photo credit:  Will Foster  via  photopin   cc

True Worship VS False Worship


photo credit: Will Foster via photopin cc

“He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.” – Rev. 14:7

The angel in this passage is giving a message of warning to the people of the earth. The final events of earth’s history are about to unfold. The angel doesn’t have time to give his own message or talk about unimportant things. There’s no time for foolishness, no time for nonsense, no time for abstract theology. He’s got to get to the point and so every word of the angel is precisely what you and I need to hear in these last days and I find it fascinating that the angel brings up the issue of worship.

Now most of you probably had a mental picture when I said the word worship just now and it most likely involved music. But music is not worship. Music is an expression of worship. So it is a part of worship but it’s not worship in its truest sense. Worship goes much deeper than pianos and saxophones. It goes much deeper than hymnals and praise bands. So what is worship? What does it mean to worship? I am going to propose this morning that true worship is not a state of doing, but a state of being. In other words, worship is life. But what exactly do I mean by that and can we find that idea in scripture? One of the clearest definitions of worship in the Bible is found in Romans 12:1-2. It reads:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
The first point that Paul makes in this text is that true worship is offering up your bodies as a living sacrifice. This is another way of saying true worship is the total surrender of your whole self to God. I have a friend that I grew up with in church. They used to call him “flower picker.” A flower picker is someone who goes out into the field and picks a flower, then another, and another etc. Well my friend was a flower picker but instead of picking flowers he picked girls. He always had a different girlfriend. One day he told me about a young lady that he liked. Now he was dating at the time and this young lady wasn’t his girlfriend. But he told me that if he ever broke up with his girlfriend he would go for this other girl. In other words, he had a backup! Now how in the world are you supposed to have a successful relationship with someone if you have a backup in case the relationship fails? You might as well end the relationship because unless you change that mindset the relationship will fail.  He wasn’t fully committed. And many of us aren’t fully committed to God. And if you are not fully committed your relationship with God is not going to succeed. True worship says Paul is a full commitment to Christ. Everything.

Understand: True worship is not singing for an hour Saturday morning at church. True worship is a total commitment. You can’t compartmentalize true worship. True worship is a 24/7 phenomenon. It is the moment by moment surrender to God. Some people get caught up with talking about where to worship and what music to use and how to dress for worship and they miss the point that worship is bigger than the church building and bigger than the song selection and bigger than what you wear, worship is how you ought to live every moment of the day. Worship God when you are driving to work, worship him when you are listening to music, worship him when you are talking to your friends and family, worship him in everything!

The second point that Paul brings up regarding true worship is: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world.” In other words, don’t be worldly. Now, what does it mean to be worldly? When I was a kid my father made my brother and I wear church clothes to public school. He wouldn’t allow us to wear jeans because he didn’t want us to be like the “world.” Is that what it means to be like the world? I have been studying what the Bible says about worldliness among Gods people, and the interesting thing is that when the Bible speaks of the world in the church, when it speaks about worldliness among Gods people it’s hardly ever talking about the stuff we talk about. Our definition of worldly is small compared to the Bibles definition. We say silly things like, “The new pastor doesn’t wear a tie! The world is creeping into the church!” Or “Our church puts the songs on a projector now. I’m telling you the world is coming into the church!” “Can you believe? The church doesn’t have pews anymore. Since when do we have chairs in a church. We are becoming like the world!” Any of you ever heard silly stuff like that before? It’s nonsense! Now let me clarify. I am not saying that we should just accept every new thing as though it didn’t matter. That’s not what I am saying. What I am saying is this, for many of us our definition of worldliness doesn’t go any further than external things. But when the Bible talks about the world in the church, more often than not it’s talking about character. Worldliness in the Bible isn’t “the youth are wearing Roman skirts instead of Jewish ones.” Worldliness in the Bible is Christians who act like the world. What do I mean by Christians who act like the world? Christians who gossip like the world. Christians who hate like the world. Christians who argue like the world. Back stab one another like the world, criticize each other like the world. Christians who are lazy, uncompassionate, merciless, unloving, indifferent and judgmental. That’s biblical worldliness. Not wearing jeans but talking about the elder behind his back, mistreating your spouse, ignoring your children, and avoiding people at church that you don’t get along with. That’s worldliness. In 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 Paul says,
Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?
With this in mind, it’s perfectly possible to be a good conservative, orthodox, traditional Adventist who does everything by the book and still be worldly. Really? Are you serious? I thought I was a godly person because I no longer listen to music with curse words. I thought I was godly because I no longer watch violent movies. I thought I was godly because I don’t have tattoos, or piercings, or a Mohawk on my head. Well, I’m not arguing against any of that, but let me ask you: Are you impatient? Are you constantly arguing with people in church. Do you mistreat your children? Do you envy others? Do you gossip or slander your pastor and your elders and deacons? Worldliness is not just culture guys, its character. Do you love only those who love you? Jesus said, 
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matt. 5:46-47).
Worldliness goes a lot further than external things which more often than not are a matter of opinion. This is one reason why some of the worldliest people in Jesus’ days were the Pharisees and likewise, I believe that some of the worldliest people in the church today are the people who are always arguing about religion and doctrine but show no love for their neighbor and no compassion for their brothers and sisters. And if worship is a state of being, if worship is a 24/7 phenomenon then you cannot be worldly and a worshiper at the same time. Let me make it clearer. You cannot talk to your wife and children any old kind of way, gossip, boast, and slander during the week and then show up here on Sabbath and think you are worshiping God. You’re not worshiping God! In Isaiah 29:13 God says, 
These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
So what solution is there to this problem? Paul mentions it. It’s the “renewing of the mind.” What does Paul mean by “renewal of the mind?” When Paul speaks of the mind he talking about two things in particular that takes place in our minds. Thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and our feelings combined form who we are, they form our character. So when Paul says that we need a renewal of the mind what he is saying is that we need new thoughts and new feelings. We need a new character. We need the character of Christ. If you want to be a true worshiper today, a 24/7 worshiper, you can’t do it on your own. You need a new mind. New thoughts. New feelings. New character. Christ’s character.

In the last days of earth’s history there’s going to be a battle over worship. There’s going to be a battle over commitment. Those who are worldly, committed to this world, will side with this world. But those who have chosen to be true worshipers in everything they do will take their side with God. Whose side do you want to be on?

This post is originally a sermon manuscript for a sermon I preached titled "Worship is Life"

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Further Reading: Worldliness in the Church (This post is an edited version of the mid-portion of this post which deals with Paul's definition of "worldliness" in the church.)

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