As I mentioned last week, worship is a broad term. It is often misunderstood. I want to come back to Rick Warren’s definition given in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “Anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship.” That’s a boiled down definition of worship.
What happens when that is not the case? Worship can become less than that. Give background on stale worship in Israel.
Read Isaiah 1:11-16 from The Message.
We are confronted here with God’s serious displeasure at what the Israelites had made worship. It had become empty and hollow.
From this passage we learn three things that don’t matter in worship and the one thing that does matter.
I. EXTERNAL FORMS do not matter
The Israelites had the form of worship down pat. They knew it inside and out. They could worship in their sleep.
A. ORDER of SERVICE does not matter
There has been a longtime tension between so-called liturgical worship and so-called free worship.
The order in which we do things is merely an external form.
B. STYLE of MUSIC does not matter
God doesn’t care what kind of songs we sing. Music styles are always changing.
C. Wesley’s much-revered sacred hymns of the church were written to bar tunes. He was criticized.
C. AMOUNT of OFFERING does not matter
The Israelites had become quite proficient at offering sacrifices, and God says, “Hey don’t you think I’ve had a enough?”
God doesn’t need our offerings. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
II. CHURCH GOING does not matter
Church attendance doesn’t matter. God asks in verse 12, “When you come before me, who ever gave you the idea of acting like this, Running here and there, doing this and that—all this sheer commotion in the place provided for worship?
A. Worship is not a “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” card
Do you know what this is? Hold up the Card. In Monopoly you can get a “Get Out Of Jail Free” Card so if you get in trouble, you can use it. Church attendance is not that way.
B. PERFECT ATTENDANCE will not be rewarded
When I was in high school, I had perfect attendance. Each 9 weeks of perfect attendance entitled us to a free cheeseburger and McD’s. Each semester was a personal pan pizza at Pizza Hut. Each year was a $50 savings bond. For all for years I received a check for $500, which quickly evaporated with college tuition. It didn’t matter how we did in school. Grades didn’t matter. All we had to do was just show up and exist in our seat for each class.
Just showing up at church week in and week out isn’t going to cut it. That is not what worship is all about.
III. MERE PRAYERS do not matter
The Israelites had also become quite proficient at praying. They would pray with hands outstretched in piety.
A. Prayer does not work without COMBUSTION
What happens when there is no gas in a car and you try to start it? Nothing happens, because there is no fuel. Fire cannot burn without fuel.
Prayers also require fuel. Prayers that are lip service or routine have no fuel.
B. Prayer and CONDEMNATION are INCOMPATIBLE
God says that he isn’t going to listen to their prayers. Why? Verse 15 says, “Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody.”
Sacrifice and blood go together, but that is not what God is talking about. God is talking about what it done away from the worship service.
James 3:9-12 says, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
You can’t have fish aquarium that is half fresh water and half salt water.
IV. Our HEART must be RIGHT with GOD.
The heart of worship is our heart. We can do all the right things, but that doesn’t matter if our heart is right with God.
A. Get it STRAIGHTENED out
In Matthew 5, Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
B. CLEAN up and WASH up
In order to properly worship we must be cleaned and washed. This is for the Christian. Our life must be in order, in order for us to worship. Otherwise we are spouting salt and fresh water out of our mouth.
Worship that is not offered in the right motivation and with the right heart is an offense to God.
God is offended by insincere, false or half-hearted worship. If we are like that we’d be better of staying home.
How’s your heart today? Is it right with God? Is your worship real today?