Careless Worship

“Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

King Solomon, who was privileged to build the first Temple unto the Lord in Jerusalem, wrote these words in the book of Ecclesiastes. “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) I think there are times in the protestant faith that we become lax in our worship of the Lord God Almighty. We are faithful in our attendance to God’s house but do we really have fear and awe of who God is? We come in faith which is pleasing to Him but do we come to pay attention to the majesty of our God? “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Do we enter His sanctuary and leave the trials and temptations of the world beyond the doors of the sanctuary? Have we come to focus on our Lord to worship and listen to what He has to say to us this day? Are we sacrificing to Him the fullness of our might? “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

Many of us will answer in the affirmative and, sadly, many more of us will be silent. I know many times I bring the world into God’s house with me. Many times I am watching how others are responding to the service when my thoughts should be on my God and His relationship to me and mine to Him. In these words of Solomon we see two preparations that we must make to receive the full benefit of the Lord’s blessing of His service. We must be prepared to worship God and we must participate in that worship of God.

We must be prepared to worship. The clutter of the world we are in must be removed that the paths of the Lord will be straight. “A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” (Isaiah 40:3) This has always been hard for me and the problem that it causes is that there are two sides to every conversation. The one who speaks and the one who listens. If God is speaking and I am not listening, then that is not worship. I will miss His lessen that He wants to teach me that day. I will leave the worship service as empty as I walked in. I must clear the path of worldly clutter to receive the divine truth that my Heavenly Father desires to give me.

Solomon says that we are to “guard our steps.” This is a common phrase in our society today. We are always hearing people who guide our ways to watch our step. When we climb up or down stairs, cross the streets, or get in and out of public transportation we are told to watch our step. There are times we let careless words of anger slip from our lips and we are rebuked with, “you better watch your step.”

Solomon is waring us to “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) We are taught to be aware of sin, temptation, and the problem of doubt and unbelief, and a warning on how to worship is uncommon to us. There is the feeling that as long as we are worshiping the Lord it does not really matter the way that we worship Him. But this is not the truth. There were times in the Old Testament that the Lord would punish with death those who brought sinful behaviors into His house. The Lord gave these words to Moses. “Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.” (Leviticus 15:31) God is a holy God and cannot be in the presence of sin. Because He is holy He wants His people to be holy. “Because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)

Churches today have become informal places that people come to worship God in. I am not saying that this is a bad thing. The Church building itself is not where God dwells and therefore the sacredness of the Temple is not what it was in the Old Testament. The Temple has moved. The Temple of God moves with us the believers who follow Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus Christ we have been empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit and we are His Temple. It is not so much the importance of our outward appearance, as it was for the Pharisees. The importance is that we have a fit heart for the Spirit of Truth to dwell. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19) If our heart is right before God, then the outward appearance will reflect the light that shines from within. When the Church of born again believes gather there should be a sense of God’s holiness and abiding presence filling the sanctuary.

When we enter into the Church building we must be focused upon our purpose, to worship the Almighty God. When I was younger I would stay out late on Saturday nights and hang out with the gang. Then on Sunday I would fight the sleepy eye through the message of the hour. This is not worshipping God, this is only punching the ticket. Sunday is the first day of the week, the day that we dedicate to the Lord. It is a day to wake up early and meditate on His word. A day, as every day, to set the example for the children. Pray with them and teach them the importance of the worship service. It is from the parents that the children learn the path that they should go and in their maturity they will not depart from it. “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) Sunday is not only a day that will foster treasure childhood memories but a day they will look forward to. This kind of preparation will make it that kind of day and they will say it was good to be in the House of the Lord.

Worship service is not a time to sit idle waiting for the benediction, it is not a show or performance for our entertainment, worship service requires our participation. As Solomon says, “and draw near to listen.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) We are to draw near to God that He may draw nearer to us. God loves us and He wants our fellowship. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) We are to draw near so that we can listen to what God is saying to us.

We all have a tendency to speak when we should remain silent. It happens to me when at the movies or a live show. There is always someone behind or near that has to give a commentary on all that is happening. At worship there is a time to praise the Almighty, there is a time to pray to the Almighty, and there is a time to listen to the Almighty. It is better to listen than to speak foolishly and reveal our folly. “He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23) Different worship services have different orders of service. But all have a time to listen to the message and through the message the Spirit has a word just for us. We are there to sacrifice our time to be with the Lord, let us not also sacrifice foolish words when we should be listening. As Solomon warns us not to, “Offer the sacrifice of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) There is a balance that we must find between hearing too little and talking too much.

When we listen to the truth of God’s Word then our intention is to learn and to obey the truths we have learned. Our obedience is a proof of our love for our Lord. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) This is the time to have an open heart and a closed mouth. The point is if you have walked out of Church and not heard from God, then you have not offered a worthy sacrifice of worship.

We must talk cautiously to the Lord as well as a cautious walk. As Solomon tells us, “Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) When we speak to the Lord we must remember who He is. He is the authority of the universe and beyond. Our Lord Jesus had all authority in Heaven, on earth, and beneath the earth. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18) When I am speaking to my Father in Heaven it is as my mother used to say when I got a little testy to her, “Watch your tone of voice when you speak to me.” I would not want to hastily in anger give God a piece of my mind because my mind is finite and His is infinite. God knows the end from the beginning and who am I to question Him.

Solomon tells us that, “God is in heaven and you are on the earth.” God lives in an infinite realm and He hears not only the words but the thoughts of the mind. God is a Spirit and He see the invisible, the spiritual world that the evil forces move in the heavenly places. We should remain quite for are our providence depends on His good will. We are told by the apostle Paul that we should not think of ourselves as more than what we are. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). God is the Almighty, Ever Present, and All Knowing God who is full of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. He expects us to take Him seriously as the chief authority in our lives.

We cannot understand everything as God does. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) We should be mindful of the tone of our voice to God and the expressions that we say to Him. As He judges the heart and its intentions and we must be sure that they are pure. Solomon advises, “For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.” (Ecclesiastes 5:3) Men of effort are known by their dreams. They work hard to achieve their goals and they keep silent. God is our provider and He wants to help us with our burdens. When we are confused and need answers to the questions of our life God is the source we should go to. God is willing and able as a loving Heavenly Father.

When we worship God we worship Him in spirit and truth. “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) When we come to worship God we come prepared to enter His courts with praise and thanksgiving. (Psalm 100:4) We come with reverent fear of who He is. The Lord seeks an open heart to hear His truth with a closed mouth. “Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, August 18, 2016

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