When We Worship Our Worship

How will we know if we have fallen into the snare of worshiping the idea of our worship? Here are a few symptoms

We smugly compare our worship practices with those of other churches. It is not wrong for us to analyze the worship practices of the church universal. There is much to reject and much to appropriate by considering the worship practices of other local churches. However, there is always the danger that we become self-righteous about why we do what we do in worship. Self-righteousness in our worship practices can creep into the thinking of pastors and people alike in both low church settings or high church settings, in churches with contemporary music styles or traditional music styles (or, no instrumental accompaniment, for that matter) as well as in churches that observe a liturgical calendar or churches that follow a Puritanical liturgy.

 

“When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward” (Matt. 6:5). These are some of the most sobering words ever spoken by the Lord Jesus. It is not only possible for us to act hypocritically regarding our motives in our personal worship practices–it is a very real and ever present danger. If we can take anything good and turn it an idol by giving it ultimate priority in our lives, then we can certainly idolize our personal and public worship practices. When we do so, we are really worshipping ourselves in relation to our worship practices and preferences. The Pharisees were masters of self-righteously wielding religious practices. While they perverted the God-revealed meaning of prayer, giving, fasting, sacrifice and Sabbath observation, they were deeply committed to all of these elements of worship in their religious practice. So how will we know if we have fallen into the snare of worshiping the idea of our worship? Here are a few symptoms:

1. We talk more about worship than we speak about the God we are to worship. While there are those who will use this as a smokescreen for downplaying the significance of worshiping God according to the Scriptures (i.e. what we call the “regulative principle of worship“), there is a very real danger that we will start to trust in what we do in worship rather than trusting in the God we are called to worship. Without doubt, we must care deeply about how God wants to be worshiped in accord with His word; however, when we make our liturgy, our music or our pastor’s giftedness the end goal, we lose site of the Triune God who gives us the elements of worship, grace to sing His praises and ministers to proclaim His truth. The end goal of worship is not to sit content in the way in which we worship but to rest in the true and living God to whom we are coming in worship. Just as it is possible to preach about preaching Christ rather than faithfully preaching Christ, so too it is possible for us to worship the idea of worship rather than coming to worship the Triune God in truth. If we are not coming to God in worship with hearts that are seeking after and safely trusting in the mediation of Jesus, then we will inevitably be trusting in our worship practices.

2. We smugly compare our worship practices with those of other churches. It is not wrong for us to analyze the worship practices of the church universal. There is much to reject and much to appropriate by considering the worship practices of other local churches. However, there is always the danger that we become self-righteous about why we do what we do in worship. Self-righteousness in our worship practices can creep into the thinking of pastors and people alike in both low church settings or high church settings, in churches with contemporary music styles or traditional music styles (or, no instrumental accompaniment, for that matter) as well as in churches that observe a liturgical calendar or churches that follow a Puritanical liturgy. When we start to adopt the mentality that we have the perfect corner on worship and that everyone else should conform to our precise liturgical practices, we have probably allowed a self-righteous idolatry to take hold of our hearts.

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