There seems to be a common thought today that it does not matter how or where one worships God; however and wherever one chooses to worship is okay. This is the excuse for going to the beach, the farmer’s market, the theme park, or anywhere else instead of fellowshipping and studing the word of God. Which of the activities that you are doing are constituting your worship? Is it buying tomatoes, jogging, pushing your child on a swing, or eating ice cream? I have worshipped at the beach, on a hike, or sitting on the front porch. I have done things at the farmer’s market, the theme park, and the restaurant that would please God. I do strive to live a life of worship. But living a life of worship does not preclude The Lord’s commands regarding worship.
Under the Old Covenant there were specific rules for worship and under the New Covenant there are still some commandments that pertain to worship. The Lord knew Israel would be tempted to worship in ways that were abhorrent to Him. He had laid down the Law very specifically and now He had Moses remind Israel about the Law before they went in to take the Promised Land. Verses 1-7 read,
“These are the statutes and rules that you shall be careful to do in the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place.4 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way. 5 But you shall seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, 6 and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.”
First Israel had to destroy every vestige of idolatry in their new country. They had to completely obliterate all the altars, Asherim poles, and idols. You and I too when we come to the Lord are to abolish our old way of life, our idolatry, remove ourselves as regent of our heart and make Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Israel was told that there would be one place of worship, one city where God would put His name and he would inhabit that place. That was where they would place the Tabernacle and worship. I can hear you protesting now, “but today believers are the Temple of God!” Yes, that is true, we are. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 says,
“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.”
You are God’s holy temple but that doesn’t mean that you can call any practice you do, worship. A temple can be desecrated with unholy practices. 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 says it this way,
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
You can go into the world and you can eat what you like and do what you like, beneficial or detrimental and not be defiled. Other people cannot defile you. You can defile you though. Jesus explained it this way in Matthew 15:16-20,
“And he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17 Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? 18 But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
Your words, your choices, your actions can defile you. Your heart can defile you. What you say and do reveals who sits on the throne of your heart, The One True God or you. If you sit on the throne, you are desecrating the temple with idolatry. The world says, “If it’s right for me, it’s right.” That is the I-theism of Satanism. If you think something is right, it does not make it right. God is The LORD. There is one Truth, one Way, and one Life; He is Jesus Christ. How can there be multiple truths? Verses 8-19 read,
“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, 11 then to the place that the Lord your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you.13 Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, 14 but at the place that the Lord will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you.
15 “However, you may slaughter and eat meat within any of your towns, as much as you desire, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you. The unclean and the clean may eat of it, as of the gazelle and as of the deer. 16 Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 17 You may not eat within your towns the tithe of your grain or of your wine or of your oil, or the firstborn of your herd or of your flock, or any of your vow offerings that you vow, or your freewill offerings or the contribution that you present, 18 but you shall eat them before the Lord your God in the place that the Lord your God will choose, you and your son and your daughter, your male servant and your female servant, and the Levite who is within your towns. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God in all that you undertake.19 Take care that you do not neglect the Levite as long as you live in your land.”
God gave you His name. He indwelled you. He gave you His rest. He chose to make you His Temple. And so anywhere you go can be a place of worship and should be. Worship is meant to be joyful. But it is also meant to include certain aspects. We bring the Lord offerings. We bring sacrifices. In Hebrews 13:14-18, the author wrote,
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. 15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things.”
Praise, doing good, and sharing are sacrifices pleasing to God. All those things require “one anothers” to do. Who are we acknowledging Christ to if we are alone? Furthermore, the author tells us to obey and submit to leaders. We have to be in a local body to have leaders to submit to.
Many things we do can be done as worship, but not every act is an act of worship. Calling an act worship doesn’t make it worship. As you play beach volleyball are you really worshipping the Lord? Is riding a rollercoaster an offering to God? Is reaching the finish line of a race truly exalting the Lord? None of those things are sinful. The sin comes when you tell yourself that you are worshipping God by doing them. Some of those things can be worship, but don’t lie to yourself about it. You can’t lie to God about your motivations, don’t lie to yourself.
Even eating a meal can be worship to God. Slapping a ritually spoken “God bless this food” doesn’t make it worship, but the attitude it is done with. But there are some aspects of worship that must be done as The Lord prescribed or they become twisted into idolatry. Verses 20-28 read,
“When the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has promised you, and you say, ‘I will eat meat,’ because you crave meat, you may eat meat whenever you desire. 21 If the place that the Lord your God will choose to put his name there is too far from you, then you may kill any of your herd or your flock, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat within your towns whenever you desire. 22 Just as the gazelle or the deer is eaten, so you may eat of it. The unclean and the clean alike may eat of it. 23 Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. 24 You shall not eat it; you shall pour it out on the earth like water. 25 You shall not eat it, that all may go well with you and with your children after you, when you do what is right in the sight of the Lord. 26 But the holy things that are due from you, and your vow offerings, you shall take, and you shall go to the place that the Lord will choose, 27 and offer your burnt offerings, the flesh and the blood, on the altar of the Lord your God. The blood of your sacrifices shall be poured out on the altar of the Lord your God, but the flesh you may eat. 28 Be careful to obey all these words that I command you, that it may go well with you and with your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the Lord your God.”
So going to the beach instead of church is not worshipping the Lord. Going to the beach as church can be worship. Since you are the Temple of God, you can bring the holy things with you. You can bring your offerings and sacrifices with you and do them at the beach, on the mountain, or at a park. Why is going to any of those places instead of church not worship? Because the Lord has set and approved certain acts of corporate worship and He expects us to worship together regularly. Hebrews 10:19-25 describes a lifestyle of worship.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
We are also given guidelines for the way our corporate worship should flow. Read it and consider if you are obeying your Lord when you skip church to worship the Lord elsewhere. 1 Corinthians 14:26-33 reads,
“What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
As in all the churches of the saints,”
Acts 2:42-47 also describes the way fellowship should look. We are expected to be devoted to the teaching of the apostles (the scriptures), fellowship, breaking of bread (The Lord’s Supper), and prayers.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
It is too easy to think that because we are the temple of God we can do whatever feels right and call it worship. Putting the sun, nature, a comfortable bed, or a TV show ahead of The Lord and the fellowship of brothers is worshipping those things. It is idolatry. Verses 29-32 read,
“When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.”
Get rid of every last trace of idolatry, of your old self and do not give into the world’s idea of worship. The world is not your church. The beach is not your temple. The Lord is not in the forest. He is either sitting on the throne of your heart or you are. Be careful. Look how easy it is to accept false doctrines as true, how long before worshipping the way the world worships becomes something as monstrous as sacrificing children or as detestable as sex slavery? Don’t even look into why Joe Schmo says he can worship his god anywhere because the whole world is the temple of god.
Believer, consider who it is you are worshipping. Are you an I-theist, doing what pleases you or are you a child of God doing what pleases your Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and Wonderful Counselor?