Sincerity Isn't Enough - What God Says About Worship

Like every other event gone bad, the celebration started well. 

People gathered from all over the land. Singers and musicians, their hearts full of joy, led in songs of praise. A brand new cart, pulled by two strong oxen, stood ready. 

King David had sought the wisdom of the people, and all had agreed – it was time for the ark of God, the place where God’s presence dwelt, to return to Jerusalem. The Israelites’ hearts overflowed with happiness and excitement. 

Until something went terribly wrong. 

The oxen pulling the cart stumbled. The ark shifted, sliding precariously close to the edge. Acting without thinking, Uzzah, reached out his hand to steady the teetering ark. Before the oxen could take another step, Uzzah was dead. 

And so was the celebration. 

This millennia-old story contains a powerful and timely lesson for us today. Like David and the Israelites, many of us approach God with sincerity and enthusiasm. Taking our cues from the pulse of the population, we decide that if it seems right to the majority, it must be right before the Lord. If it feels right, we conclude, it must be right. 

But that’s not what God says. 

He didn’t say it in King David’s time, and he doesn’t say it now. God doesn’t leave worship to the dictates of our own hearts or the popular trends of the day. He’s very specific about how we should worship him. And while he leaves some areas of our Christian lives to our own discernment, he gives very clear instructions about this most important matter. 

“God is spirit,” John 4:24 says, “and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” 

What does this mean? 

The Israelites worshiped God in the Spirit – their hearts were dedicated to him and his purposes. King David loved the Lord. The people longed for God’s power and presence to fall upon them. The men who drove the cart wanted to honor God. But they failed to worship him according to truth. 

Truth is God’s instructions to us through his Word, the Bible. The sacred pages contain “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). They also contain God’s specific instructions for how the Israelites were to transport the ark of God (See Numbers 4:15 and Deuteronomy 10:8). King David followed the desires of his heart (which in this case weren’t wrong), but he failed to consult God’s Word. 

We’re often like King David. We have an idea for how to honor or serve God, but we fail to hold the idea up to the plumb line of God’s Word. Here are some examples of “spirit” worship that goes against “truth” worship: 

We neglect to worship regularly with other believers. 

Hebrews 10:25 tells us “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” 

We claim the name of Christ, while failing to honor him with our bodies. 

First Corinthians 6:19-20 commands, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” 

We accept some parts of the Bible as inspired while dismissing others. 

Second Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 

We exchange what’s right for what’s politically correct. 

James 4:17 warns us, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” In the wake of Uzzah’s tragic death, King David sought the Lord in spirit and in truth. He dug into God’s Word, memorized its precepts, and applied them to his life. The result was a beautiful, joyful, celebration of God’s presence among them. 

“So David and the elders of Israel and the commanders of units of a thousand went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the house of Obed-Edom, with rejoicing” (1 Chr. 15:25). 

What area of your life and worship needs to come under the authority of God’s Word? Why not surrender it today? When you worship God in Spirit and in truth, like David and the Israelites, you will be filled with joy.

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