Format: Sound Plus Doctrine PodcastDownload Session
This episode of Sound + Doctrine is the second of five focusing on what really matters to God in our Sunday gatherings. Devon Kauflin joins us as we talk about the importance of our meetings being Scripture governed and fueled.
Scriptures referenced: 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Heb. 2:1; Jn. 4:23-24; 1 Cor. 2:1-2; Neh. 8:5-8
“The Samaritans did not know enough to worship God correctly. So all our pious intentions are struck by this thunderbolt, by this thought, that we cannot help but worship falsely unless we are guided by God’s Word.” Kevin Vanhoozer
“If believers are looking for an exciting encounter with God apart from the Word, we must ask why this is. Is it just because our age is like the Middle Ages, visual rather than verbal? Or could it also be that many of us have turned the service into a dry, purely rational and yet unreflective routine?” Michael Horton, A Better Way, 43.
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This episode of Sound Plus Doctrine is the second of five focusing on what really matters to God in our Sunday gatherings. Devon Kauflin joins us as we talk about the importance of our meetings being Scripture governed and fueled.
David Zimmer: Welcome back and welcome in to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast, the water is warm. [laughter]
Devon Kauflin: We love to make you feel welcome.
DZ: Yeah, I’m David Zimmer.
DK: Or awkward, or awkward.
Bob Kauflin: I’m Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we have Devon again with us for part two of… What we were talking about.
DK: Devon Kauflin.
DZ: Yes, sorry.
BK: Come on, this might be the first podcast anyone ever listens to of Sound Plus Doctrine.
DZ: That’s true.
BK: They probably aren’t listening anymore.
DK: That’s true.
BK: Okay, next.
DZ: Bob, where are we going with point two and remind us of what point one was if they didn’t listen.
BK: I sure can. Yeah, we’re talking about core values of corporate worship. The gathering of God’s people, what things are the most important, not laying down a specific liturgy, but just saying what things do we need to keep in mind if we’re planning or leading the gathering of God’s people. So last time we talked about it being God-initiated and exalting, and it was a fun conversation, we could talk about that for all five times, but just we’re reminding each other and our listeners that we don’t come to God on our own, at our own invitation God has to invite us. And the purpose of that is that He be exalted. So today we wanna talk about a second core value, and that would just be that our gatherings are Scripture governed and fueled. And we get that from a number of places in Scripture. 2 Timothy, 3:16 – 4:2, where Paul talks about how Scripture is profitable for teaching, rebuke, correction, training and righteousness, that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for any good work.
BK: Hebrews 2:1, where it talks about how we are… I should have looked that up. “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it,” and just throughout Scripture, God’s word puts his word at the center of our relationship with him. The first sin came about as a result of Adam and Eve rejecting God’s Word and believing a lie, “Didn’t God say… ” So his word is what is to govern how we meet with him, and it’s to fuel how we meet with him, those are two separate categories. So, Devon, what does “Scripture governed” imply?
DK: Well I just wanted to comment first how well this comes off of our last conversation.
BK: Yes, good.
DK: Where we talked about God’s initiative in our singing, and if God is the one that initiates our corporate worship, I just said singing, I meant corporate worship, if God’s the one that initiates our gatherings, then he should be the one who also governs those gatherings by His word, that’s his prerogative, and John Calvin and his necessity for reforming the church, so this is his defense of the reformation that he writes, he talks about the danger of fictitious worship, and so fictitious worship being false worship that we come up with. And he said, “left to our own intuitions, all we can do is but go astray,” and just reflecting on the importance of something other than us governing and determining, shaping even what we do as we gather is just so critical.
DZ: Yeah, well, and it should be noted that it’s not only talking about when we’re gathering, but also I would say the songs that we’re singing, that we’re pulling into it… That’s obviously a part of the gathering, but I just think we can have… We talked about trinitarian focus, we can have songs that encourage that and we can have songs that…
BK: And we should.
DZ: And we should yeah. And we’re singing scripture to one another as well. So it’s also like the songs that we’re singing.
