If we’re supposed to worship God every moment of every day, that means God is to be worshipped at church. And though that sounds intuitive, you may be surprised to discover that most Christians aren’t actually glorifying God at church because they’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
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“COG 25: Celebrating God at Church, Part 1 | the purpose”
“The Four Family Loves, Part 1”
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Welcome back to our “Celebrating God at Church” series. This is Part 2; so if you missed Part 1, you need to check that one out first.
It’s episode 25, and I’ll link it in the description.
Last time we talked about what the church is and what the purpose of church is. Today we’re going to dive into the motivation for church.
But before we do that, I just want to remind you that The Celebration of God offers conferences, workshops, and classes. We offer virtual and in-person speaking opportunities to help you and your church grow in your understanding of worship, discipleship, and how to use the holidays to celebrate God.
We also provide assistance in creating Celebration Walls specifically for your unique church body.
If you’d be interested in booking an event, you can go to AMBrewster.com or click the link in the description.
While you’re online you can go to CelebrationOfGod.com to download today’s free episode notes and read our transcript.
Okay, let’s start today’s discussion by revisiting the Art of Manliness.
Last time I listed out twelve benefits of going to church from an article by The Art of Manliness. And, though I acknowledged that many of their bullet-points may occur when you go to church, I observed that none of their reasons were the reason God created the church.
God created the church for one reason only — to glorify Him.
He ordained the assembling of believers so that the believers could be equipped to glorify Him better by drawing closer to Him and by introducing others to Him.
Everything else is a perk — the icing on the cake.
But one of the biggest problems with going to church is the same problem with everything else we do in life . . . we do it for the wrong reasons.
So, today I want to talk about four things:
So, let’s start with #1.
1. Why is motivation so important?
Some of you may have checked out Truth.Love.Parent.’s “Teaching Your Children to Obey” series. If you haven’t heard it and the topic of biblical obedience interests you, you defiantly need to check it out. It starts in episode 138.
In that series I defined true obedience as “doing the right thing in the right way for the right reason in the right power.”
And — as uncomfortable as it may be to admit — we already know why motivation is so important to life. Everyone listening to my voice knows that you wouldn’t want me to do something nice for you just to manipulate you to do something for me.
The problem is that we’re hypocritical. We’d never want anyone to treat us that way, but we have no problem justifying our wicked motivation by arguing, “At least I was treating you well!”
Motivation really is everything.
Without the right motivation, it’s doesn’t matter what we do. That’s why Samuel could say in I Samuel 15:22, “To obey is better than sacrifice.”
For those of you who are familiar with the Old Testament, you know that one of the ways the Jews obeyed God was by offering sacrifices.
God had clearly commanded it. Yet all throughout the Old Testament we encounter God Who was frequently angered by the sacrifices of the people. And His anger always landed on the fact that the people’s hearts were far from Him.
They were doing the right things for all the wrong reasons.
In Hosea 6:6 we read, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”
True love would sacrifice the right things in the right way for the right reasons. Selfish idolatry could sacrifice the right things in the right way . . . but it would never be for the right reasons.
This is why we must come face to grimy face with our underlying motives. It may not be pretty, but it’s necessary.
Therefore, in order to truly worship God when we’re at church, we must align our motives. But before we can talk about the right motive, we need to ask . . .
2. What’s the wrong motivation for church?
In an attempt to oversimplify, the wrong reason for church is a desire for what we’ll get out of it.
Of course, this very broad motivation has a thousand ways of fleshing itself out in our lives.
If you couldn’t tell, I started quoting from The Art of Manliness article for a couple of those. But there are two more bad motivations.
9. Believe it or not, some people want to learn more about God and the Bible
10. And others are desperately wanting to build discipline and holiness.
Now, you may be thinking, “Aaron, what’s wrong with that? Sure, some of those sounded self-seeking, but how bad can it be to want to learn more about God and become more spiritual?”
The answer is going to require you to think outside the box a little and be super honest.
