Yesterday we looked at the battle over preferences as we began our series on worship wars. Cain gave God an offering that was second best. He had a stinking attitude as he came before the Lord. Ultimately it led to his brother Abel’s death and banishment from the land. Abel, on the other hand, gave God his minhah–his very best offering. He gave God his firstfruits with a right heart. He was commended before God for his righteousness. We cannot bring God what we think pleases him, or even what pleases us. We must bring to God what we know pleases Him. The Bible is filled with instructions and examples of how to please God. God doesn’t live in a box, and there are many different ways to worship before Him. True worship is done with our hearts and our very lives. Today we will examine the battle over rivals. Who or what competes for the worship that belongs to God alone?
If you are facing an issue in your life, you may actually be suffering from a worship problem. If we examine the way we worship, we will not only take care of our issues, we will transform the way we live and fulfill the meaning and purpose for our lives. Worship is a foundational concept of life. We are all worshippers. God created us to worship. It is part of who we are human beings. We have an innate need and desire to glory, exalt and to make something preeminent in our lives. Ultimately, the object of our worship should be God. Many times, however, God is not the one we worship. We become misdirected into worshipping something or someone else. We let other things rise up and become rivals to our worship of God. We are forever chasing after something or someone, pouring ourselves out, and giving our hearts away. We must remember to give glory to God. Ultimately, it will fulfill us in a way that no other person or thing can.
Romans 11:36 says, “To him be the glory forever! Amen.” The word “glory” means to ascribe greatness, make supreme, that which you hold most important. It can be a thing or a person. Verse 36 is the last verse of chapter 11. Romans 12:1 goes on to say, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” You will make sacrifices for whatever or whomever you glory in. We make choices as to where we will spend our time and energy. We sacrifice other things we find to be of less importance in order to glory in that which we find to be most important. We see this all the time, everyday, all around us. For example, Philippians 3:19 says that some people make their stomachs their god. If your mind is constantly focused on food, and you continually have a snack or a beverage, and you use food as a coping mechanism, than food and your stomach may be your god. If your stomach is your god, and food is the thing you glory in, than you have made sacrifices for it. You might be sacrificing your health, your money or your physical appearance. These things are sacrificed so that your appetite can become foremost in your life. Another example is drinking alcohol. You have a worship problem more than an alcohol problem. When you are sad, you turn to the bottle for consolation. When you are happy, you turn to the bottle for celebration. Alcohol has become your god. It has become the thing that gets you through the day and helps you sleep at night. You are willing to sacrifice your time, your health, your job, and then you start speaking out of drunkenness and affect the relationships around you. You will even sacrifice your family. They all become sacrifices to that which is primary for you. We take our natural, God-given desire to worship, and we end up worshipping all kinds of things other than God.
Here is a one final example of misdirected worship. Instead of worshipping food or drink, maybe you are worshipping a person. This story will serve as our example. A young woman approached her pastor and said, “I am a Christian, and I know I am not supposed to date or sleep with an unbeliever. My boyfriend fell on hard times, and I let him move in with me. We love each other, and we are fine. We are married in our hearts, and we are going to be married for real someday. I love Jesus, and this is just one thing in my life that is not quite right. This is not a big deal, right?” Her pastor then replied, “It is a big deal because Jesus is no longer your god. When it came down to a choice between Jesus and your boyfriend, you chose your boyfriend. When you had to choose between being close to Jesus or being close to your boyfriend, you chose your boyfriend. When it came to obeying Jesus or obeying your boyfriend, you chose your boyfriend. When it came to inviting Jesus into your house or inviting your boyfriend, you chose your boyfriend. You worship your boyfriend. You lay yourself down as a living sacrifice to the glory and obedience of your boyfriend. Why do you do this? What is it that you want?” The young woman thought for a moment and said, “Ultimately, I want him to become a Christian.” The pastor sternly warned her. “Listen, you cannot worship your boyfriend and then convince him that the most important thing to do is to worship Jesus.” This is one scenario, but in reality people leave their ministries, walk away from their churches, and forsake their faith for a person.
