In Matthew 15:8, Jesus rebuked the scribes and pharisees, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). In the auxiliary teachings on the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed the disciples to not pray like the hypocrites: the hypocrites “love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of streets, that they may be seen of men” (Matthew 6:5). Jesus criticized the scribes, pharisees, and hypocrites because their worship and prayers were not real, they were not living and fresh.
Christians gather together weekly for worship. We gather to present ourselves before the Lord in the heavenly places. We are commanded to not forsake gathering together, that we might enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19, 25). We do not gather for worship in order that we might be seen of men. We do not gather to join together in corporate prayer in order that we might be seen of men. We do not gather to submit to the corporate discipleship of the Word read and preached in order that we might be seen of men. Not at all. Believers routinely and weekly gather together in order that together our hearts might be lifted up to God in heaven. As Paul exhorts believers in Colossians 3:1-3, “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”
In light of Jesus Christ’s rebukes and warnings, we should genuinely be concerned about operating from a state of sinful presumption when we go before the Lord for worship or in prayer. Most believers are aware that when something is dutifully and routinely done there is a temptation to treat it commonly or carelessly. So, whether you are a Christian attending weekly worship, or a Minister leading weekly worship, there is a danger and temptation to fall into the rut of pride, the rut of hypocrisy, or the rut of merely going through the external motions of a liturgical “form”. When that occurs corporate worship becomes common and mechanical, making it ritualistic in the not-fully-biblical sense of ritual, that is, the ex opere operato sense of Christian rituals.
What can ensure that weekly worship remains fresh and not mechanical?
What can ensure that weekly worship remains sincere and zealous and not ritualistic?
The answer is only Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, because of his real presence and the work of his mediatorial office, is the only thing that ensures that sinners can truly, not just externally, draw near to God. Regarding the presence of Christ: Genuine worship is only possible through Jesus, that is, by being a worshiper that worships God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24-26). God’s presence through Jesus by the Spirit is what makes the Christian life both fresh and a living, powerful reality (e.g., see Matthew 18:20 and 1 Corinthians 5:4). We can approach God as our Heavenly Father in worship and prayer because we have received and walk in Christ, and have been rooted and built up in Christ (Colossians 2:6-7). And regarding the work of Christ’s mediatorial office: By Word and Spirit the Lord God reveals his will for us, that is, to glorify and enjoy Him forever, and this revelation is only possible because, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus is the only mediator between God and men: only Jesus makes possible a way to rightly, genuinely, and wholeheartedly worship God. Because Jesus is our mediator, as God, Jesus receives and leads our worship into the heavenly places, where he is seated at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. Real worship is fresh and living because it is worship with and offered through Jesus Christ.
Philippians 2:9-11: Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.