Friday, May 18, 2018
Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—
John 4:23-24 23Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”
Like any religious tradition, the activity of worship has the potential to become either a mere formality or a means of grace. One of the dangerous trends of evangelical Christianity in the last 35 years has been the creation of a worship liturgy, where music has become the means through which the “worshiper” gains access to God and garners approval for self. For many, the activity of worship in the church has become self-focused, with the “worshiper” seeking an emotional experience to validate their weak or even misdirected faith. If the emotional needs of the “worshiper” are not met, they simply look for a church with “better worship”, rather than looking at the nature of their own heart. It is a dangerous and spiritually unhealthy situation when a church places this kind of emphasis on their music ministry. It is to be criticized equally with all other religious activity that seeks to earn the favor of God.
First of all, for worship of any kind to be valid it must originate in a heart that has been transformed by the Spirit of God. Worship must be the expression of grace and truth, not the means to earn grace and learn truth. Worship is a response to the saving, keeping, and supplying power of God in our hearts. Worship is never an activity to earn grace from God, but is always an activity that expresses the character of God and our love and gratitude to Him.
According to Paul in today’s Scripture, worship is always the result of the circumcision of the heart. External religious activity that does not spring from a spiritually transformed heart is not true worship. When Paul wrote this passage in Philippians, he may have had in mind the word of the Lord from Jeremiah 9:25 – 26, which says, “The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will punish all who are circumcised only in the flesh—Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, Moab and all who live in the desert in distant places. For all these nations are really uncircumcised, and even the whole house of Israel is uncircumcised in heart.” I believe there are a lot of “worshipers” in our churches who are not truly worshiping. They are not expressing the nature of Christ in them, but are rather seeking an emotional experience to produce what is missing.
Secondly, once we understand that worship is an expression of love and gratitude from a heart transformed by Jesus Christ and filled with the joy of the Holy Spirit, we can properly define worship as any activity or work, so long as it is done as unto the Lord. Scrubbing toilets at the church becomes an act of worship. Raking the neighbor’s lawn becomes an act of worship. Giving more than 10% of your resources becomes an act of worship. Prayer becomes an act of worship. Singing and playing any kind of music with any kind of instrumentation becomes an act of worship. Staying in your present church no matter how little emotional satisfaction you receive becomes an act of worship. Worship is not about what we get, but about what we give to God.
Evaluate your heart today, and make sure that you have not redefined worship into an activity from which you receive some personal benefit. Worship does not give you greater access to God, or emotional satisfaction, or self-validation. These are very real trends in today’s church and they are destroying true faith. Make sure that where you choose to attend church, you do so because it is where God has placed you to give back to Him and to others what He has already given you. Don’t choose a church based on personal preferences, but choose one based on God’s preference for where He wants you to truly worship Him.
Worship is first an attitude, then an activity. The attitude produces the activity. Don’t put the cart (activity) in front of the horse (attitude). If activity – the style or quality of music or preaching – is your focus, then you are really worshiping the activity and it has become your idol. True worshipers worship God alone, not the method of worship. Make sure your heart is right in this.