I. Review: What is the 2nd commandment all about?
A. Opening Exercise:
Put the following two sentences on the board:
Discuss: What is the difference between them? What is the difference? Which one most accurately describes what we studied last time in the 2nd commandment?
The two differ in this way: The second view is much more limited, while the first view is much more permissive and allows many more things to be added to a worship service. For instance, according to the normative view you may not have a statue of Baal in your service because that is expressly forbidden in Scripture. But you could have a picture of Mary, drama, or an “inspirational video.”
Discuss: Why do people hold to the first view? What makes it appealing? Why do people hold to the second view?
B. Put the following sentence on the board:
Is it proper to speak of having a worship experience?
II. THE INFLUENCE OF PICTURES (i.e. media) ON WORSHIP & WORSHIPPERS
Why do we feel the need to “feel” something in church? Why are we not satisfied with the kind of worship God has instituted? A lot of this has to do with how we’ve been shaped by modern media forms, TV in particular. So, it is important to think for a few minutes on the influence of today’s media on our minds and our worship.
Watch: Man v Book: video review of Amusing Ourselves to Death:
Television is based on images, fast moving images at that. Images are sensory things, which call for emotional reactions. The fast pace tempo of images creates a desire for stimulation and shortens one’s attention span. Concentration becomes erratic and confined to short spurts (like this bible study!)
Television is a “feeling” medium because pictures evoke emotion. We are taught to “feel” and to have emotional reactions (rather than intellectual reactions).
Check out these quotes from Neil Postman's book, Amusing Ourselves to Death:
“Truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression. Truth does not, and never has, come unadorned. It must appear in its proper clothing or it is not acknowledged, which is a way of saying that ‘truth’ is a kind cultural prejudice.”
Translation: TV embodies its own truth forms. Forms that are entertainment based and not like those forms of a written or oral medium.
Television favors moods of conciliation” (i.e. pacification, appeasement).
Translation: No one likes an angry person on TV. So the idea of a minister being angered at sin becomes rather obnoxious. Ministers must become pacifistic and not much like a Jesus who was willing to overturn the tables of a money changer.
“Sesame Street appeared to be an imaginative aid in solving the growing problem of teaching Americans how to read, while, at the same time, encouraging children to love school. We now know that ‘sesame Street’ encourages children to love school only if school is like Sesame Street…As a television show Sesame Street does not encourage children to love school or anything about school. It encourages them to love television.”
Postman's main conclusion is that television exalts that which is silly and is primarily a medium for entertainment.
TV has greatly changed worship. Many churches today basically have a rock concert every Sunday. It is a far cry from the kind of worship that characterized the 18th century (long readings of Scripture, didactic messages, hymns/psalms). In a lot of mega churches today, you mainly watch worship—the lights are turned down and the high beams are focused on the singers & performers up front. It is essentially a performance and aimed at entertaining people for the purpose of making good profits.
In sum, we must be careful we are not longing to dumb down worship and turn it into something that it is not. Worship is a dialog between God and man. It requires mental interaction, analytical thinking and depth of concentration.
To be sure, worship should never be "boring." It is a sin for ministers to bore the congregation. Yet we should understand that we be bored solely because we live in "TV Land" and expect TV-like worship.
III. HOW IMPORTANT IS THE 2ND COMMANDMENT?
The second commandment is the longest of the commandments listed. It is careful to spell out the importance of following this commandment. There are two basic reasons. What are they?
Kids may think it is unfair for God to punish sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation. First, they must understand that temporal judgments (as opposed to eternal punishments) often accompany families. For instance, a father who drinks may have children who are abused or suffer neglect, causing more problems. There is often a corporate aspect to judgment: If a nation sins, God punishes the nation (even though not every person may be liable individually).
Make sure they know that it is not just because the fathers are sinners. The children are typically liable for punishment too. Children imitate their fathers and sins are typically passed down from one generation to another.
How can God promise mercy to a thousand generations? God’s promise is always “to you and to your offspring.” He deals faithfully within families.
We can also think of it this way: The second command has a “slippery slope” aspect to it. When worship is corrupted it is not long until another god is worshipped. The Israelites never woke up on any given morning and said, “I’m going to convert to Baalism today.” It typically happened over time. The worship of the one true God was first corrupted. Elements from other cultures slipped in. Then, over time, people distanced themselves from the Lord altogether.
As we maintain pure forms of worship, we help prevent apostasy altogether.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.