“The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV)
As I write this, Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. Hopefully, for those of you who have a significant other, I hope that doesn’t come as too much of a surprise to you. But naturally, at this time of year our hearts do turn to thoughts of love. We take time to let those we love know how much we care for them and how precious they are to us. And hopefully begin to set a pattern for how we live outside of the Holiday.
And its a good and right thing we do. It’s reflective of how God loves us. We often make God’s love a very sterile thing, when the Bible shows us it full of passion and intimacy. The passion and intimacy we show each other is a pale reflection of just how much God loves us. After all, the church is called the Bride of Christ. The book of Revelation ends at the wedding banquet of the Groom (Christ) and the Bride (the church).
I love that image of the church being the bride of Christ. Not only does it remind me how passionately Jesus loves us, but it also serves as a reminder that we are to cherish the church and one another. I’ve made a concerted effort to be careful in how I speak of the church to make sure I am honoring the bride.
All of which is a long preamble to me saying I want to be careful how I walk through the rest of this blog. Please know I have no desire to cast any aspirations on nay other part of the bride of Christ. And I, of all people, don’t want to appear I am standing in judgment over any other church.
Ok, now that I’ve over explained and protected myself, the other day we received a flyer from a local church inviting us to worship. The flyer had been sent out to, I imagine, most of the residents in our community. And it was very well done. Obviously they aren’t trying to be the church for everyone and they are marketing to their niche. I commend them on reaching out to the community.
But what caught my eye is that the flyer noted they are changing their times for worship. However worship was not the word they used. Rather, it noted, Our experience times have changed. Not worship, but experience.
I’ve no interest in wondering about their reasoning to use the word experience instead of worship, but it did get me to thinking. What are you looking for? When you come to church, or maybe in your own devotional times, are you looking for an experience or are you looking for worship.
It’s a more critical question than you may think. Experience is about us. It’s about what We feel, what we come away with. When we come to church looking for an experience our litmus test becomes our won emotions and feelings. We find ourselves asking, “What did I get out of this? Did I like it? Did it touch me? And it’s not that those aren’t legitimate questions. But when they are the only questions we ask we can find ourselves slowly slipping into the center of things. So in a very real way, it’s still worship. It’s just the worship of the self.
Real worship clearly puts Jesus into the center of all things. It’s about adoring, thinking and centering ourselves upon Him. The more we truly worship the less the “self” matters. And yet ironically, its when we worship and are allowed to let go of ourselves that we find our true self emerging. We were created not for the experience, but for worship. Worship is freeing. Living by the experience and needing to be self satisfied is a terrible burden.
If I have to choose between worship and experience, i want to choose worship every time.
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><