• Ryan Smith

When God Doesn't Want Our Worship

Updated: May 21, 2019

I love foot rubs. So, naturally, I think that everybody loves foot rubs. But there's at least one person in the world who doesn't like foot rubs. My wife. She has very ticklish feet. The first time I tried to rub her feet she jumped like a cat in water and told me to get away. She might've even hissed. Sometimes, we think we know what somebody wants. Sometimes, we even think we know what they should want. Sometimes, we are dead wrong.

John 4 tells us what God wants when it comes to worship. . . .

John 4:19-24 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “Believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

In this classic passage about worship, the woman at the well engages Jesus in an ongoing worship debate. She asks “Which mountain should we worship God on?” These days, Christians debate over which is more worshipful: A hymn or a modern praise song? Should worship be loud or quiet? Is dancing okay during worship? Can the word “reckless” really be used in a worship song? What about reckless dancing?!

The debates about worship go on and on. Different year, same old debate. And this curious woman was asking Jesus His opinion about worship. However, Jesus sidesteps the whole debate and reveals what God is really looking for when it comes to worship. And Jesus should know, because He is God, afterall! Jesus drops this truth bomb, “True worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

Did you catch that? God is seeking worshipers, not just worship. Big difference.

The truth is that God doesn’t want our worship unless he gets to have the worshiper. He wants us. He wants our heart, and every part of our heart. This is not to say that singing songs or lifting hands or dancing is meaningless; those are biblical expressions of praise. However, they are only meaningful to God if we give Him ourselves in the process. It’s like when I tell my wife, “I love you.” I tell her that everyday and those words are powerful and deep if, and only if, she has my heart; otherwise, those words are just meaningless noise. Worship is the same way. Our words matter to God if they come from a surrendered heart. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been singing a praise song and wasn’t even thinking about the words I was singing. I might as well have been singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” because I wasn’t really singing from the heart. There are other times where I’ve sung love songs to God with my mind, body and soul. In those moments it becomes less about the song itself and more about giving my heart completely over to God in a fresh way.

Many of the “worship debates” in the church boil down to what we want in worship. Anyone else see the problem with that? Worship is not for us, it’s for God. It’s not about what we want, it’s about what He wants. God doesn’t want our worship when our worship is self-centered. What God wants most is that we would give ourselves completely over to Him as we worship. God doesn’t want our “hallelujah” if He doesn’t get our heart first. He wants people not pageantry. He wants you and me. Jesus didn’t die on the cross just so we could sing songs about the cross while consuming crackers and grape juice. No, He gave His life so that we could venture into the Most Holy Place, the very presence of God, and know Him deeply and eternally. God died for us so that we could live with Him forever. Our worshipful words and works must be a soul-deep expression of truly and totally losing our ourselves to God. God doesn’t want our worship if He doesn’t get to have the whole worshiper.

Psalm 51:16-17

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

The shocking truth is that even the sorrowful sinner who offers his heart to God is closer to pleasing Him than the smug saint who offers sacrifice but no heart. The heart makes all the difference. All “worship debates” aside, only God can see our heart. Our worship will only be interpreted as true worship by Him if it overflows from a true heart of worship. The journey of worship must always progress from the inside out. God wants our heart first. Then, and only then, will our "hallelujah" be music to His ears. True worship happens when our heart says to God, "I'm Yours."

Thanks for reading! Feel free to share your comments or questions below!

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