I fear many people today are caught in the childish rut of worshiping their emotions. For this reason, they dislike the sober worship of conservative churches, because such worship seldom inflames the emotions to the intensity desired. Why? Plato told us: “Beautiful things are hard.” God is beautiful, and a singular focus on His beauty is demanding. If you want to feel your feelings, you don’t want subtlety of musical and poetic metaphor, persuasive appeals, and demanding art. You want the taste-burst of the loud, the moody, the maudlin, the mushy, the gushy, the romantic, the sexy, the intense.
Many people do not worship the living God. They worship their worship.
The great secret (and great difficulty) of true worship is that when we worship truly, our focus is to be exclusively on the object of our worship: God. If our eye is on how our worship is being perceived by others, it falls under the condemnation of the Sermon on the Mount, for we are then performing our worship to be seen by men and lauded by them.
More subtle, and less visible to us, is if our eye is on our own worship experience.
Many people judge whether worship is occurring by whether they are sensing or feeling certain emotions. In other words, they are actually watching themselves. God receives a glance or two, but then the focus returns to self. Am I feeling anything? Do I feel joy? Do I feel intense intimacy? Do I feel ecstasy? Here, our focus is not on the worth and qualities of God, but on the quality of our own worship experiences.
You are supposed to enjoy God in worship. You are not supposed to try to enjoy your joy. You are supposed to wonder at God in worship. You are not supposed to wonder at your wonder. You are supposed to love God in worship. You aren’t supposed to love your love.
Loving your love, enjoying your joy, or being in awe at your awe is a subtle idolatry. It turns the gaze from God to self, and feels satisfaction in yourself for being such an intense worshipper. We begin to watch ourselves worship, and admire ourselves for being so full of admiration; we adore our adoration; we weep over our own intensity. But this is pseudo-worship.
God is the object of worship. He is not supposed to be the means by which we achieve joy, or ecstasy or religious happiness. If God, or biblical truth, or anything in a worship service is simply a means to achieving a religion emotion, then the religious emotion is the true object of our affections.