Mediocrity in the Christian life is not an option. Not only is it not an option, it is simply not possible. A mediocre Christian is someone that does not understand the God with whom they have been reconciled. They are a paradox. They are blind sighted, having forgotten the glory of their own inheritance in Christ Jesus (Col 1:9-14, 2 Pet 1:3-11) And, well–I too am a paradox. We are a paradox. When mediocrity, corner-cutting, joyless singing, lazy Bible reading, prayerlessness, and coldness creeps into the Christian life, are we not living like those with no hope? Are we not living in the flesh, like the rest of the world? Living in the flesh is what everyone does naturally (Rom 8:5). Living in worshipless humdrum spirituality is not Christian.
And yet, everyone cuts corners, even Christians. Everyone lives in the flesh, ungrateful, cold, removed, unmerciful, and not in absolute awe of the glory of God–yes, even Christians. And often, the Christian life becomes but a weary and troublesome endeavor. Weighed down by the commands of God to rejoice always (Phil 4:4) in him, and to glorify him in all that we do (1 Cor 10:31), we become lazy in our pursuit of him. Yet, lazy Christianity is simply not an option. God will not have it. He does not delight in it. In fact, he despises a life of wishy-washy-ness (Rev 3:16). In his rebuke of Israel for their own “cheating” (Mal 1:14) during worship, God says in Malachi 1:11-14:
For my name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts. 12 But you profane it when you say that the Lord’s table is polluted, and its fruit, that is, its food may be despised. 13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. 14 Cursed be the cheat who has a male in his flock, and vows it, and yet sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished. For I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name will be feared among the nations.
Perhaps bringing flawed offerings to the temple was a “reasonable” thing for the Jews. I mean, finding a pure lamb that wasn’t lame or sick (Mal 1:13b) is hard! And because it was a weary thing (Mal 1:13a) to worship God as he saw fit, the standards for worship were lowered, twisted, and “OK’d” by the priests (Mal 2:7-8). But to God, lowering the standards will not suffice. In fact, lowered standards are evil (Mal 1:8) in his eyes. Mediocrity, in other words, is not ok. God is not happy about it, and neither should we be. In fact, we should despise the fleshly tendency in our hearts to offer God compromised worship. It should simply not be ok with us.
And yet, we are ok with it. And why? Because, like the Jews, God’s standard and demands of whole-hearted worship to him is a “weariness” to us (Mal 1:13). What a weariness it is to give our all! When we have so many other things biding our time? When there are so many other things pushing and pulling at us? I mean, isn’t worship about having the “right heart”? No. It is not just about our hearts. To be sure, we all worship in different ways, and through different means. Paul says in Romans 14 that we all live to the Lord–whether we abstain or partake, we do it to the Lord (Rom 14:5-9). But this not mean lowering the standard of true and uncompromised worship.
No, worship is not so much about our heart in the matter so much as it is about the value of that which we admire. For what does the Lord say to his people in his rebuke of their “polluted” sacrifices? He says, “Cursed be the cheat…For I am a great King” (Mal 1:14-15). Those who bring deluded and blemished worship are cheating God.
You see, cutting corners doesn’t only say something about you–it says something about the worth of that which you worship. God is infinitely, unendingly, eternally, exhaustively, and truly worthy of all of you. He is a great King. He is worthy. He is gloriously and supremely right to demand real worship from you. And he is not being self-centered here. No, God understands that he truly is great. He is greater than any other thing that we could or ever will give our adoration to. In fact, in offering himself for you to worship, he is offering you an endless spring of joy! John Piper once wrote,
Love is helping people toward the greatest beauty, the highest value, the deepest satisfaction, the most lasting joy, the biggest reward, the most wonderful friendship, and the most overwhelming worship— love is helping people toward God. We do this by pointing to the greatness of God. And God does it by pointing to the greatness of God.
God despises a Israel’s polluted sacrifices, because they are devaluing the most enjoyable, life-giving, supremely majestic thing ever to be beheld: Himself. In exalting himself above all other things, and in demanding a life of true and real worship, God is both offering the most glorious and most enjoyable thing that could ever be given, and devaluing all that could retract and remove the enjoyment of himself. God is most supremely valuable and glorious, and anything short of true and whole worship detracts from this value. And this is why God is disgusted at the Israelites’ polluted sacrifices. They are saying in the offering of those sacrifices, “God, you are not truly and supremely valuable”. And this is blasphemy.
This is why the life of a Christian should be brimming and full of worship to God. It should be full of joy, overflowing with praise, and ripe with truth and love. We have inherited in Christ fellowship into the fulness of the Godhead. We are caught up into a reconciling love that is absolutely tireless and unending. And Christian, if we respond as the Israelites did at the costliness of the Christian life saying, “What weariness this is!”, God will and does rightly say to us, “I am a great King, and I will be feared among the nations”.