Idolatry in Worship

Exodus 34:15 Do not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is jealous, is a jealous God.

We may read this verse and congratulate ourselves that we do not worship other Gods. Let us be careful. Deuteronomy 11:16 says, Take heed to yourselves that your heart be not deceived and you turn aside, and serve other Gods, and worship them.” I John 5:21 says Little children, keep yourselves from idols. How sure are we that we do not practice idolatry?

Some obvious idols that may invade our hearts and require us to take heed are money, things and prestige. Others are less obvious. They are the personal prejudices to which we ferociously cling. They are the private opinions so greedily grasped that they bring unrest to churches and send people off in futile crusades for the “perfect” church. Against these, we need to be on guard and take stock of our hearts lest we “turn aside to idols.”

We are certainly entitled to opinions such as: The worship is too traditional or the worship is too contemporary, the church is too big or the church is too small, the church has too many programs or the church has too few programs, the facility is too large or the facility is inadequate. But have we made those opinions idols? In a generation pampered by fast food restaurants and seeker friendly churches it is hard to see the real priorities in worship. Whether it is gourmet coffee, worship style, state of the art programs or picture perfect facilities that we covet, we must not allow these perks to become our focus. These things may be innocent in themselves, but they can easily become like the gods of the Canaanites and corrupt our hearts. Unfortunately personal preferences can replace the true purpose of worship and cause us to look adoringly at our viewpoint the way Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom. God is Holy and worshipping him requires a heart that is pure and devoted to Him alone.

How do we worship God with an undivided heart? Any church where the Bible is faithfully proclaimed and the sacraments and discipline are observed will do! The emphasis in Scripture is on bringing humble and submissive adoration to the Triune God. Psalm 95:6 tells us, Oh come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. In Isaiah 66:2 God says, This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.  Jesus says, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks (John 4:23). James says, Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. (James 1:22) Alas, some deceive themselves because they do not bow down as Psalm 95 warns. For them the reading of Scripture, the explanation of the Word by a qualified teacher, the participation in hymns and prayers that are in accord with Scripture are not enough. They want things that are not prescribed in Scripture. They put pleasing themselves above pleasing God.

What is your spiritual posture in worship? Are you bowed down? Are you contrite? Or have your personal preferences in size, circumstances, style, and agenda become idols? The Lord’s name is jealous.