The Pharisees and teachers of the law criticized Jesus’ disciples for not honoring the tradition of hand washing before they ate. (Mt. 15:1-2) The Pharisees were obsessed with cleanliness. The considered many things to be unclean and if a person touched something unclean, they became unclean, and in turn, anything they touched also became unclean. The purification process was a laborious exercise that had no spiritual relevance. They treated it as a religious rule, but it was a human rule, not instituted by God. Jesus called out the Pharisees for merely giving God lip service, but having no heart for God. Their worship was in vain and their teachings were full of human rules. (Mt 15:7-9) God wants us to worship with our hearts, not just in word and action, but with our whole being.
Scriptures – Ps 30:11-12, 63:4, 95:6, 149:1-3; Mt 15:1-2, 7-9; Jn 4:23; Ro 12:1; He 13:15; Ph 2:10-11
Verse – “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’” (Mt 15:7-9) “But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.” (Jn 4:23)
There are many formats for a worship service. When you consider all the cultures in the world, the styles, the environments, traditions, and personalities, the practice of worship may be expressed in limitless ways. Some are comfortable with traditional hymns, organs, choirs and liturgical services; others prefer a looser style of service with a band, contemporary songs, little if any liturgy. None of these things really matter when it comes to worship. What matters is the condition of the heart. There is no worship without a heart that is open and focused on God. Worshipping from the heart is worship that recognizes the sovereign God of the universe is worthy of all our praise, devotion, love and adoration. The Bible gives us guidance as to how we can grow into true worshippers, not those who merely go through the actions. Worship requires humility, recognizing how great God is and how blessed we are that he loves us. Ps 95:6 says “let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!” Coming into the presence of God is a humbling experience. Singing, celebrating, praising, dancing, playing instruments are all part of worship described in Ps 149:1-3. David praised his way from mourning into joy (Ps 30:11-12). Worship can happen when we don’t feel God, when we are hurting, struggling, questioning, because worship isn’t based on circumstances. It is based on who God is! In these times we can offer the sacrifice of praise (Hb 13:15). Paul states in Romans 12:1, that our true and proper worship involves offering out bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. He says this is “reasonable” in light of all God has done for us. Worship is a rich experience; it brings us into the presence of God. How much we need to bask in His presence and greatly He desires our true worship!
Questions – Describe a memorable worship experience. When and where do you most often find true worship? Do you feel that worshiping as a body/church is comfortable for most people? Why or why not? How do you react physically to true worship (dance, sing, cry, kneel, etc.)? Does the expression of worship in others ever make you uncomfortable? If so, give an example. Have you ever held back your actions or emotions during community worship because of what others might think? How do we overcome our inhibitions regarding worship? How can we regularly experience true worship?
Find the place where you can allow yourself to be free of inhibitions. Pray, sing, play music, read a praise Psalm. Look at creation, the intricacies of God’s work. Consider you Maker and Redeemer. Get lost in the awesomeness of God. Reading the many names for God and what they mean can be very inspirational. Practice entering the presence of God. Live your life in a way that honors God and reflects his glory. All that you do is worship.
Prayer – Cannons by Phil Wickham
Creator God and Sustainer of the Universe, You are holy great and mighty. The moon and the stars declare who You are. I’m so unworthy, but still You love me. Forever my heart will sing of how great You are! In Jesus precious name I pray, Amen.