God turned away from them and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: "It was not to me that you offered slain animals and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, house of Israel? But you took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rephan, the images you made to worship, but I will deport you beyond Babylon." **** Acts 7:42.43
Today, many belonging to the Roman Catholic Organization pollute the true worship of God with their reverence for the various pagan /heathen rituals, superstitions and idols (statues and relics of saints, virgin Mary, the Queen of Heaven, the Mass, etc.) that mark their "worship".
In each of these cases, I am sure that the people would CLAIM that they are offering worship (in THEIR way , as THEY understand Him) to the True God. I am equally sure that there are deluded souls who would defend their practices by claiming that, "true worship is in the heart".
Scripture, however, paints a VERY different view. In the case of the golden calf, God threatened to totally destroy the idolaters and was only restrained by Moses intercession. As for the high places, scripture recounts that throughout Israel's history, they provoked God to his face with their stiff-necked idolatry and disobedience.
Someone left the following remark to this article posted in Facebook: "I think that people today, just as in any time, are searching for an experience with God and just aren't sure of how to find that." I do NOT believe that THIS is an honest comment. Today, especially in THIS country, if anyone TRULY wants to know the "Way of Truth", there are resources in abundance. The problem most usually is, when it comes to the CHRISTIAN answer to the question - WE JUST DON'T LIKE IT !!There was one person that I spent a considerable amount of time talking to about Jesus Christ. HIS "spiritual view" seemed to consist of a smorgasbord of eastern and "new age" ideas. I finally asked him to explain to me the path by which he came to believe that his views represented "the True Way to God". His reply was, "What do you mean by 'True Way'. Do not ALL paths ultimately lead to God ??". It became clear to me that he REALLY had no desire to discover TRUTH. He was happy with his deception !!
As the Apostle Paul proclaimed during one of his preaching tours:
So Paul stood before the Areopagus and said, "Men of Athens, I see that you are very religious in all respects. For as I went around and observed closely your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: 'To an unknown god'. Therefore what you worship without knowing it, this I proclaim to you. Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent." **** Acts 17:22,23,30
Large numbers in the "institutional church" - and calling themselves "christians" - STILL worship "the UNKNOWN god" !! They have NO idea what their Bibles teach because they have NEVER made ANY effort to study them in a serious, systematic manner. Their concept of God and of Jesus is the same childish image that they learned as a youth in Sunday school. THEIR Jesus is what I call an "Idol Jesus", having been formulated in their imaginations to fit THEIR desires and inclinations. It is usually a VERY sentimental, childish image !! These people would be shocked and scandalized if they ever SERIOUSLY read and accepted the FULL picture of the TRUE Jesus as painted by the Scriptures. Read an article [ Here ] entitled, "Jesus Is Not "Nice -- But He IS God!"
I had a friend who was instrumental in leading me to salvation in Christ. I didn't see him for many years. When we finally met up again, I inquired as to what God had been doing in his life. He proceeded to inform me that ALL that he knew for sure was that, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so". Instead of growing UP into the full stature of Christ, he needed once again for someone to instruct him in the basics.
For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of Godís utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. **** Heb 5:12,13
Many know NOTHING of being filled with the Holy Spirit, having their minds renewed according to GOD's thoughts, or about being transformed after the image of Jesus Christ into the new man. As a matter of fact, there are many so-called "christian churches" that are ACTIVELY opposed to the baptism in and filling with the Holy Spirit, calling it a "doctrine of demons' and claiming that it is a deception from Satan himself. They call it the grossest of worldly arrogance and fanaticism to claim and believe that we can be living vessels of God's own living Spirit, allowing Him to live and manifest His life through us.
Then there is the Roman Catholic Organization. They are so polluted and inundated with their various pagan /heathen rituals, superstitions and idols (statues and relics of saints, virgin Mary, the Queen of Heaven, the Mass, etc.), that it is a disgrace and an offense to Christ that they should be considered to be a part of the Christian Church !! Many consider it to be the "Scarlet Whore" of the Book of Revelations. To most Roman Catholics, the Virgin Mary and the dead saints are FAR more important and relevant to them than is either Jesus or the Father. To them, Mary and the saints are understanding and close at hand, while Jesus and the Father are aloof, far off and unknown. While the OFFICIAL stance is to deny it, many Roman Catholics DO, in fact, worship Mary and NOT Jesus and the Father. They believe that she is the TRUE mediator between fallen man and God.
BOTH the Roman Catholic AND the mainline Protestant Organizations are often far more concerned about their magnificent, elegant and imposing structures and their fabulous and professional choirs, multimedia presentations and sermons than they are about the holiness and righteous of their members. Much more time is spent with budgets, board meetings and music rehearsal than is spent insuring that members are growing in and into the knowledge and image of Jesus Christ up unto the New Man. As the Apostle Paul observed:
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that matters is a new creation (man)! **** Gal 6:15
I am quite sure that MANY leave their Sunday services, believing that because they felt emotionally stimulated by the beautiful and imposing architecture, the elegant surroundings, the pompous ceremony, the rapturous choir and/or musical presentation or the eloquent sermon -- that they have "worshipped God". They NEVER realize that their spirit has not touched or communed with God in the slightest. All that has happened is that their SOUL was moved with an emotional / sentimental impulse from their material surroundings. This is the EXPRESS purpose of the elegant, impressive and overwhelming buildings, pomp and ceremony, and music of many churches.
