Our adversary, the devil, uses both formality and informality. He can placate an insensitive conscience with either one, causing people to think they can rest in surroundings rather than in God. The punctilious form that characterized the Israelites religious feasts would please the liturgist; but it did not please God. Entering into those heartless observances, Satan led them into vain practices. They honored God with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him (Matt. 15:8; Mk. 7:6). On the other hand, the failure of the Israelites to remember they were in God's presence led to the ultimate informality. It is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play" (1 Cor. 10:7).

When you weigh both environs, you will find the burden of Scripture is on the side of formality. The solemn obligation laid upon the people of God is, "Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). "Let all things be done unto edifying" (1 Cor. 14:26). Ad hoc contributions in the assembly generally do not lead in this direction. Our fleshly natures tend to erupt whenever given opportunity.

Close the door to the devil in your assembly. This is done by fine tuning your spiritual vision. Sing, speak, and pray with your hearts and minds set on heavenly things. Put Jesus Christ at the heart of everything. Relate all of your activities to Him. You will have to work at this, but God will give you the strength to accomplish it. Satan is not able to work in an environment saturated with spirituality. He moves freely and without restraint in one that is not. Energetically seek the favor of God in your gatherings by centering on His salvation!

Hearts and minds can degenerate

Without discipline and focus, our minds and hearts tend to degenerate. The reason for this is quite simple. We are in a war zone, under assault by the enemy of God and the adversary of our souls. If our minds are not focused, many opportunities will arise for distraction. They will range from the innocent expressions of the young to outbursts of pride among those mature in years.

There are two sides to every person in Christ: the "old" and the "new" (Eph. 4:23-24), the "flesh" and the "spirit" (Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:22-25). When the "old," or Adamic, part of us dominates, we become incapable of receiving or perceiving spiritual things: i.e., they do not make sense to us. "This present evil world" (Gal. 1:4) will actually have more appeal to us than "the world to come" (Mark 10:30; Heb. 2:5). It is not possible to realize spiritual gain in such a frame of mind. It makes little difference if fine songs are sung and great sermons preached. If we are not centered upon the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, we will not be helped to heaven or made more godly.