BK: Yes, yeah. That’s the “fueled” part. We don’t come with our own ideas to tell God, “Hey, I think you should hear this, or I think this should impress you, or I think this will encourage you.” God tells us what encourages him. I mean, he tells us what he loves, and so we have this whole book of the Psalms that model for us what a relationship with God looks like, and honestly, it looks pretty different from a lot of our meetings, where you have a meeting that is just about people feeling good about themselves, or people feeling good about what God has said about them, and isn’t God nice? Isn’t God good? And just doesn’t he love you so much, and that’s not what the Psalms are like, the Psalms acknowledge that God is a God of steadfast love, and we put our hope and our trust in Him, but the Psalmist are pretty honest about the fact that life is not always looking like that.
BK: And we have to deal with the things that go on inside us, we have to deal with our sins against God, and God’s word tells us how to do that, so that’s the fuel part, but it’s also… I wanna spend some time… I’m sure we’ll get to both of these, but just about God’s word governing our times of worship with him. In the old testament especially we see, God was very specific about the ways He wanted to be worshipped and you did not bring the wrong kind of incense to worship Him, you did not do the wrong kinds of sacrifices when they built the Ark of the Covenant, the commandments, the 10 words were placed in that ark with Israel to signify that our relationship with God was governed by His rule over us. And so we can’t have this mindset that we come to God and yeah, He’s forgiven us and everything, but he really doesn’t care about how we live.
BK: He cares absolutely how we live, ’cause he’s a Holy God, and He desires us to be a holy people, we’ve been singled out from all the nations of the Earth, Israel was, and now God’s people have as a holy nation to live under the authority of His Word, and that includes our gatherings, which there’s the regular principle, which has been in vogue as you say from the Westminister Confession, where it talked about how everything we do in our corporate worship in our gatherings is to be expressly commanded in God’s Word or inferred from God’s Word, so it’s not just that we shouldn’t do things that aren’t there but no, we’ve gotta have a specific command or inference from scripture to know what we should do in our gatherings.
BK: And it’s one way of thinking about what we do when we gather. So can we have… Should we watch a movie when we gather? Well, that’s not really inferred, or implied, or commanded in Scripture, that we just gather together to watch a movie. Now, can I watch a movie with my family and do that as an act of worship to the Lord? Sure, I can. But as the church gathers we need something more than just… “I think this will benefit people. I think this will be good for people.”
BK: So there are specific commands, and there are specific examples of what we’re to do when we gather. And if we really give our time to those things that God has commanded and modeled for us in the Scripture, it just is a… It’s gonna be… We’re gonna give a lot less time to doing things that could distract from the Word being central, and the Word governing what we do.
DK: Yeah, and I think…
DZ: And it’s ultimately what we need.
DZ: Yeah. [chuckle]
DK: Yeah. I think at times we can hear what you just said and be aware of all the things that we then can’t do, as if now like we’re…
BK: Oh, wow.
DK: And I think a lot of that is just our secular age that we live in, that response, where we think any restriction is a problem. Anything that inhibits on our ability to do what we want to do, or express who we are, whatever it is, culturally, this is what’s going on, is a problem and something to be pushed against. But how God reveals himself in his Word, and as you just laid out, how God deals and relates with his people, He does it through covenant. And in those covenants there’s this revelation, and there’s obligation as well. And that obligation on our parts is to give Him our lives, and to give him our obedience and submissiveness. And we are now free because of his regulations, his rules. And we’re freed to no longer be enslaved…
DZ: So good.
DK: By what we want to do.
DK: And what a joy it is to then walk in His paths. I think it’s… I think Matt Merker has used an illustration of it’s like baseball. Think of baseball, and you have the umpire who has the rulebook. And what makes baseball baseball is the rules that have to be followed.
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: If the umpire decides one day that, “You know what? These rules don’t apply anymore.”
DK: “I’m not calling you out on three strikes, I’m just gonna call you out when I feel like.”
BK: Yeah. [laughter]
DZ: It’s total chaos.
DK: It doesn’t work. It’s no longer baseball.
DK: But what makes that game beautiful is the fact that there are these rules.
BK: Yes. Yes.
DK: And so there is joy in life to be found in that. And other people… I think GK Chesterton used the illustration of if you’re told to draw a giraffe, but then you have no boundaries given, and you draw whatever you want…
DK: Have you drawn a giraffe? No, you haven’t drawn a giraffe.
