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The Foundation of True Worship


Perhaps no area of the church is more conflicted than the realm of worship. We do not all feel comfortable worshiping the same way. One person prefers a contemporary style with a worship band. Another only feels comfortable with traditional hymns accompanied by classical instruments. One prefers a liturgical order; others want flexibility to respond as they are moved. One who is active in worship lifts hands and worships with the whole body. Another wants everything to be done “decently and in order.”

The reasons for this are complex, and our differences are not insignificant. But today’s passage underscores a foundational principle for all who hope to approach God in worship: God alone defines what is acceptable. We may think that God should be happy with us simply for showing up. How can He complain, as long as we are sincere? But the lesson of Cain and Abel instructs us that God evaluates our worship, and not all worship passes the test.

According to Hebrews 11:4, the missing factor in Cain’s sacrifice was faith. This may help us to navigate our own worship wars in the church. There is more to worship than musical style, though music is certainly one aspect of the church’s worship (see Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Ultimately, worship involves offering the whole self to God (Rom. 12:1). Faith is the most critical factor in this offering because it recognizes that God has told us how He wants to be approached: only through Jesus Christ. He alone can make our worship acceptable. By removing the stain of our sin through His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, Jesus makes us presentable to God. Not only can we offer our songs, we can offer our lives as a living sacrifice.

Pray with Us

As we continue to keep in prayer our Custodial team today and tomorrow, please add Dean Gentry, Do Tran, Edgardo Bartolome, and Ernest Brown to your prayer list today. Ask the Lord to watch over them in their day-to-day responsibilities.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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