Worship: Who’s Serving Who?

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ’Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they […]
February 22, 2013

“Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, ’Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.’ He answered them, ‘And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God,’ he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:  ‘ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;  in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15: 1-9; ESV


I was recently asked by someone where do I see the church in America heading. So as I address this question, please note that it is my personal opinion and that it is just that: an opinion. I am not an expert in having my finger on the pulse of the American church. I can say with certainty that there are signs and hints that support my opinion. And if we are truly honest with ourselves, we will all see we need a change of heart when it comes to worshipping God.

It is my personal opinion that today’s church has lost the sense of worship. Not only are the numbers down in church attendance, but the way we worship has transformed from trying to please God to trying to please ourselves. It is a strong statement to make; however, it is one that is true. A hint of what I am trying to share lies within the text from Matthew.

If you look at the statement made by the Pharisees and scribes, “Why do your disciples break the traditions of the elders?” Two things are wrong with this one question: the traditions and whose traditions they were.

The sheer fact that the church; even back then, had traditions which they followed closer than God. Granted, I personally like some traditions and see value in having them, but they should NEVER take the place of change when God is guiding us to change. If the traditions were truly from God, they would never change; they would be absolutes. This brings me to the next point: by their own confession, the Pharisees and scribes state that the traditions were those of the elders. Jesus quickly addresses this and begins to point out the errors of their thinking. The passage ends with this statement by Jesus: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

When Jesus boldly puts in their face how they have been teaching their commandments as doctrines supposedly from God, He (Jesus) exposes their sins. They were putting their needs and desires before God’s teachings; and Jesus was calling them out. Jesus uses an example they could not argue with or disagree. These religious leaders looked for loopholes to promote their own beliefs and agendas. Jesus points them, and those who were present, back to true worship of God.

It is evident today that churches are following the examples of the Pharisees and scribes of old; they are negating the teachings of God to conform to worldly doctrines. Worship services seem to be made more for man than they are for God; if we get to feel good and we are moved (entertained), then the service time was awesome. Teachings of what God considers to be sin are seldom heard and are replaced with sermons which give us that warm fuzzy feelings. When sin exposures are preached, they are met with judgment and it is the pastor/minister which gets chastised because such “sins” are Old Testament teachings and that they are socially passé in today’s world. As long as people come to church, give to the church and leave feeling good, that our connection with God is equated to the emotional “movement” we feel (meaning if we are emotionally moved, we feel God has connected with us), then we have had “worship”. This leads me to as the question posed in the title: Who’s serving who in worship?

We, as the church, need to wake up and realize that when we worship, we should be striving to connect with God, we serve God, we seek His will for us, and that He is the focus. Churches of today wants the service to evolve around them; they are the ones moved, they are the ones served by God, and they are the ones entertained. We expect God to do all for us (heal our sick, provide for our needs, make our dreams come true, create miracles for us), yet we offer little back to Him. We sleep in instead of discipline ourselves to do His will. We find excuses to offer little when we waste a great deal on entertainment, selfish pleasures, and worthless desires. We want mega churches so we can say how good we are serving God, yet we are forsaking real Bible teachings only to conform to worldly passions. How can we say we are truly worshipping God when we accept what God deems sinful and we say that because it is socially acceptable that it is now accepted in the church? This only makes me believe we are turning away from God instead of coming to Him in true worship.

The world today says it is sinful to speak out against a number of issues accepted by society. They say it is wrong to speak the name of Jesus; yet in the same breath others promote their faith.

We, as a body of Christ, need to get back to the heart of true worship. We should be seeking to connect to God because of our love for Him. Our focus in worship should be about us pleasing God and not having God please us. We need to get back to being humble before God, to serve Him, and to be more like Him. It has never been about us when it comes to worship; it must always be about our holy God.

Father God,

Please help us to once again to worship you according to Your will and not man’s. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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