Any motivation an unsaved person can have is not the motivation a born again follower of God should have.
Can we agree on that?
If an unbeliever has a certain motivation for something, why would it be good for a believer to have the same motivation? At what point is being a child of God any different than being unsaved?
There are devotees to pagan religions all over the world who desperately want to be closer to their idea of god. There are people far more devout than you or I who turn their lives upside down to perform religious rites including — but not limited to — blowing up one’s self.
Any selfish motivation will immediately poison the most righteous actions.
If I go to church simply because I have a deep desire to know more about God, and I’ll be able to satisfy that longing sitting in the chairs of a church, then God is not going to be pleased with me because my motivation is completely selfish. It’s still about what I want.
There are people in this world like the Pharisees who pridefully puffed themselves up because they were so “holy.” But there was no group Christ attacked more often than the Pharisees.
We have to acknowledge the biblical reality that destruction always arises from people doing “holy” things for selfish reasons. Every travesty ever committed in the name of religion stands as a witness to this truth.
Now, can God use the misguided religiosity of sinful men? Definitely. Paul says that those who spread the Gospel for selfish gain are at least spreading the Gospel. And God used man’s sin of nailing Christ to the cross to purchase our salvation.
God will ultimately be glorified despite us, but that never ends well for us.
When we live selfishly, we’re worshipping at the altar of self. We’re idolaters. We’re spiritual adulterers. We’ve created another god in our own image. We’re not celebrating God at all.
From the Garden of Eden to the Flood to the first of the 10 Commandments until the moment that death and Hell are thrown into the Lake of Fire, every punishment that has ever been meted out against sinful people has come as a result of mankind worshipping themselves instead of God.
Now, I can talk about this a hundred more times, and it still may be confusing to some of you. And I guarantee that it will be confusing to your disciplees — especially if it’s your kids. Nearly everything they do is selfishly motivated. And until we’re born again, it’s impossible for us to do anything that’s not selfish.
All of this is something that it takes spiritual maturity to understand.
So, if those are the wrong motivations, let’s look at the other side of the coin in order to get the full picture.
3. What is the right motivation for church?
Well, the answer is simple, but it’s not easy.
It’s simple because it’s not complex. The only Christ-honoring motivation for assembling as a body of believers is to glorify God.
He commands it; we do it. We must get together with other believers solely so that our Lord will be pleased by our obedience.
And — of course — that obedience is motivated out of nothing but selfless agape love. Now, if the phrase agape love is new to you, then I encourage you to listen to a series I did for TLP called “The Four Family Loves.” You can find that at TruthLoveParent.com, or I’ll link it for you in the description.
This is absolutely paramount. If I’m not loving God and others, I’m not worshipping God. I’m definitely not celebrating Him.
Why would I want to assemble with other believers? Because God commands it.
Why should I participate in the one-anothers? Because God desires it.
What’s my motivation for loving Christians? God told me to.
Why should I preach or teach or minister or serve? Because God would be pleased for me to do so.
The temptation for wrong motivations comes because of all the inherent blessing of obeying God.
God promises many, many blessings in the Bible if we obey. In fact, most of the promises in Scripture are conditional. They require us to obey. So, it’s a tiny, and super-easy step for otherwise selfish individuals to want to do the right thing because of the blessing we’ll receive!
Why wouldn’t I be a peacemaker? God said He’d call me a son of God! Why wouldn’t I obey my parents? God said it will be well with me, and I’ll live long on the earth?
Now, it’s true that genuine obedience brings amazing and glorious promises. My favorite passage in the whole Bible is Philippians 4. The soul rest that’s promised in that passage is so glorious I did a nine-part “Peaceful Parenting” study!
But if I cross all my spiritual “t’s” and dot all of my religious “i’s” simply so that I can have peace, my motivation is self-serving, not God serving.
So, the idea is simple in that it’s not complex. We need to do right because God commands it.
But the application is difficult because we really do receive good things when we obey, and that reality often tempts us to the wrong motivations.
