Saturday night, several friends met in our home for dinner and great conversation. We’ve been meeting together every week or so since last March (see the post called “Fellowship of Faith“). During the week before, I had the chance to talk to one of my neighbors who was struggling in her life. I had invited her to our Saturday evening get togethers, but she did not come. To be honest, I was disappointed. One of the purposes of our meeting together at our home on Saturday evenings has always been to have a safe environment to introduce our neighbors to the gospel and to other believers who are living out the implications of the gospel.
So, I was disappointed that my neighbor did not come to our house last Saturday evening. However, my disappointment did not last long. Soon, I could tell that God was doing a great work in the lives of the people who did gather together. There are so many things that we talked about, and so many ways that I was challenged and encouraged that it is difficult to decide what to write about. But, there is one thing in particular that stands out.
Several people brought up that they had been distracted from worshiping God by various things in their lives. Some people were distracted by strained relationships with other brothers and sisters in Christ. Others were hindered in their worship of God because of certain situations or circumstances that they were going through.
But, as we think through this issue, we must first ask what we mean by worship. If we are talking about singing songs or listening to a teacher or giving an offering or attending a meeting, then we are not talking about worship the way it is described in Scripture. Can these things be a part of worship? Certainly, but they do not constitute worship. In fact, worship – either personal or corporate – can occur without any of those activities taking place. Also, all of those activities can take place, but it does not mean that anyone is worshiping. Instead, worship is an attitude of the heart that is revealed in action. Worship is obedience to God. When we obey, we worship.
If we feel that we cannot worship because something is distracting us, then we are either misunderstanding what it means to worship, or there is sin in our own life. Usually, when we say that we are distracted from worship, we mean that we are interrupted while singing or can’t hear the preacher, or something to that effect. But, as I said previously, we are not limited to certain activities.
We no longer depend on a priest to offer intercession and sacrifice for us. We now have a high priest (Jesus Christ) who is never distracted and never fails in his duties. Plus, he makes us priest, so that we can offer spiritual sacrifices ourselves, both individually and corporately.
We no longer need a temple in order to enter the presence of God. Now, the Spirit has made us – again individually and corporately – into the temple of God and God dwells within each of us through the presence of His Spirit. We do not require the work of another person in order to commune with God; God is already communing with us.
We no longer need certain rituals and activities in order to present ourselves before God. Jesus has already carried out the only ritual necessary to bring us into the presence of God: his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. Now, since we are indwelled with the Spirit of God, we have direct access to God.
Thus, no one can do anything to prevent our worship (response in obedience) of God. No circumstance or situation can prevent us from worshiping God. God has provided everything that we need.
For example, consider the situation where you are sitting among a group of believers, listening to someone teach. The teaching is very inspiring and challenging. You are really enjoying it. Beside you, a baby starts crying. Can the crying baby distract you from worshiping God? If we assume that you can only worship by listening to the teacher, then the baby would be a distraction. If we assume instead that the way you respond to the crying baby and the baby’s mother reveals your obedience to God, then you can continue to worship – even if you cannot hear the teacher. Perhaps, in this situation, worship would require you to give up your seat and stop listening to the wonderful teaching in order to help out a weary, young mother by walking around with the crying baby. If, instead, we respond to the crying baby by becoming angry at the “distraction” and the loss of an opportunity to listen to Bible teaching, the baby is not truly a distraction – the baby is simply revealing the sin in your own life.
Once again, if we recognize that activities and rituals do not equal worship, then we should also recognized that we cannot be “distracted” from worship by outside interferences. Instead, the only thing that can “distract” us from worshiping God is sin.
I wish that I could say that I brought this up last Saturday night, but I didn’t. It was another very wise brother who started the conversation. But, as we talked about this, several people begin admitting that it was truly sin in their own life that was hindering their obedience to God. Thus, another person’s actions or atitudes were not distracting someone from worship. Instead it was his or her own pride and self-centeredness. Circumstances and situations do not hinder our worship. Instead, it is the person’s own selfish expectations that are hindering their relationship with God.
Can we admit that only our own sin can hinder or distract us from worshiping God?