The 8 Greatest Enemies Of Our Worship
Worship and praise, prayer and spiritual warfare are all interconnected. To split them apart is to become too scientific in your approach in my opinion. Somehow, as we follow God individually and corporately, listening to God, being filled with the Holy Spirit, praying, reflecting, singing or bowing – somehow in all the glory of that wondrous communion and communication, war is fought, the Kingdom increases, our relationship with God is deepened and the atmosphere around us is changed.
But if praise, prayer and worship is so powerful, you can be assured that the devil will be doing all he can to hinder the worship of believers, both corporately and in personal prayer lives. In this chapter I want to outline eight major enemies of individual and corporate worship that the devil (and indeed our own culture or upbringing) will throw at us, dulling and undermining our worship lives:
Enemy No. 1 – Fear
Fear is the enemy’s chief weapon against most Christians, in most circumstances. It is the main cause of sin in most lives and it steals from the fulness of millions of people’s lives and thousands of Christian meetings each year.
The reason fear is so powerful is because fear paralyses. It halts you in your tracks. The spirit of fear leads more church services than the Spirit of God does. It controls more worship times, imprisons the gifts of the Spirit in us and turns the shout of victory into a whimper of embarrassment. It turns dancing into shuffling and creativity into predictable liturgy. It keeps us “safe” from experimentation and guarantees the bland will always win. Fear is the sworn enemy of the river of true worship.
The apostle Paul is addressing his young protégé in 2 Timothy 1:6 and commands him to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you”. Paul is showing Timothy that there is something in him that is supposed to be a great big burning bonfire and it is his own duty to keep it blazing brightly. He must fan it into flame himself.
This tells us that Timothy’s bonfire could easily become a smouldering ash heap if he wasn’t careful. The supernatural energy and gifting from God could easily wane and dampen. And it is the same for you and me. There is a divine deposit of gifting and “fuel” inside of us that is so powerful, and yet so delicate, and it is our duty to keep it blazing inside us. It is vital that we know what extinguishes the flame of the supernatural. In the next verse Paul goes on to show us the very thing that turns the blazing bonfire into a smouldering wick:
“For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and of self-discipline”
Fear is the fire extinguisher of all God’s gifting within us. Do not allow it to take your praises and lock them in some predictable prison cell. Don’t let fear lead your worship, dictate how loud you can shout, whether you should kneel or not, or whether you can step out in the gifts of the Spirit. Ignore the feelings of fear and simply start doing the very thing that terrifies you. Fear will eventually stop knocking on your door.
Enemy No. 2 – Religion
The second enemy of worship is religion. Not the kind of religion that speaks of caring for orphans and widows, intimacy with God and enjoying a healthy respect for our history and roots. But the kind that speaks of tradition, imitation, programmes, pride and worshipping the past.
A wonderful pastor was opening a new church and asked me come and lead worship at the opening, a task I accepted. He told me that since they were a new church, they did not have a band, and so he had invited a band to play along with me. I was perfectly okay with this, until it slipped out that the band were not Christians!
Immediately my religious “gland” set to work and a kind of righteous, all knowing attitude seemed to cloud my every thought. “How could these non-Christians follow the Spirit and move in anointed worship. They surely shouldn’t play alongside me in the presence of a holy God!”
I asked the pastor to cancel the band, an assignment which he immediately accepted, then forgot.
The day came and in walked a group of highly colourful individuals, complete with Rasta hats, and announced to me, “We are de band”. The “distinctive” group had no doubt been gigging the night before, were a little hung over and smelt of an interesting mix of alcohol, tobacco, and the Lord knows what else.
We began to practice and the band, who were all great musicians, immediately turned everything I played into Reggae! The meeting came and my well-polished worship time turned into a Reggae party!
To my surprise, as the worship went on, we soon found ourselves singing in tongues and getting lost in rapturous worship! Within a few minutes it seemed as if God’s presence rolled into the hall around us, people fell to the ground, and some screamed out, in need of deliverance.
Part way through the increasing “mess” of heaven’s touch, I noticed the guitar had stopped playing, and as the guitarist was behind me, I peered around to see why. There, just behind me, this wonderful young guitarist was kneeling, tears streaming down his face, giving his life to Jesus. By the end of the meeting his wife and child, who had come to watch, were also saved.
It is amazing how my religiosity, my sense of right and wrong, sacred and secular, was completely different to God’s. My upbringing, my arrogant sense of knowing “how to do things” was actually nothing more than shallow human religion, based on past experiences.
That day I heard a chuckle from heaven, as if God looked at me and said; “Hey little man; I’m the boss. You just do what I tell you to do. I’m actually not that bothered about your opinions!”
Enemy No. 3 – Guilt
The third great enemy of worship is guilt.
