(Mike Thomas)

I live 150 miles from where the first instrument was brought into worship services of groups that would be known as churches of Christ. The actual melodeon is on display at Midway University (Kentucky), and I hope to make it over one day to see it if for no other reason than to be reminded of the great chasms that come when brethren rely on human opinion instead of the Scriptures.

Whenever a church decides to use mechanical instruments in worship, they open a door to many other departures from God's will. Frankly, many compromises have already occurred to get to the instrument, but the departure is not official (in some people's minds) until the piano and guitar (or melodeon) are brought into the building. From there, anything that meets human approval is seen as acceptable to God, be it social, charitable, or even immoral. "As long as we acknowledge Jesus and do good in the community, we are glorifying God as a church" is the mindset. The concern for doctrinal right and wrong then becomes as stable as a kite in the wind-changing with every generation, moving from faith to faith, following the path of least resistance.

Altering God's pattern in worship is nothing new. People have been doing it since Cain brought his own jmntype of sacrifice (cf. Genesis 4:3-7). It is the ultimate reason the nation of Israel was led into captivity. When Jeroboam, their first king, was afraid of losing the people's loyalty in going to Jerusalem for worship like God wanted, he set up golden calves in other cities to use in worship instead (1 Kings 12:28). The crowds were gullible, naïve, and apathetic enough to follow his lead without considering God's word. In fact, Jeroboam sold them on this venture by appealing to their spiritual laziness and indifference. "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!" (verse 28). The people bought into his lies "hook, line, and sinker" and performed every other form of error he initiated (verses 31-33) because they were trusting in their opinions and emotions instead of God's Word. As a result, this "became a sin" for them (verse 30) even though they could not determine it by their current circumstances. Everything felt fine, but behind the scenes evil was ramping up for further victories. What they failed to realize was their compromise was only a steppingstone to further apostasy and even idolatry by future generations. For two hundred years "the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight...So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day" (2 Kings 17:21-23).

In Israel's case, error did not end with the golden calves and served as just the beginning. Further departure would eventually follow with future generations living in ways the previous generations could have never predicted. Like the old saying goes, "Once you open the flood gate..." there is no stopping the waters. Further departure is always imminent once human opinion and emotions are appealed to instead of God's word. In our case, those who dismiss

God's instructions to sing in church ("speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord," Ephesians. 5:19) and opt instead to sing and make melody on a device instead, are opening the door to further compromise. Future generations will not only build on that error, but they will also make worship into nothing more than entertainment and sensationalism. Consequently, the religious community goes from gospel preaching to gimmick-promoters, from rebuking sin to ignoring it, from pleading for faith and repentance to demanding a rock concert and theatrical performance. It is just like what happened to Israel, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (1 Corinthians 10:7).

History always repeats itself because there is nothing new under the sun. Meanwhile, "The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God" (Psalm 14:2). In every generation, He is looking for those who are wise enough to trust in His word instead of their opinions and feelings, especially in matters of worship. He knows that "the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24).

Maybe I will make it to Midway, Kentucky some day to see the device that was a catalyst to so much change and departure among God's people – departures that are still occurring and evolving as we speak. But even if I do not make it there, I must watch my own heart and test all things in my own life. Do I still worship God according to His will, or am I seeking my own desires? Am I wise enough to know there is no stopping the waters once the floodgate opens? And do I realize that God will let me believe a lie in religion if that is my preference - by sending "strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)?

God help us to love Him with all of our heart and to have the integrity and faith to seek only His word. For Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).


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