There is nothing that compares to experiencing God in worship, whether we are alone or with other believers! Worship can be a profoundly moving and sweet time that transports us from the cares of this life into the kingdom realm of the one true God who reigns over and above all. There is a danger, however, that we can grow to love the experience of worship more than actually loving God. When worship is focused on only satisfying an emotional need rather than surrendering and submitting to God in every aspect of our being, we can fool ourselves into thinking we are worshiping Him when in fact we are using the worship experience as a way of glossing over and anesthetizing a deep hole within our being. When this happens, we have entered into the realm of what I call “virtual worship.”
Here’s an illustration of what I mean: Yesterday my wife and I were at the shopping mall and saw a young man at a kiosk wearing virtual reality glasses and wired gloves. He had paid to play a virtual reality game and was actively engaged in it, waving his arms and swiping with his hands. Many people walked past him as he played, but he was totally unaware of anyone else but himself. When he was finished, he moved on to the next thing in his life, unchanged by the experience he just had.
It’s a little unnerving to realize we can treat worshiping God like that young man playing the virtual reality game. I’m not saying we shouldn’t wholeheartedly express worship God with our hearts, minds, voices, and hands: Quite the opposite! But when our worship of God is only an experience we look forward to within the walls of our own home or church—detached from the rest of our life—we have entered dangerous territory. It’s scary to think we can claim to worship God because we like the emotional lift, only to forget about God as we move on to the next thing in our day or week.
I’ve heard people ask after a service “Did you like the worship?” I’ve even asked that more than a few times in my life. While it’s good to reflect on what God has done in worship (and how we can better worship and serve him), this question can also point to a tendency to think that we are the ones who need to approve of or be appeased by worship. The Old Testament chronicles many times when people’s so-called “worship” was repulsive to God. Why? Because they had no interest in allowing God to rule in their everyday lives, but instead wanted to be satisfied and then keep living life the way they wanted—regardless of God. Like the young man waving his hands while playing a virtual reality game, these people just put in their time and moved on to the next experience, forgetting about the Eternal One who offered them a covenant of love, protection, and blessing. It was only when those same people were broken and in bondage that they cried out to God and longed once again for His saving and guiding presence. God always faithfully responded and delivered them.
Like them, we also need to humbly come before God and ask him to search our heart and point out anything that is offensive to Him in our worship (see Psalm 139).
Here are a few good questions to ask after a time of worship:
- How did I experience God in worship today?
- What is He changing in me?
- What do I need to yield to Him?
- Is there anyone I need to reach out to as a result of worship?
- As I go out, how is God calling me to do to live out my worship of Him?
- By God’s power, how can I help or serve to make our time of worship of God even more authentic, excellent and pleasing to Him?
- A worship encounter with God—for the first time or ten-thousandth time—should result in a change inside us. The fruit of real worship is change within us that causes us to live in and for Christ. There are some tangible ways that this is evidenced—more on that next time.
God bless you!