In this day and era of the church the “worship movement” has become a pretty popular thing. There seems to be unification of the body of Christ around the topic of worship. It seems to be the thing that we can commonly agree upon, even in the face of hundreds of years of denominational disagreement.
Worship bands and movements like Hillsong, Bethel Music, iHOP KC, Elevation Band, Planet Shakers, United Pursuit and many others have become commonly known for anyone who loves worship. Believers flock to worship events and conferences throughout the world of the sole pursuit of encountering God through the expression of corporate worship.
As we look deeper into the scriptures we can see that singing songs to God is a small piece of the pie in His desire to have our worship. Throughout scripture God is always looking at the intention of the heart…not simply the outward action. In Romans, Paul calls us to offer our entire lives…not just our voices on a Sunday morning, as a pleasing act of worship to God.
“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.”
In days of old sacrifice was a regular part of your expression of worship. When you came to the temple you did not come empty handed. Today we don’t bring doves or food or lambs in our act of worship, we bring out hearts and we bring our lives.
There is more worship that happens Monday through Saturday than anything that happens for 1-2 hours on a Sunday morning. How you live your daily life, how you treat others, how you do your work, how you sacrifice for those you don’t want to…all of these things paint the tapestry of your worship before God.
Additionally, there is a specific example of what God really values in worship. In this passage God lays out the concept of
“If your worship is missing this component…then to me your worship is pretty much worthless”.
Whereas that idea seems pretty harsh, it articulates the importance of this core value that is so interwoven with worship that it cannot be separated.
What matters to God most in worship is obedience.
Saul was a king of Israel who started off ok, but quickly got consumed with his own fears. He started taking matters into His own hands and not listening to or obeying God. Samuel the prophet confronted him saying in 1 Sam 15:22
“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.”
Burnt offerings, sacrifices, fat of rams…was the “what” of worship back in the day. You could replace these concepts with “powerful music, singing, quiet times”. Hits a bit more to home doesn’t it? Imagine a modern paraphrasing of this scriptural passage:
“Does the Lord delight in great worship sets and your quiet time? To obey is better than singing your heart out at that Friday night worship set… etc.”
Saul was doing all the right things. He was executing what would look like worship in that day and age. However, he was not committed to obey.
When confronted by Samuel, Saul’s response is interesting and points back to one core issue… fear.
“Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”
Saul’s (and our) biggest obstacle in obedience is usually fear. We fear what everyone else will think about us if we refuse to get drunk. We fear what it will cost us to obey the Lord and make the move He’s challenging us to. We fear the awkwardness of talking to the stranger He is prompting us to reach out to. We fear there won’t be enough for us if we give God his portion of our finances first.
God doesn’t pull any punches. He basically says:
“You’re not even worshiping…in fact your lack of obedience is like witchcraft and idol worship to me”.
I believe this is just as true today as it was then.
God is gracious and kind. He wants our whole hearts. Our obedience indicates that we love and we trust Him wholeheartedly…not just mouthing the words of some song on a Sunday.
I’ve had the privilege of sitting under an amazing worship leader, Melissa Helser, and her teaching a number of times. She has said “Our actions display out beliefs, 100% of the time”. We can sing song during worship times about “I trust you, take my life, etc etc”…but when refuse to obey the Word and the prompting of the Holy Spirit… it’s shining a light on our inner heart…and the fact that we don’t fully trust Him.
God wants us to live full lives of worship with Him! He is waiting for us to align our inner day to day worship lives with obedience. When that happens I believe the Lord truly rejoices in the songs we sing and the outpouring of our hearts in corporate gatherings. Repentance is turning 180 degrees a different direction than you were going. He excitedly awaits us whenever we want to turn back to Him. He wants us to encounter the fullness of Him in worship and our obedience is a critical factor in that equation.
He is waiting with open arms to accept the worship song of our obedience.
RNW Leadership Team
- Ask the Holy Spirit “Are there any things from your Word that I’m not obeying?” These would be God’s commands through Scripture. Some common topics might be sexuality and sex outside of marriage (including pornography), getting drunk or using drugs recreationally, not tithing, greed, self promotion, not taking care of the poor…etc etc etc.
- Ask the Holy Spirit “Are there any personal directives that you’ve asked me to obey that I have not, or have been slow to obey?” Perhaps He has prompted you to do something and you’ve been afraid or slow to obey.