Mr. Keys, Streams, We are the Champions.
Summary: (He opens after the worship team ends. He speaks about the great encounters they had with God the previous Sunday nite. And he mentions that there have been prophetic words of late in his church.) “A Goliath always stands at the door of promotion.” A champion wins more than he loses, and wins the final game. (He gives a football anecdote.) Christians, we have to realize that we have the Spirit of a champion living in us. (Examples of victory from the life of Jesus are given.) His Spirit, the Spirit of a champion, lives in you. “We are what we contain. Therefore we are the champions of the world.” Greater is the champion in us than any champion in the world. No one is a born winner or loser. We are born choosers. (1 Samuel 17 is the text. Here he makes a joke about an Old Testament giant.) Goliath’s motives: to steal, kill, and destroy. The weapons: disease, fear, shame, addiction, control. His strategy: He’ll wait until you’re in the valley, and then he comes. His strategy: to intimidate, separate, and annihilate. We look at the enemy’s champion, and say, “I don’t know if I can win…Nobody understands. My Goliath is bigger than your Goliath.” That’s the Saul attitude. You have to be a David. Some, you’re bullied by past mistakes. Or you feel beaten this week. You can lose the battle and still win the war. Paul was a champion. “I know that Christ won the war,” he said. He knew he would win in the end. (He quotes Romans 8.35-37.) Even the greatest champions can struggle. Just go to Romans 7. But then Paul reminds himself that he was meant to win. After the crucifixion the demons discussed that Jesus was now in the tomb. But the Spirit was waiting. The same Spirit that raised Christ up lives in you today, the Spirit of a champion. If the Holy Spirit can raise up a corpse, he can raise you up. David, that little runt, faced down a nine foot giant. (He makes a joke here about Goliath.) How could David face the giant? By the anointing he received from Samuel. That anointing is the same anointing we’re talking about today. He was anointed with the Spirit of a champion. David’s reference to Goliath as uncircumcised was to point out that Goliath was out of covenant with God. He did not have the Spirit of a champion in him. He did not deserve to be called a champion. (Here he screams out some biblical victories and speculates about why David chose five stones. Then the worship team comes on because the pastor wants to do some warfare.) “The God of David is here, so let’s go.” (The pastor drifts into prayer as the worship team meanders along. He prays over addictions and fears, etc. He prepares to anoint people. A woman reads from Isaiah 42. Music proceeds while the anointing goes on.)
Remarks. He did not stray from his topic. The content in the sermon is okay. And it is preached a little, not just taught. But Mr. Keys is guilty quite often of screaming instead of preaching. A scream should not be used in place of an argument. ‘That’s just the way it is’ is not a satisfactory, logical way to present an opinion or truth for acceptance. No one should be expected to receive a proposition on the ground of a scream. The speculation about why David chose five stones is tolerable because of the valuable lesson drawn from it: David planned to kill more giants after this, and so should we. Goliath was well used as a figure of what the Christian must combat. But our Goliaths do not always meet us in the valley. Perhaps most often they meet us when we’re on the mountaintop. No one is a born winner or loser, he says. But who is a bigger loser than fallen man? Man is born in sin and condemned to die. We’re all born losers. This is why Jesus says we must be born again. The comment about us being what we contain is not true; otherwise the Christian, who contains the Holy Spirit, would be God. This proposition is probably a slip, not something Mr. Keys actually believes. But this slip shows the danger of this preoccupation with the truth that Christians possess the Holy Spirit. It is easy, if we are not careful, to stumble into the New Age belief that the God within is really our Self.
The major faults are these. (1) The pastor’s disposition. He is more like a coach than a preacher. And too often he is a joker. But more serious than these defects are the pride and affectation that the sermon is delivered with. Clearly, Mr. Keys is thinking much of himself while delivering this message. This is apparent not so much in what he says but in how he says it. There is more self-promotion here than humility. Mr. Keys gets his ego fed by the feedback he summons. He puts himself, instead of Jesus, in the spotlight. He is the centerpiece, not Christ. He should imitate the apostle Paul, whose presence was weak but whose words were weighty. But it seems as if he’s attempting to be charismatic in some televangelist sense. And this is a form of religion that has more swagger than might. It will be difficult for this pastor to give up the mere show of religion, for this kind of charismatic spectacle is what the multitudes want; also, he will be slow to give up the show because of the effort he has put in to get this far and because of the progress he has made. This progress, though, is a regress in the eyes of God. Unless this pastor decreases in order that Jesus Christ may increase, his fruit and treasure will amount to, in the end, nothing more than wood, hay, and stubble.
