Ceremony. Formality. Pomp and circumstance. These things often seem to be a way of life for us. Some are born with ceremony. Most die with it. We marry with ceremony, and seldom do we allow our children out of high school and college without it, although some kids have told me that they’d just like to be given their diploma on the last day of classes and allowed to go away quietly. Just the same, ceremony is usually thrust upon them.
Unfortunately, this ceremonial formality has crept into the worship services of some of our congregations, and the vehicle that has carried it has been the personal egos and desires of individuals.
However, worship is not just ceremony; nor must it be formal in order to be reverent. Ceremonial formality is to please people; reverent worship is to please God.
In order to please Him, we must worship in spirit and in truth, according to John chapter four, verse twenty-four, and only the word of God is qualified to determine just what truth is in the context of Christian worship.
For example, at Matthew chapter six, Jesus taught that gifts given in the name of the Lord must be given discreetly and quietly, as opposed to the public manner in hypocrites of the day gave alms in public places more to be seen of others than to do the needy a service in God’s name.
Jesus said all the reward such men would receive would be the social status of their feigned generosity. On the other hand, the one who provides for recognized needs in a quiet and discreet manner will be openly rewarded by the Heavenly Father.
Similarly, prayers prayed for the purpose of gaining public admiration are for no spiritual avail. Jesus admonished that a private petition offered to God reaps an open spiritual reward, while the recitations of the hypocrites profit nothing more for them than the utterance of the words.
Further, at Ephesians five, Paul taught that psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs should be spoken to self, indicating a need for the worshiper to comprehend his own words.
At Colossians three, the result at verse sixteen is that others are taught and admonished as well. The simple but meaningful theme of Christian worship is continued at First Corinthians eleven, where profound spiritual profit is gained by the remembering of the body and blood of Jesus Christ through the emblems of the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine.
To be sure, to defeat the reverent simplicity of scripturally ordained worship is to defeat the spirit and truth of the entire matter.