It amazes me how Christians, who are supposed to be the forgiven ones, the righteous ones and the loved ones, actually seem the most miserable at times. It is as if all of Christianity so often forgets the central fact that God forgives our sins.
Religious Christianity can so quickly become a guilt trip, as some preaching only seems to heighten the sense in many that we never quite do things right. We never pray enough, love enough, sing enough or attend enough. The Christian life becomes full of things we feel duty bound to do. This is a million miles from the Gospel Jesus taught.
Always remember the wondrous love of God, the greatness of his grace and the riches of his mercy. He loves you completely. He doesn’t give us a license to sin, but he does want us to simply confess our sins, receive forgiveness and to walk as best we can in his will. As we come close to him, it is he that will help us to live lives worthy of the calling he has given us. Don’t allow guilt to keep from God’s presence. Confess your sins and receive forgiveness by faith.
Enemy No. 4 – Agendas
Another great enemy of worship is the fact that many are always looking for an agenda in their worship. People often struggle to just get “lost” in worship. They are waiting for the next song, or the next item in the meeting. Actually, often God just wants us to hang out with him.
One of the greatest things to do is just to learn to “be” in God’s presence. To relax, lose all programmes and just “be” with God. Loving him, worshipping, sometimes not saying or praying anything. Just basking in his Holy Spirit.
I wrote a song many years ago that included these words:
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls,
All of your breakers have swept over me.
The longer I dwell near the whispers of your heartbeat
The more of your nature I’m finding in me.
And that’s the truth. When we pray, worship and hang out in God’s presence, though it may seem little is happening – i.e. there may not be a great agenda or prayer requests, visions from heaven or a good song list – the truth is God does something deep within our spirits. We may only see the change in us when we leave the time of worship and prayer.
I believe that as we worship, waves of God’s nature crash like the sea, deep upon the shores of our spirits and cause his goodness to flood us, making us more fruitful and more intimate with him.
When you come to worship, either alone or with many, stop waiting for the leader to lead you. Stop thinking you need a grand agenda. Just hang out with God. Lovers don’t need plans and programmes to enjoy themselves. They just spend time loving each other, holding hands, looking into each other’s eyes and whispering “sweet nothings” to each other. If we become lovers of God in this way I believe we’ll see more of his nature in our lives.
Enemy No. 5 – Unforgiveness
When the Spirit of God descended at Pentecost, the book of Acts chapter 2 shows us that the disciples were “all together in one accord”. This actually means they were of one mind and purpose. Also, when the singers and musicians joined “as one”, at the temple’s dedication in 2 Chronicles 5, the cloud of God’s glory filled the temple so powerfully no one could stand. From these scriptural events we find another lesson for us about worship, and it is regarding unity and unforgiveness.
Unity is a vital ingredient to the habitation of God’s Spirit in a corporate worship meeting, family home or team situation. Jesus made it quite clear, that if we have something against our brother or sister, we should deal with that first before bringing our offerings to God. Clean and loving relationships, gathered around united purposes, are important if we desire the manifestation of God’s glory in our churches and homes.
I recently heard a wonderful Anglican bishop teaching on worship, who spoke of a truth that revolutionised my thinking about worship. He said that we never really worship “alone”. That there is no such thing as “personal worship”. Why? Because we always join with the glorious church of God when we worship, and that Church knows no geographical boundaries, as she always worships “in the spirit” and not in the restrictions of geography or flesh.
Whenever we worship, even if we are alone in our home, we are actually joining with millions of worshippers around the world, and countless angelic beings in the heavenlies, gathered around the wondrous throne of God, to offer praise, thanks and our whole lives to him in adoration.
So as you worship, remember you are part of a “whole”. When we come in worship, there is some sense in which we lose our individuality, to join with the family of God in heaven and on earth, to worship at his footstool. Make sure, as you approach his throne, that you love and support the family you worship alongside, or else you may grieve the heart of God.
Enemy No. 6 – Seeking Experiences
The sixth area of concern when wanting to enjoy a full and fruitful worship life is to beware of hunting for endless spiritual experiences.
In reading this book you may have been inspired, possibly even impressed, by some of the stories of various worshippers enjoying manifestations of God’s presence in visions, dreams, healings or signs and wonders. While the heart of this book is to see more of the Holy Spirit’s movement in our churches and lives, there may also be a danger that we think that if we do not experience visions or spiritual “feelings” on a daily basis, there may be something wrong with us. This is simply not true.
When reading some books of the bible, there may at times be a temptation to assume prophets are having daily visions, that every encounter Jesus had was miraculous and that God is interested in handing out mystical experiences on a daily basis. Nothing could be further from the truth, and to live our lives based solely on how we are feeling or what we are experiencing is a mistake.
