I just got back from guest preaching this weekend and I was reminded of how much I love corporate worship services. There’s tremendous power in the teaching of God’s Word, the worship of His name through music and the gathering of believers in one location.
But as much as I love these times of organized worship, I’m afraid that we often reduce the idea of worship down to these gatherings only. Our definition is limited to a weekend service, a mid-week small group or a week-long summer missions trip.
CONFUSING ACTIVITY WITH IDENTITY
As important as those activities are, we can’t confuse our worship activity with our worship identity. I’ve said this many times before: worship is not primarily your activity; worship is first your identity as a human being.
Human beings were created by God to be worshipers. You can’t divide people into two groups, as if there are some who worship and others who don’t. Every person, regardless of religious profession, has worshiped their way through every day of their existence. I would even argue that everything you say and everything you do is an act of worship.
Here’s an example of worship that has nothing to do with religious activity. Your friend is hosting a picnic and everyone in the neighborhood is invited. Whether you know it or not, you have named popularity as a god in your life, and you live for the social acceptance of others.
Everything you do and everything you say at that picnic will be an attempt to get people to listen to your stories, laugh at your jokes and spread the glory of your character to others in the neighborhood. If you feel as if you were the center of attention, the picnic would be a success! But if you feel ignored, or if someone else takes the spotlight, the picnic is a disappointment, and that other person is now your enemy!
You see, that picnic has nothing to do with religious activity and everything to do with worship. You didn't put on your Sunday clothes and drive to church, but you surely worshiped! We must expand our definition of worship to everything we do and everything we say. If we limit worship to religious activity, we’re going to be unaware of all the times we worship.
THE WORSHIP EXCHANGE
Romans 1:25 is probably the best diagnosis on our worship condition. It says that human beings will exchange the worship of the Creator for worship of created things.
Go back to that picnic illustration. If you’re worshiping God in that moment, you won’t be concerned about your personal status; you’ll have a compassionate heart and you’ll use those conversations and interactions as opportunities for ministry. But if you exchange the worship of God for worship of social popularity, you’ll look for every opportunity to make those conversations and interactions about you.
It’s vital that you recognize two things: life is worship, and worship is always being exchanged in your heart.
How are you doing in awareness? Are you sensitive to each opportunity you have to worship in word and deed? And how are you doing in action? Are you frequently exchanging the worship of God for worship of created things?
WINNING THE WORSHIP WAR
For the child of God, life in a fallen world will be one big worship war. Even though we’ve been given the Holy Spirit and the ability to worship the Creator at all times, our sinful nature will fight to worship the created world.
So how can you be a better soldier? How are you going to keep your heart focused and your worship pure? How are you going to make sure that you don’t waste your life in pursuit of created things?
Pay close attention here: you can’t win this war of worship. You don’t have the ability to free yourself from the myriad of idols that seek to lay claim on your heart. But you’re not alone, and you’re not hopeless.
Jesus came to break the back of your idolatry. Jesus came to free you from your addiction to the shadow glories of the created world. Start right here, right now by crying out for His help. Admit that you’re magnetized by a whole catalog of god-replacements, and ask Jesus to intervene on your behalf.