IN a world in which the motto often is “do your own thing,” people frequently develop self-styled religious beliefs and practices. For some this means a pick-and-choose, take-it-or-leave-it approach to established Christianity. For others it means coming up with outlandish ideas about God and eccentric ways of living. Either way, the ultimate authority becomes the individual, who assumes the prerogative of ignoring any demand or discipline that feels too limiting or imposing.
A somewhat similar attitude seems to have characterized the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. Apparently they were doing whatever was right in their own eyes when it came to religious observance (Deuteronomy 12:8). Not that they were necessarily turning away from God, but the lack of a permanently located worship center seems to have brought about a degree of laxness in regard to the ritual obligations of the Law. Moses warned them that that must change once they entered the land and God designated a site for worship (Deuteronomy 12:13-14). They were to follow the detailed instructions of the Law concerning sacrifices, holy days, tithes and offerings, and other elements of religious life.
Is the same true for Christians today? In answering that, it is important to note that NT instructions and descriptions of worship are not nearly as detailed as those given to Israel in the OT Law. There seems to be a great deal more freedom given to individual believers and to their communities of faith. But that does not mean a do-it-yourself approach to religion. Scripture gives us an objective set of truths to be believed and behaviors to be lived. There may be latitude within those boundaries for cultural, ethnic, and geographic applications, but all believers fall into sin when they move outside the clear teaching of Scripture. In whatever manner we worship God, He still calls us to worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24).