When we begin to look at every area of our lives as worship, we will stop saying, “Man, I have got to eat less, stop drinking, or date someone else” and instead we will say, “I need to worship God.” Before the fall of man and sin entered into the picture, there was a point at which there was food with no blood in it, drinking with no alcoholism, and sex without lust. These things were a means to worship God instead of the object of our worship. These were opportunities to worship God instead of rivals. There are many Bible stories of people making images out of wood and metal that they would bow down and worship. We have our own idols today. Our idols tend to be “acceptable” idols. They are less obvious and more subtle. Romans 1:25 says, “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.” This is what we often do, isn’t it? We worship things created by man or things created by God.
Let’s look for a moment at things created by God that we worship. We often worship the environment. It is our job to be good stewards of God’s creation, but we have to remember to worship God who created it. Some people worship their pets. We often treat our pets like they are our children! It is not wrong to have a pet; we should care for our pets, be good stewards of them, and not abuse them. However, we should not let a pet determine where we work, when we work, where we live, whether or not we go church, if we take a vacation, or who we invite into our homes. This is making your pet a god, and you are under its jurisdiction. It is not bad to have a pet, but if it came down to Jesus or your dog, which would you choose? The main thing that we tend to worship that God has made is our bodies. The body is the pinnacle of creation. If you go on to read past verse 25 of Romans chapter 1, you read about how the body gets perverted into all sorts of sexual sin and wrong thinking. The body gets worshipped instead of the Creator.
Now let’s look for a moment at manmade things we often worship. We tend to worship our careers and let them rule our lives so much that we sacrifice going to church and being with our families. People sacrifice their marriages, their kids, and time spent in a small group and observing the Sabbath for the glory of a job. Entertainment can be a big one for some people. We forsake reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, our relationship with God and our families, for entertainment. We would rather catch the game or pick up the controller. The problem comes when these things become our primary source of joy and fulfillment.
How do you find your idols?
Who or what is Lord over your life?
Who is judge (the person or thing you are seeking approval from)?
Where do you give your firstfruits?
Who or what are your internal idols?
Who or what treasure do you long for the most?
Who or what mediates between you and God?
Who or what, if taken away for you, would cause you to abandon God?
What good thing has become a God thing?
Worshipping something or someone other than God leads us into all kinds of sin and idolatry. Jesus says our treasure is where our hearts can found. What does your checkbook say about how you worship? It will indicate what you consider your firstfruits. Tithing is a not a financial issue; it is a worship issue. What about the firstfruits of your time? What do you spend your best, most alert hours focusing on? Do you spend time praying to God, reading the scriptures and serving in ministry? Or do the people God has called you to serve get your last and worst? What do you plan and pray for? Most people have some things they desire to do, goals they wish to accomplish, and certain things they ask of God. Some people have been praying for something for so long that the thing they are asking God for has become their idol. They can become angry at God because He has not given it to them. God is not interested in handing out idols. We should not look at God as a wish giver. We can get into a spiritual funk when we don’t get the idol we are chasing after. We start to doubt God. In the end, we will do anything to get whatever it is that we are worshipping. Maybe we will even go as far as to find a new religion, a new god, or even a demon, in order to obtain what we desire. Do we tell others we love God with our minds, but secretly think our sins are too heinous for God’s love and forgiveness? Do we tell others that God is in control of our lives and then freak out whenever anything goes wrong? Are there scriptures you deeply doubt or disbelieve? As your read your devotional, do you skim the sections you don’t think apply to you personally? Jesus Christ should be the only mediator between us and God. Sometimes we wrongly worship by adding something to Jesus as a second mediator between God and us. It can be another person, a tradition, or even a symbol. Are you holding God hostage to anything in your life? If someone you loved was suddenly stricken with disease or even died, could you still declare that God is good? The most pure worship ever come from people who are struggling with something in their lives. If you secretly have something you hold on to that, if taken away, would be a deal breaker for your faith, you have made it an idol. When it is taken away, we end up in crisis and move away from God when we need Him most.
When God wasn’t good enough for the Israelites, they made a golden calf in Moses’ absence. Moses become angry when he saw their sin and had them burn the calf, grind it up, and then drink it. Some of us need to do that same with the people or things that have become idols in our lives. It will probably be a bitter pill to swallow. It is necessary to do as an act of worship. Do not make the mistake of living for the glory of someone or something else! Take a moment right now to write down some of the idols in your life. Say quick prayer and ask God help you to remove yourself from your idols and to restore you to a place where you can have true worship with Him. Toss your idol into the trash. Then sing a song of praise to the glory of God–the only one who can truly fulfill us, sustain us, and satisfy the hunger of our souls!