Barriers to Worship
Last week I defined worship as my attitude that God is worthy to receive glory and honor from me. Our view toward God has been steadily eroding. In 1957, A. W. Tozer was concerned about the downgrading of God to a familiar and almost wimpy position. Our view of the power and authority of God has continued on this downward path to the point today where we have lost the very desire to truly worship God. But there are a number of barriers that we face which keep us from our worship of God.
Peter serves as an example of how we lose our desire to worship. Peter’s collapse leading to his denial of Jesus is a good case to study because he reminds us of us. His was not a blow-out, i.e. a rapid and sudden collapse; rather, it was a slow leak. Dr. Howard Hendricks has outlined four subtle steps from Mark 14 that form barriers to worship.
First, Peter boasted too much (Mark 14:27-31). Jesus told his disciples they would all “be made to stumble because of Me this night…” Peter’s response was that Jesus could count on him. He would be faithful even if the others failed. He would never stumble. The problem Peter had was not one of insincerity. He was sincere. His problem was a problem of ignorance—Peter did not know Peter. Thus, our first barrier to worship is our self-confidence. We believe we are stronger and more committed to God than we really are. We really don’t know ourselves and as a result our worship begins to slide.
Second, Peter prayed too little (Mark 14:32-41). Jesus took Peter and others with Him to pray. He asked them to keep watch (for His enemies). They fell asleep. Jesus specifically addressed Peter when He ask, “…are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray…” In the same way, we pray too little. The Devil doesn’t care if we study the Scripture or witness so long as we are active without accomplishing anything. However, Satan does care if we pray over the Scripture because that brings us closer to God and he does care if we talk to God about men instead of talking to men about God. What we do for God must be bathed in prayer. Often we come to worship unprepared—we cannot come into the presence of God with impure hearts. We need to pray more.
Third, Peter acted too soon (Mark 14:43-50). Peter was out like a light and when the Roman soldiers arrived he sprang into action. But he was tired and angry. And his skill with a sword was lacking. He cut off the ear of a man. Peter was not submitting himself to the will of God. He merely acted out with emotion. Peter didn’t realize his need for total dependence on God. In the same way we must always approach the throne of God knowing that we are totally dependent on Him. We often decimate our worship when we act in the energy of the flesh but not the power of the Spirit. As with Peter, we are often active when we should be passive and we are passive when we should be active.
Forth, Peter thought too little too late (Mark 14:66-74). The first three barriers to worship in Peter’s life fueled this final barrier. Peter claimed to be the one person upon whom Jesus could depend. He would not fall away—you can count on me were the implications made by Peter. He would prove this by drawing his sword to fend off 100 men. This is the same Peter who, later that evening, would say, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak.” What a collapse. Peter would have never believed he could fall so far. But are we any better? If we even think the words, “I would never say or do this or that” then we are on the same road as Peter. After Peter’s denial, only then did he “call to mind the word that Jesus had said to him.” He thought too little too late and then he wept. This is our most serious problem.
To reverse these barriers to our worship we need to begin by thinking more. We need to ask God to help us think more. What would you do in a worship service if all of sudden everything were to go quiet? Would you become impatient thinking the “worship team” should do more to keep the service moving? Would you pick up the bulletin and start to read it? Or would you turn the quietness of the moment into a time to pray and a time to think? Perhaps the silent moment is meant to be a time for you to think and reflect. How well would you do?
Most people in our community never think. Some think they think but they are merely rearranging their prejudices. Only a very few actually think. We need to refocus the process of worship. Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Our minds should never be in neutral. Jesus told us that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). Only then can we give complete glory and honor to God through our worship. How are you doing?
Which of these four barriers to worship most impact your life? What plan do you have to improve your worship of God?