Imagine hearing someone say, “I hate church services. They’re boring, frustrating and meaningless. Church is full of hypocrites who never practice what they preach. It’s a waste of time.”
We might expect to hear these words from a nonbeliever, but this is a paraphrase of God’s thoughts about Israel, His chosen people, in the book of Malachi:
“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on My altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand.” (Mal. 1:10)
What would lead God to say these words? He was angry at the way His people were worshiping.
God demands faithful worship. Worship is more than just songs and music; it’s an attitude of the heart. The word ‘worship’ comes from an older word that means “worth-ship.” When we speak of biblical worship, we are talking about assigning honor and respect to someone or something by proclaiming their worth.
So how can we cultivate faithful worship in our hearts towards the Lord? The prophet Malachi gives us an explanation.
Understand God’s Character
In Malachi 1:6, God says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear?”
God was reminding His people of His fatherly care for them. He was also reminding them of His lordship over them. Israel had forgotten the character of their God. They had failed to remember His delivering hand, gracious provision of manna and patient arm of discipline. They had failed to remember that it was He that called them out of every other nation to be His people. They had forgotten who He is. They had spiritual amnesia, and it was costing them greatly.
Forgetfulness often leads to faithlessness. If we wish to worship God faithfully, we must truly understand Him. We must remind ourselves of the greatness of His character. We cannot create worship in the hearts of people, but if we wish to see the unengaged or lifeless in our congregations burn with a white hot passion for Jesus Christ, then we must consistently bring to their remembrance the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ.
If your life is lacking in faithful worship of the Lord, and you find yourself resembling the Israelites in their devotion, remind yourself of God’s character. Remind yourself that God is your gracious Father. He has adopted you into His family by His grace. He has brought you from death to life. He has redeemed your life from the pit. He didn’t have to; He wasn’t obligated. God provided a way for His people to escape His wrath through the provision of His Son Jesus Christ. This is grace.
I pray that the gospel of Jesus Christ never becomes ordinary in our hearts and mind. I pray that we’ll never escape this beautiful truth and that it will always grip us and fill us with awe.
Further, let us be reminded that we are not our own masters, but we serve one that is over us. We are created beings, and our Creator has rights over our lives. May we be a people that are faithful in serving the Lord with wholehearted devotion, and may our congregations never hear the words, “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you … and I will not accept an offering from your hand.”
Josh Chambers is the lead pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, MA. He blogs regularly at https://thereformedlife.net. You can follow him on Instagram @jchambers5 and on Twitter @josh_chambers5.