Brother Jones comes to church every Sunday and hasn’t missed a service for the past 50 years. Yet, he is very materialistic and is stingy in his contribution to the Church. He usually comes to the midweek Bible study, too, unless he hears about an estate auction he wants to attend.
Brother Williams, in addition to being a faithful church attendee, is recognized as an avid student of the Bible. He prays and has devotionals with his wife and children every night. But he’s insensitive, cold-hearted, and has reputation for having a short fuse if anyone, especially a family member, angers him.
Sister Smith looks forward to church all week long. She wouldn’t dream of missing a service. And boy does she enjoy those old Gospel hymns! But everyone knows she is a constant gossiper. Several have been deeply hurt by her vicious words.
What’s wrong with these pictures? How can some Christians be so religious – both publicly and privately – while being so unlike Christ?
The problem with these Christians is this: their worship has become an end in itself. They are no different from the ancient Jewish leaders who loved to worship and tithe “mint and dill and cumin” (Matt. 23:23). They are very religious, but are far from holy. They have forgotten the very things worship is supposed to cultivate in the heart: justice, mercy, faith, and humility (Matt. 23:23; Luke 18:13). God rejects their worship, just as He rejected the worship of the hypocritical Jews (Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). Though they are religious, their hearts are far from Christ (Matt. 15:8). Their worship is worthless.
Many are under the illusion that worship is what makes them Christians. And thus they go to church, week after week, year after year, unchanged and unaffected. They realize, after all, that Christians have the obligation to be faithful in attendance (Heb. 10:24-25). But they leave the church building with the same self-centeredness, indifference, pride, and materialistic mindset they had when they entered.
Are you suffering from this spiritual disease? Note some of the symptoms:
1. Inconsistency. Many compartmentalize their beliefs and habits. They fail to put to practice what they say and teach. For example, some worship God in song and prayer on Sunday, but turn around and gossip about their fellow man (cf. Jas. 3:9). Some feel very strongly about attending church and engaging in the Lord’s Supper with the brethren (cf. 1 Cor. 11:17-33), but immediately after service deal harshly their family.
2. A ‘holier-than-thou’ attitude. Do you feel like you have God’s favor because you regularly attend worship or because you regularly read your Bible? Do you compare your faith to others instead of God’s Word (Jas. 1:22-25)? If so, you’re no different than the Pharisee in Luke 18:9-12 who “treated others with contempt.”
3. Misplaced confidence in worship. Are you dishonest, lazy, and materialistic? Do you acknowledge these things, but justify them by saying, “I know I sin, but at least I worship regularly”? Some wink at their sin because they have fooled themselves into thinking that their worship “covers a multitude of sins.” Never mind about “walking in the light,” they think, so long as they are “walking to church.”
When worship becomes an end in itself, worship is vain. We may be worshipping correctly, but we are not worshipping “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). True worship should do something to us. It should make us different people. “As He Who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15). True worship should always lead us to holy living.
What are some ways to help people who are suffering from this spiritual disease?