God takes His position as God seriously. He is not insecure or defensive, but He is jealous and promises to punish any who bow before knockoff gods. Commandment number one of ten made clear: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Worship of the LORD is to be exclusive; serve only Him. And worship of Him is to be done rightly: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image….” Worship of the LORD was to be unabridged, not limited by any distorted or dwarfish representation.
Why? The easy answer is that our Creator and Deliverer is infinitely worthy and deserves all our reverence. But that isn’t the only answer. Right worship is also important because men become like what they worship. Men were made from the beginning as image-bearers of God and true worship provides us with our bearings like a compass points north. Idolatry offends God, yes, and it also aims men in the wrong direction. The needle doesn’t need to be off by much before we’re soon headed off the cliff.
Failure to worship, or worship of another god, or off target worship of the true God, makes men miserable, not only because their God-given conscience is violated, but also because their God-given image is distorted. They cannot know truly who they are or what direction they should go because they believe and worship what is false. Even as Christians we can get lost a thousand different ways each week, so we confess our sin and get back to worship that keeps us oriented.
In John 13, Jesus began to wash the disciples feet as a demonstration of His love for them. When He came to Peter, Peter objected and, in a sense, we understand his objection because Jesus was the Master and the Master should be the one having his feet washed; He should not be the one washing. Jesus, of course, overcame Peter’s initial refusal, and then Peter reacted to the opposite extreme and told Jesus to give him a full-body bath. Jesus again corrected Peter’s misunderstanding by explaining that dirty feet didn’t necessarily mean his face was filthy.
The first lesson of John 13 is about service and Jesus taught His disciples to follow Him in this pattern of humility. But there is another issue as well, the issue of cleanliness.
We are Christians, and one of the things that means is that we are clean; our sins have been forgiven. Our body of sin has been washed in Christ. But our belief of this and our having confessed our sins for sake of salvation, does not mean that it was one confession and done. We, as Christians, get our feet dirty with sin. John teaches Christians in 1 John 1 that, for the sake of our ongoing fellowship with God and with each other, we must keep confessing our sins.
We ought to confess our sins each time we sin. And as a congregation, when we gather for sake of fellowship with God and each other, we do well to wipe our dirty feet at the door rather than track mud all over the place.
At the prayer meeting, not many people ask for prayer so that they might taper off in their adulteries, or their thefts, or all the lies they are spreading around town. But [bitterness, envy, anger, and pride] are respectable—we have a delicate way of acknowledging them without really dealing with them. And one of the reasons we get away with touching on them lightly is that the main problem is clearly … the other guy’s.
—Doug Wilson, Getting Your Eyes Off the Other Guy