If you’ve been a reader of this blog for very long, you know I believe there are right ways to worship God and wrong ways to worship God. I believe Christians must worship in – and only in – ways authorized by Scripture. That being said, we need to guard against the prideful thought that we are saved by worshiping correctly. As if we might respond to the question, “Why are you saved?” with, “Because I worship God as He commands.” This is a dangerous and unbiblical way to think of worship and salvation. Here’s why…
1. We Don’t Worship In Order to Earn Our Salvation
Mankind has a tendency to try to earn God’s favor and blessings. Part of it, I think, is that we want to be able to rest assured that we are truly saved. We want some kind of evidence that we will go to heaven when we die. We want to be able to point to our worship and say, “See, I’m doing this right, so surely that’ll count for something on the Day of Judgement.”
Another element might be our competitive nature. Many of us feel more assurance about our eternal destination if we can prove to ourselves that we are more obedient than others. It is easy to become like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable, who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11-12).
When will we learn that our salvation is not a matter of merit? There is no boasting or bragging when it comes to our salvation. Paul wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Worshiping “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) does not earn you salvation. Our salvation was earned by Christ and given to us as a free gift when we responded in obedient faith to the Good News (Romans 3:21-26; Romans 6). You won’t point to your worship on Judgement Day to say, “See, doesn’t that count for something?” The only thing that will matter on Judgement Day is whether or not you are “in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
2. We Worship In Order to Express Gratitude for Our Salvation
What a horrendous shame it would be for Christians to think of time spent in song and prayer like punching a time-clock at work; or to think of taking the Lord’s Supper as checking a task off of a weekly to-do list. When we think of worship in this way, as mere ritualistic acts of duty, then we are not really worshiping at all.
A man could go to the church building every Sunday, sing all the songs, close his eyes and bow his head during the prayers, eat a bit of unleavened bread, drink a cup of juice, sit quietly during the sermon, and put a few dollars in the collection plate and not worship at all. Don’t get me wrong, these are all things Christians must do. But just because you’ve done them, does NOT mean you have worshiped.
Worship is the reverent declaration of a grateful heart, while bowing before His throne, proclaiming, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8). You can pat yourself on the back all day long for singing songs every Sunday, but if you are not “making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19), then you are not worshiping in spirit and in truth.
True worship is not done in an effort to try to earn God’s favor and blessings; it is done because we are already the recipients of God’s favor and blessings through our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. Disregard for God’s Will May Cost Us Our Salvation
Like every area of the Christian life, if you want to continue receiving God’s gracious blessings, you must walk faithfully, humbly, and obediently with Him (see 1 John 1:7; Micah 6:8; Isaiah 66:1-2; Ecclesiastes 12:13). If you disregard God’s will and say, “I don’t care what Scripture says, I want to do something else,” your soul will certainly be in jeopardy, because you are no longer walking by faith (see 2 Corinthians 5:6-10).
Worship is not a matter of bragging, “Look how obedient I am” anymore than it is a matter of bragging, “look how talented I am.” Worship should be humble and contrite, worship should magnify God and minimize self, worship should be obedient, and worship should focus on the “immeasurable riches of His grace” (Ephesians 2:7).
We cannot thank God for saving us by grace if we think we’re earning salvation with our “thank you.”
I love you and God loves you,