Will God receive my worship?

worship

We understand God to be a gracious, loving Father who welcomes the prodigal son with open arms (Luke 15).  He stands at the door and knocks (Rev 3.20), He loves us because He Himself is love (1 John 4.7-8).  Because of these truths, we boldly sing songs like, “Come just as you are to worship”, and we proclaim to one another that there is “nothing that can separate us from the love of God” (Rom 8.35).  And while all of these truths are glorious and the foundation by which we can boldly approach the throne of Grace (Heb 4.16), we must also remember that God does not love and welcome us without condition.

Jesus taught clearly that the one who is unwilling to forgive another proves himself to not know God – and to not be forgiven by God (Matt 6.14-15).  And by that reality He warns us:

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.”

– Matt 5.22

If we are angry with our brother, and if we call him a fool in our hearts, that is wickedness enough before God for us to be condemned to Hell.  Jesus says that God will not hear the cries from such a heart.  It is so serious, in fact, that He actually teaches us that we are unworthy to go to Church to worship if we have strife with another Christian.  We must first go and be reconciled – we must first go live out the Gospel – before we can come and worship Him and praise Him for that salvation.

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

– Matt 5.23-24

God will not receive our offering or worship until we have submitted ourselves to Him, until we have lived out the Gospel in our own lives, and until we have ceased to make peace with sin.

Does this mean that we have to be perfect before we come to Church?  Most certainly not.  It simply means that we cannot choose to harbor bitterness in our hearts and we cannot make peace with any sin, and expect God to hear us.  The moment that we allow a sin in our lives and do not fight it, we are putting Jesus to open shame – and proving ourselves to not know Him.  If you are fighting a sin, then you are welcome before God.  It is when you choose to not fight it and let it remain in your heart that He will not hear you.  It is when you allow a conflict with a brother, or indulge in pornography, or willingly participate in any sin that you have declared Jesus less valuable and unworthy of your full devotion.  He is not your Lord.

The people of Israel were in such a perilous situation, at one point, and were completely unaware:

“Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
‘Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’
Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it for bowing fnone’s head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

– Is 58.2-7

God Himself said of the people that they sought after Him “day by day”, and they were taking delight in knowing His ways.  They, as an entire people, were known for “righteousness” and obedience to the Scriptures, and they were praying earnestly for God to reveal His will in their daily decisions.  God Himself said that the people were taking delight in the nearness of God:  fasting, praying, singing.  They were worshiping how God had taught them to worship.  But yet God refused to hear them.  He was displeased with them and did not draw near to them.  They were obviously aware of His distance, and so they cried out:

“Why have we fasted and You do not see?
Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?”

– Is 58.3

And God responds unashamedly:

“Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire,
And drive hard all your workers.
Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist.
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.”

– Is 58.3-4

The Israelites were fasting with the wrong motives.  Remember the hypocrites that Jesus condemned?  How they were fasting so that men could see them (Matt 6.5)?  The Israelites were fasting so that other nations would see and know them for their righteousness.  They received their reward in full, there, on the Earth.  And not only that, but they turned around during their fast and “drove hard all their workers”.  They were terrible bosses, and they took advantage of those who were under them.  In short, they were putting on a good worship face and then they were turning around and not living it out.  They were following the forms that God had established but their hearts were far from God.

Have you ever sat down to pray, “God change so-and-so, humble him, help him see his sin”.  This is a good prayer if prayed from a humble position.  But if it is a prayer of pride thinking, “I’m right and he is wrong”, then it is worthless.  Rather we should examine ourselves, confess our own sins, and live peaceably with all men, so much as it depends on us (Rom 12.18).  We should indeed pray for God to change our unsaved friends, to humble them and reveal their sin to them, but our hearts must be pure in doing so.  The Israelites were praying such a prayer out of strife and contention.

“THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS,
BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME.
BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME,
TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.”

– Matt 15.8-9

And this is a perilous position in which to be.  We might be able to fake it before men, but God can see the heart and will judge harshly such a one:

Then the Lord said,
“Because this people draw near with their words
And honor Me with their lip service,
But they remove their hearts far from Me,
And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote,
Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous;
And the wisdom of their wise men will perish,
And the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.”

– Is 29.13-14

Is this a terrifying truth to us?  It should be.  There will be no greater sorrow than those who come to eternity’s door and realize,

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’”

– Matt 7.21-23

It is much better for us to wrestle with the uncomfortable nature of such difficult teachings while there is still time, rather than to placate ourselves and spend eternity paying for it.

But let us find comfort and security in this promise:

“Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

– Rom 10.13

And,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

– 1 John 1.9

No one who is still living in his fleshly body will attain perfection and stop sinning completely.  Scripture teaches us that our body is actually at war against the Spirit which indwells us (Gal 5.17).  Therefore, we must remember and proclaim boldly to our Spirit that,

“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous…”

– 1 John 2.1

When we sin, and when we confess it and repent of it, Jesus stands before God and declares the sin as “time served”.  Jesus never sweeps a sin under the rug, He never ignores it.  Rather, He took the punishment for it by suffering the cross and three days separated from God.  He then conquered it by raising again and offering us His righteousness.  We will continue to sin, as long as we are alive.  But let us never make peace with that sin and assume God’s grace will overlook it.  I once knew a man who taught boldly a Sunday School lesson on loving one’s enemy.  He turned around four days later and left his wife, telling the elders of his church “I am unwilling to reconcile with her”.  This man’s worship was not received by God.  He had made peace with his sin of unfaithfulness, bitterness and selfishness, and he was ultimately removed from his church.  Let us examine ourselves daily, as we worship God, as we seek to know Him, as we go to church, and as we live out our daily lives.  Let us confess our sins and die to self.  Let us live out the very grace that we would receive in our own lives.  And when we do sin, let us turn to Jesus and run from it.  Then God will hear and honor our worship.

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One comment on “Will God receive my worship?

  1. […] I asked the question, “Will God Receive My Worship?“, and reflected on one of the greatest passages of instruction about worship from the Bible. […]

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