Many of the prophets had many, many years between recorded visions. Jesus had 30 years when we have next to nothing of interest to say in the area of the miraculous. God the Father is far more interested in dealing with issues of character, maturity and servant-hood than he is in giving us visions and experiences. Because of this he may not grant us overwhelming experiences for long seasons in our lives.
But worship should not halt in those seasons when “nothing’s happening”. It is vital that we worship with a kind of discipline and regularity, even when we don’t feel like it. I go through times of hearing God’s voice loudly and clearly. Times when it seems obvious what his will is to me. Times when I feel his love and times when I am drunk on his presence, as in Acts chapter 2. But I also worship through long seasons when I’m simply chatting with God, trusting, learning character development and hard lessons. Some call them “dry times” or “wilderness years”. I simply call them the ebb and flow of natural life.
In all areas of life there are exciting times, and boring times. Growing times and pruning times. Times full of good feelings and times full of dry decisions. Times when you feel in love, and times when you just love because of commitment. That’s life. Worship through it all, still knowing, by faith (not sight or feelings) that you worship before God’s glorious throne. Worship “in truth” whether you feel like it or not.
Enemy No. 7 – Hypocrisy
One of my great fathers in the faith, who recently went to his Reward in heaven, is John McKay. I remember at bible school this wonderful, Scottish scholar, who was so remarkably filled with the Spirit say; “Christians don’t tell lies; they sing them in their songs.” This memorable line speaks of another enemy of true worship.
Many people make the noise of worship, while their lives do not match their words. We sing of surrendering to Jesus, of loving others, of bowing our lives before God – and yet we live selfish, arrogant, rebellious, unforgiving lives. This cannot be!
I heard one leader speak recently of a conference he was preaching at, where hundreds of young people gathered to worship, pray, cry out and dance before God each night. One night he preached and there was a wonderful “move” of ministry, kneeling, bowing and surrendering to God. That night though, many of those gathered went back to their tents to have sex with their girlfriends and boyfriends! The next morning they gathered to “worship” once more as if nothing had happened. This is tempting the judgement of God and many, like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) may eventually know the punishment of God if they do not humble themselves. Pray, God, have mercy on us.
Enemy No. 8 – Pride
“Therefore I urge you, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world…”
These great verses from Romans 12 touch upon what I believe is the eighth enemy of worship. There is something about worship that is sacrificial to our pride, as there is something about worship that demands that we use our bodies.
In the west there seems to be a separation in the mindsets of believers between our hearts and our bodies, as if we can worship with our hearts, without engaging our mouths or bodies. Some would even suggest that our hearts offer spiritual worship, while our bodily praises could be considered fleshly and less vital. Now while I understand that what most are trying to avoid is hypocrisy and shallowness, this verse actually refutes the theory that bodily worship is any less spiritual than that of the heart.
Here, the apostle Paul states in this letter, offering your body to God in worship, is a spiritual act of worship, not merely physical. The point being that there is something about using your body, that is an important part of making your worship “in spirit and truth”.
To me, the reason for this is that using your body in worship hits at the very pride of man, and surrendering our pride in worship is perhaps the deepest, most costly adoration we can offer. I am amazed by the amount of women who shout at their kids, who struggle to offer a shout of praise to God. I am dumbfounded to hear of men dancing in a night-club, who stand like stone statues in corporate worship! I am flummoxed to see people who can put washing on a washing line, struggle to raise their hands in worship!
There is something about physical worship that hits deep at the core of our pride, and so pride becomes an enemy of true spiritual worship, and our physical worship becomes the truest reflection of our heart state.
In 2 Samuel 6 we find the well-known story of David dancing like a mad-man, bringing the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. His wife Michal despised him for this, and bore no children after that. How many Michal’s are there in your church, who despise the “crazy” worshippers who just want to give God everything, pride and reputation included? Sadly there are many. And perhaps they too will struggle to bear fruit, as their pride closes up their worship life and intimacy with God. Perhaps you are a Michal yourself? I was.
I remember when God first told me he wanted me to have a worship ministry. I was as stiff as a “surfboard” in worship. My idea of dancing was to wiggle my fingers in my pocket! I was embarrassed at moving and bored by songs. But over a period of six months God slowly and tenderly set me free from my culture and myself, and I think in many ways he is still doing that today. Why not join me in the adventure of becoming a true worshipper, the kind the father is seeking?
Pride, programmes, unforgiveness, fear, guilt, religion and hypocrisy: All enemies of the true worshipper. Why not come before God right now and pray through all these areas and see if there are any of these in your own life? Why not worship right now, wherever you are, and ask God to help you to become a temple fit for his glory?
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