What kind of worship do you practice? "Oh," you may say, "Iím a Christian. I worship God, of course." In some cultures, there are literally thousands of gods to worship. In this country, we often worship other gods, although we donít identify them as such. The god of Mammon, or money, for instance. Jesus made it very clear:
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." (Matt. 6:24)
Yet we worship our money: making it, accumulating it, investing it, taking care of it, earning interest on it, and spending it. It is a false god, or an idol. It is quite possibly the greatest idol in the world.
There are other idols, of course: relationships, fame, careers, possessions. Anything that takes the place of God in our lives is an idol. Anything we use to meet our physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual needs, apart from God himself, is an idol. We were created to have all our needs met by Him. He allows us to have those other people and things in our lives, but we arenít to worship them; we arenít to give them pre-eminence over God. If we do, then we are guilty of idol worship.
"Oh," you may say, "Iím a Christian. I donít worship idols - I worship only God, of course." Well, that answer sounds just fine on the surface, but is it really true? You see, God doesnít just look on the surface. He looks at our hearts. And sometimes we may be surprised at what He might see in there.
Are we living each day only for ourselves, for our own pleasures and desires? Or do we sincerely try to live in obedience to the Word of God? Do we take up our cross daily, and carry that burden as Jesus did? Do we follow Him in obedience, or seek only our own convenience?
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. (Matt. 16:24)
Are we willing to offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice? That means dying to our our selfish desires, and seeking only His glory, serving Him with gladness, seeking His will and His way every day? That is our reasonable service, His Word tells us:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. (Rom. 12:1)
Do you carry your Bible to church on Sunday, only to put it away for the rest of the week? Is your worship only good on Sunday mornings, but gone by the time the Sunday football game starts, never to be seen the rest of the week? Can your friends on Saturday night tell by your words, thoughts, and deeds that you truly worship Jehovah God Almighty? Or do they see someone who acts one way in church on Sunday morning, and totally different the rest of the time. Believe me, the unsaved people around us can see our hypocrisy. And so can God!
That was one of Jesusí biggest condemnations of the Pharisees: they acted all righteous and holy, but their hearts were proud, hardened, and deceitful. Seven times in Matthew chapter 25, Jesus criticizes them for being hypocrites. "Oh, but Iím not like them!" you say. Are you sure?
So many times, we commend ourselves for our "Christianity". We give ourselves points for attending both church services on Sundays, and extra bonus points for Wednesday nights! We give ourselves points for giving, even if we just give a few dollars. If we give tithes and offerings, we pride ourselves for being such "good givers". We grade ourselves for every good "Christian" thing we do, and we always grade on the curve!
However, God doesnít grade on the curve, He grades on the cross. He sees our proud hearts, and knows our real motivations are often to feel good about ourselves. We compare ourselves to others, and think we are righteous in comparison to them. God uses His Son, Jesus, as the yardstick by which He measures us, and we fall so short in comparison to Him.
In comparing ourselves to others, we are guilty on two counts: first, we are using the wrong yardstick to measure ourselves, and second, in order to compare, we are automatically judging the others we compare ourselves with. And who picks the ones we judge ourselves by? We do, of course. And we are so biased in our own favor we arenít able to accurately judge ourselves, much less others!
So many times, weíre guilty of judging others. They donít dress right, for one thing, and they donít act the way we think they should. We somehow even judge sinners, outside the saving knowledge of Jesus, forgetting that we are all nothing but sinners, saved by grace. Jesus said the Pharisees did the same:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matt 3:23)
So in comparing ourselves to others, and judging ourselves and them, are we not guilty of the same things the Pharisees were? Are we not also hypocrites, just as Jesus called them? Are we not just as deserving of His righteous condemnation, as they were? Are we not guilty of being our own idols, just as they were?
Like the Pharisees, we are often just "going through the motions of spiritually or religiosity, without ever truly worshiping and obeying God. Any time we are just going through the motions, anytime time our hearts and minds are not fully attentive to worship and Godís teaching, we are guilty of idle worship. Thatís when we are there, but not really doing anything. Our worship is a study in idleness!
Let each of us examine our own heart, and ask ourselves one very important question: Are we truly worshiping God? Or are we guilty of either idol worship, or idle worship?
He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (1 John 2:4)