(2) The worship style. The praise has little content and theology, but a lot of beat, noise, and repetition. The sound, the mood, and the feel remind us of American Indian spirit worship or the performances of drug-induced aborigines. The climb of the music to a hyper point and the trance-effecting rhythm and repetition are the same characteristics you find in mindless jungle exhibitions. And because of the absence of theology, we cannot assume that the god worshiped with the praise at Streams is any different from that which is worshiped by shamans and their devotees. Phrases like ‘we’re not backing down’ and ‘Jesus’ and ‘alleluia’ are not tied to any interpretation because the lyrics consist of nothing but these phrases. This kind of praise is not biblical because there is no theology in it. Compare the lyrics, if you can call them that, to what the Psalms contain, for instance. Without theological teaching, the mind is not directed to any truth. And these pointless phrases are chanted in the face of the vain repetition that is condemned in the Bible. The people in this church are trying to be heard by their words often repeated. This is a form of worship not accepted by Jesus. “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matthew 6.7.) If vain repetition is not a biblical means by which to get God’s ear, then it is wrong to do it both in prayer and in praise. Vain repetition is more dangerous in praise than in prayer because of the element of music that can carry the mind away. Expressions like, ‘spirit rise in this place’ and garbled phrases (probably some form of ‘tongues’) are repeated over and over as if by persons in altered states. When worship is not instructive, just emotive, it is not true worship, for God will have his people worship ‘in spirit and in truth.’ It is obvious that the music, when combined with the pastor’s manner of yelling out verses of Scripture, aims at getting the people up to a frenzied pitch. People are worked up by the screaming and the music until the scene comes to a crescendo. They are very emotional then, and ripe for receiving whatever the pastor proposes. They will come forward to be anointed, thinking nothing except that this might impart some kind of mystical strength to fight and beat the enemy. Obviously, all of this is flesh, not spirit, and certainly not the Holy Spirit. When you’ve become informed on what true worship is and is not, even the words ‘praise God’ will feel spooky to you in this milieu, for this reason: although this praise is a work of the flesh, there is a sort of spirit at work in it, a spirit of iniquity, a demonic factor. One of the mantras used in this worship service is, ‘Shower us like rain, God.’ But the worship feels more like, ‘Shower us like rain-god.’ Of course, the people there do not realize this. And we must allow for the possibility that a few sincere souls are able to focus through the mist of this pagan atmosphere to get up to God. But the spirit of this worship service feels like, and bears the marks of, not Jesus, Truth, and Order, but demons, paganism, and chaos. This may seem hard to believe, especially since the sermon contained no intended heresy. But we would direct anyone who doubts the matter to the following podcasts: True Melody, parts one and two on a program called, Living Grace; and the Crosstalk broadcast of March 25, 2009, called, Biblical Approach to Music. There is a lot of people display in this church, and lots of smoke and mirrors. One gets the impression that if you have no magic trick to contribute, then you can’t be part of the elite at Streams. The whole debacle reminds us of the scribes who put themselves on display by their pretentious prayers and their modified garments. “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes…and for a shew make long prayers” (Luke 20.46, 47.) This worship seems to be coming from a people who “love greetings…the highest seats…and the chief rooms” (verse 46.) This is what we have to say if we would give an honest opinion. Not every person there is guilty. We must be careful to emphasize this. It is mainly the pastor and the worship team. How must this sermon and service strike the naïve seeker who comes to church to inquire about God? A visiting unbeliever should be ill at ease during a sermon, and in awe at the worship given to God by Christians. But we think he would have been quite comfortable hearing, We are the Champions, and amazed and bewildered at the mad kind of worship unleashed in this strange service. The Old Testament speaks of strange fire being offered to God. The fire at Streams on this day is a modern-day equivalent.
