The words of Paul to the Philippian saints are deserving of our attention. “For it is we… who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3) The expression, “put no confidence in the flesh” shows us where some Christians are going wrong; true worship is not a performance, it is not an attempt to impress our visitors or give ourselves a sense of achievement. After all, worship is not completely for our benefit. When worship becomes a performance, we are putting “confidence in the flesh”. We are saying, “Look at what we are doing. Didn’t we sound great? Aren’t you impressed?” This “confidence in the flesh” has, unintentionally, distracted from the true worship of God. From a musical point of view the singing may have been wonderful and technically correct, but God was not worshiped.
As I write this article, I am listening to sacred music that touches my very soul. It’s moving. Inspiring. It’s beautifully sung. But I know on Sunday when I assemble with fellow believers to worship God in song and praise our singing will not resemble what I am now hearing. No, our singing will not be recorded for posterity. Is that because our congregation does not care about God, or that we are not sincere in our faith? No. It has nothing to do with either of these points. When we give to Almighty God all that is rightfully his, we are worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” and putting “no confidence in the flesh”. (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3) True worship can be offered to God by people whose musical skill is in short supply or even non-existent. (I’ve met some). But God is not impressed with how well we sing; it’s the worshipful, God-honouring heart, and the content of what we express to him that constitutes true and holy worship. A congregation singing Amazing Grace off-key but from the heart is worshiping God “in spirit and in truth”. This may not impress the visitors who are present, but that’s not why the church is singing. Almighty God, not people, is our audience. When finished, God is pleased that his children have paid him such glorious homage. And if we are concerned about the visitors, they will be more impressed by the sincere, genuine, authentic faith expressed by a community of Christians than by a service that resembles their secular culture.
Joh 4:20-24 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 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.” The woman knew God was to be loved because God loved her. The woman knew God was real and made her, because there was no other logical conclusion to come to. The woman learnt God was seeking her, IF, she would WORSHIP (adoring submission), not if she went to the right place.
We live in an entertainment culture, and that entertainment factor has made inroads into many churches bringing with it the attitude that says we must make people “feel good”. We must keep people awake and entertained. Our worship must be “upbeat”, so we must provide a worship service that impacts people so that they will come back again and again. Hence, worship becomes “show time” with an unhealthy focus upon the performance, which has been adapted from a world that does not know God. Some Christians feel too uncomfortable to invite their unsaved friends on Sunday lest the worship service extinguish, for all time, their interest in the Christian faith. How do we address a problem like this? If we are trying to make our worship service relevant to those outside the community of faith – and narrow the gap between the church and the world – by having a style of worship similar to their secular culture, are we not sounding very like apostate Israel who said, “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8:19-20) But behind this seemingly good idea, a heart of rebellion was to be found. God told Samuel, “it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.” (1 Samuel 8:7)
Who do we want to worship?
Heb 12:21-26 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.
We need the Bible, not our culture, to define true worship for us. When we worship we are offering to God all that is rightfully his. Revelation (chapters 4 & 5) shows us what true worship entails. True worship is praising God for his infinite love and mercy, for his eternal purpose to save us through Christ Jesus his Son, for inscribing our name in the Lamb’s book of life and for having prepared a place for us in heaven. When we express these and other truths to God from the depth of our heart, we are engaging in worshipping him because our focus is on Almighty God. We are pouring out our heart in praise and adoration to a holy and righteous God.