Every human being worships something or someone. We are creatures of worship by nature. Some people worship science, sports, or their possessions. The Christian worships God and Him only (Mt. 4:10). God not only receives worship; He expects it (Jn. 4:23-24). Every Sunday there are church buildings around the world filled with people who are offering up worship to the God of heaven. It is always a great thing when people want to acknowledge God and give Him the glory that is due to Him. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about worship. Our culture is full of false ideas regarding what it means to worship and what God expects. There will always be false ideas about what pleases God and what He wants from mankind, so it is up to us to examine the things we do religiously to be sure that it conforms to the truth we find in God’s Word (1 Thess. 5:21). Below is a list (an admittedly subjective one) of the five biggest lies being taught and believed about worship today.
1. As Long As My Heart Is in it, God Will Like it
Many people are under the false assumption that sincerity alone is enough to have God’s approval. People wake up on Sunday and say that it doesn’t matter what they offer to God as long as it is from the heart it will please Him. This type of thinking is inaccurate and makes humanity (rather than God) the judge of what is good and not God. There were those in the Bible who fell for this false idea, and it cost them heavily. Aaron, God’s high priest in the Old Testament, had two sons who offered strange (unauthorized, ESV) fire to God and it cost them their lives (Lev. 10:1-2). Though they certainly meant well, their sincere effort was misguided and rejected by God.
In the days of Jeremiah, the people refused to listen and obey God’s instructions. As a result, their worship was worthless though sincere (Jer. 6:16-20). Our hearts are an important part of our worship but not the only part. Jesus says that we must worship God in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). This means we need to do it with the right attitude, but also with God’s approval or according to scripture. Put your heart into worship, but do not fall for the lie that says your heart is all you need.
2. Preaching Is the Main Event
Too many come to worship to see what they can get out of it instead of what they can put into it. Most people will stay up late Saturday night and drag in late Sunday morning, and expect the preacher to keep them awake. In the minds of many, singing, giving, the Lord’s Supper, and prayer are all opening acts for the preaching that will take place. However, no aspect of worship is more important than the others (see Acts 2:42). When the preacher mounts the pulpit he has not stepped on stage. The audience of our worship is God and not the members present.
We all should be active participants and not spectators in worship waiting to have our ears tickled and ego’s stroked. The preacher must preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). The members must search the scriptures themselves and put the message to the test to be sure that it meets the Divine standard (Acts 17:11; 1 Jn. 4:1). Preaching is no more important than singing, and I should not allow my mind to wander during songs or during prayers, then hope to be engaged as we study the Word together.
3. I Can Impress God With What I Wear
God does care about clothing make no mistake about it. The Bible speaks of modest dress and God wants us to be presentable as we come before (1 Tim. 2:9-10). Yet, there is a tendency on our part to overemphasize the exterior and neglect the interior. It is far too easy to dress up the outside and leave the inside to decay (see Mt. 23:27). Jesus cares far more about our spiritual outfit than he does our physical (Eph. 6:10-17). If we are spending more time getting dressed on Sunday than we spent studying our Bible the entire week (or praying, evangelizing, or encouraging) we may have things backward.
Christianity works from the inside out and not from the outside in. Dress up on Sunday if you want. Look your best, but do not forget to clothe the inner man first (Eph. 3:16). There is a lie believed concerning worship that if my suit is pressed and my socks match, then that will somehow make up for my lackadaisical approach to Christianity or my half-hearted involvement in the cause of Christ. This is not true.
4. Worship Is About What I Like
Which worship style is your favorite? Do you like contemporary or traditional? It really does not matter what “style” of worship we prefer; God only likes one. God wants the worship that is in spirit and in truth. When worship is from our hearts, with the right attitude and in line with the Bible, this pleases God. When we church shop for the church that will provide us with the best worship experience we misunderstand worship altogether. The Christian derives some benefits from praising God, but worship really is not about us at all. Worship means to pay homage toward or bow before in reverence. It is hard to pay homage toward another while we are busy worried about ourselves.
The worship wars that sometimes take place in the church are foolish and unnecessary. We need to figure out what does God want and give it to Him the way He wants. God has told us that He wants singing (Eph. 5:19), praying (1 Cor. 14:15), giving (1 Cor. 16:2), and preaching (Acts 2:42). It does not matter if we think worship would be better with a band and county fair attractions. Worship is not about you. If you find yourself focused on yourself during worship, what you are engaged in can be called a lot of things, but please do not call it worship.
5. Worship Is Easy
We think many times, just being present on Sunday and worshiping for an hour and going home is no big deal. The truth is, good and acceptable worship is hard work. Sincere and heartfelt worship takes concentration, reflection, and a purpose to please God. It is not that God has made it impossible to please Him, or demanded of us things we can’t deliver (1 Jn. 5:3). But we are distracted in our world and have so many things pulling for our attention. it can be hard to concentrate for long amounts of time. Worship challenges us to think about our God and not ourselves. It pushes us to leave our problems at the door and turn to the Savior who promised to provide for us as long as we seek Him first (see Mt. 6:25-34). Worship is not something we can do by accident, and it is not easy. Worship involves preparation as we are coming before the Creator of all the universe, and it should not be approached lightly.
We do not need to poll our communities to see what they are looking for in worship, we need to plunge into the Bible and see what God is desiring. We need to be more concerned with our inward man than our outfit. We need to realize that sincerity does not equal acceptance. If we can’t put our finger on a passage to support it, we do not need to offer it up to God (Col. 3:17). Worship is about God—who epitomizes truth—so don’t believe the lies.