For nearly forty years, Burger King’s slogan was “Have It Your Way.” This slogan conveyed the message that at Burger King, you could customize your hamburger any way you wanted. If you wanted to add cheese, mustard, and extra pickle, you could. They were seeking to please the customer, because the customer is what kept their business alive.
Many religious groups today approach worship in the same way. In an effort to attract more people, worship is designed to appeal to what people want. However, when this approach is taken, the focus is in the wrong place. Instead of trying to create an experience for the worshiper, we should focus our worship on its object, God:
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:21-24 NKJ).
Jesus states that the Father should be the object of worship, and that He is seeking people to worship Him in spirit and truth. Today many say that as long as we worship God with our hearts and we are sincere, He will accept such worship. But this position is not supported by scripture. Jesus doesn’t accuse the Samaritans of being insincere in their worship. Instead he states that they worship improperly out of their ignorance.
To worship God in truth means to worship Him according to His word (Jn. 17:17; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5). We cannot forget that since God is the object of our worship, it is He who determines what He desires. We cannot worship Him as we see fit and hope that it is acceptable to Him. The only way we can know what worship God will accept is to follow the word of truth without deviation.
The second recorded controversy God had with man was concerning worship. Cain and Abel brought offerings as worship to God (Gen. 4:3-7). The Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. God’s expectation of obedience in worship is also demonstrated in the account of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-2). Nadab and Abihu were offering incense to the Lord but they deviated in one detail, the source of the fire. They offered unauthorized, or “strange,” fire to the Lord. Now it would be an easy thing to say all fire is fire, and that God didn’t say they couldn’t use fire sourced from somewhere else. However, God does not view worship as a trivial matter. Because they offered that which He had not commanded them, they died. We must recognize that we stand or fall in the presence of God on the basis of our worship.
Sincere worship not according to truth is not acceptable to God. In First Samuel 13:9-13, Saul is faced with a massive Philistine army that far outnumbers his. He does not want to go into battle without first seeking the favor of the Lord. In a sincere effort to have God’s favor and protection before going into this battle, Saul offers an unlawful sacrifice. The worship was sincere, but it was not according to the word of God. Because Saul did not worship God in truth, Samuel tells him, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you.”
Worship God’s way
If we are going to worship God in truth, then we must look to His word to identify how He desires to be worshiped. Worship as prescribed in the New Testament includes multiple specific acts. We are to sing praises to God (Acts 16:25 KJV), that is the fruit of our lips (Heb. 13:15), making melody in our heart (Eph. 5:19). God has specified how this is to occur. Let us not offer up strange, unauthorized sources of melody in our worship. We are to give of our means each according to our ability (2 Cor. 8:3) as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2). We are to pray to the Father (Lk. 11:1-4), without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17), thanking God (1 Thes. 5:18), and requesting forgiveness (Mt. 6:12). We are to partake of the Lord’s Supper remembering His sacrificial death (1 Cor. 11:26; Mt. 26:26-28) on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Let us not decide to change the elements of unleavened bread (Mk. 14:16-25; Ex. 12:18-20) or fruit of the vine (Lk. 22:17, 18, 20) in order to have it our way. Let us have it God’s way. We are to preach the gospel to the lost (Mk. 16:15-16) and teach the commandments of Christ (Mt. 28:18-20), which are the words of truth (cf. Jn. 17:17).
God desires that we worship Him in spirit and truth. The only way to know what constitutes true worship is to look into the New Testament. To worship in truth is to only include what God wants in the way that He wants it. There is no option for us to “improve” or deviate. God knows best. He knows what He wants. God is the object of our worship. Let us “Have it His way.”
“Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth…” (Josh. 24:14).