A main component of worship is honor. Through worship we seek to honor God for who He is and what He has done. This requires declaring His goodness, making sacrifices, and living a life that reflects His character of love and grace.
I believe that the primary way we honor God is through obedience. To honor God means that we will do what He called us to do. We give God our obedience because we love Him, trust Him, and believe that He desires good for the world.
This means that we dishonor God when we say that we love and trust Him, but refuse to do what He asks us to do. When we sing God’s praises, but refuse to obey Him, means we do not truly honor Him. We may love the idea of God, but we don’t trust Him with our lives.
Jesus communicated this thought when he told this parable:
“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’ The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway. Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.” But he didn’t go. Which of the two was obeying his father?” (Matthew 21:28-31; NLT)
I can identify with the younger son. In the moment of an emotional worship time, it is easy to tell God, “Yes, I will go.” Then distraction comes my way and I use my time doing things that I like doing. Sometimes fear enters my heart, and I end up paralyzed, wanting to do what I said I would do, but not able over rule the fear that is in my heart. Whatever the reason is, the result is that I don’t do what I said I would do.
Too often this is how Christians live our lives. God has asked us to obey Him, to step outside of our comfort zones and to love our neighbors. We have responded with,“Yes, Lord,” yet we have become distracted and have not done what God has asked us to do. In some ways we are like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, who couldn’t stay awake and pray with Jesus. Jesus said of them, “Your spirit is will, but the flesh is weak.” I know that is how I feel when I fail to obey God.
Obedience is the foundation of worship. Without our obedience all the songs we sing and all the gifts we give are meaningless. Isaiah 29:13 reads;
And so the LORD says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote” (NLT).
The Israelites worshiped God through tradition and ritual, but they failed to live the way God wanted them to live.
The main reason I believe obedience is the foundation of worship is because obedience is an indication of our love for God. In John 14:15 Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (NLT).
Our obedience provides evidence for the love we claim to have. This means: no obedience equals no love. If we are unwilling to obey Jesus then the conclusion is that we do not truly love Him.
I think it is important to add, that many of us have the desire to obey Jesus, but we get tripped up along the way. We may not always have success in our obedience, but our intention and effort point to the love we have.
The good news in all of this is that we have a second chance. The older brother in the story originally told the father no. He wasn’t going work in the vineyard, because he had more important things to do. Given time the son changed his mind and went. We may not know what changed the son’s mind, but I think we can assume that it was motivated out of love.
Our decision to not obey God doesn’t mean that we can’t change our minds. We can start today obey God in what He has called us to do. The decision to love God begins with a choice, and that choice to obey God is available to us as long as we have breath.
Real worship doesn’t begin with songs and religious rituals, but with our obedience. When we obey God, we honor Him. Ultimately that is what worship is about; honoring God with our lives.