God has ordained for His people to worship on a regular basis. Such activity is to take place through two modes. First, believers are called to engage in private worship. In their personal time, they are to spend one-on-one time with the Lord. Jesus did such (Mark 1:35). When He gave His well-known Sermon on the Mount, He instructed His disciples to do something similar (Matthew 6:6). Private worship has a way of refreshing our perspective and strengthening our souls.
The Lord has also ordained that His people should gather regularly for public worship. While He was on earth, Jesus Himself was intentional to regularly assemble with the people of God (Luke 4:16). The apostle Paul was as well (Acts 17:2). During the New Testament Era, believers are called to gather on Sundays. The day is known as “the Lord’s Day” (Revelation 1:10). By Divine design, the occasion is made for the encouragement and edification of God’s people (Hebrews 10:24-25 and Ephesians 4:12).
Both private and public worship serve heavenly purposes. They give God’s people what they need spiritually, filling them with life, strength, and joy to do His will. Unfortunately, many never experience true, life-giving worship. The reason? They settle for cheap imitations of the real thing. Consider three forms of counterfeit worship which sometimes rob us of God’s blessings.
Some corrupt the time of worship through an overemphasis on mystical elements. Priority is placed on feelings, sensations, and emotions. Today, many within mainline Christianity are given over to mysticism through the way in which they seek to hear from God through visions, dreams, private words of prophecy, ecstatic experiences, and speaking in tongues. While true worship may involve an emotional response, it should never be based on emotions. The faith, not feelings, is the bedrock of true praise. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians and the Colossians, he had to correct them for their error in this area (1 Corinthians 14:1-25 and Colossians 3:17-23).
Listen to the way in which many churchgoers talk about worship, and you’ll find that many see it as an entertainment event. Sermons are often evaluated by whether or not they are engaging, not whether or not they are faithful to Scripture. Timing, flow, and execution are of utmost importance. Pomp and polish are given priority. Church is like a spectator sport. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day had a similar approach. When they met with Jesus, they mostly desired to be dazzled and amazed. Jesus rebuked them for their obstinance (Matthew 16:1-4).
Some Christian gatherings seem to be about little more than spiritual showmanship. If believers aren’t on guard, preaching and praise can become a pretext for pride. The platform can be changed into a stage for self-glory. Such was the case among the church at Corinth. Paul rebuked the congregation for the way in which its members used worship for the limelight (1 Corinthians 14:26).