To properly answer the question in the title, we must adequately examine the consequences of taking any risk based on how severe the penalty for getting it wrong will be. How much harm is there if I “play fast and loose” with my chocolate milk recipe? If I don’t measure the milk and chocolate syrup, what is the worst that can happen? I’m forced to drink a cold, fortifying glass of milk with only enough chocolate to remind me I should have squeezed the bottle twice or…well…is there such a thing as too much chocolate in a glass of milk?
Playing it safe takes on a whole new importance if we are talking about handling venomous snakes. Your friend might say something like, “I don’t think that snake will bite you.” or “Surely that snake won’t harm you. Your boots and his skin match.” “What is the worst that could happen?” How many of us would say, “No thanks! I’ll just play it safe and not pick up the snake.” It is a pretty clear principle when applied to venomous snakes, our car’s brakes, the ropes a rock climber uses, or the fuel we choose to put in an airplane in which we are flying. “Go ahead, put that 87-octane car fuel in it. Surely it won’t make a difference, will it?”
Yet when we come to our worship of Jehovah God and our service in the kingdom of his Son, some of us are all “loosey-goosey.” I mean, “What’s the worst that could happen?” Well, if God considers it willful disobedience, I believe the correct answer is, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”-Hebrews 10:26-27.
Is pleasing our God that important? Is it, “chocolate milk important” or “life and death important?” The truth is it is eternal life or eternal punishment important. God sent his Son to save a willful and disobedient people. It pleased the Father to give Jesus a kingdom. We call that kingdom the church and we are most fully the church when we assemble together to worship God, through the Son, filled with the Spirit. Should we “play it fast and loose” when we, “eat this bread and drink the cup.”-I Corinthians 11:26? Does it matter whether we eat or drink, “in an unworthy manner…without discerning the body”-I Corinthians 11:27, 29? The consequences are worse than a rattlesnake bite. The Spirit says we can expect, guilt concerning the body and blood of the Lord. And we eat and drink judgment on ourselves (I Corinthians 11:27, 29).
So, what does it mean to, “stay on the safe side” when it comes to our Sunday assemblies? Let’s look at three principles:
- Find Bible authority for anything we do in our worship.
- Examine how, when, and why something was done in the first century.
- Do those things in the way and Spirit we see them done in Scripture.
- Do not do other things nor do authorized things in different ways.
At this point, you might say, “Hey! You said three principles, not four.” True, but number four isn’t really a principle, nor is it something you would think you have to say. But here we are. What number four really does is point out the problem at the heart of this article.
When we say, “Surely God won’t be unhappy if we change worship to him just a little.” we are expressing a desire to do things in worship that are not found in the Bible. By definition, I am saying, “I am looking to please myself and call it worship of God.” Jesus tells us this kind or worship is man-made and worthless (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-9). The Spirit describes it as “will worship” in Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion”-Colossians 2:23. The King James translates, “self-made religion” as “will-worship.” It may seem wise to invent ways to worship God that are foreign to God’s book. But Scripture reveals the real motive. I am making the worship of God into something made in my image and following my will. Loosey-goosey indeed.
It may take submission to, “Just worship God according to the Bible.” It may not please me. But I can know it is the right thing to do because I find it in the Bible. Isn’t that what worship is all about, sacrificing my will for his? Doing the safe thing may not excite people of the world. But humbly submitting to the will of God is what Jesus would do! Why would I ever take a chance? Playing it safe will get me home.