“You shall not at all do as we are doing here today–every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes………. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the LORD your God is giving you……. then there will be the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide. (Deuteronomy 12:8-11a NKJV)
Before the Lord saved me, I used to regularly excuse myself from church to do whatever I wanted. I’d tell Debbie that I could worship God just as well out in His natural world while I trained Labrador retrievers with my friends as I could in church. The possibility of this statement was true, but the reality of the possibility was never fulfilled. Today, 80% of American Christians claim the same possibility and regularly excuse themselves from church for golf courses, beaches, mountains, and zoos. God is well aware of my keen ability to do whatever is right in my own eyes. In truth, I never worshipped God and focused on Him alone during my self-excused absences.
In the Old Testament, God’s chosen people were assigned both a time and a place to worship —the place where the LORD your God chooses to make His name abide.. He chose Jerusalem as the place for Solomon to build the Temple and place the Ark. He set aside Sabbaths and other days of worship. All of this was simply a faint shadow of what would come. I am not saddled with the Law, but I am constrained by an even greater thing, my love for the Lord.
The prophet Malachi spoke of a God not limited to one place and one people, a God who would reach me, a Gentile-soaked-in-sin-non-believer. …My name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen…. Notice that Malachi sees me lifting God’s name and offering the incense of my prayer, praise and worship to His name. He doesn’t prophesize that I should find a place where I enjoy the worship experience rather than God, sit through a sermon with a spirit of pastor evaluation rather than self evaluation, or offer a weekly scorecard as to how my needs were met.
Admittedly, some services portending to be worship services need criticism, but few of us are called to be critics. Great men of God like Watt said he sat through a service so long once that he feared eternity would be too short for them to conclude. Spurgeon once preached at a church where the spiritual atmosphere was so bad that he said one might have thought they were gathered to prepare their hearts for a hanging. Even though these men were dead long before I arrived, I’ve attended both of those churches – but not for long.
The person may exist who can weekly seclude themselves in the wilderness and worship God, but I can’t. I need to regularly seat myself among God centric worshipers to pray and worship and consume the Word. I have found great worship of the Lord among many or few and in slum houses and cathedrals as long as the focus is the Lord alone. When Jesus first approached the gentiles with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well He put it simply — God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:24 NKJV)
Do you worship in Spirit and Truth or are you still doing whatever is right in your own eyes?