(3) The focus on ‘the Spirit that is in you.’ He gets this from 1 John 4.4: “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” This expression is a fact, not a direction. The pastor seems to focus on these words as if to direct us to a power within. But even though the Spirit of God may be in us, we are not directed in Scripture to appeal there for any victory. Jesus instructed his inquiring disciples to pray unto the Father in his name. If we want victory, we must be careful to appeal outside ourselves for help, for this is how we are commanded to do it. The element of pride can easily take over in focusing on the Spirit within simply because of the fact that the Spirit is contained by the Self. We tend to get proud about a fact like that. Mr. Keys is very proud about it, and errs because of this pride. If we appeal within instead of appealing up, then we are apt, because of our sinful love of Self, to end up depending on nothing but our own strength. Therefore we appeal to where Self is not, up in heaven where the throne of grace is. There is another danger to this inner focus. An unbeliever, if he were to judge by this sermon, just might get the impression that for salvation all he’s got to do is bring this champion out from inside himself. And this is pretty close to what the New Age crowd already believes.
Conclusion. When the Spirit is said to be inside the Christian, it behooves the pastor to tell us how this takes place and why. Mr. Keys tells us nothing about these things. The champion theme should have pointed, ultimately, to the conquering life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But it is the service, not the sermon, that causes us so much concern. In his other sermon, The Devil’s got your Address, Mr. Keys says that we do not debate the devil. But this ‘Champion’ service was exactly that, a debate with the devil. When we chant, ‘we’re not backing down,’ this is what we’re doing. We’re debating the devil. Indeed, the service was devil-centered, and Mr. Keys lost the debate. Far from being the dummies that Mr. Keys says they are, the demons were smart enough to gain control of the worship in this service, and wise enough to make the people believe their devilish praise was pleasing God. If more attention were given to preaching the grand, sobering doctrines of the Bible, like the inability of fallen man to procure the favor of an angry God, the pastor and his people might have some chance at getting humbled enough to listen for his voice instead of playing with the bells and whistles of religion. And may the grace of God open the eyes of the blind and perform this sovereign work, for this worship service resembles voodoo more than Christianity! When you can find no ‘dust and ashes’ mingled in the praise somewhere, be on your guard for a counterfeit form of worship. But the problem in this church is basically a theological one, for sound worship stands on the platform of solid preaching. Worship is really a reflection of what we believe and what our priorities are. It is a reflection of what we have learned from the sermon. The pastor and his people are failing to learn from the texts of Scripture preached from. And the pastor is leading the way into a form of anarchic, sub-Christian praise. In fact, it would not be wrong to call it anti-Christian. If we were to hear the praise portion of this service without knowing it came from a church and without hearing the sermon preceding the praise, we could easily mistake it for a native Indian ceremony or a witch doctor’s meeting. You have to hear it to believe it. It’s hard to believe that a church could stray so far from the standard of holy, thoughtful praise that you find in the Bible. In this church you have noise and vain repetition; in the Bible you have thoughtful verses prepared for musical accompaniment. But we are confident that this worship team intends no evil. Probably, it is a victim more than anything else. It is a victim of what’s in vogue and it is convinced that the spirit communicated with by its commotion is the biblical God. But think about it. We have praise without design, and mantras instead of lyrics. In other words, we have confusion and heathenism. This kind of worship is not recommended by God in the Bible. Therefore we have no reason to believe this is the kind of worship the only true God receives. What spirit is being tapped into here? And what spirit, if any, is animating the worship team? We foolishly and perilously deceive ourselves if we imagine that God is in what he condemns. And he certainly does condemn confusion and heathen worship. From what we hear in what precedes and follows the sermon, there is a lot going on in this church that we cannot glean from a podcast. For instance, we worry when we hear, “The ways that you can encounter God. It’s so varied…last Sunday night…It was loud. It was crazy. It was warfare…I am wearing shoes today….” We’re afraid of what might be discovered by actually attending there.