To many, the term worship has become a smorgasbord-word and the definition varies with each individual according to how they fill their plate. Successful worship then is judged according to how the song arrangements makes them feel. To allow more people to “feel” like successful worshipers, we ask pastors and worship leaders to become short-order cooks and prepare only the favorite dishes week after week. We might be extremely disciplined in our physical diets because of our desire to live healthy lives, but when it comes to the spiritual we only want what tastes good. Caught in the trap of this mindset we reject any disagreeable exhortation from fellow worshipers. We think it a comfortable compromise to say “You love God in your way and let me love Him in my way.”
Matthew 22:37-39 is referenced a lot as a foundation for building a healthy worship philosophy. I’ve used it many times when leading worship. Most worship leaders, if asked for a two word definition for worship would very likely answer “Loving God.”
“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-39 NLT
This is an important statement by Christ and because we acknowledge that Christ is the Son of God, we know that this greatest commandment is God revealing what He expects of us, His people. But what does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is He talking about feeling love toward God? If I have a happy feeling about God does that mean I am worshiping? Though our God is Righteous, I can’t see Him warning us that we’ve “Lost that lovin’ feelin’.” Would we dare to define true worship with the words of Blue Swede -“Hooked on a Feeling?”
There’s more to it than just feeling love for God. Worship isn’t meant to be passive. It’s active. Over and over again Christ reminded His disciples that they should obey. John 14:5 relay’s Jesus’ instruction most clearly “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” How do we love God? WE OBEY. This is successful worship.
Obedience is a worship dish that is best served hot! We don’t go at this obedience half-hearted. And we don’t with grumbling in our spirit. We serve God with a glad heart and with our whole heart. It is our desire to demonstrate our love to God that should motivate our obedience. It’s easy to obey when there is a reward, but what if our obedience was simply obedience. My kids are much more obedient when they know they are earning a special privileged or if they know that Christmas is getting close. This obedience demonstrates a love of self. We are all guilty of this when it comes to our worship.
I have had occasions in the middle of leading worship when I sing a lyric such as “all of you is more than enough for me” and I know that I haven’t lived as if that were true. While I keep singing, I begin to pray in my heart and repent from the times I’ve lived for myself rather than for God. If all of Jesus is more than enough for us then we demonstrate this by pursuing him with relentless obedience motivated in love.