We Don't Get to Choose
I was speaking with another pastor last week about a hotly debated issue of today. My response was “We don’t get to choose how we worship God.” How would my wife respond to me if I told her she had to accept whatever I thought was loving as my offer of love? Is it not better if I found out from her what makes her feel loved? Even so God gets to tell us what it means for us to worship Him.
The desire to worship as we choose started early in human existence. In the story of Cain and Abel, Cain brought “an offering of the fruit of the ground” (Gen. 4:3). We don’t know the whole story, but for some reason, God did not accept the offering of Cain. There is a verbal clue in the text that Cain brought “of the fruit” while Abel brought “the firstborn of his flock” (Gen. 4:4). Abel brought the firstborn—the best. Cain brought “of the flock.” It sounds like a much more casual choice. He brought what he wanted to bring.
The book of Malachi addresses the same idea over and over again. The people were giving their sick and lame animals to God—that was their sacrifice! At one point, God says, “Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you?” (Mal. 1:8).
The classic example of a person “choosing” to honor God without consulting God is David’s attempt to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem. They put the ark on a cart, the same way that it had been sent back to the Israelites by the Philistines. When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah put out his hand to steady the Ark and was instantly struck dead. After consulting the Scriptures, David had the priests carry the ark to Jerusalem—this time without incident! We don’t get to worship God the way we choose to worship!
In modern faith, it has become all about the experience. “I feel good when …” or “I don’t feel good when …”. The giver is determining what the receiver should accept and how He should feel about it! And he is doing so on the basis of how he feels about the gift he is giving!
We have pretty much walked away from any sense of giving a Sabbath day to God. Church is optional. Giving is often more about making the giver feel good about his gift. We have gone so far to accommodate the worshipers—is there even any worship left?
For me to love my wife, I have to put down what I want and truly get inside of her world enough to know what she would want. So what does God want out of worship?
Worship is a very high form of honor. Perhaps the highest honor we can give anyone is our attention—real focused attention. God seldom gets focused attention anymore. Our phones are winning the battle for our attention!
That is part of why God asks for us to dedicate attention to Him for an entire Sabbath day. It builds honor. It builds respect and we can receive from what we respect. Where there is no honor, there is no receiving. When I honor my wife enough to pay attention to her needs, she is likely to return the favor in a multiplied fashion. What we give comes back to us many times over.
I believe God’s desire for us to worship Him is more about His heart for us. He knows that we cannot experience what He wants to pour into our lives unless we make room for Him. There has to be a death to the selfish side of our lives if we are to fully experience His love. If we are willing to honor Him, it opens the door to a rich receiving of who He is into our lives. That is the greatest gift! We receive of who He is.
Instead, in a selfish world, we approach God for what we can get. We “offer” Him an hour on one Sunday a month or a financial gift or whatever else we can spare. Then we wonder why our experience with God is almost non-existent! Actually, the selfish person will feel like he is making an extravagant sacrifice by giving a few hours a month to God. The godly will know that he has done the bare minimum by giving God the entire Sabbath day.
In every way, God gets to choose how we worship Him. If we could start with one simple change—giving God a greater part of our focus—I think we would see amazing changes. If there is a God, and if He has spoken, our focus should be on responding to what He has told us to do. When I focus on what my wife wants, it pays dividends. How much more would our lives change for good if we actually focused on what God wanted instead of trying to get something from God?
Choose to worship God the way He wants to be worshiped. Give Him the best. Start with focused attention!