Dear Church Family,

I’ve written before about the Reformed distinctive of the regulative principle of worship. The Westminster Confession of Faith summarizes the teaching of the Scriptures concerning the regulative principle of worship this way: “…the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture” (WCF 21:1). There are biblical reasons for the regulative principle of worship which are briefly enumerated in this article by Derek Thomas: The Regulative Principle of Worship.

There are also practical reasons for adhering to the biblical and confessional regulative principle of worship. If ever there was a practical reason, this is it: Pastor Rides Wild Horse Into Converted Rodeo Arena Sanctuary as Part of Sermon Illustration. If you really want to watch the whole service in which the associate pastor of Solid Rock Church in Lebanon, Ohio attempted to tame a horse as part of the church’s “Conquer the Beast” event, you can view it on youtube.

I can’t help but be reminded of other “imaginations and devices of men” such as liturgical dancing with giant papier-mâché puppets, clown-led Eucharist services, worship processionals with people dressed in animal costumes, and performance painting as an element of worship. You can’t make this stuff up. It boggles the mind, and I am at a loss for words.

So, let me return to the most recent story about the pastor who ‘broke a horse’ as a sermon illustration this past weekend. The story from The Christian Post quoted Rev. Lawrence Bishop II, “Many consider a wild bucking horse to be a beast, and it’s a simple analogy. When we submit to the master’s hand is when we find our purpose and God can bless us.” Not only is his medium (breaking a bucking bronco) not prescribed as an element of worship, his analogy that God’s redeeming work is akin to how a horse submits to its rider is flawed.

Monergism versus Synergism

As a preacher myself, I try to guard myself in not becoming overly critical of other people’s preaching – I know, all too well, how easy it is to pick a preacher apart. At the same time, this is a topic that we addressed in our sermon this past week in our sermon from Genesis 15 and will be addressing again this coming Sunday in our sermon from Genesis 16. God’s redeeming and saving work is monergistic (redemption is all of God’s work) and not synergistic (we do not cooperate in our own, or anyone else’s, redemption).

Abraham believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6). God saves people by grace through faith; it is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since that is true, God’s redeeming work is not akin to taming a wild animal so that it submits to its master.

God’s redeeming work is akin to being changed into a whole different kind of animal (to use terminology in keeping with the original analogy). Actually, the Bible speaks of God’s work of redemption as how fallen, sinful and rebellious man is made a new creation (Galatians 3:16), a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), given a new heart and a new spirit – the removal of a heart of stone and given a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 26:26), the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5-7), and being born again by the power of the Holy Spirit (John 3:1-8). God’s saving work is not therapeutic; it’s transformational rebirth!

Joy to the World! The Lord is Come

This Christmas season, we will sing the hymn, Joy to the Word! The Lord Is Come, written by Isaac Watts and based on Psalm 98. Watts hymn and that Psalm are all about the monergistic redeeming work of God. We sing this song at Christmas time as celebrate the incarnation of the Son of God in Jesus’ first coming, but Joy to the World and Psalm 98 are actually about God’s monergistic redeeming work in both Christ’s first and second coming.

So, as you sing this hymn written by Isaac Watts this Christmas, remember the words of Psalm 98 upon which it is based. Let us praise our Savior for the monergistic redeeming work of His first coming: “The LORD has made known His salvation; He has revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His lovingkindness and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God” (Psalm 98:2-3) And, let us praise our Savior for the monergistic redeeming work of His second coming: “Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for joy before the LORD, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:8-9).

The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch