Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"Lip Service" Worship

When my father told me, before he left for work, “Son, today I want you to take out the trash,” I understood two things about that imperative.

First, I knew exactly what he meant. There was no language barrier or misunderstanding about the precise definitions of the words he used when he gave the command. This is a very important point - WORDS MEAN THINGS. It would not have been acceptable for me to go out to the garbage can, reached inside, remove all the trash, and spread it around on the driveway even though, to do so, some might argue, would have been a technically accurate interpretation of the directive, “take out the trash.” He knew that I knew exactly what he required. He expected me to place all the weekly household refuse at the street for pickup. There was no problem with his communication.

Second, I knew exactly what he expected. I knew how he wanted it done because he had given me detailed instructions in the past so that I was without excuse. He expected me to systematically empty every wastebasket in the house. He wanted the contents of those baskets placed in the large outdoor trash containers and he wanted those containers placed in the proper position at the curbside before the garbage truck arrived. I did not have the freedom to reinterpret his directive or exercise my ingenuity, variety, cleverness, or creativity. It was not my prerogative to decide to burn the trash, bury the trash, or recycle the trash. I could not decide to defer the chore for another week because the cans were not filled.  I could not delegate the responsibility to my younger siblings or pay one of the neighbor kids to do it for me. I was not at liberty to put our refuse into a neighbor’s can. My father gave me explicit instructions on what he wanted me to do and how he wanted it done. I understood that anything more than that or less than that, even if my intentions had been good or sincere, would not have been acceptable; it would have been disobedience.

So what, you might be asking, does taking out the trash have to do with worship?

Worship is something that God has commanded and, therefore, it is incumbent on us to understand the command. We are not at liberty to invent our own ideas of what worship should look like or sound like.  It is not for us to decide what God should be pleased with. That is what Cain did and regardless how sincere Cain was, God was angry at him because he didn't bring an offering according to God's instruction. 

Worship is not about our emotions, or feeling the warm fuzzies. And it is not about our music or our entertainment. In fact, the worship wars in most churches, over styles of music would end if we understood that God is the audience and the object of our worship. It is not about our personal preferences or tastes. It is not about entertaining unchurched and unregenerate "seekers." It is not for our edification or for providing a venue for us to showcase our talents. It is for God's glory. He has given us plenty of instruction regarding the elements and content of our collective worship and He expects us to do it His way.

It was Thomas Watson who penned, “This Divine worship God is very jealous of; Divine worship must be such as God Himself has appointed, else it is offering strange fire" (Lev 10).

In its most common usage in Scripture, the definition of worship is to “bow down and obey.” Real worship has little to do with "experiencing" God. Real worship occurs when we humbly recognize and submit to God’s authority and lordship, and then obey His commands. Cain should have just brought the sacrifice God required rather than disobey the command and bring the best of his own works. It seems ludicrous that we think we can “go to worship” on Sunday mornings with our sincere offerings of euphoric music and "feel good about me" happy-talk and then return home to spend the rest of the week unrepentantly continuing in our sinful habits and activities. It would be far better to skip the “worship services” and just recognize God's lordship and live in obedience to His commands.

"Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD," 1 Samuel 15:22-23


first published in May, 2008


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Great post!

I found your blog via your post at Fido.