BK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
DK: That’s… You drew something else, something other than a giraffe. But it’s the fact that there are parameters, and there are boundaries in place that give us the freedom to then draw this giraffe.
DK: And that’s what Scripture-governed worship is all about.
DK: It’s about the freedom and the joy… The freedom that we can have, and the joy that we can find in worshiping God on his terms.
DK: It’s interesting, in John 4, I think one thing we can often pass over quickly, when Jesus is telling the Samaritan woman that the Father is seeking those who worship in spirit and truth…
DK: Right before that, in verse 22, he talks about how the Samaritans worship that which they do not know.
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: And I think it’s… I have this quote here. Kevin Vanhoozer one time said, with John… Oh, I just lost it. It’s coming.
DK: That’s okay. It’s worth waiting for.
BK: We will wait for it. We aren’t going anywhere, are we?
DZ: We’re not in a hurry.
DK: We got plenty of time. He says that, “the Samaritans did not know enough to worship God correctly. So all of our pious intentions are struck by this thunderbolt.” So we have these desires to honor God, please God, “but these pious intentions are struck by this thunderbolt, by this thought that we cannot help but worship falsely, unless we are guided by God’s word.”
BK: Yes. God is initiates worship.
DK: The only way that we can worship God in the right way, in the way that He calls us to, is if we do it according to His word.
BK: Yes, it takes God to worship God.
DZ: Well, and it’s so freeing, as you said, to think that way, but it’s also so sobering to think about, why wouldn’t we want to do this? Why… It’s scary to think, why would we gather to do something that we wanna do, as opposed to something that He’s given us limitations for, guidelines for?
BK: Well, I think there can be… We can kind of lose sight of the fact that we’re not doing it anymore. In other words, I guess there would be churches that aren’t claiming… Well, they’re not really churches. If a church discards the Word of God, and says we don’t need this, this doesn’t govern us anymore. I think most churches would be trying to say, “Yeah, we wanna do what the word of God says.” But we can begin to take the Word of God for granted. It can just be one of the fixtures, one of the elements of the meeting that’s not really that much more significant than what we do, or we say. We can hear it without applying it which builds a disconnect, where we hear the right words, but no one’s really expecting anyone to put them into practice. Or we can be theologically arrogant about it and think it’s all about how much of the Bible we know, without recognizing that the written Word is meant to direct us in every way to the Living Word, Jesus Christ. And this is about a relationship with a person, with the Son of God, and not just knowing a lot of facts. And then I think on the alternate side we can minimize subjective response and just go… And, again, thinking… It’s now on the opposite side. But we can just go thinking, “I’m gonna fill my head with knowledge, I’m going to know these things.” But we…
DK: And that’s enough.
BK: What’s that?
DK: And we think that’s enough.
BK: Yeah. And we think that’s enough, and this Michael Horton quote where he says, from A Better Way, “If believers are looking for an exciting encounter with God apart from the word, we must ask why this is. Is it just because our age is like the Middle Ages visual rather than verbal, or could it also be that many of us have turned the service into a dry, purely rational and yet un-reflective routine?” And so I think we can have a lot of the Word, but it doesn’t affect us anyway and we aren’t growing in our amazement and appreciation for the fact that this is God Himself speaking to us, which is the reason why our meetings need to be Scripture-governed and Scripture-fueled. It’s not, God just telling us, you need to do this, don’t do this, do that, it’s the fuel, it provides the joy, it provides the energy, the enthusiasm, the meaning of what we do, and I don’t know if a lot of churches experience that. I don’t know, I mean somewhere… They’ve just gone off to other kinds of things, instead of the Word, they don’t find the word very appealing that maybe it’s governing, maybe not, they’re not really aware or not even thinking about that, but it’s not fueling the meeting, so they go off to other things and that seems to be an issue to me.
DK: So what would you say are those things that define Scripture-governed worship? What do we do as we gather that Scripture prescribes for us to do?
