If you clicked on this blog post, locked and loaded with your arguments to defend or destroy a specific stance on Christian music, you may lower your weapons. I’m unarmed. Instead of challenging your thoughts on music, I would like to challenge your thoughts on worship. And if you thought I was being redundant in that sentence, then you might have just proven my point.
I fear that many of our worship services or events are not true acts of worship at all. Yes, songs are sung, offerings are given, and preaching is heard, but no worship is taking place. Here is the problem: many Christians, including myself, are often guilty of living for themselves all week and then “worshiping” God on Sunday (at least, we think we’re worshiping). God’s Word is clear: It’s impossible for those who live in disobedience to truly worship God.
If you think this is a bold claim, let’s examine the Scriptural support:
These passages of Scripture prompt me to make a much bolder statement: God hates your acts of worship if you are living in rebellion. Think of it this way: a wife finds out that her husband is having an affair. Seeking to make amends, the husband brings home a dozen roses and a box of chocolates and tells his wife he loves her. Then he turns around and leaves to spend the night with the other woman. When the wife looks at the flowers and chocolates, I doubt it’s with any thankfulness or affection; instead, she hates those gifts, because it makes the sting of her husband’s sin even greater. I believe that is what our acts of worship look like to God when we live in rebellion. We cannot expect our worship to mean anything to God when we’re in an adulterous affair with the world (Jas. 4:4). The flowers may smell wonderful, but the person holding the flowers makes them stink. It is not unloving for God to hate such empty acts of worship; in fact, it proves how much he values our relationship to him.
It's time to rethink our concept of worship. Worship is a lifestyle, not a music style, and just because you feel close to God during that worship chorus, doesn’t mean you are. Romans 12:1 speaks of the scope of our worship when its states that giving our entire beings as “a living sacrifice” is our “acceptable worship.” Anything less than that is unacceptable. We as Christians have it all mixed up. We live for ourselves all week, and then go to church to get filled with the Spirit through worship. God wants us to live for him all week, and then go to church and sing praises because we’re filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:18-19).
The scary part is, we usually don’t realize that our acts of worship are useless. We mistake the feeling of excitement and closeness to God during acts of worship as a sign of spirituality. But just because you like to hear God’s Word doesn’t mean you’re right with him. Just because you are moved to tears during the worship service doesn’t necessarily mean you love him. And just because you get excited about the things of God doesn’t mean he is pleased with you.
Carefully consider the following passage:
“Cry aloud, do not hold back; lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, to the house of Jacob their sins. Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.” (Isa. 58:1-2)
We delight in his ways and love to draw near to God, as if we actually lived lives of obedience. Worship rituals (singing, offerings, etc.), apart from a life of dedication and obedience to God, stink in God’s nostrils. When God thinks of worship, a worship chorus doesn’t come to his mind; instead, he thinks of a servant who, although imperfect and sinful, is living in daily submission and repentance to him, depending on his grace, loving God and others from the overflow of his own thankful, unworthy heart. That is true worship, and that servant's song actually means something. Yes, we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, but we must not confuse our legal standing before him with our familial relationship with him. God will always love us, but he can be displeased with our disobedience. And he can be displeased with our worship as well.
If our acts of worship don’t spring from a lifestyle of worship, they are empty and meaningless. Maybe now we can better understand why Jesus said “if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). If you live a life of love toward God and others, your acts of worship will be precious in God’s eyes, but singing "Oh, How I Love Jesus" on Sunday is repulsive to God when your life's song is "Oh, How I Love Me."
If it's true that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks," then our worship songs are genuine testimonies of our inner devotion, genuine confessions of our own sinfulness, or we are lying through our teeth. It's time for us to realize what worship really is, because we were saved to worship.
Worship God, not just with your voice, but with your obedience, your devotion, your service, your time, your resources, your priorities, your thoughts, and your actions. Jesus bought all of you, so worship with all of you. Worship: It's more than you think.
originally posted at eyesonhim.weebly.com
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University. He, along with his wife, Hanna, and daughter, Brooklyn, currently live in Detroit, MI, where Aaron is pursuing his MDiv degree while serving as the Director of Recruitment at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and working on staff at Inter-City Baptist Church. You can follow him on twitter @AaronMBerry
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