Do you think you ever sin while worshiping God?
All of us likely do. We unintentionally act in ways that violate God’s Word. What should we do about it?
Does God notice? Does he care?
Yes. And Yes.
In the Old Testament, we are introduced to the guilt offering in Leviticus. It deals with this type of situation: “If anyone commits a breach of faith and sins unintentionally in any of the holy things of the LORD . . .” (Lev. 5:15)
It’s obvious here that we are talking about something unintentional as opposed to high-handed. Nevertheless, God is concerned about it. He doesn’t just gloss over it. Holiness is too important.
But what may not be completely obvious are a couple of terms. First, what is a breach of faith? Second, what are the holy things of the Lord? Understanding these concepts helps us better understand and apply the guilt offering.
A “breach of faith” has to due with unfaithfulness. Specifically, in this context, it’s about covenant unfaithfulness to God. To put it more frankly, it’s defrauding God of his due.
The “holy things of the LORD” is used elsewhere to refer to the various food offerings given to the Lord. This is actually what makes them holy (Lev. 22:2). They were set apart to God and then given to the priests and their families (Lev. 22:10–16; Num. 18:19).
What did they do? They probably ate the offerings unintentionally. What’s the big deal? Well, they were treating this food, the offerings, as everyday items instead of the Lord’s holy things. It’s his property. This is actually quite serious. It defrauds God of what is due to him. And to make things worse, it’s insulting, because it treats what is holy as something common. This perhaps can give us a bit more perspective on the result: they were guilty before the Lord (Lev. 5:19).
Put yourself in their shoes. You accidentally ate something you shouldn’t have. It was an accident. Nevertheless, you are guilty.
So, what do they do? They need to make a sacrifice (Lev. 5:15). We are taught the lesson that sin requires a payment. Guilt requires an acceptable sacrifice, an offering before the Lord. And here the payment is a ram, unblemished. A ram was extremely valuable. But you’ll notice there’s more. Not only this there a sacrifice, but there is also some restitution (v.16). The reparation means the worshiper needs to make it right. He has to give what he took back. But that’s not all; he needs to add a 1/5th to it (cf. also Lev. 22:14).
How might this apply to us today? We are not offering guilt offerings, but we are still worshiping the same God, who is no less holy nor desirous of pure worship.
First, think about one of the main ways we worship God, the church’s corporate gathering on the Lord’s Day.
What do we do? We can dishonor God by coming to worship him externally rather than internally. We can go through the motions of the form rather than truly engaging our hearts with God.
What does this look like? We can come to church with our minds disengaged and wandering, distracted by many other things. We could be scrolling through our phones, thinking about recreation, planning for sin, meditating upon sin, or simply staring off into space. We could be exhausted from staying up far too late on entertainment. With a loose grip upon the reins of our hearts and minds, the portals for truth can fly about the worship hall like a kite over the shoreline.
One lesson we can take away from the guilt offering is that if God is concerned about what you put in your mouth in negligence, he is certainly concerned with what you put in your mind carelessly. He wants worship in every area that it is due to him.
What should we do? A principle from the guilt offering is repentance and restoration. Here are some practical ways to come to the Lord’s Day gathering:
Prepare: Preparation for Sunday morning should begin on Saturday night. Review the text of the sermon, pray for the preacher, and get plenty of rest. As you prepare to go to church, take time to pray, asking God to cleanse you of sin so that you can receive the Word of God unhindered (James 1:21).
Participate: Remember when the church gathers together, participate by joining your heart together with others through prayer, song, reading of Scripture, and taking the Lord’s Supper. Don’t simply go through the motions. Engage, and incline your heart toward the Lord and his Word.
Receive: The Word of God is proclaimed when God’s people gather. But this is not simply an act of the preacher. The congregation is to receive the Word of God. There is a need to focus our minds, suppress distraction, and prayerfully hear the Scriptures. You can expect the most active spiritual warfare to be when the Bible is preached. Therefore, there is a need to redouble our efforts to ensure we are not passively floating down the stream of complacency, lazing about in the tube of distraction. Vigilance and focus are required to receive the Word.
Reflect: Too often, we come out of church, close the book, and move on to the next thing. We would do well to remember the habit of those who preceded us in the faith who made it a habit to talk about the sermon over lunch and then personally reflect upon the text during the week. Make it a priority to examine your heart through the week, asking God to continue to reveal areas of sin that need attention as well as the mountaintops of grace that have been pointed out in the sermon. Hold on tight to the sermon, and, like Jacob, don’t let it go into you get its blessing!
When we think about the motivation for this, we must not forget that it was Christ who offered up perfect worship to God on behalf of his people. He loved God and neighbor perfectly. He never sinned—either intentionally or unintentionally; he was absolutely perfect. And he was perfect in our place. He poured out himself as an offering for our guilt so that we could stand righteous in God’s sight (Isa. 53:10–11). We don’t offer a guilt offering because Christ offered himself as the perfect offering for our guilt.
Is our worship tainted with sin? Yes. But, we mustn’t ever forget the truth of the cross when we think about what God deserves, what we fail to give, and what Christ gave for us. While we remember that we never worship God without the stain of our sin, we also remember that we don’t come to God on our own merit. We come clothed in the everlasting righteousness of Christ. Jesus gave God the pure worship he deserves in our place, securing before God, our acceptance while cleansing our impurity. This will compel us to come to the corporate gathering with a renewed zeal and gratitude for Christ’s perfect worship in our place.