“We have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2).
The devil’s first plan of attack is to get us to worship him. He tried that with our Lord, as recorded in Luke 4:7. “All these things will be yours if you will worship me.” He soon found the futility of that. Not then and hardly at all since has anyone wanted to bow down and worship this foolish fallen angel.
But such a persistent enemy always has a backup plan. Plan B is to interfere with our worship of the living God. Satan will do anything to throw a wrench into the works and shut down or hinder our daily submission to the Lord Jesus and all that involves (prayer, commitment, study of the Word, service, etc).
Not long ago, while sitting in church listening to a friend preach, I began a list of the lies Satan whispers to God’s people who gather to worship Him….
–“This isn’t working. You’re wasting your time here.”
It’s true the pragmatic mind–I think of Martha in Luke 10–cannot see the point in our sitting for an hour at the feet of Jesus, doing nothing productive. Here was her sister Mary, for instance. She was just sitting there on the floor, listening and adoring and thinking. The Lord said to Martha, “Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42).
—“Nothing they’re doing is inspiring.”
Pity the worship leaders. They’re in a no-win situation. They get criticized for putting on a performance and criticized for not performing well enough. They cannot do our worship for us, but we demand that they sing and preach and lead so well, our worship is automatic.
–“You don’t feel the song you are singing and so it’s pointless.”
Some of them are pointless, I fear. But whether I “feel” the song I’m singing is beside the point. I do a lot of things that count with the Lord which I may not “feel.”
–“You don’t understand that scripture.”
Often that’s true. But my heart loves that text and everytime I read it or hear it read, my spirit soars and I know I’m hearing from Heaven. So often, I say with the Psalmist, “Such knowledge is beyond me; It is too high; I cannot attain to it” (Psa. 139:6). But I read it anyway and draw worship from its inspiration.
–“That prayer of yours is something you have prayed a hundred times. Vain repetition.”
If the devil only knew! So many of my prayers are the same thing I’ve mentioned to the Lord a hundred times or more. But that’s all right. Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit takes our baby-talk and translates it into the language of Heaven that makes sense (see Romans 8:26,34). My poor praying does not nullify my prayers or make them ineffective; it just gives the Spirit more room to work!
–“You are not living up to what the pastor is preaching. You are such a hypocrite.”
The first part is true but not the second. I do not live up to everything my pastor preaches–or that I preach, for that matter. But to be a hypocrite, I would have to claim I did. And that I will not do.
So, once again, the devil is proven to be half-right and totally wrong.
–“What difference will your little offering make? The worldwide budget for the International Mission Board exceeds $100 million.”
Aw, but that’s the wonderful thing about how the Lord works. He takes the coins from the widow (Mark 12:41ff) and adds them to the gifts of His other faithful children and turns it all into a river of support and provisions for His obedient laborers throughout the world. By itself, my offering would hardly do any thing. But with yours and his and hers and theirs, we are able to do amazing things!
–“You ‘re just going through the motions. And most of the people around you are, too.”
Maybe so, but isn’t it great that we have all learned to worship by faith. Even when we don’t feel it or see what it accomplishes or know where our offerings go or receive answers to our prayers when we would like, we still gather and sing and pray, we give and love and hear and obey.
Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
According to our Lord in John 8:44, our enemy specializes in half-truths, near truths, and bald-faced outright lies.
The truth of worship–and this must drive him up the wall!–is simply that…
–it’s not necessary for me to be perfect in order to worship the Lord.
–it’s not necessary for me to understand perfectly what we are saying or what I am doing in order to pray or serve Him.
–it’s not necessary for me to know why in order to obey.
–it’s not necessary for me to know where my offering is going, what it will accomplish, or anything else in order to give..
–it’s not necessary for a worship service to be exciting, new, fast, or loud in order for it to please the Father and be acceptable to Heaven. (It can be as new as something written last night or so old Charles Wesley borrowed from it, but if given from the heart, the Lord welcomes our worship in Heaven.)
–It’s just necessary that my worship be real, in Spirit and in truth. That’s John 4:24 and it’s one of the all-time great truths about worship.
My favorite picture of worship is found in Luke 7:36-50.
Variations of this account are given in the other gospels, but none can match Luke’s version of the “woman who was a sinner” slipping into the home of the Pharisee where rumor said Jesus had gone to eat.
“She stood behind Him at His feet, weeping, and began to wash His feet with her tears. She wiped His feet with the hair of her haid, kssing them, and anointing them with the fragrant oil.”
Next time you find yourself in worship, let’s see you do that! (I cannot read this story without misting up. I want to worship Him like that!)
The enemy, always on the job, had two harsh things to say about this woman’s lovely worship:
—“She is unworthy.” In Luke 7:39, the Pharisee who was His host dismissed our Lord for welcoming the worship of this fallen woman. She was so unworthy, he said in his spirit. And he was right, of course.
She was unworthy, and so are you. Thank God, He “receiveth sinful men (and women)” (Luke 15:2).
—“That is wasted.” In John 12:4, Judas the betraying disciple watched this woman anointing Jesus and said out loud, “What a waste! That oil would have brought a year’s wages for a working man! Think of all the poor people it would have fed.” John–who was present on the scene, remember!–says Judas cared nothing about the poor, but hated to see all that money poured out on the floor and going to waste. He could think of better uses for money.
The enemy can tell you (ahem) better things to do with your money than to place it in the offering plate. He will say you are wasting your money, wasting your time, and wasting you life away by following Jesus.
The enemy will remind you that you are not worthy to worship and what is more, neither are all those others sitting around you, singing and praying as though they had good sense. As you reflect on them–turning the attention away from yourself since that was so uncomfortable–you find yourself growing critical of Christians, angry at churches and suspicious of preachers. And mad at Jesus, too, if you were honest.
That’s when you know the enemy is in the house today, on the job, and doing a very effective work of sowing tares (Matthew 13:25), of sowing suspicion (“has the Lord said?” Genesis 3:1), and sowing distrust between brethren (in Revelation 12:10 he is “the accuser of the brethren”).
Don’t let it happen, friend.
Keep saying to yourself, “The devil is a liar. Nothing that comes from his mouth can be trusted. I will worship poorly if that’s all I can do, but worship I will!”
Go on. Worship God. Do it in faith. Do it regardless of how you are feeling today or how much you are understanding, how little you have to give or what difference it will make.
Do it because He commands it in the Word. “Come and let us worship the Lord; shout triumphantly to the rock of our salvation! Let us enter His presence with thanksgiving; let us shout triumphantly to Him in song!” (Psalm 95:1ff.)
Just do it. Worship by faith.
“When the Son of Man (returns), will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
Let’s have your and my answers be a resounding, “You bet. I’m here in my place, O Lord Jesus, worshiping and serving and obeying! Praise Your holy name.”
(Post script: I sit here at the computer typing through my tears and it occurs to me that this is the nearest I can get in this lifetime to doing what the woman of Luke 7 did: sitting at the feet of our Lord and bathing His feet in her tears and wiping them dry with her long hair. I think of the promise “when that which is perfect is come” (I Corinthians 13:10), my worship will be full and complete and lasting. Until then, like Mary in Luke 10, this is momentary because in a few minutes, we have to get up and help Martha in the kitchen. But that’s all right.)