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  • Writer's pictureJack Selcher

Irritating Worship

Jesus cleansing the temple in Jerusalem

I don’t want God to be upset with me. I’m guessing you don’t want to irritate the One who spoke creation into existence either. But the truth is that superficial Christianity that doesn’t govern how we professing Christians live angers, irritates, and disgusts Him. More on that later.

I saw this ad by an Etsy seller: “Jesus take the BILLS I got the WHEEL.” It’s a vinyl sticker we can purchase for $4.22. The following sentence is used in the promotion, “Keep your favorite phrase close with this sticker! We are made to worship!”

But if we are made to worship, why don’t we worship the God who created us? This sticker sums up the dysfunctional way many of us “worship.”

We want to be in control of our lives (I got the WHEEL). We also want Jesus to take care of our problems (Jesus, take the BILLS). Jesus is the Emergency Room physician. He’s there when we need Him, but most of the time we think we can handle life ourselves. We got the wheel.

That’s a symptom we’re infected with the deadly Sin-23 virus in 2023 or whatever mutation of it exists in any given year. We also have Long Sin with multiple debilitating self-seeking symptoms.

We worship our Creator best when we say no to our selfish desires so we can say yes to Him. True worship is declaring His worth and giving Him glory through our words, attitudes, and actions as a way of life.

When we’re filled with the Spirit, we submit to God’s rule in our hearts and truly worship Him by being living sacrifices (Romans 12:1–2). Jesus must have the wheel 24/7. If the Spirit of Jesus isn’t in the driver’s seat of our lives, some idolatrous substitute for Him is.

God was very upset with Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah 1. We have the same tendency to rebel against Him and go astray as they did. Like them, we don’t recognize His care for us (verse 3).

Because we have turned our backs on Him and grabbed the steering wheel of our lives that belongs to Him, we carry the welts of His disciplinary punishment (verses 5–8). Judah and Jerusalem weren’t prospering in Isaiah’s day, and neither is the church in the United States today.

God was sick of the meaningless offerings and worship rituals of the people of Judah and Jerusalem. They gave Him no pleasure because they were devoid of real commitment to Him.

The rituals of their pious meetings disgusted Him (verse 13). He couldn’t stand them (verse 14). He paid no attention to their prayers because of how they lived outside those meetings (verse 15). He challenged them to give up their evil ways (verse 16).

He hates the rituals of our pious meetings too. What part? The singing? The offering? The prayer? The sermon? If we aren’t seeking first His kingdom and righteousness outside those meetings-- all of it.

Attending or leading a church service doesn’t make us instantly virtuous. It doesn’t erase our self-centered offenses against God and others.

If we aren’t following and worshiping God outside the sanctuary, we aren’t doing either inside it. That is the clear message of Isaiah 1. One hour a week “worshiping” and 167 hours doing as we please makes God mad at us all 168 hours of the week.

It is also clear that things in the church can be different. First, we must repent and give up our evil ways (verse 16). One foot in the world and the other in the church doesn’t work.

God suggests we learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (verse 17). In the New Testament, Jesus said we should love God with all our being and our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). That’s the worship God desires.

God promised, “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool” (Isaiah 1:18 NLT).

However, our religious traditions are irritating worship without a commitment to obey (verse 20). Worship in spirit and truth outside the sanctuary validates worship inside of it (John 4:23–24). #freechristiandiscipleshipresources #freeevangelismresources #freechristianleadershipresources

See free spiritual growth resources for Christians at

God has equipped and empowered me to write His Power for Your Weakness—260 Steps Toward Spiritual Strength. It’s a free devotional discipleship resource. Pastors have used it in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia to lead people to Christ and teach the basics of Christianity to 2,034 people to date. I invite you to check it out.

Photo: El Greco - The Purification of the Temple - WGA10542 - PICRYL - Public Domain Media Search Engine Public Domain Image (

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