Some people may ask, “Then why does God promise such good things? Why doesn’t He just tell us to do right?”
I would argue that it would be impossible for Him not to promise good things. He designed for life to work when we obey. Good things happen when people submit to God. In fact, Heaven will be Heaven because we’ll have no sin. We’ll be able to perfectly submit to Him. That’s why it will be a place of everlasting joy, peace, life, and sheer awesomeness! We’ll finally be living life the way God created.
And I promise you that there won’t be a single person in heaven who’s focused on being entertained while we worship God. Will it be amazing? Will we love it? Of course! But we won’t be doing it for the mere consequences.
There won’t be a single person in Heaven who celebrates the Lord in order to gain His favor or simply build his repository of sacred knowledge. No one will perfectly fulfill the Creation Mandate simply so that he can show off. Everything will be done for the glory and excellence and worship and praise of the only great God and our Father!
And that’s what we and our brothers and sisters in Christ — our fellow-disciples — need to do. In order to truly worship God at church, we need to want to go to church simply because God loves it when we obey.
So, that leads to our final question of the day.
4. How do we help our disciplees have the right motivation?
And that, my friends, is a hard question.
Here’s the best I can do for you.
First, God’s Word is abundantly clear that we can’t disciple well unless we ourselves are following Christ. We must be following Him before we can be the First Follower. We must be submitting to Him before we can be a good Ambassador for Christ.
We need to want to go to church for the right reasons. Now, that’s not to say we don’t start teaching them until our motivation is perfect. That won’t happen this side of Heaven, but we definitely need to be moving in that direction unless we want our fellow disciplees to learn from our hypocrisy.
Second, we need to pass on the lessons in I Samuel 15:22 and Hosea 6:6. We can also use Isaiah 1:14, Amos 5:21, and Isaiah 61:8. All of those verses talk about the same thing . . . God hates worship that looks right on the outside, but is wrong on the inside — worship that has the wrong motivation.
Third, we need to remind our disciplees why we’re assembling in the first place. And, at first you’ll have to do this every time you’re at church. I spent months asking my kids every Sunday, “Why do we go to church?”
You may be an under-shepherd reminding your sheep why they have assembled that morning. You may be a Sunday school teacher who recites with your class every Sunday. You may just be a friend who casually reminds your friends that you’re looking forward to pleasing God today in your worship.
My family and I recently joined a new church, and even though I spent many weeks teaching my family these truths, I took some time to go back through it when we joined the new church. We all need reminders.
It’s so easy to forget such a simple Truth because it’s so easy to be sidetracked by what we’re going to get out of it.
Fourth, we need to ask God to help us obey for the right reasons. This should be one of the most reoccurring prayer requests in your life. Everyone can pray it all the time. “Dear God, give me the strength I need to obey you for the right reasons.”
Fifth — this point will lead us into our topic for next time — we need to attend an assembly of believers who will encourage us to meet for God . . . and not for us.
That also means we need to stop reading articles and listening to podcasts from people who encourage us to go to church for the wrong reasons. We need a body of believers who are doing their best by the power of God to meet for the only reason that matters.
If your pastor or fellow congregants are constantly motivating you to go to church for selfish, self-seeking reasons, then perhaps you need to start meeting with a new body of believers.
But — like I said — we’ll talk about that more next time.
Please take a minute to share this episode online and check out our free episode notes at CelebrationOfGod.com.
The next time we circle back to this discussion, we’ll talk about what kind of church is the best kind of church. That may sound super controversial, but my only goal is to answer that question from the Word of God, so I hope that excites you and that you’ll join me next time.
The church is an amazing and beautiful collection of redeemed saints who all desire to glorify God by building the church. Don’t take that opportunity from you or your disciplees . . . whoever they may be.
And join us next time when we discuss preparing for your first Valentine’s Day.
I know, it sounds even more secular than Halloween! That’s why we need to intentionally make sure that God is celebrated on February 14th regardless of what the rest of the world is doing.
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.