The church I attend is about as devoid of pomp and circumstance as a church service can get. We still have a service order but there are no robes, no vestments, no draperies, no candles on candlesticks, no acolytes, no ceremony.
You’re probably thinking, Sounds devoid of content. What is there? Well, we have 4 or 5 contemporary worship songs and a message. Once a month we celebrate the communion supper.
As I read through Isaiah chapter 1 this morning I thought about our service, how even the simplest style of worship can still be all wrong if our hearts are not right.
“Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.” Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.” “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord. “I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle. I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to worship me, who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony? Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts; the incense of your offerings disgusts me! As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath and your special days for fasting— they are all sinful and false. I want no more of your pious meetings. I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals. They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them! When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look. Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims. Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight. Give up your evil ways. Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 1:10-17 – NLT
God was NOT impressed by his people’s pomp and circumstances and ceremony. God does not want a religious ceremony performed to perfection, rather he wants people who long to follow him, and who humbly repent when they fail. God wants people who care about and care for others, who make daily sacrifices of service to the people around them. People who help and protect those of the weakest among them.
The goal of worship is not to put on a show to impress God. Church is not a talent show with God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit sitting in chairs watching us put on our worship acts, judging our creativity, or talents.
Worship is, as my old pastor used to say, us telling each other who God is.
What if we get to church and our hearts are not right? What do we do then? Go home and try again next week? No. God has another way.
As Isaiah recorded what God said: ‘“Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.”
Isaiah 1:18 – NLT
How is this possible? God has already said that the blood of bulls and goats are not what he wants, what does he want, how can we please him? How can we be made clean again?
Here is what Paul said in his letter to Romans.
“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.
Romans 5:6-11 – NLT
I hope I haven’t implied that our church is doing church wrong. I am just saying we need to be careful to not perform at church and live like hell the rest of the week. Our church worship would be best if it reflected a week long, life long lifestyle of humble service to all the humanity that Jesus died to save. We can’t make up for living a selfish and self focused life all week just by putting on the “God Show” for an hour on the weekend.
Can you imagine a relationship where for one hour a week you were passionately devoted to your lover, and for the other 167 hours of the week your passion and devotion were offered to whoever excited you the most?
Is that what we do with our relationship with God? Most of my reading audience are followers of Jesus. How are we doing with this my friends?
If we are struggling in this, God promises to make clean again, white as snow. We can only start where we are and confess, repent and start over.
He is faithful and just, he will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Our worship needs to be from a pure heart and a pure life. We can’t make ourselves pure, our only hope is to be washed in the blood of our savior Jesus. We can redirect and refocus our lives to look for opportunities to serve and to protect and to aid.
And to clarify, it’s not our worship style that is in question, highly liturgical or monastic chants or contemporary choruses, style doesn’t matter, it’s our hearts that matter, and it’s our behavior and attitudes throughout the week that tell where our heart really is and who it belongs to. We worship with our lives, not just our church attendance.
Search our hearts Hod and show us if there is any wickedness hiding inside us and lead us into right living and true worship.