Job 13:15 God might kill me, but I have no other hope. I am going to argue my case with him.
When we talk about Jesus and the Gospel, it’s usually about the rewards or benefits God brings into our lives. But, just imagine for a moment that there was no reward for serving God. There was no eternal life promised, no blessings received for faithfulness or sacrifice, no future hope of heaven, no escape from hell promised … would you still serve Him simply because He is God? Hmmm … now, that is an interesting proposition, isn’t it? Let me illustrate why I ask this question.
In my younger years, I had a pickup truck. My truck became important to people who knew me because they didn’t have a truck. They saw their need met by knowing I had a truck. When they needed to move something, they knew I had a truck. When they needed to buy something that wouldn’t fit in their car, they knew I had a truck. My truck was the source of their need. Notice I said my truck was the source of their need … not me who owned the truck. I was simply the one being asked for the use of my truck.
To some people, God is like my truck. His blessings, His promises, and His assurances of heaven are all convenient reasons why we want to serve Him, but we fail to just love Him without a reason.
I want to love God without wanting something from Him. Just love God because He is God … period. No fringe benefits … just to love God. I think this is the definition of a true relationship. No one wants to have friends based upon what we can do for them … we want friends who like or love us because of who we are, not just what we can do for them.
Well, if we have these feelings, why wouldn’t God? Why wouldn’t God feel used by all the requests and expectations we put upon Him because we feel entitled as Christians? I know faith isn’t an entitlement, but I think it often turns out that way. I have faith in God because I have a need, not because of my love relationship with Him. We have become really sloppy about loving God. We have taken Him for granted, and when He doesn’t come through for us in some expectation, then we are mad at Him for not fulfilling some entitled attitude that we have expressed.
Recently, I watched a church service online and it was good and enjoyable. However, I have to be cynical for a moment, please indulge me to do so. I know the only time we see people become so-called ‘spiritual’ is when they are singing and leading worship. Eyes closed, swaying back and forth, hopping once in a while, arms waving in the air, strong emphasis on the high notes of praise, and looking as if they were performing at the Grammys.
There I said it.
You might respond, “Well what do you want them to do?” “Sit without motion and without expression?”
And my answer would be no. I would not want that either.
I sense that worship is now only singing with a band. This is the standard and anything other than the standard is not accepted today. The irony of all this worship is that most people don’t sing the songs because either they don’t know them or they are too difficult for them to sing. Sorry, but I keep my eyes open and often look to see what people do during worship time. Yes, you will have those engaged just as the band is, but most are hardly singing and hardly motivated in the way the band would hope they would. Just being honest.
I know there may be exceptions to all of this, but this is what I have noticed.
My question to you is this, “Is this worship for God or for the audience?”
Do you think that God is impressed with our professionalism and our abilities to get people to sing? Do you think singing songs is worship to God? Do you think the more emotion we get from the crowd means God is pleased with the worship we are giving Him?
The main questions you have to ask yourself are, “Does God like all of this? Does He consider it worship, or is it just another pattern of religious practice that means nothing to Him, and everything to us?”
You read this blog because I am honest and I am driving toward a different level of relationship with God, and nothing is off the table. If we can’t evaluate in an honest and open forum about some of the things we do that are just plain religious exercise, then we will never go beyond our present model in knowing God.
The Prophet Amos echoes this call against the mediocrity of worship:
Amos 5 22Even though you offer Me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; for your peace offerings of fattened cattle I will have no regard. 23Take away from Me the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24But let justice roll on like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Worship comes out of a changed heart, a heart that worships God in repentance, in a contrite heart of pursuing God to love Him and to do what is right. Worship is exposing people to the love of God in a way that there is no reward for what you do … you simply do it because it is right.
We like to show our service projects as ways people can get involved with our churches, but we need to change the language about these events. They aren’t service projects or mission trips … they are acts of worship, doing what is right. Worship is not just singing … it has deeper ramifications than just following the lead of performing musicians.
Leaders, is this the depth of your understanding of worship? How about doing a novel illustration some Sunday with your congregation? Take an old Bible, wrap it in cellophane (I’m not into destroying Bibles). Take a pitcher of water and pour it on the Bible and go sit down. No music, no words, just the image of a person pouring water over the Bible. Don’t do another thing for at least 10 minutes … let the illustration sink in and permeate the rest of your time together.
My point? We have not taken our time with God seriously so the results are exactly what we have sown. We have watered down worship to being just another service time, rather than a time of telling God we love Him, simply because He is God. Period.
We have not taken God’s Word seriously so that it changes us every time we open its pages. We have watered down the implications of repentance, confession, and restitution. We have made a mockery of knowing God in our so-called relationship with Him simply by an attitude of entitlement.
Until there comes a time of honest reflection and honest repentance for the carelessness of our discipleship, we will never grow into just loving God for Himself … we will always approach God with an entitled theology of ‘what’s in it for me.’
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler