This is the third article in The Solid Rock Principles of Jesus series. Previous articles are always available at http://www.webbweekly.com.
Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25
We have already discussed the solid rock principles of love and light. Today, we will focus on worship.
The principle of worship addresses motivation. It explores the question: What drives me to do what I do?
It is a simple question, but answering it accurately requires disciplined objectivity. Why? Because the human heart is biased toward self and cannot be trusted. Jeremiah 17:9 says, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
Our hearts are constantly entangled in a briar of selfish desire. It is nearly impossible for us to do anything altruistically (completely selflessly). Somehow, the thorns of selfish desire get snagged in everything we do. It’s just the way it is.
For example, generosity can be a beautiful act of worship — but only if the motive driving it is gratitude for blessings already received.
That’s a problem because most of us have been taught that generosity brings even greater future blessings. This thought is a thorn in our motivation. How can we claim to be worshiping God if our motive is the hope of getting more from Him? The desire for more exposes a selfish motive.
For the record, Jesus taught one form of giving that does result in future blessings from God:
Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:37-38
When we are generous in giving forgiveness to others, God declares that He will be generous in giving forgiveness to us. If we don’t forgive others, He won’t forgive us. See Matthew 6:15.
Go figure. The form of generosity we struggle with the most is the one God promises to bless in the future.
For all other forms of generosity to be considered worship, they must be motivated by gratitude for blessings already received. When gratitude drives us, the result is worship.
Jesus takes motive in worship very seriously. In Matthew 6, He warns us about doing good things in an effort to gain admiration from others. If that’s the motive, then it isn’t the worship of God.
Acts 5:1-11 is a very stark lesson on motive and how it relates to worship. Ananias and Sapphira acted like they were giving all of their real estate proceeds to the apostles to meet people’s needs. It appeared to be a selfless and generous act of worship, but it wasn’t. They didn’t give all of the proceeds — they kept some back for themselves. They misrepresented what they were doing so they could gain the admiration of the apostles and the church. It wasn’t about worshiping God or helping the poor — it was about elevating themselves. God exposed their selfish motives, and the consequences were terribly harsh. This story clearly reveals what God thinks about selfishness getting entangled in our worship.
It’s a story that should cause all of us to carefully consider the motive question: What drives me to do what I do? The honest answer to that question will likely expose selfish motives. Once exposed, we overcome the thorny selfishness in our hearts by engaging in the selfless disciplines of worship.
The Selfless Disciplines of Worship
1. Trusting Obedience. When we trust God enough to obey Him with reckless abandon, the result is a powerful form of selfless worship. In John 17:4, Jesus declares to His Father: I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. How did Jesus worship His Father? He worshiped through trusting obedience.
Philippians 2:8 describes the trusting obedience Jesus gave: he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross. There is no higher form of worship than trusting obedience expressed through selflessness. Consider Samuel 15:22,
Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
We must ask ourselves: Do I trust God enough to obey Him even if it costs me something — or even everything? When our motive is selflessness expressed through trusting obedience, the result is genuine worship.
2. Secret Obedience. The most effective way to protect our hearts from selfish motives is to regularly offer sacrifices of worship that no one else will ever see. That’s what Jesus taught us in Matthew 6. Our public expressions of worship are only meaningful to God if they are a true reflection of our secret expressions of worship. Anything less is stinking hypocrisy.
So, we need to ask ourselves: Is my public worship a show for others to see, or is it an accurate reflection of my private worship?
The solid rock principle of worship requires our careful and honest answer to these questions.