“31 My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before you to listen to your words, but they do not put them into practice. With their mouths they speak of devotion, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain. 32 Indeed, to them you are nothing more than one who sings love songs with a beautiful voice and plays an instrument well, for they hear your words but do not put them into practice.” – Ezekiel 33:31-32
Have you ever left a Sunday morning church service thinking, “Man, that was good worship today”? Maybe you’ve even said those words (or something similar) before to the pastor or to the worship leader after the service. If you’ve ever said or thought those words, were you referring to the quality of the message the pastor gave or the music the band played, or were you sharing about your personal encounter with God Himself? Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that if you walk away encouraged by the quality of the message or the music you weren’t actually worshiping God. As a pastor and a worship leader, I value good preaching/teaching and quality music, but the call in Psalm 33 to play skillfully and shout for joy should never be the primary focus of our worship. If we’re simply “entertained” on a Sunday morning, then we’ve missed the point.
That’s what happened to the people Ezekiel was speaking to in Ezekiel 33. They were coming to listen to Ezekiel for the entertainment, but the message of truth was going in one ear and out the other. It had no impact on their lives because they were unwilling to open their hearts up to it and allow it to guide their response to God. They traded their awe of God for an awe of man. And if we’re not careful, we can just as easily fall into a way of worshiping that more readily resembles and American Idol episode than an act of surrendering our hearts in the presence of God.
Listen to Isaiah 29:13 – “13 The Lord says:
‘These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.”
Do you go to your church on a Sunday with a heart that’s ready to meet God, regardless of how good the service will be? Do you leave the church service with a commitment to being with God the other six days of the week, regardless of the circumstances you will face? Is intimacy with God the most important thing to you (Mark 12:30)? Or do you let the things and people around you dictate the level of your worship? Do you disengage because you’re not a fan of the preaching style? Do you stand there tight lipped with your arms crossed because you don’t like the music style or the song choices (or maybe because you’re too distracted by the off-pitch singing of the person next to you)?
God is looking for good worship. And for good worshipers. Jesus said in John 4:23-24, “23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth.” True worship comes from a heart drawn into intimacy with God by the truth of who God is and a connection to God through the Holy Spirit (which dwells inside of every believer). That kind of intimacy is independent of outside influences and lasts longer than just a Sunday morning.
So the next time your in the car and you’re getting ready to turn off the local Christian radio station because it’s the fifteenth time you’ve heard that song that day, stop and listen to it one more time. Don’t listen to the music, listen to the words, and see if the truth of what’s being declared doesn’t stir up the Spirit inside you to worship your Creator.
What other ways can you worship God “in Spirit and in truth” all week long?