by A.W. Tozer
THE STARK, TRAGIC FACT IS THAT THE EFFORTS of many people to worship are unacceptable to God. Without an infusion of the Holy Spirit there can be no true worship. This is serious. It is hard for me to rest peacefully at night knowing that millions of cultured, religious people are merely carrying on church traditions and religious customs and they are not actually reaching God at all. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 46)
The manner in which many moderns think about worship makes me uncomfortable. Can true worship be engineered and manipulated? Do you foresee with me the time to come when churches may call the pastor a “spiritual engineer?” (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 85)
You are not worshipping God as you should if you have departmentalized your life so that some areas worship and other parts do not worship. This can be a great delusion—that worship only happens in church or in the midst of a dangerous storm or in the presence of some unusual and sublime beauty of nature around us. I have been with some fellows who became very spiritual when they stood on the breathtaking curve of a steep mountain cliff! (Whatever Happened to Worship? p, 124)
It is impossible for any of us to worship God without the impartation of the Holy Spirit. It is the operation of the Spirit of God within us that enables us to worship God acceptably through that Person we call Jesus Christ, who is Himself God.
So worship originates with God and comes back to us and is reflected from us, as a mirror. God accepts no other kind of worship. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, pp. 44-45)
I can offer no worship wholly pleasing to God if I know that I am harboring elements in my life that are displeasing to Him. I cannot truly and joyfully worship God on Sunday and not worship Him on Monday. I cannot worship God with a glad song on Sunday and then knowingly displease Him in my business dealings on Monday and Tuesday.
I repeat my view of worship—no worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. (Whatever Happened to Worship? pp. 124-125)
Lessons from Cain
There are many kinds of worship that God cannot accept. Cain’s worship in the Old Testament was not accepted because he did not acknowledge the necessity of an atonement for sin in the relationship between God and fallen man. (Whatever Happened to Worship?, p. 40)
The kind of worship Cain offered to God has three basic and serious shortcomings:
First is the mistaken idea that God is a different kind of God than what He really is. This has to do with the person and the character of the sovereign and holy God. How can anyone ever worship God acceptably without knowing what kind of God He really is? Cain surely did not know the true character of God. Cain did not believe that the matter of man’s sin was eternally important to God.
Second is the mistake of thinking that man holds a relationship to God that in fact he does not. Cain casually assumed that he was deserving of acceptance by the Lord without an intermediary. He refused to accept the judgment of God that man had been alienated from his God by sin.
Third, Cain in the Old Testament record, and with him an unnumbered multitude of men and women since, have mistakenly assumed that sin is far less serious than it really is. The record is plain, if men and women would only look at it and consider it. God hates sin because He is a holy God. He knows that sin has filled the world with pain and sorrow, robbing us of our principle purpose and joy in life, the joy of worshipping our God!
The kind of worship offered by Cain is inadequate, without real meaning. Bringing it as an issue to our own day under the New Testament, I assure you that I would not knowingly spend an hour in any church that refuses to teach the necessity of the blood atonement for sin through the cross and the merits of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Whatever Happened to Worship?, pp. 41-42)
Emptiness of the Average Church Service
It will be seen how empty and meaningless is the average church service today. All the means are in evidence; the one ominous weakness is the absence of the Spirit’s power. The form of godliness is there, and often the form is perfected till it is an aesthetic triumph. Music and poetry, art and oratory, symbolic vesture and solemn tones combine to charm the mind of the worshiper, but too often the supernatural afflatus is not there. The power from on high is neither known nor desired by pastor or people. This is nothing less than tragic, and all the more so because it falls within the field of religion where the eternal destinies of men are involved. (The Divine Conquest, [now titled The Pursuit of Man], p. 90)
The Whole Life Must Worship God
It is possible to worship God with our lips and not worship God with our lives. But I want to tell you that if your life doesn’t worship God, your lips don’t worship God either. (Sermon, “Doctrine of the Remnant,” Chicago, 1957)
The total life, the whole man and the whole woman, has got to worship God. Faith and love and obedience and loyalty and conduct and life—all of these are to worship God. If there is anything in you that doesn’t worship God, then there isn’t anything in you that does worship God very well. If you departmentalize your life and let certain parts of you worship God but other parts of you do not worship God, you are not worshipping God as you should. It is a great delusion that we easily fall into the idea that in church or in the presence of death or in the midst of sublimity that we are spiritual. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #6, Toronto, 1962)
There is Samaritan worship.
