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Avoiding the “Audience Temptations” of Worship, Part 2

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

Ephesians 5:18

In yesterday’s reflection, we considered the first of two “audience temptations” of worship, the temptation to consider ourselves as the primary audience for worship. Indeed, that is God’s place and prerogative. We are the performers who honor and delight the Lord through our worship.

The second “audience temptation” is a little less pervasive than the first but just as pernicious. It’s the temptation I feel in worship when I want to impress those around me. I start worrying more about what they think than what God thinks. I want to look good for them, to appear as if I’m really worshiping. This kind of performance can take various forms. It can motivate you to dress in a certain way when you come to church. Or it can influence your behavior during the service. If you’re in a church that favors reverence, you try hard to look as if you’re really serious. If you’re in a church that favors exuberance, you might stand up and lift your hands, not so much in praise of God but in order to be favored by those around you. No matter your particular tradition of worship, it can easily become a show, not for you, and not for God, but for the people whose applause you desire.

How can you avoid this “audience temptation” of worship? This begins, as I suggested yesterday, with a firm conviction that God is the primary audience for your worship. On this foundation, you can avoid temptation by becoming more aware of your own attitudes and motivations. Ask the Lord to show you your heart in worship. Many of us have grown up giving way to the “audience temptations” without even realizing that we were missing the mark. It may take time for your heart to learn that God is the true audience of your worship. But by his grace, this will happen because God loves it when we worship him in Spirit and in truth (see John 4:23-24).

In an upcoming worship service, if you find yourself worrying about what those around you think of you, don’t pummel yourself with guilt. What you’re feeling is common and understandable. Instead, offer a quick, silent confession to the Lord and ask him to help you focus more on him. You might find you need to do this several times in a service. Don’t worry. God is at work in you through his Spirit. God desires your worship. He will help you to worship him more fully as you commit yourself to him and rely on his grace.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever find yourself behaving in a certain way in a worship service in order to impress those around you? Why does this happen? What might help you to live out the reality that God is the true audience of your worship?

PRAYER: Gracious God, forgive me for the times when I do things in worship, not to glorify you, but to gain the approval of others. Help me to learn to care about you more than anything else or anyone else as I worship. Then, teach me to have this attitude, not just in corporate worship or private devotions, but in all of life, no matter what I’m doing. May I learn to live each moment with you as my audience so that you may be glorified in every word and deed, every thought and feeling, every dream and desire. Amen.

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