We are a people created to worship, and that means that we spend our lives worshiping. Whether we accept the sacrifice of Christ and spend our lives worshiping the Lord or not, we will worship something - money, wealth, status, authority, peace, contentment, achievement, you name it. We often hear this idea spouted in sermons about idolatry, about how we are supposed to rid our lives of the things that we worship that are not God, but even that leaves a lingering question:
How do we know what isn't God?
In some situations, this is an easy question to answer. Clearly, if our interest is in building our bank account or cementing our reputation or securing our promotion, then these things are out of place.
But the truth is that some of the things of this world look an awful lot like the things of God, and some of the things of God look an awful lot like the things of this world. So there has to be some other way to know whether we're worshiping the Lord or an idol rather than merely a subjective classification of something as sacred or profane. (As if these categories are clear-cut anyway.)
Maybe you're not sold. Maybe you think it's easy to tell the difference between something that is of God and something that isn't. It's a fair question, so let's just take a couple of examples.
It's possible to be plugged into a church that isn't really a church; it's a social club. It's a place where hundreds or thousands of persons come together on a weekend to say how much they love Jesus, but the music selection is all about who we are, not who God is; the sermons are preached about how we should live our practical lives, not what God desires from us; the offerings go to bigger building and smoke and lights, not meaningful ministry to the core of human need. And it's possible to love this place and build your identity on it, claiming it makes you a Christian - but if it's a "church" in which God is neither praised nor proclaimed with any measure of real authenticity, then it is a thing of this world posing as a thing of God, and your membership in such a church is idol worship (because it is idle worship).
At the same time, it's possible to be engaged in a sacred moment and not even know it. Take, for example, a simple dinner at a friend's house. Everyone's got to eat, right? It's the kind of social gathering we engage in all the time. We consider it part of being a civil society. But Jesus considered it part of being a sacred people. He had dinner parties all the time at the homes of sinners. He invited Himself, and His whole posse, over. He even had a few impromptu picnics on the hillside or near the well. We might not think twice about a casual social engagement, but it might just be a thing of God posing like a thing of this world.
The lines are so easily blurred. How, then, do we know? As a people created to worship, how do we know whether what we are worshiping is God or something less?
Revelation makes it pretty simple for us (chapter 14): there is no rest for those who worship the beast.
Those who worship idols, those who worship the things of this world, those who are plugged into the pulse of the profane things are running themselves ragged. They are worn out. They are worn down. They are exhausted all the time. They can't seem to satisfy the ache in their hearts. It's perpetual motion, but you're not getting anywhere. You're constantly moving, but never arriving. You never have the sense that you could stop, even for just a second. You can hardly catch your breath.
Contrast that to Jesus who says, I have come to give you rest. My yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Proper worship puts us in a sacred rhythm that includes rest. That includes time to stop and smell the roses. That re-energizes us. Proper worship fills our cup even while we're pouring it out. Not only is our heart satisfied, but so is our soul. It's perpetual motion because it's a moving part; you're not chasing anything, you're dancing with it. You're constantly moving because you're being drawn into the heart of something bigger than you. There is no arriving because you're already there. You don't have to catch your breath because this worship is breath; it is the simple act of breathing.
We are a people created to worship, but how do we know if what we're worshiping is good? If it is sacred? If it is God?
We know if we are able to find rest. In this world, there is no rest for the weary, but in the Lord, the weary come and find rest. If you aren't resting, then you're worshiping the wrong thing.