The music is loud and energetic. The leaders beckon the crowd to come, sing along. Lift up your voice to God! Worship!
But a catastrophic problem looms overhead. Unattended it becomes a malignant force opposing the One worthy of all praise.
Jesus says in John 4:23-24,
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
In spirit and in truth. This implies more than location, it’s speaking of a heart made new.
We worship God in spirit having the Holy Spirit dwelling within us through Christ. We worship God in truth having been sanctified by the Word of Truth (John 17:17).
We cannot worship God in a performance glorifying sound checks, human talent, and choreography. It misses the mark of sacrifice which is at the center of God’s delight and demand in worship.
You’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. Rooms filled with people attending worship in the flesh but actually absent in the spirit. Eyes wandering. Mouths whispering lest they clash with the professional, microphoned tone.
Minus the Holy Spirit who guides us in all truth (John 14:17 and John 16:13), we cannot offer worship to God; not pleasing worship, at least. And if our times of worship aren’t actually pleasing aromas unto the Lord, what is the point?!
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:5-6, 16-17 ESV
Worship that is removed from sacrifice glorifies only the flesh. A worship service seeking performance rather than surrender will not please the God we claim to praise. Further, inherent in today’s services is a self-glorifying selection of songs that do nothing to elevate God and esteem His Holy Name. Appealing to emotion, rhythm, and repetition, too many popularized songs are void of praise founded in truth.
Consider Hebrews 13:15,
Through [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.
Our worship is meant to flow from a fruitful life lived in the Spirit. Being sanctified by the Word, the overflow of our hearts spills out from our lips as continual, daily sacrifices of praise.
And it is a sacrifice. Denying the flesh. Forsaking the me in any given moment for the He that brought us back into fellowship with God; that’s acknowledging His name as worthy, as right, and as desirable beyond our sinful selves.
It’s sacrifice, heeding the call of Romans 12:1 to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is our spiritual act of worship. Not standing together in a crowded room attempting haphazardly to echo the sounds emanating from a stage.
Until worship services include a call to sacrificial praise, they’ve no place in a Christian assembly to glorify God.
Oh, but to be broken and contrite before the Lord. To enter into His courts with thanksgiving, redeemed and restored by the sacrificial blood of the Lamb…