What Kind of Worship: Idol, Idle, or Ideal?
By Robi Ley
The first two commandments state very clearly the position God should hold in our lives as Christians. He is to take first place of course. There is to be no other person to whom we give our devotion and loyalty and no thing to which we give our respect and homage. Only God is worthy of worship.
Why is it, then, that work, sports, cars, food, children, spouses, church, mission work and even Bible study take over our time and leave none for the Father? Are we guilty of idol worship, or just idle worship?
In my own experience, idle worship is one of the biggest issues in the lives of most Christians, even though they would probably not see themselves as idle. They participate in all the church activities, read the Bible, teach classes, go on retreats and mission trips, and have even seen friends and co-workers brought to salvation. How can they possibly be considered idle?
Motivation. If you see yourself here, ask a few simple questions. Why do I participate in all these things? Do I seek the recognition of my peers and church leaders? Do I seek fulfillment? Is it expected of me? Or am I acting solely out of love and obedience to God’s commands?
I doubt that many of us are solely motivated by love and obedience to God’s commands, no matter how much we wish that were so. The other motivations are powerful to the human mind and often seep in and take over our actions. This happens because we are idle worshipers. We do not purpose to make each act an act of worship.
Even our Bible study can take a wrong place in our lives. Study is important, yes. It is necessary for Christian growth. When you study, do you give those passages back to God and sit and wait patiently for Him to give insight ? Or have you gotten so good at studying that you don’t need your Instructor anymore? Are you trying to study without benefit of your interpreter, the Holy Spirit?
Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8, Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7 are just four verses of many that reveal God’s heart about worship and sacrifice. God would far rather you spend ten minutes in sincere and earnest communication with Him than ten hours memorizing scripture for no other reason than to memorize it. Communication indicates a two way conversation. You should listen as much, or more than you speak.
Every time you reach out to another person, every time you sing a hymn or praise song, every time you open your Bible, do you dedicate that moment to God? Do you say in your mind, “Father this is for you. I can never earn the salvation you gifted to me through grace, but I give you this moment and this act out of gratitude.” I have to admit I can’t always say this. I am guilty of a lot of idle worship in my life.
What then is ideal worship? John 4:1-26 relates the story of the woman at the well and in verse 23 Jesus tells her what ideal worship is. “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” Ideal worship is in “spirit and truth.” God is spirit and God is truth and it is only in that manner that we can truly, ideally worship Him.
It is not easy. Giving up complete control of one’s motivations, actions, and personal goals is never easy. That is, however, exactly what we are called to do. At the moment of salvation, our old, carnal nature is crucified, just as Christ was crucified. We are reborn into a new life and a new nature provided by the Holy Spirit. He is now our motivating power. All control is to be given to Him so that Christ can live His ideal life through us. Much easier said than done.
Worship is not a single act of singing or a few minutes in hastily muttered prayers of help. It is a lifestyle of service to others on behalf of the Father. That lifestyle, committed wholly to God, is ideal worship.