What is true worship? This has to be a significant question. For if there is true worship, it stands to reason that there is also false worship. It further follows that if there is true and false worship, then only that which is true would be accepted by God.
The Bible gives us insight into the things that God accepts and the things that He rejects. In Matthew 6, we learn that gifts given with fanfare are not accepted by God, however, gifts given with discretion are. (Matthew 6:1-4)
Similarly, prayers made in a way to glorify the person praying are not accepted by God, however, prayer made with humility is welcomed by God. (Matthew 6:5-15)
This pattern holds true for fasting as well. If people make a show of their fasting, then God will not be moved by it. (Matthew 6:16-18)
As a Pastor, I find these verses very confronting. For part of my job description is to pray in front of people. The only way I know how to reconcile this is by remembering that I am leading the people in prayer, not putting on a show. I am a shepherd, not a celebrity.
These same values of sincerity and not showmanship should, therefore, apply to worship. The question we must ask ourselves is this. “Am I here for God, or am I seeking to ‘big note’ myself?
Perhaps the greatest contrast of worship times is found in 1 Kings 18, where there is a ‘worship competition between Elijah and Jezebel’s prophets and priests. What a contrast that would have been that day!
The performance begins with the ‘Big Show’, 850 professional clergy, dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’, chanting their greatest chants, singing as no other human choir had ever sung. The people would have been so impressed. Here they were singing, dancing chanting, but no avail. The offering remains on the altar. So they step up the show, with of all things bloodletting! They began cutting themselves to demonstrate their idea of God was right.
Finally, late that afternoon comes Act 2. An old and poorly dressed lunatic. No singing. No chanting, No dancing. No theatrics of any kind. All he does is just busy himself setting up an altar to God, and then he digs a trench and pours buckets of water on the sacrifice. Surely this guy skipped Worship 101 at Prophet School!
At last, he steps back and in Hebrew says a simple 34-word prayer. Fire falls from Heaven and takes Elijah’s sacrifice, the wood on which it was placed, the stones of the altar, and every drop of water that was poured upon it.
There is a lesson here for us, consistent with the teachings of Jesus on giving, prayer, and fasting. It’s not the show we provide, rather it’s the heart that we bring, by which God judges and either accepts or rejects our worship.
Today, as you bring your gift of worship to God, give it to Him from a sincere and grateful heart. Make it about Him and your love for Him, and forget about yourself. Come back to the heart of worship.