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Hype = Worship ?

Have I fallen in love with experiencing God or fallen in love with God? This question has been stirring in my mind for a long time now. I will be honest & profess that I have often judged the spiritual depth of the people around me based on how they respond to the worship services we create rather than whether they are genuinely living out the teachings of Jesus. Our emotional response in worship is not an accurate way to assess how in tune with God we really are.

I find myself again sitting in the back of an auditorium while hundreds of students lift their hands & close their eyes as they belt out lyrics toward God that claim full life devotion. They have gathered here from different parts of the eastern coast to celebrate God together. Last night, hundreds of students re-devoted their lives to Jesus... the same way these kinds of events begin every year. By the end of the weekend, the students here will be fully energized about the life they desperately want to live at home. They will showcase a passion for God as they sing until they lose their voices. Yet their emotional response will most likely have no bearing on how they live come Monday morning... and it will almost certainly not matter one year from today. Not because its not a genuine response to the things that have been said and done here, but because real life change rarely arises from emotional response.

It truly makes me feel nauseated in my stomach to imagine that I could have played a big role in introducing the masses to God the feeling rather than God Himself. Worship is what happens when we see the greatness of God -- but true worship is born out of an intimate relationship with God in our everyday lives. Jesus tells His disciples in John 15 that they will know they are connected to Him if they obey His command: love one another. If we don't live according to the teachings of Jesus we don't know Him. Matthew 7 suggests strongly that we can easily build our spiritual houses on weak foundations that will crumble in the difficulties of life -- the way we make sure we have a strong foundation: by hearing the words of Jesus and putting them into action. On the day we meet Jesus there will be many that recall these spiritual experiences and claim they know Him because of them -- but the true test of a committed disciple is whether or not they walked the straight & narrow path and produced fruit in their lives. I would even suggest that Amos 5 & Isaiah 58 discourage worship born out of emotions that is not supported by a corporate commitment to righteousness & justice.

I believe its time to consider that introducing people to the emotional side of worship before they know who Jesus really is may do more to encourage a shallow pursuit of Him than we'd like to think. I believe its time to honestly evaluate whether we have at times been guilty of emotional manipulation in the name of genuine worship. I want to question whether we have too often been satisfied with shallow emotional responses over deep spiritual transformation in our own lives. It's easy to feel good about getting connected to God in a musical moment or during a hyped up weekend; but these things very well may cause us to trick ourselves into thinking that because we know "how" to worship, we are spiritually mature.

I don't have the answers, just some questions. But I challenge you to do the heart wrenching work of honestly examining whether we love God or love the idea of God. Are you fascinated by feeling Him or by knowing Him? The answer to that question is most likely revealed by how often we seek to understand & apply His truth when we are alone & no one is watching. Our response to God will always be emotional, it has to be. But let each of us devote our attention to loving God deeply and investing ourselves into making other disciples that love God deeply. I don't want to settle for the weekly moments where we are enraptured in a state of manufactured ecstasy -- I want to fall in love with God for who He is and what He has done, not how He makes me feel.

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