Pharisees and Tax Collectors in Your Worship Services

Sunday was a full day of ministry with the highs and lows.  We had great services, I had a wonderful group time, got to preach at Lander’s FCA, and so much more even in between.  While we had many great moments yesterday, we also had 2 of our members pass in the night.  Working in a church, you deal with so many different issues in a day.

That’s why Sunday morning when I’m leading worship is one of the most unique times of my week.  My unique vantage point reveals so much of where people are.  As I invite people to stand and worship the living God, different levels of engagement are present.  Our passage we studied in C-Group last night reminded me so much of every worship service.  Because in every worship service there are Pharisees and tax collectors present:

Luke 18:9 And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt:10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I do not think that outward expression reveals everything about the worshiper, but I do think it reveals something.  I do believe that demeanor speaks volumes when a congregation sings songs of God’s mercy and forgiveness.  I just wondered how different tax collectors and Pharisees worship when they sing “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe,” or “my chains are gone, I’ve been set free,” or “in my sin, yes, even then, He shed His blood for me.”

I know this: sometimes I am heartbroken over the casual way we can sing certain lyrics.  Sometimes I am fearful that I can turn into a Pharisee acting like I deserve the seat of honor in God’s presence.  And it makes me wonder: when was the last time in worship that I was truly humble and overwhelmed that God would even let me take another breath?  It is great we can approach the throne of grace with confidence, but it is a confidence in Christ’s righteousness and not our own.

Sometimes I wonder if we really remember how holy God is and how far off we were.