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Worship is one of the most powerful spiritual weapons God has given to His people.
True worship, as Jesus said, is in “spirit and in truth” and God is actively seeking people who are worshipping Him this way (John 4: 23-24). You might assume that people who praise and worship the Lord are doing so without ulterior motives, but that's not always true.
In fact, because of the tremendous spiritual power built into worship, it is often misused and abused by those who either miss the point entirely, lack understanding of Scripture, or are operating under the same influences that caused Satan to be thrown out of heaven like a flash of lightening (Luke 10: 18).
As Christians, it’s hard to wrap our minds around the idea that not everyone who worships God is actually worshipping Him.
Jesus said it would be this way (Matt. 7: 21-23) when He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and [“led worship”] in Your name?’ But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.’”
So, then why would someone want to “worship” the Lord at all, if they don’t understand why they should, or don’t even really want to? Here are the top 5 wrong reasons why people worship:
1. The Trap of Tradition
It is wrong to worship God just because that’s what we’ve always done? Even atheist and agnostic people sing worship songs (yes, that is a real thing). But why bother? Who started worship singing in the first place?
Singing to the Lord is mentioned in the New Testament (Colossisans 3: 16, Romans 15:9), but why do churches everywhere today open with songs? Why do most of them close with songs? Is it because they’re moving; or we like the tune? Truth is, we may be singing in church simply because it's "what we’ve always done, for as long as anyone can remember."
Is that bad? In a word, no. Traditions aren’t wrong unless they start to cancel out the Word of God (Matt. 15:6) and quench the Spirit.
However, worshipping God for the sake of tradition is missing the point. You may as well skip it altogether. The whole point of worshipping God is to connect with Him.
Music is a known conduit of the spiritual realm throughout the Bible and when we make music to the Lord, from a grateful heart, He is there (Psalm 22:3). Tradition can be a trap.Tradition becomes an issue at whatever point you can't or won't move past it to your purpose: we want the Lord to have His way. And that means being willing to set aside agendas and plans if He decides to move in another direction.
2. Routine, Routine, Routine
There's an adage says that “insanity” is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Author Paulo Coelho once wrote, “If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine; it is lethal.”
Think of worship in terms of marriage for a moment. If you're not: working on keeping your relationship fresh, taking time to connect with your spouse on every level, spending time together, trying new experiences together, and finding new things out about your spouse as you get to know them better each day, it weakens your connection. And what once felt exciting and new starts to feel boring and predictable.
In some cases, the heart is even drawn away to something more exciting.
Worship can absolutely become a routine. Something you cross off of your Sunday checklist. Worship can be safe and predictable because some people like it that way. We like to know what to expect, don’t we? Yet, that's not a great reason to worship. Just because worship is happening around you doesn’t mean you’re truly connecting with the Spirit of God.
Worship is a lifestyle that changes your mindset. It comes of gratitude and is powered by sacrifice. Keeping that cycle flowing will transform how you think of worship and breathe new energy and life into your Sunday "routine."
3. The Allure of Attention
Seeking the attention of God or man are both wrong reasons to worship.
Certainly, there are people in churches who are suffering from “Spiritual Rockstar Syndrome.” This involves worshipping worship and hoping someone will notice and sign them to a record contract.
Plenty of people operate in the ministry using the name of God under false pretenses, envy, strife, and insincerity, as Paul noted in Philippians 1: 15-18. Under these pretenses, they show off, parade themselves, and elevate their skill and talent; using worship as a vehicle to get noticed. “They have their reward,” Jesus said (Matt. 6:5).
Less noticeable are the people suffering from the desire to get God to notice them if they worship Him enough...loud enough, often enough, and hard enough. Maybe there’s a need for a miracle or an answered prayer or a desperate situation.
You don’t need to worship to get His attention about it. God already knows. Worship doesn’t increase the attention He will pay to it.
Worship is exclusively God-centered and God-focused. Not even one, tiny bit of worship is to be focused on us. “Minister to Me” is how the Lord put it to the Levites in the Old Testament (Ezekiel 44: 15). God doesn’t love you more in seasons when you worship or less in seasons when you don’t. He sees everything all at the same time about you.
The difference is this: The Lord is attracted to worship and is seeking true worshippers. He’ll draw near to you as you minister to Him. He’ll dwell within your worship. And His presence has everything you need – joy, power, protection, provision, answers, peace and more.
