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Right & Wrong Worship

“Not to us, O LORD, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!
Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak
eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.” Psalm 115:1-8 ESV

People are continually ascribing worth and glory to someone or something. Worship is always happening.

Paul writes to the Romans about how God has revealed himself. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1:20-23 NIV). So, you see, we’re either worshiping Creator God or created things.

So, let’s call it was it really is: Idolatry. We are master idol makers. Exodus 20:3-5a, the first two commandments, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…”

Can you imagine if there were a spiritual gifts analysis or StrengthsFinder test, “Sin Edition”? I think we’d all have a common top strength as master Idol Makers! Not that we should boast in our sin. In his book, God’s Message for Each Day: Wisdom from the Word of God, Eugene Peterson writes, “In the Christian life our primary task isn’t to avoid sin, which is impossible anyway, but to recognize sin.”

Okay, so there’s idolatry. And we need to recognize it, call it out in our lives for what it is.

What happens is that we’re likely to either be zealous about worshiping the One True God OR the idols we put before God. We may not consider our idolatry a zealous act, but we pour into something in order to receive our identity.

There is a deceiver at work in our idolatry. Our idolatry, or wrong worship, enjoys staying hidden. It either hides from ourselves so that we worship idols and don’t realize it, or we hide it from others. We’re often unaware of idols in our lives OR working overtime to keep them in the dark. If we’re always worshiping someone or something, then you might say we’re worshiping in the “right” or “wrong” way or direction.

John Coe talks about the biblical doctrine of the hidden heart, the recesses of our heart, and refers to Jeremiah 17:9-10, how our heart, the core of our selves that really drives us, is more deceitful than anything else, but thankfully God is in the business of searching hearts. We all have these hidden hearts; the difference is the degree to which we have “stuff” that has not been dealt with, crud we haven’t let the Lord deal with. And when we keep those things stuffed down, they can too easily become idols that control us at any moment. We ought to go before the Lord as David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139)

So the question becomes: Who or what will you worship?

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself interceded for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” Romans 8:26-27 ESV

God is already searching our hearts, and Jesus by his Spirit is already interceding for us. What if we paused to listen; stopped and were still for a moment; what if we asked God about our hearts, partnered with the Holy Spirit and interceded for our souls?  Take some time to slow down, listen, reflect, and to pray.

Breathe in me, O Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy.
Act in me, O Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.
Draw my heart, O Holy Spirit, that I love but what is holy.
Strengthen me, O Holy Spirit, to defend all that is holy.
Guard me, then, O Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.
Amen. (Prayer to the Holy Spirit, Saint Augustine of Hippo)

This content is taken from shift115 worship school curriculum. If you’re interested in learning more about worship school, visit our worship school page.

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