Kendall Lankford Lead Pastor at The Shepherd's Church
July 22, 2019
What kind of worship does God accept? Is there a kind of worship that He rejects? If so, would we have the courage to change everything if we realized our opinion on this issue did not align with His?
I know these are tough questions to wrestle through, I have wrestled through them myself, so with that, let us look at the example of Cain in Scripture to see what God says about it.
"So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell." - Genesis 4:3-5
The story of Cain and Abel should teach us everything we need to know about worshipping God. Here we see that Cain offered what he wanted to God while Abel offered what God wanted to God. That is the real difference between these two men. And as a result, one of these men was accepted by God while the other was thoroughly rejected by Him. This teaches us a single fundamental principle about worship that we would do well to understand and apply.
We must worship God in the way God desires.
From this passage alone it is clear that God has well-defined standards that He will not violate when it comes to worship. He is the one who is infinitely worthy of our praise, which means He has the authority to set the terms on how we offer it. Unlike a doting parent who receives whatever offering of love a child may give, God is not impressed with our misguided efforts.
Because He is worthy of true and pure devotion. And since He is the only being who is perfectly true and pure, He gets to determine what faithful worship is. By His supreme authority alone, He accepts only what He determines is acceptable and what He determines is acceptable He has recorded for us in Scripture.
This means that we, like Cain, do not have the freedom to offer God any old kind of worship we desire. Like Israel, we can not make well-intentioned golden calves (Exodus 32) or think God will accept strange fire on His altar (Leviticus 10). We do not have the kind of authority to make determinations on worship when God has already clearly defined it. If Cain, who did not have the written Word of God, was judged severely by God’s standards on worship, then how much more will we be judged who have His Word?
Unlike Cain, we are not allowed to bring the very best we have to God if the very best we have is not explicitly sanctioned by Him. Like the ancestors of Cain, who assembled on the plains of Babel, God is not impressed by our creaturely strivings. When we gather to make a name for ourselves through larger and larger buildings, futile accomplishments, or ministries enveloped in hubris and pride we do not embody the spirit of Abel. Instead, we become just like the children of Cain. And when we devolve into that, our end will be confusion and scattering.
This means that if we want God to accept our worship, both as individuals and as congregations in churches, then we must make sure our worship conforms to what He has expressed in Scripture. We have not been given the right to become creative with how we worship Him. Instead, we have been given the task of worshipping Him Biblically.
Many, like Cain, may be angry with what Scripture is teaching because truth always inflames the spirit of Cain within us. My prayer is that you sit with this text and reflect on what God says to Cain:
“Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” - Genesis 4:6-7
God has not left us guessing on how to do well in this area. His Word is filled with everything we need to know about how to worship Him rightly and that may require some repentance from His people. Just remember, to harden our hearts against the truth is the most dangerous thing we can do. It is our responsibility - as the people of God - to know His Word well, to understand what it says about worship, and to have the courage to follow it.
Kendall Lankford is the lead planting pastor and teaching pastor at The Shepherd's Church and is eagerly praying for and working toward revival in New England.