True worship isn’t about ritual. It’s about engaging your spirit. Paul talks about this when he discusses false (flesh, or ritual only) and true (from the heart) circumcision.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 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. Phil 3:2-3 (ESV)
Paul tells us not to put confidence in the flesh – either in our own abilities or in the laws and regulations of mankind. When we worship, it shouldn’t be about our feelings (does worship make you feel good? Is that the most important thing?). Worship should be about the heart: bowing, honoring, showing respect to the One Who created us. It should be about communing with the Father. We can feel good when we worship, but the primary concern should be the posture we take toward God and not what He can do for us.
How did Jesus worship? This passage is a part of the prayer He prayed after His last supper. He knew what was coming and He had us on His mind.
I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. John 17:9-19 (ESV)
Jesus though of us. He was concerned that we be one with the Father. He asked that God keep us from Satan and reminds us through His prayer that truth is important. God’s Word is truth. We are to be sanctified, or set apart, in the truth of God’s Word. Therefore, “right” worship includes truth. We must be honest with ourselves and with God. We must contend for our faith in truth. We must worship in truth.
Can you think of a time when you were in a “worship service” and your mind was on the dinner you needed to prepare, or the ball game you wanted to watch, or how much you disliked the person sitting next to you, or the temperature of the room, or the music, or the … ? How authentic was your worship? Do you think God was honored just because you showed up at church? I sometimes allow my mind to wander as well. I don’t honor God when I take my focus off of Him. I don’t honor God when I show up to church out of obligation. When I don’t enter into worship with a spirit of truth and honesty and awe and reverence, I’m not truly entering into worship.
I think it’s time to look at ourselves honestly – truthfully – and really focus on whether we worship or simply go through the motions. We all have room for improvement. Where are you weakest? At what point does your worship time derail? What do you need to actively do to get your worship back on track? These are difficult questions because we don’t like to find fault in ourselves. And frankly, it’s easier for me to see your faults than my own. That’s part of the reason to have an accountability partner.
Do you have that partner, a fellow believer who will be honest with you and will commit to pray and support you as you strive toward maturity in Christ? Are you a partner for someone? If not, you may want to consider it. If you don’t have a partner and can’t think of someone you would trust, talk to a pastor. He may be able to point you toward the perfect person.
If you would like prayer, please feel free to write to me. I am always available to take your needs before the Throne. And as always, if you have comments, I would love to hear from you. God’s blessings on you as you honestly evaluate your commitment to worship in spirit and in truth. See you on Friday for the final part of this study.