Samaritan worship is heretical worship in the correct meaning of the term. A heretic is not a man who denies all of the truth, he’s just a very persnickety man who picks out what he likes and rejects the rest. Heresy means I take what I like and I reject what I don’t like. < Toronto, #3, Sermon Man,” of End Chief>
There is nature worship.
It is the poetry of religion. It is the high enjoyment and the contemplation of the sublime. We have an awful lot of nature worshipers and worshipers of God through nature, which is a better way of saying it. It is a high enjoyment, a concentrating of the mind upon beauty as distinct from the eye and the ear. If your ear hears music, that’s beauty. If your eye sees beauty, that’s art. But if you think beautiful thoughts without music or art, that’s poetry and you write that down. Some people mistake rapt feeling for worship. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
Some mistake the music of religion for worship.
Whatever elevates the mind and raises to near rapture the soul, that’s supposed to be worship. (The Chief End of Man, Sermon #3, Totonto, 1962)
Not all worship is acceptable with God. And there is a lot of worship in our cultured society that God will never receive in this world or the next. There is religious experience that God will never accept. There is the warm feeling of personal friendships with religious people. There is the sound of the organ and the beauty of the hymns. But apart from truth and the Holy Ghost there is no true worship. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
You cannot worship just as you please.
This is one of the tricks of the devil and a very favorite pet of unconverted poets and unconverted people with a bump of sublimity on their head but without the new birth. They teach that we just worship God any way we want to worship God and all will be well. Authentic religious experience is altogether possible apart from redemption. It’s entirely possible to have authentic religious experience and not be a Christian and not be converted and be on our way to eternal hell. You remember that Cain had an experience—an authentic religious experience. He talked to God and God talked to him. It is possible to have an experience with God and yet not have a saving experience with God. It is possible to worship and yet not worship aright. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #3, Toronto, 1962)
Worship has to be in the Spirit and by the Spirit.
The notion that just anybody can worship is all wrong. The notion that we can worship without the Spirit is all wrong. The notion that we can crowd the Spirit into a corner and ignore Him, quench Him, resist Him and yet worship God acceptably is a great heresy which we need to correct. Only the Holy Spirit knows how to worship God acceptably. (“The Chief End of Man,” Sermon #8, Toronto, 1962)
Worship Comes Before Work
It may be set down as an axiom that if we do not worship we cannot work acceptably. The Holy Spirit can work through a worshipping heart and through no other kind. We may go through the motions and delude ourselves by our religious activity, but we are setting ourselves up for a shocking disillusionment some day.
Without doubt the emphasis in Christian teaching today should be on worship. There is little danger that we shall become merely worshipers and neglect the practical implications of the gospel. No one can long worship God in spirit and in truth before the obligation to holy service becomes too strong to resist. Fellowship with God leads straight to obedience and good works. That is the divine order and it can never be reversed. (Born after Midnight, pp. 125-126)
Whatever keeps me from the Bible is my enemy, however harmless it may appear to be. Whatever engages my attention when I should be meditating on God and things eternal does injury to my soul. Let the cares of life crowd out the Scriptures from my mind and I have suffered loss where I can least afford it. Let me accept anything else instead of the Scriptures and I have been cheated and robbed to my eternal confusion. (That Incredible Christian, p. 82)
A Hard Message
If there is anything in me that does not worship God, then there is nothing in me that worships God perfectly! I do not say that God must have a perfection of worship or He will not accept any worship at all. I would not go so far; if I did, I would rule myself out. And we would all hang our harps on the willows and refuse to sing the songs of the Lord in a strange land. But, I do say that the ideal God sets before us is that we should worship as near to perfectly as we can. And that if there are areas in my being that are not harmonious and that do not worship God, then there’s no area in my being that worships God perfectly. (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 1, p. 55)
See to it that there isn’t a spot or an hour or a place or a time or a day or a location that isn’t consecrated and given over to God. You’ll be worshipping Him—and He’ll accept it! (The Tozer Pulpit, Book 1, p. 53)