“God doesn’t require some kind of perfect, complicated worship act. He just wants it to be authentic and genuine."
Let me give you an example of phony worship, and God’s response to it.
Isaiah 1:11-15 NIV “The multitude of your sacrifices— what are they to me?” says the Lord . “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations— I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening. Your hands are full of blood!
He didn’t say they weren’t bringing their sacrifices and offerings, in fact they were bringing them. They were observing the festivals and feasts that God directed them to keep but because of their lifestyle He didn’t want to have anything to do with their worship.
Jesus confronted the religious leaders of his day for turning worship into hard work and for appearing to do all the right things but inwardly neglecting to show justice and mercy. He called them “hypocrites” and “blind guides”
Matthew 23:23-24 NIV “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
Sometimes people walk out of church saying things like, “I didn’t really like the songs today,” or “I just wasn’t really feeling worship today,” or “That singer or the band wasn’t that good. It kinda took me out of it.” Pastor wasn’t on it today that sermon was flat. The Spirit wasn’t here today. The problem wasn't the Spirit who would have been there in every believer. The problem was most likely you. You weren't worshiping "in spirit and in truth".
John 4:23-24 NIV Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
To worship God in spirit and in truth is to declare that God is worthy of our reverence. We do this in spirit through our heart, the seat of our emotions, based on the truth of who He is, the truth of who we are, the truth of what God does and has done for us, and the truth of what is going on in our lives.”
To emphasize to me that He wants genuine worship, the spirit and truth kind of worship, the Holy Spirit has me reading Here Be Lion's - Only A Holy God a five day devotional by pastor and worship leader, Dustin Smith. Here is one of those devotionals in which Dustin asks God to forgive us for our phony, worthless worship.
Over the years, many Scriptures have come alive to me as I sought out what it means to be a worshipper of God. Not all Scriptures that impacted me were nice little encouragements. One of the more straightforward Scriptures that molded my worship is found in Amos 5:21-24:
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans, and goals. I’m sick of your fundraising schemes, your public relations, and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (MSG)
Yep. That definitely cuts to the chase. I think sometimes we have to take a step back from all of the activity and the noise and realize it is easy to lose focus of what and who really matters. We can sing our songs, say our prayers, say “Amen” through every sermon, but when it is all said and done, never really put into practice the things we just heard and declared. A.W. Tozer said it best when he said, “Christians don’t tell lies they just go to church and sing them.”
We speak of hope, but ignore the hopeless. We sing about healing, but never reach out our hands to the sick. We cry out for prosperity, but mostly for self-preservation. We ask God to give us the nations, but don't speak out against racial injustice in our own communities. There is such a thing as worthless worship. It is worship that has words, but no action. It is worship that has sound, but no heart. Jesus defines it in Mark 7:6-7, when he quotes the prophet Isaiah saying, “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’”
We in the church have sat around too long saying all the right things, but doing nothing. We have spoken powerful declarations, sung the songs, and prayed the prayers, but now we need to take action. I don’t want to hear us talk about love; I want to see it lived out. I don't want to just sing about justice; I want to fight for it. I don't want to dream of every nation, tribe and tongue worshipping; I want to facilitate it. May we be a people who turn back to God, let our actions line up with our words, and let justice flow like a river and mercy run like a stream!