When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22 he didn’t say, “Go through the motions better than anyone else…put on a show…don’t think about it…make sure you sing the right notes more than meaning what you sing. Make sure you amen at the right time rather than letting that conviction convict you. Tell the preacher good job and then go and do the opposite.” No! He talked about a condition of the heart – to love God and love others.
The pagans in the ancient world believed that if you went through the motions of religion that the gods would reward you. They had an almost magical view of religion. If you do this dance, step over here and twirl like this then the gods will send the rain. It was spiritual arm twisting. None of us would like to admit it but maybe some of us struggle with the same type of thinking. If we sing just right, pray just right, and do everything just so then God is forced to accept our worship and forgive our sins. Sorry but it just doesn’t work that way. God is too smart and too powerful for such mundane attempts at bribery and empty spiritual extortion to twist His arm.
That doesn’t mean the motions aren’t important. There is nothing bad or negative you can say about preaching, singing, or any of the other “acts of worship” we participate in. The difference is the motive. We do these things in response to God and His saving deeds and not the other way around…we don’t do these things for God to respond to us or to force Him into saying, “I guess I better bless them now…they finally got it right.” That type of thinking totally misunderstands the nature of God and boils him down to a robot in the sky…if we push all the right buttons then he will function the way we want Him to. That conception of God is too small to actually have power and authority any greater than our own ability to push the buttons correctly.