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  • Writer's picturePamela

Does our own goodness interfere with true worship?

Updated: Sep 19, 2023



If you and I were to sit down to discuss what keeps Christians from pursing true worship, I’m sure we could come up with long list of things ranging from ignorance to self-centeredness and distractions to laziness. And they’d all be true. But would we ever consider that our own goodness interferes with true worship?

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I recently read Luke 15 with the familiar parable of the prodigal son. His obvious lack of care for his father and desire for the ways of the world prevented a close relationship with his father. But his older brother? He did everything right. Or so he thought.


When the older brother’s anger won out over celebrating his wayward brother’s return, he said to his father,


“‘Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours; and yet you have never given me a young goat, so that I might celebrate with my friends; but when this son of yours came, who has devoured your wealth with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him.’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live,

and was lost and has been found.’”(v.29-32).


The older brother was so busy doing all the right things, he didn’t stop to know or understand his father’s heart. He pursued good things – necessary things even – but he neglected to pursue the best thing. His father.


Boy, can I relate. I can totally imagine myself in the older brother’s shoes responding with his frustration. Right? I mean, look at all he did in comparison to the loveless, careless (to put it mildly) deeds of his younger brother!


And then I look at the average church, and it hits me. I think we’re full of older brothers.

We’ve perfected “serving” and “never neglect[ing] a command” – the deeds and dos. Or so we think. And we start feeling so good about ourselves and our check list, we convince ourselves that we’ve done enough.


God must be quite pleased with me already.

But what’s neglected is often the best part of being a child of God – the relationship with our Father. Intimacy. Positioning our heart to know His heart. Humbly bowing at His feet.


Sadly, worship then becomes a thoughtless activity tacked onto all the other things to do. (Wait, that isn’t worship.) Or unknowingly, we begin to worship our good deeds or what they do for us. <Ouch!> And we wonder why things that please our Father’s heart frustrate ours. (Older brother?)


Our God prefers intimacy with His children over our rule-following deeds any day. He wants us to stop merely doing and seek Him. He wants us to sacrifice our time and attention not just in our deeds, but first on our knees – pouring ourselves out at His footstool. That’s where He’s called us to be – where He’s saved us to be. First and foremost.


And you know what? That’s where His Spirit gives us new purpose, power, and guidance to do the good work of serving and obeying. And that’s where His Spirit fills us so that our serving and obeying are worship – instead of self-powered deeds.


“ . . . whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”  (1 Corinthians 10:31).


And our distracting busyness? He responds with, Child, stop and look at Me. Remember that I am “always with” you.“All that is mine is yours.” Take the much needed time to come “celebrate and rejoice” with Me.


Worshiping God needs to be the pattern of our life that begins with and is sustained by time on our knees.


Let’s be aware of being so good and so busy for the Father that we neglect to seek, know, and worship the Father. Be aware of when the heart of our worship takes a backseat to the doing. Let the doing flow out of the seeking. And let the serving others flow out of first serving our God in worship.


“Cease striving and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10a)!


Take a few minutes to make this song your prayer – Only You by David Crowder Band:




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