So, if you’re worshiping God hoping to get His attention, your motives are wrong. Worship doesn’t get you more attention. It gets you closer to Him.
Seek to connect with the Lord for no other reason than because He is good. Because He loved you first. Because you’re thankful for all He has done. Come in with no agenda other than to lift Him high. Minister to Him. He’ll take care of the rest.
4. Seeking God’s Hand, Not His Heart
One of the things that we love to say about worship is how much we have received from God. Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said it yourself?
When worship is especially powerful, people often come away refreshed, restored, rejuvenated and feeling a renewed sense of faith in the Lord. What a powerful outcome of operating within the presence of God, ministering to Him! He is faithful!
However, when we have those amazing experiences, we tend to try and replicate them. We try to repeat them so we can feel that way again. When times are tough, we get a sense of desperation to worship God so He can help us out with all that wonder-working power.
Remember that worship is one thing: Ministry to the Lord. Yes, we should each sing and testify to each other of what the Lord has done. That is a necessary component of a worship service because when we come together to speak of the good things God has done, we are speaking prophetically that He will do it again in the lives of others (Revelation 19: 10).
However, coming into worship seeking a refreshing restoration and renewal are wrong reasons to worship. Why? Because all of those things are the natural outcomes of worship in spirit and in truth, or true worship. Make sure you aren’t confusing the “perks” of worship with the purpose of worship.
Don’t seek for the Lord to minister to you. You won’t find all that you need. Enter into His gates, where He dwells, by ministering to Him with no other agenda than to express your love and gratitude. He will minister to you because He is faithful (Genesis 22: 17).
5. Catching God up to Speed
One thing about God that we sometimes can’t wrap our heads around is that He already knows everything. Have you ever heard someone “preach-pray”? Where they are ranting or preaching at other Christians while they are supposed to be “praying?"
This is what it must feel like to God when we “worship” Him, but really our songs are just a launchpad for us to tell Him about all the things in our lives He already knows about. Remember, worship is ministry to the Lord, and nothing else.
It is important that we draw a distinction between songs that are worship and those that are worshipful. They are not the same thing. Worship ministers to the Lord. Songs that are worshipful minister to us.
It’s okay to have a song that ministers to you. The Lord can minister to you in many different ways and music is a powerful, emotional way to reach our hearts. The message in a song is just sometimes spot-on and hits you right in the spirit. Just don’t call it worship.
It’s wrong thinking to say we are worshipping the Lord when really we are just together at church, singing songs about ourselves that don’t minister to Him. Have you ever heard songs like that?
Yes, He calls you where feet may fail, keep your eyes above the waves.
Yes, there’s another in the fire.
Yes, when He won’t move the mountains you needed Him to move, you will trust.
All good things! But here’s an important point to remember: We never want to sing more about ourselves and our experiences than we do about Him. Singing about God in light of ourselves isn’t worship.
Does God Accept “Wrong” Worship?
God knows your heart. God knows your motives. God even knows what songs you know and which ones you don’t. What God does and doesn’t accept as worship is of course completely up to Him.
However, He did take the time to speak clearly on the subject of worship throughout the Bible. While the heart is what matters the most to God, as His people we need to honor Him by worshipping Him in the manner that He, Himself asked for.
Don’t set your needs to music and call it worship.
Don’t use songs to tell God things He already knows.
Don’t ask God to do things He’s already done, or ask Him to do things He has given you the power to do in Jesus’ name.
Those are wrong perspectives about what worship is.
Set it all aside and sing to the Lord with no other agenda than to minister to Him. Let your words reflect a heart that has no other reason to sing than pure adoration.
Alicia Purdy is an author, blogger and professional writer with an M.A. in Journalism, and a human with an ongoing education in all things life-related! Her passion is to write about real life and a real faith in a real Jesus to inspire, encourage and entertain people from all walks of life. She is the host of “Living Out Loud!”,a weekly radio show broadcast at the ALIVE Radio Network. You can learn more about Alicia’s books and devotionals at her blog: TheWayoftheWorshipper.com and even more at TheEssentialLife.Us. If you need a laugh, check out her snarky side at An Everyday Kind of Jesus. Alicia and her husband have 5 kids ranging from 20 years old down to 3 - and 1 cat, named Chester. Find/follow Alicia on Facebookand Instagram. If you meet her in person, she will ikely try and wipe you down with essential oils and then ask if you want to grab a coffee.
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