If they can not lead their members into a REAL experience with the Living God, they attempt to substitute some intellectual, emotional, feel-good, goose-bump counterfeit so that the members will never realize that they are being cheated, lied to, deceived and denied their TRUE Spiritual heritage --- a personal and living relationship with their God and Creator !!
In times past, men were grossly ignorant of the TRUE God. God is NO longer accepting ignorance as an excuse !! His Light and Truth have NOW been FULLY revealed in the Face of Jesus Christ
It may be a VERY hard thing for many people to accept (especially Christians), but the Bible states that there ARE those who have so deeply given themselves over to delusion and deception (have so hardened their hearts) that God Himself further enables them to believe that which is false.
With every kind of evil deception directed against those who are perishing, because they found no place in their hearts for the truth so as to be saved. Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false. And so all of them who have not believed the truth but have delighted in evil will be condemned. **** 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
The irony of the situation is that, in rejecting the TRUE God and HIS Way (because THEY did not seem to be according to OUR liking), we have merely opened the doors wide for the entrance of a multitude of "false gods" with their seemingly appealing (though ultimately deadly) false "spiritual experiences". Remember, Satan tempted Eve with the fruit that appeared to be "SO desirable to the eye" and the wicked witch in Snow White brought HER poison in the beautiful red apple which APPEARED to be SO appealing !!
As one of the parables that Jesus told teaches, man can NOT live in a spiritual void. Something MUST fill it !!
When an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it passes through waterless places looking for rest but does not find it. Then it says, "I will return to the home I left." When it returns, it finds the house empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there, so the last state of that person is worse than the first. **** Matthew 12:43,44
The situation today is reminiscent of that which corrupted the "Charismatic Movement" of the mid and latter 1900s. Indiscriminate and unrestrained seeking after "feelings, experiences, and sensations" totally overrode ANY discernment as to the TRUE Biblical and Holy Spirit relevance of these phenomenon. Every emotional and "fleshly" extreme, no matter HOW bizarre and irrational it might be, was justified and excused under the all-encompassing mantra of, "It is a manifestation of the spirit" !! The problem was (and IS) that rarely was the question posed, "WHAT spirit" !!
As the Apostle John admonished his followers (and us):
Do not believe every spirit, but test (examine) the spirits to determine if they are from God **** 1 John 4
This is precisely the problem that I am here addressing and warning about to "those who have ears to hear". It is Satan's (the liar or deceiver) EXPRESS intent to blind men's eyes to the TRUE Gospel or "Way of salvation" with some pleasing (to the flesh) counterfeit. It matters not to him whether he does it through man's egotistical enthronement of his own "wisdom", in the dead, orthodox "religious institutions" or in the current craze (fad) of empty, feel-good, contentless "Transcendent Experience or Spirituality".
Even if our gospel is veiled (hidden) , it is veiled only to those who are perishing, among whom the god of this age (Satan) has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ **** 2 Corinthians 4:3,4
Speaking PURELY from the Biblical and Christian perspective, nothing that Jesus or His 12 Apostles wrote or taught could be in ANY way construed as teaching that our salvation experience or our continued relationship with God has ANYTHING to do with "emptying your mind and letting the spirit posses you" or some mystical, empty, ethereal, emotion dominated, feel-good, passive, goosebump experience.
Quite the contrary, the CLEAR teaching of both is that what the Father wants of us (His children) is an intelligent training and aligning of our MIND, WILL and LIFE with His ways, thoughts and purpose under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. It is FAR more a matter of OBEDIENCE rather than of goosebumps !!!!! You may read a companion article entitled, "To Obey is Better than Sacrifice" [ Here ].
Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord" will enter into the kingdom of heaven – only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, "Lord, Lord, didn't we prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons and do many powerful deeds? (We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets)". Then I will declare to them, "I never knew you. Go away from me, you lawbreakers!" Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, but it did not collapse because it had been founded on rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the flood came, and the winds beat against that house, and it collapsed; it was utterly destroyed!" **** Matthew 7:21-27
Jesus replied, ďIf anyone loves me, he will obey (keep) my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and take up residence with him. The person who does not love me does not obey my words. The word you hear is not mine, but the Fatherís who sent me." **** John 14:23,24
Happy is the one who endures testing, because when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God promised to those who love him. **** James 1:12
Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God **** Romans 8:29;12:2
We do not wage war according to human standards, for the weapons of our warfare are not human weapons, but are made powerful by God for tearing down (spiritual) strongholds (thought processes). We tear down arguments and every arrogant obstacle that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obey Christ. **** 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
There will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will accumulate teachers for themselves, because they have an insatiable curiosity to hear new things. They will turn away from hearing the truth, but on the other hand, they will turn aside to myths. **** 2 Timothy 4:3,4
Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah (1984)
I've heard there was a secret chord
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
Baby I've been here before
There was a time when you let me know
Maybe there's a God above
You say I took the name in vain
I did my best, it wasn't much