In the Bible Belt, it’s easy to say you are a Christian. There is relatively no persecution or monetary cost for claiming to be a follower of Jesus. In most places it is even expected by our friends and family that we be a Christian. As humans, we often do outwardly what our family and friends expect of us without changing inwardly, but this is not the type of change the Lord desires.
Israel was the First
Bible Belt Christians are not the first ones to perform religious acts without an inward change. There were many in Israel who did the same. They offered sacrifices to God because it was expected of them, not because they were truly broken and thankful for God’s salvation.
In Psalm 50, the Lord rebukes those who offered sacrifices to Him out of duty rather than thanksgiving. He says in verses 16-21:
16 But to the wicked God says:
“What right have you to recite my statutes
or take my covenant on your lips?
17 For you hate discipline,
and you cast my words behind you.
18 If you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
and you keep company with adulterers.
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
you slander your own mother’s son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.
22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
to one who orders his way rightly
I will show the salvation of God!”
What Does the Lord Desire Then?
Instead of offering sacrifices for sacrifices sake, the Lord desired that they be offered in thanksgiving for their salvation, as well as those offering them be living in a way that honors Him (Ps. 50:23).
For the Lord desires sacrifices from a broken spirit and a contrite heart.
In other words, He does not want the sacrifices of those who are proud, believing they can bring about their own salvation. Rather, He desires sacrifices from those who know they are guilty and need atonement for that guilt. He wants sacrifices from those who realize they are sinners, and as such, cannot, on their own, repair their relationship with God, because they cannot cover their own sins (Ps. 51:17).
We are No Exception
The Lord desires the same from us today. Even though we do not go to a temple to offer sacrifices, the same principle applies. The Lord does not desire those who have no thought of Him to pile into churches each Sunday because their family and friends expect them to be there. Rather, He desires those who know they can’t provide their own salvation to worship Him.
It is Not Enough Just to Show Up to Church
It is not enough to just show up to church. We are not doing God any favors. He does not respect us for attending, if we have not first given our heart to Him, knowing He is the One, who alone provides us with salvation. As He told the Israelites, He does not need their sacrifices, He is the ruler of the universe, every beast of the field is His (Ps. 50:7-11).
Likewise, He does not need us in church to make Him feel better about Himself. He does not really need us at all. We are the ones who need Him, and when we realize that, then and only then is He glorified by our worship.
Questions for Reflection
- Do you attend church because it is expected of you? Or do you go because you really desire to worship God?
- Do you believe God needs your worship? If so, why?