smashing serpents

Numbers 21:4-9
So Moses made a
snake out of bronze and
attached it to a pole.
Then anyone who was
bitten by a snake could
look at the bronze snake
and be healed! (v.9).

Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that 11 o’clock
on Sunday morning is the most segregated
hour in America. He meant that white Christians
and black Christians often worship in separate churches.
Recently I’ve noticed a new kind of Sunday morning
segregation. It’s increasingly common for churches to
divide according to worship style, holding traditional
services for older folks who love organ-powered hymns
and contemporary services for younger people who enjoy
choruses led by praise bands.

Churches do this because it works. Many grow
exponentially as they meet the felt needs of their worshipers.
But something about this practice doesn’t feel right.
Shouldn’t Spirit-filled Christians be worshiping together?
Your style might not be my preference, but why can’t we
appreciate our differences and sing each other’s music?
Our problem could simply be old-fashioned selfishness,
but I fear it might be worse. Could it be that we have
created an idol out of our worship? Are we unwilling to
allow Jesus to meet us in fresh ways?

We might be like the Israelites who were so impressed
by the bronze serpent that had healed their poisonous
bites that they began “offering sacrifices to it” (2 Kings
18:4). There was nothing wrong with the bronze
serpent—centuries later Jesus used it to refer to Himself
(John 3:14)—but it was only a tool.

You may have heard God’s voice while singing “Amazing Grace” or felt
particularly alive during the chorus of “As It Is in Heaven.” Thank God for that.
But remember that the bronze serpents in your life are never meant to be ends in
themselves but to lead you to Jesus. For it is when He is “lifted up” that He “will
draw everyone” to Himself (John 12:32).
Real worship focuses on Jesus, not tradition or preference. —Mike Wittmer

Read John 9:24-34 to see
how glorifying the past
can blind us to God’s
work in the present. See
1 Corinthians 1:10-17
to learn how bronze
serpents can divide the
body of Christ.

How can you tell when
your preference for a
worship style, a pastor,
or an author has turned
into idolatry? How will
you pursue real worship?