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June 12, 2007 / David Lindner

The Greatest Hinderance to Worship

What is the greatest hindrance to worship? What is the greatest distraction? What is it that gets in the way the most? Ourselves. Consider the following scriptures:
Galatians 5:19-21 (New International Version)
19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Philippians 2:2-4 (New International Version)
2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
James 3:13-18 (New International Version)
13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.
17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
The wisdom that comes from heaven is…submissive. Selfishness is anything but submission; in fact the two cannot exist together. True submission leaves no room for selfishness. Selfishness has no desire to submit. When we hear of submission, our first thought is usually towards that of the husband & wife relationship. However, I’m not delving into that topic. I’m speaking of our submission to the Lordship of Christ. Remember that worship is the complete submission of our complete selves. Selfishness and submission cannot exist together.
Think about your last corporate worship experience. If you were not able to “enter in,” why was that? Was it because God wasn’t there? Certainly not since it is clear that where 2 or 3 of us are gathered in his name, he is there with us. Was it because your neighbor in the service was distracting you, (while a possibility, we still have a responsibility to focus ourselves regardless of our surroundings – however it should be noted that unbelievers & new believers cannot yet be expected to focus themselves, and we should not be a cause of distraction for them by talking through the service – not looking out for my own interests, but the interests of others.) Most likely the reason we aren’t able to enter into worship is because of us. We get distracted by our preferences, and yes they are preferences. There is no prescription for a worship style throughout scripture. Are we distracted because the song is unfamiliar, because the volume is too loud, because we didn’t get our usual seat in the sanctuary? All of these preferences rise out of the sinful, selfish nature. Are we not commanded to “sing unto the Lord a New song?” Doesn’t the psalmist describe a rather loud time or praise with the “clashing of cymbals?” Is the presence of God different in one part of the sanctuary than it is in the other? Aren’t we all sanctuaries, temples of the living God? While I’m not making a hard statement about the right and wrong way of any of this, I am saying that we have a responsibility as Children of God to be worshippers. Somewhere along the way in our American-me-first culture, we believe we gained the right to choose when, where & how we worship. I can’t find any evidence of this throughout scripture. I haven’t found a passage that says, if you are in this situation under these circumstances, feel free to not worship me. In fact I find just the opposite, Psalm 34:1 states: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will continually be on my lips.”
Maybe we’re distracted by things going on in our life, maybe we haven’t been as devoted to God as much as we have wanted to be, maybe we have never entered into a time of worship, whatever the cause of the distraction, can we lay it aside and enter in the an unhindered time of worship together?
Think about all the financial planning that we do in our lives. We plan to get ahead so we can retire. What kind of eternal planning are we doing, you know – the time after retirement? In Heaven, worship is going to be the way of life – shouldn’t we start planning and practicing that here?

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