UNION GROVE CHURCH OF CHRIST, CLEVELAND TN.
Jesus said, "But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth" (John 4:23, 24). All true worship or worship that pleases God must be to the right object [the God of heaven], done with the right spirit or attitude, and in accordance with the truth, which is God's word (John 17:17). On the other hand, if our worship is not in harmony with God's will, then our worship is in vain. What might cause our worship to be in vain? That is a serious question that deserves a serious answer.
Worship Is Vain When Men Teach As Doctrines The Commands Of Men.
When Jesus described the Pharisees of His day, He quoted Isaiah, saying, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mark 7:7; Matthew 15:9). Is that not plain? Teaching as doctrines the commands of men results in vain worship. Why? Notice how Jesus further describes the action of the Pharisees: "For laying aside the commandment of God . . . ye reject the commandment of God . . . Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition . . ." (Mark 7:8,9,13). Did the Pharisees not worship Jehovah? Yes, they did. But how did the Lord Jesus describe their worship? "Vain." It is so serious to teach as doctrines the commands of men because such commands cause worship to be in vain. As a result, those who practice or follow the commands of men cannot please God, cannot be saved, and cannot go to heaven. That is serious!
Let us not forget the consequences of teaching or practicing what is not part of or in harmony with the teaching of Jesus the Messiah. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 9). The apostle Paul wrote, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). It is quite clear: our teaching must be in harmony with Jesusí doctrine, or else our service and worship will not be acceptable to God. But that is not all.
Worship Is Vain When Men Do Not Give God Their Best In Worship.
This principle is seen in many Old Testament passages. For example, of the firstborn males of the flocks that the Israelites were required to sacrifice to Jehovah, He said, "And if there be any blemish therein, as if it be lame, or blind, or have any ill blemish, thou shalt not sacrifice it unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 15:21). Later God gave this general instruction to His people: "Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish, or any evilfavouredness: for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 17:1). Are we suggesting that in order to please God we must make animal sacrifices to Him? Not at all. But, it is obvious from the above verses that God would not accept from the Israelites of the Old Testament era anything but their best sacrifices. Do you not agree?
Once Jesus praised a poor widow, saying, "Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury . . . she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living" (Mark 12:43,44). Why was it that Jesus praised her? Not because she gave a great amount of money, but because she sacrificed and gave her best to God. Brothers and sisters, God deserves our best when we worship Him. He deserves our best general spirit. We need to come to services well rested physically, ready in our minds to worship, and with a reverent attitude. We need to sing praises with our whole heart. We need to have Samuelís attitude when we listen to Bible lessons and sermons, "Speak; for thy servant heareth" (1 Samuel 3:10). We need to have the proper attitude when we take the Lord's supper, when we pray, and in our giving.
If we are not giving God our best in our worship, then plainly speaking, God will not accept it. Yes, it would be vain worship. Sometimes people say, "I didnít get anything out of the worship. It was boring." We need to ask ourselves, "How much are we putting into the services?" Are we giving God our best spirit, our best attention, all of our energy and all of our hearts? How important is worship to you? Do you show that it is important to you by wearing your finest clothes? Do you show how important it is to you by attending each service? Do you show that it is important to you by coming on time to services? Remember, God wants our best in worship. Anything less makes worship in vain.
III. Worship Is Vain When Men Do Not Obey God In Affairs Outside The Worship Assemblies.
Do you realize that we might teach sound doctrine and during the worship assemblies conduct all activities in harmony with Jesusí law, and yet our worship could still be in vain? How is that possible? God will not accept the worship of one that does not obey Him in affairs that take place outside the worship assemblies. Let us not deceive ourselves. We cannot imitate the world and live unholy lives from Monday through Saturday, then come to the worship services on Sunday and expect God to accept our worship to Him. Coming to the place of the assembly does not automatically wash away sins! Coming to the place where the congregation assembles does not make unclean hands clean ones! People must repent and put sin out of our lives before God will accept their worship.
Let us again look at some Old Testament examples. First, remember this truth. In the Law of Moses God commanded the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices to Him. Later, though, on occasion God told the Jews that they were wasting their time to offer Him sacrifices. Why would He say that? In the time of Isaiah, God said to the Jews, "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams . . . I delight not in the blood of bullocks . . . Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me . . . Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood" (Isaiah 1:11-15). Why would God not accept their sacrifices? Because their hands were full of blood. In other words, in matters not related to worship, they were living unfaithfully! In the time of the prophet Amos, Jehovah said to His people, "I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts" (Amos 5:21,22). Why would God not accept their sacrifices, though they perhaps offered the very best animals? Because they lived sinful lives. To those people God had just said, "For I know your manifold transgressions, and your mighty sins" (Amos 5:12).
And what about in our time? John wrote, ". . . and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). But having such fellowship with Deity is conditional. What is the condition? "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1:7). We must walk in the light of Godís word, that is, live in harmony with it, if we want God to be in fellowship with and accept us. Brethren, two or three hours of worship on the first day of the week cannot cover or erase a week of unholy living. Walking through the door of the meeting place of the church does not magically make us clean before the God of heaven!
What have we seen? There are true worshippers, and thus there is such a thing as true worship. There is also such a thing as vain worship. None of us wants our worship to be in vain. Remember, worship is vain when men teach for doctrines the commands of men, do not give God their best in worship, or do not obey Him in other matters outside the worship assemblies.
-- Roger D. Campbell