At City Church during the season of Lent we offer noon time prayer Monday through Friday. It is an opportunity to come together in a pointed way in order that we may confess our sins together, pray together and to study the Word of God together. Our study during this season is through the Gospel of Matthew. We are using a wonderfully concise commentary written by Dr. N.T. Wright entitled: Lent for Everyone: Matthew. Today’s reading is from Matthew 4:1-11 which deals with Jesus, following his baptism, in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. The part of this passage that struck me was in verses 8-10. It reads:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Notice the response of Christ: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ This is staggering in its clarity. Namely, that worshiping God is the duty of every human being. The basis of the truth is this: if the very Son of God counts it his duty to obey the command to worship God, then how much more must we count it our duty to obey this command!
But where many of us stumble is with the word duty. This speaks of a conscription of some kind. That we are being put into shackles. I guess in some sense that is true. But that is a caricatured picture at best. In the book Christian Commitment, the author Edward John Carnell demonstrates more closely what ‘worshiping the Lord your God and serving Him only’ is to resemble. He writes, Suppose a husband asks his wife if he must kiss her good night. Her answer is, “You must, but not that kind of must.” What she means is this: “unless a spontaneous affection for my person motivates you, your overtures are stripped of all moral value.”
So the question we must ask is this: Do we obey God because we feel that we have to or do we obey God because we want to? If we are simply obeying because we have to then all of our overtures are stripped of all moral value. The same can be said if our hearts don’t want to obey. Only when we arrive at the posture of wanting to obey God will we fully understand what worship and duty must truly look like.