Worship: Going through the motions! – Genesis 4:3-7; Leviticus 10:1-2; Matthew 15:7-9
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 17, 2013 AM
Last week, we talked about worship being God’s idea. I heard a story concerning a pastor and his first Sunday in a new church presenting the children’s message. It seems the sanctuary in the new church had some magnificent stained glass windows, so his message centered on how each of us is called to help make up the whole picture of life (the life of the community of the faithful). Like the pictures in the windows, it takes many little panels of glass to make the whole picture. And then he said, “You see each one of you is a little pane.” And then pointing to each child, “You’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And you’re a little pane. And…” It took a few moments before he realized why everyone was laughing so hard. Sometimes, we don’t realize that we are just going through the motions.
Our worship can be like that as well. We can simply show up and go through the motions. There are churches and believers who go through the motions of worship every Sunday and then head home wondering why their worship wasn’t what they thought it should have been. Far too many believers and churches are simply copying what they have erroneously learned about worship. They are simply going the through the motions of worship. This morning, let’s discover the way God desires us to worship by looking at how we can be simply going through the motions…
We find two young men who seem to both worship God in the same way, but one was simply going through the motions of worship. We are simply going through the motions of worship…
I. When we don’t give God our best! (Genesis 4:3-7)
In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:3-7 NIV)
1. “In the course of time” both of these men brought to God the outcome of their lives. “Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.” However, “Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.” Did you notice the difference? No, it wasn’t that one was focused on fruit! Contrary to what some folks believe, God does not mind what you eat; rather He is more concerned with what comes out of your mouth! Your actions will reveal the intent of your heart! Adam and Eve had sinned, been thrown out of the Garden of Eden and were now raising two boys. They both brought an offering to the Lord. “The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor.” Why, what occurred here? Notice that a period of time had passed and also notice that “Abel brought fat portions” of the “firstborn of his flock” while Cain just brought “some of the fruits of the soil.” Do you detect the difference? God looked with favor on the offering that was given with the best intent from the best the individual had, while the offering that was kind of just slapped together at the last moment, “he did not look with favor.” “So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.” God knows when we don’t give Him our best. God confronts Cain and his second-rate worship: “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain knew his offering was not given with the best intentions that it had been given halfheartedly. And isn’t this perhaps the very reason why so much worship in our day and age is seen by God as kind of second-rate? Like Cain, we are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!
EXAMPLE: The other day I cleaned out or refrigerator and I discovered that there were some hidden “secrets” in the back of the fridge. You know what I mean; those science experiments that you did not know you had begun but are now in full bloom. I soon discovered also that you cannot clean some of the containers, you have to throw them out or they stink! Our worship can become leftovers as well and it also begins to stink to high heaven! The solution is to get rid of anything that hinders our worship. Not to do so is sin. Sin crouches at our door when we give God the leftovers of our life. We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!
God has given us His instructions to love Him completely and others, as we love ourselves. However, we often neglect one or the other or both! We learn in the following passage that we are simply going through the motions of worship…
II. When we do our own thing! (Leviticus 10:1-2)
Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. (Leviticus 10:1-2 NIV)
1. We can forget that when we worship we are entering the very presence of God. Certainly, when we come to Christ we are covered by the blood of the Lamb and His grace is completely sufficient. However, we should never forget that God told Moses, “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.” (v. 3) on the very first day of his high priestly ministry, Aaron had to face the tragic deaths of his two eldest sons. What occurred is that “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command.” They thought they could do what they pleased as they entered the presence of God. There are always consequences when we do our own thing, whether good or bad, we reap what we have sown. “So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” Perhaps this is what today’s church suffers from. There are those who think they can take spiritual short cuts to worship God. They tacitly think God will not care if they offer “unauthorized fire before the Lord,” manufactured or otherwise! How often do we approach God without any honor at all, and then is it any wonder that the rest of the world does not see the church as a viable option? When God’s people do not honor, worship, according to His commands our worship is invalid. In fact, at best, it is manufactured! One of the teachers of the law came and asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus told him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The teacher of the Law responded, “You are right… To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength… is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Matthew 12:28-34 NIV) Aaron’s sons, like some believers do, forget whom they are to love, worship, completely. We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!
EXAMPLE: We live in a society that thinks every moment of our lives should be lived in doing whatever we want to do whenever we want to and however we want to do it! This is not only extremely narcissistic but it is also extremely spiritually myopic. Church has become about us instead of the body of Christ where we are supposed to serve even if means unto death! If we are unwilling to, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21 NIV) how can we worship God? We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!
Nothing is worse than discovering that those who say they care about us don’t. We call it being two-faced. In the next passage, we discover that we are simply going through the motions of worship…
III. When our hearts are far away from God! (Matthew 15:7-9)
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 but rules taught by men.” (Matthew 15:7-9 NIV)
1. “News of Jesus’ teaching and His mighty acts had spread throughout the land. The officials in Jerusalem were aware of all Jesus was doing, for a delegation arrived in Galilee from Jerusalem to interrogate Jesus over a matter of Jewish tradition. Their attack was directed against Jesus’ disciples, who were accused of failing to observe the elders’ tradition of the ceremonial washing of hands before eating.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary) They thought of themselves as righteous because they followed the law; however, they had dishonored the fifth command to honor their parents by the use “Corban.” Jesus related, “But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.”(Mark 7:11-12 NIV) In fact, Jesus accused them of nullifying the “word of God”! Jesus bluntly tells them, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’” Their hearts were so far away from God, they could not even see their own phoniness. How could those who thought of themselves as righteous worship God when they in fact were hypocritical about how they treated their parents! There are those in our day who treat their brothers and sisters in Christ with disdain, they treat their church with contempt, and their walk with God is just lip service. God told Isaiah, “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.” Their religion had become a matter of man-made rules! We may think as evangelical Baptists we do not have man-made rules, but we do. When we allow our ungodly attitudes, actions, or man-made traditions to interfere with our worship, we cannot worship! In fact, we are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!
EXAMPLE: Paul knew the importance of true worship. He understood that it is based on the purity of one’s life in Christ. This is why after teaching the Ephesians about the importance of the church in the life of a believer, he writes, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.” (Ephesians 4:17-21 NIV) We are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!
We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do not give God our best!
We are simply going through the motions of worship when we do our own thing!
We are simply going through the motions of worship when our hearts are far away from God!
This article is copyrighted © 2013 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.