By Tim Haile
Does it really matter how we worship God? Some say no, but what does the Bible say? “God is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). This verse tells us that worship is pre- scribed. That is, God has told us both what to do and how to do it. We must do what (“in truth”) God says to do, in the way (“in spirit”) that he said to do it! Men are not at liberty to just make up their own form of worship. In the area of religious service, God is not pleased with human ingenuity (Prov. 3:5-6; Jer. 10:23); he is pleased with human obedience (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
When it comes to our worship to God, we must cultivate a genuine desire to please God, and discipline ourselves to put God’s desires ahead of our own.
Almighty God Is the Object Of Our Praise
It is sinful when a person fails to properly honor God as his Creator. This sin preceded many others in a great list enumerated in Romans chapter one (Rom. 1:21, 25). For the most part, the Gentile peoples had abandoned and rejected the very God who had created and sustained them (Acts 14:17; 17:24-28). These sinners fabricated gods (idols) that would approve of their own sinful attitudes and actions. These idols were “dumb” (1 Cor. 12:2). They were incapable of even communicating with their misguided servants, much less doing anything for them. Isaiah 44:9-20 provides an excellent expose on the folly of idolatry. This type of outright idolatry is rare in our day, but is it possible that some people fail to give God the glory that he rightly deserves? I am afraid so.
People who do not appreciate the value of the object of their worship are not inclined to exercise great care in their worship. Those who know the Bible understand that God alone is worthy to receive our honor (John 4:24). When John fell down to worship an angel, the angel told him, “Do not! I am your fellow slave, and of your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God” (Rev. 19:10). When the crowds at Lystra attempted to worship Paul and Barnabas, Paul told them, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are human beings like you in every way . . .” (Acts 14:15). True worship is rendered, not to men and angels, but to the living God who made all things. We worship the God who loved us (John 3:16), the God who died for us (Acts 20:28; John
15:13), and the God who teaches us (1 Cor. 2:13). This God is ever present, all-powerful, and all wise. True worshipers are strongly motivated to “give glory” to their God by “continually offering up the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of their lips, confessing His name” (Luke 17:18; Heb. 13:15).
Does It Matter How We Approach God In Our Worship?
It is certainly possible for a person to worship God unscripturally. That is, either his attitude or his actions are wrong when he attempts to per- form his worship. Several examples could be cited. Cain’s “works were evil” in the worship that he offered unto God (1 John 3:12; Gen. 4:3). God killed Nadab and Abihu because they “offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not” (Lev. 10:1-2). Their actions constituted a corruption in worship. The same was true of the people in Malachi’s day. The people had “robbed God of tithes and offerings” (Mal. 3:8). He said they offered polluted bread and sick animals in their sacrifices to God, and that even their Governor would not be happy with that type of sacrifice (Mal. 1:8). What type of sacrifice do we offer when we approach God? Are there any signs that may suggest that our attitude or actions are wrong? Let us consider a couple of areas that may help us conduct a proper examination of ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5).
How We Behave During Worship
Worship is serious business, but I have attended places where the worship assembly was more like a community action meeting than a worship service. Rather than listen, concentrate, and participate, people would talk during prayers and singing. With some churches, members are so careless with their trash that the seats and floor of the auditorium will look like many movie theaters following worship services. Do some people forget that “all things are laid bare and exposed to the eyes of him with whom we must reckon” (Heb. 4:13)? God watches us in our worship assemblies. After punishing Aaron’s sons for their religious negligence, God told Aaron, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh to me” (Lev. 10:3). This strong statement indicates that God does indeed care how we approach him in our worship.
How We Dress for Worship
Have you ever participated in a worship service in which the man who made the comments for the Lord’s supper, admonishing us to remember the sacrificial death of our divine Savior, was himself wearing a Goofy T-shirt? Please don’t get excited or upset. We are not suggesting any type of worship dress code, but we are suggesting that those who come “nigh unto God” to honor him, should understand the relative importance of such an occasion, and they should dress for that occasion. When Christians wear the same slouchy clothes to worship services that they might wear to a ball game or to a family outing, they say that their attitude towards the one event, differs in no way from the other!
Please consider the following principles from the Old and New Testaments. We do not appeal to these passages in an effort to establish a standard or dress code, but these examples do set forth basic principles about putting God first in all that we do, including what we wear in worship.
How would you dress if you were going for an interview with the Governor (Mal. 1:8)? Isn’t one much greater than the Governor with us when we gather for worship (Matt. 18:20)?
The Levitical priests were not to wear common clothes when ad- ministering their duties (Exod. 28). Christians are a “kingdom of priests before God” (Rev. 1:6).
The church is the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2). Do you generally wear the same kind of clothes to a ball game that you would wear to a wed- ding? What do you wear to church services?
The Lord’s supper is a memorial supper designed by God for Christians to commemorate the death of Jesus on the cross (1 Cor. 11:23-29). Funerals are memorial services for the purpose of remembering and honoring the dead. How do you generally dress when attending a funeral service?
Should we be careful about what we wear to worship services? At the very least we can say that one should not have an apathetic, lackadaisical attitude about what he wears as he presumes to approach the God of heaven and earth, to worship him.
When We Arrive at Worship
Is it appropriate for people to consistently show up late for worship services? We know that it is sinful to forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:25), but is there anything wrong with partially missing the assembly? In order to have an assembly people must have agreed upon certain assembly terms. Of necessity, there must be a certain time and a certain place. These two factors are essential. These terms are accepted by persons who follow the approved apostolic example of joining a local church for the purpose of corporate work, study, and worship (Acts 9:26; 11:26). Let us understand that such local church assemblies are God’s way for his people to fulfill these duties (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 14:26; Acts 2:42). Willful negligence in failing to respect the meeting times and place of the local church constitutes disobedience to God.
Let us not think of church services in the same way we do a movie. It may be somewhat annoying to some people, but arriving at the movie a little late is not a sin. Willfully and consistently arriving at church services late reflects disinterest and apathy. It certainly shows that we have failed to “seek first the kingdom of God” as Matthew 6:33 teaches. It also suggests that we do not “love the Lord . . . with all of our heart, soul, and mind” (Matt. 22:37). We have allowed something else to take God’s place.
For the Christian, worship to God is both a privilege and a responsibility. It provides us with a means of both thanking and praising the sovereign God of the universe. Let us therefore “come boldly unto the throne of grace” and serve God with diligence and zeal. Let us never be characterized by laziness and carelessness, for it is this attitude that will cause God to “vomit us out of His mouth” (Rev. 3:16). Neither let us be characterized by the rebellious spirit of Jeroboam that would allow us to set up our own golden calves of corrupt worship (1 Kings 12:28). Let us strive to be true worshipers, worshiping God in “spirit and in truth.”