Christian worship seeks God’s own heart

Benjamin Abbott - Contributing Columnist

Think about your church experience. Now, imagine with me the following scenario: Folks you meet want to talk about what happened at their church last Sunday, particularly how excited they are for next Sunday. Throughout the week you notice Facebook posts containing short clips of church commentators reviewing last week’s church services and offering highlights of what they expect for next Sunday. At home, on your TV, you notice ESPN’s “Sports Center” has been replaced with a new show called “Spirit Center.” You begin wondering.

“What is going on?” you ask yourself at 6 a.m. Sunday. Outside the sound of car doors and trunk lids punctuate muffled voices. You peek out from your bedroom window to see two neighbors loading up their car getting ready for church.

“Hurry up, we’ll be late,” Brody shouts to his wife. “Calm down, church doesn’t start for another three hours,” she replies. He retorts, “Jen, last time we left at seven and had to park three blocks away and sit all the way in the back.”

A few hours later, when you and your family arrive at your church, you discover that the parking lot is full. Cruising along, looking for a parking space, you notice people sitting between cars on lawn chairs and cooking on portable grills. At last, you find a parking spot and as you and your family begin the four-block walk toward your church building. Your kids are playing Pokémon Go, as you think to yourself, “Well, it has been great grilling weather here in Wilmington this summer.”

As you arrive and enter your church building the sound of cheering and the smell of fresh brewed coffee, propel you through the atrium as happy throngs of passionate and excited people locate their seats.

Most people stand as the service starts, obscuring your view. Even so, you still notice 10 young guys down front with no shirts on. Each one with a letter painted on his chest spelling out J-E-S-U-S— S-A-V-E-S.

People are obviously pumped to hear the sermon. After an hour or so you notice people looking at their watches. “Good,” you say to yourself, “other people are thinking the same thing — I hope this sermon goes into overtime!”

The preceding anecdote was adapted from an illustration by Kyle Idleman in his book, Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart. I hope you’ve picked up on Kyle’s not-so-subtle point.

It seems strange to imagine Christian people acting like sports fans at church or while worshiping God. Yet, it seems perfectly normal for anyone, Christians included, acting that way during a Cincinnati Bengals playoff game, or as the Ohio State Buckeyes battle for yet another championship, or as folks cheer on the Wilmington Hurricane basketball team or any other number of events folks excitedly attend.

Entertainment is a gift from God. Used in moderation, entertainment is useful for rest and relaxation. Yet, when any gift of God becomes the focal point of our time, money, or efforts we run the risk of setting such things as an idol to compete with God. Anyone familiar with the Old Testament knows how dangerous idolatry is. Idolatry is something that God does not tolerate long, by anyone, inside or outside His church. It’s an issue of worship.

Of the numerous accounts of God’s worshippers in the Bible — King David stands — exposed. King David wrote many of the Psalms and was called, “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22).

David was an ardent worshiper. One description in particular describes just how excited he could get while worshipping. 2 Samuel 6:12-23 describes how King David “danced before the LORD with all his might.” He leapt and danced in worship as all of Israel watched. Later David’s first wife, Michal, with lips dripping in sarcasm scolded him saying, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself… like any vulgar person might do!” (2 Samuel 6:20 NLT). His reply, “I was dancing before the LORD…. I celebrate before the LORD. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes!” (2 Samuel 6:21-22 NLT).

David’s example is powerful. He worshipped the Lord without hindrance or embarrassment.

If David were here today, he would be the first in the door at your church, first to raise a hand in worship and the first to throw off any idol which stood in his way of doing so. God designed mankind for worship. It is obvious that we still know how.

Many of our church services seem glum when compared to the excitement witnessed at a sporting event, concert or political rally. What will it take for things to change? I believe it’s not a question of how well churches put on a “show,” but how willing God’s people are to worship Him as David did. Attitude is everything.

Fellow Christians, I believe if King David were here, he would as ask us this question: “Whose heart are you truly after?”

Benjamin Abbott

Contributing Columnist