Summary: If we fail to meet the Lord Christ in worship, our efforts will be futile.

“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.” [1]

Christians have been fighting “worship wars” for decades, perhaps even for centuries. This continuing war arises from the assumption that everyone should like the style that I like. If we don’t fight over music, we will fight over some other aspect of our liturgy (yes, evangelicals have liturgies). It has been truthfully said that it is easier to change one’s theology than to change their liturgy. Move an anthem or change the benediction or alter the form of the message, and it is certain to cause acute distress for some within the congregation. If we don’t fight over music or liturgy, we will squabble over dress.

This continuing conflict arises from something far more nefarious than our likes or dislikes. James presses hard on the painful source of our war, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” [JAMES 4:1-3].

Earlier in the brief missive bearing his name, James wrote, “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water” [JAMES 3:5-12].

I want to think the best of those who worship in the congregation I pastor. I know and you know that selfishness is indefensible. So, I assume that worshippers actually believe they are acting in the best interest of everyone when they defend or condemn some particular practise in what is called “worship.” What is needed is for us to discover, or at least remember, what truly matters.

TRUE WORSHIPPERS WILL WORSHIP — Mankind is incurably religious. We will worship! What we worship is not so readily defined. I wish I could say that professing Christians worship the Son of God. I fear that I could be proven wrong were I to make such a contention, however. Many people worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator [see ROMANS 1:24, 25]. They surrender to their own desires, worshipping the sexual experience, worshipping the acquisition of things that are destined for dust, worshipping power or position or pleasure, worshipping, in short, almost anything other than God.

That people would worship their own passions is a dreadful condition; however, I suggest that an even more reprehensible situation occurs when people who profess to know God worship the experience of worshipping. Tragically, multitudes of professing Christians appear to be worshipping an experience rather than worshipping the God they claim to love. Let me explain that charge by referring to something that John Boquist, a pastor in Virginia, wrote. He writes of the period when he was courting his wife. His account is a parable of worship in the modern context. Brother Boquist writes, “My wife, Yvonne and I were separated by about 600 miles in the year before we wed. I had moved to Virginia to minister in a church and she was in Ohio completing her college degree. We couldn't talk on the phone or write enough letters to satisfy our longing to be together. On rare occasions one of us travelled the 600 or so miles to see the other.

“Every time we travelled, the trip was a little different. Sometimes the trip was made on a gleaming jet plane. Other times we drove, be it my ‘69 Chevy or her family’s Buick. One time, she and her brother made the trip from Ohio to Virginia in a 20-year-old Ford pickup with floorboard air conditioning. Every time they stopped for gas, they added at least a quart of oil.

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