BK: Well, things like preaching the Word of God, so when we gather, we gather to hear God speak to us, and that individual proclaiming the Word of God to us. It’s not a conversation, it’s not someone sharing their opinions, it’s not someone throwing their thoughts out there and let’s take a vote on this. It’s proclamation. God has spoken to us. And it doesn’t have to be done, it shouldn’t be done arrogantly, it shouldn’t be done harshly, but it should be done with authority. That’s what set Jesus apart from the Pharisees. It says, “they were amazed,” he had just done a miracle, but “they were amazed because He taught with such authority.” Well, why did he teach with authority? It was his father’s words. He is the Word of God, and he was speaking the Word of God, but we have the Word of God in Scripture. So when we gather, we are to hear God’s Word proclaimed, we’re to do things like greet one another, we’re to pray together. We’re to sing together. We’re to share the Lord’s Supper together. I think baptism ideally takes place strictly in the context of the local church and things like that, that the New Testament we’re to give… When you gather at the beginning of the week, give this, give to this offering, things like that. Spiritual gifts are meant to operate, those are all part of a meeting, being Scripturally-governed. Am I leaving anything out. There are other things that.
DK: Church discipline would be.
BK: Church discipline.
DK: One other category that has to take place in the context of the church.
BK: In the context of the church. So those things that are specifically modeled for us in the Word of God, said These are the things that are meant to take place now, those are meant to produce a result an effect, it’s not just, I’ve checked them off the list and we’ve done it, but if Scripture is truly governing and fueling what we do, there will be an effect, and so if there’s not an effect, I think we’ve gone to those other things to govern us and you ask what things would take its place, things like music. You go on YouTube and one way it’s encouraging, you can see all these different groups singing to the Lord, it’s passionate, it’s sometimes great words, sometimes not, but you see people trying to make much of Jesus in some way.
DK: Pious intentions.
BK: Pious intentions. But what can happen is we lose sight of the Word and we focus more on what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, and it just becomes, “were we passionate enough? Were we effective enough”, rather than, “Is this something that really honor the Lord, is this something that the lord really said that the Lord really wanted us to do?” And it’s separated from that context of the read word the prayed word the preached word and so music can rush in to take its place. And so people go to a church, they become part of a church because of the music, not because the Word is being proclaimed. Visuals can take its place, although I think that was maybe more an issue… Well, no it still is. Churches where…
DK: It looks different.
BK: It does, it does. For sure.
DK: No pun intended.
BK: That’s very good. There’s this temptation to think, “Man, if we don’t have stuff happening visually,” an example would be just what’s happening behind your lyrics, if you don’t use a hymnal, which most churches don’t… What’s happening behind the lyrics? I remember at one point they were showing pictures of the Maine coast, the Coastal line behind the words, and I just think, “We went to vacation on Maine.” We were on vacation in Maine once, and I’d always start thinking of vacation. When I was singing the song, I think I had vacation. “What am I thinking about??”
DK: Remembered how miserable I made that trip?
BK: Yeah, you did make that trip as well I do remember that? But Or just movements. There’s gotta be movement. Why isn’t the truth we’re singing, moving enough. Why do we have to say, Hey, there’s something going on here to convince people.
DK: It’s almost like there’s some other power that we need.
DK: When we were talking earlier about Paul in 1 Corinthians 2. The power that we wanna put on display is the power of God…
BK: Yes, which comes through the gospel, the preaching of the gospel.
DK: And that’s how they take place. So the proclamation of His word. I love this category, both in governing our worship and in fueling our worship. This category of witness or testimony or attesting to who God has already revealed Himself to be. So when we gather together, we gather as witnesses to what God has done. And what a witness does is they just say what they’ve seen.
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: That’s what a witness is called to do.
BK: We’re not being innovative.
DK: And so yeah, it’s not what I think we need or what I think someone else needs, it’s what God has given us, that’s what we need, and so that’s what I’m gonna proclaim.
DK: And so it gives, it shapes the content and also often the structure of what we do when we come as witnesses.
DK: And another thing that I love about that concept, that idea, is that we bear witness to God, and the Psalms are all over this place where I give you praise and we’re bearing witness to who God is, our declaration, our proclamation. We’re also bearing witness to one another. And so we gather together to teach and admonish one another. And there is this… There’s always just this corporate nature as we proclaim the truths of God’s Word as God’s Word governs our worship, we’re bearing witness to one another about this truth.
