"Worship" That Isn't Worship
(taken from the teaching given by Warren Van Kampen at the Tehillum School of Worship in Karachi, Pakistan; November 2017)
As we study Scripture, we come to realize that worship isn’t really about the songs we sing, the postures we assume, or the traditions we follow. Worship is all about th
e heart – ideally, a heart overcome with awe at the glory of God, filled with love for Him, and amazed at His love for us mere humans.
A lack of sincerity of heart in worship was God’s main complaint about the people of Judah as He explained the coming destruction and exile. Here’s how Isaiah records it:
“The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’” (Isaiah 29:13)
They were doing all the right things outwardly, but their hearts were not in any of it. Later God says that kind of worship offends Him. Other wrong attitudes toward worship are pointed out in Scripture as well:
1. Comparing ourselves to someone else: Cain’s offering was not accepted, but his brother’s was. Commentators say Cain’s ineffective worship resulted in a resentful spirit which led him to kill his own brother. Instead, he should have turned to God asking forgiveness for presenting an offering not in keeping with what God has required.
2. Other “gods”: True devotion to God and Him alone is a clear prerequisite to acceptable worship. Now and then, we may need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us recognize competing “gods” in our lives (relationships, work, money, approval of others, habits, addictions, etc.). When we really see those things as they are, our job is to confess and ask for wisdom, strength, and persistence to root out anything that calls our attention away from the true and living God.
3. Prideful heart: When we worship or lead worship to impress others with our
spirituality or our abilities, we are only acting, not truly worshiping. Just think about the tax collector and the Pharisee in Jesus’ story. The major sinner, humble and contrite, went away forgiven. The religious leader, filled with pride and conceit, went away unchanged. Which would you rather be?
4. Mediocre offerings: We no longer bring sheep as our offerings (and God was angry when people brought the sick and lame lambs instead of the very best they had). What do we offer God when we worship? Our attention, our time, our gifts, and our bodies. Whenever we worship, we should present God our best, giving undivided attention as we sin
g, praise, and pray; never being satisfied with just showing up.
Next time we prepare for worship, let’s examine our hearts. Is God first? Are we loving Him as completely as we can? Are we living lives that reflect His character? Are we giving Him our full attention as the audience of One who is the reason for our worship?