DK: And then also we see in 1 Corinthians 14, we’re bearing witness to the world. And so as we proclaim God’s Word, God’s Word is what those who are lost and in darkness, that’s what they need. And so some might come in to our gatherings that are centered on God’s Word, that are proclaiming God’s Word, and see that God is in this place and come to know and fear God. And so I just think as we talk about this, I think it’s helpful to think about it in that category. That’s what I’m here to do. I don’t have anything to give that has not already been given to me.
BK: Yes, yes.
DK: And I’ve found it so freeing as both a pastor and as a song leader to not feel like I need to come up with something new every week.
BK: Yeah, yeah. I was just thinking about that.
DK: Because what we need has already been revealed. And so I wanna know this book really well because in this book, I see God revealed. This is God’s word to us. But I don’t need to give myself to… Well, how can I engage people this week in a new and fresh way?
BK: And really affect them.
DK: And that’s exhausting.
DZ: Well, it is exhausting. And you mentioned in the last podcast how we’ve pulled in so much of our individualism into our corporate gatherings that you… Pastors have this pressure to say, “Well, I’ll use Scripture, but I’m gonna internalize it and then give it back so that it’s applicable, so that it’s personable, so that it’s engaging…
DZ: And it’s relevant, and you can do it as a song leader too or as a songwriter, or whatever. And so I just think getting away from that and seeing that, it’s governed by Scripture because it’s initiated by God, and it’s all about Him in the focus anyways, we don’t have anything to bring to the table. So that’s just so helpful.
DK: And there’s this distinction between Scripture-informed and Scripture-governed and fueled.
DK: Where I think a lot of… It can be easy to go to just being Scripture-informed.
DZ: Yes, well-said, yeah.
DK: And so I, as a pastor, let’s say, I recognize these needs, or I want to encourage people with this truth, or whatever it is, and so we go to God’s words to kind of inform that, but then it’s really just our burdens and our desires and our vision.
DZ: Yeah, it’s a TED Talk eventually.
DK: And that’s not what we’re called to, if we’re gonna practice corporate worship in a way that is governed and fueled by Scripture.
BK: Yeah, and I think that the importance of making connections for people. So it’s not just that we read and proclaim the Word, it’s that people get it, that they understand it. I think of Nehemiah 8:8 where it says, “they read from the book,” from… This is when the people gather and Ezra is just reading from the book of the Lord. “They read from the book from the law of God clearly, and they gave the sense so that the people understood the reading.”
DK: And the people’s response to that is powerful.
BK: Oh yeah.
DZ: Oh yeah.
BK: Yeah, they lift up their hands, they bow down, they weep. It says, “Be joyful. The joy of the Lord is your strength.” It’s just… I remember I was in a conference one time and the leader said, “You know, I’m just… ” He read this passage. ” I’m, just gonna read the Word of God and I want you to respond.” It was a very powerful moment, read long portion of scripture. And people were, “Yes, amen.” And it was, yeah, that’s what we want to happen in people’s hearts. But part of the reason it doesn’t is because we kind of just read the Scripture and just let it sit and don’t tell people, “What does this mean? Why did I just read this Scripture and not that one?” Especially coming out of a song or going into another song, why are you reading that Scripture? Tell us what this means. And I would say another implication of being Scripture-governed and Scripture-fueled is that we plan our meetings from the Word of God, not just around the songs.
DZ: Good, yeah.
BK: Big change for me a number of years ago was that rather than just picking some songs to sing, I would begin with the call to worship at the Scripture. And I wouldn’t move from that, wouldn’t pick a song until I had that first Scripture because I want that song to flow out of that Scripture. And then do another song, and then we have another Scripture, I want that Scripture to flow out of that song, sure, but then the next song we sing I want to come out of that scripture, so that we are always being responsive to the Word of God and never just kind of slipping the Word of God in as… Slipping the Bible in it ’cause everybody wants to know.
DZ: That’s so good.
BK: We believe in the Bible. No, we love the Bible here, we love the Word of God because it reveals God to us. His heart. The person of Jesus Christ, we get to know him better because of His Word to us.
BK: And that’s what we’re gathering for every week.
DZ: That’s so great. Well, yeah, I guess this concludes part two.
BK: I’m sure we could say more, but I guess we’ll stop there.
BK: I love these conversations.
DZ: Thanks for listening. Have a great day.