Church Worship

Can You Still Worship God while Actively Sinning?

  • Topher Haddox Contributing Writer
  • Updated Sep 25, 2018
Can You Still Worship God while Actively Sinning?

“The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” (Proverbs 15:8)

Can we still worship the Almighty King of Glory while actively engaged in sin? I think the general consensus among church-goers in America would probably be yes, but does that line up with what the Bible teaches? To answer this question, I think it might help to define worship, as well as define what it means to actively sin. Let’s start with defining worship.

What is Worship?

Worship is defined as the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for God. It is to stand in awe of His attributes—to marvel in wonder at His glory and grace. Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” Worship is the overflow of a grateful heart. It is the desire of the regenerated heart to glorify the name of Christ. 

In the church today, worship can often carry a posture of indifference. I think it’s easy for us to automatically associate the term worship with a 15-20 minute window of music on Sunday morning. The enemy wants you to view it as sort of an afterthought—a “buffer” time before the sermon to catch some live music while you shuffle into the sanctuary and get situated. 

As a worship drummer for many years, I could go on about the irreverence for worship in the church today, but that’s for another article. I do, however, think it's safe to say that worship should be taken seriously. And it should be approached as if you are literally approaching the throne of God. This leads back to the question at hand—can we approach the throne of glory having a heart and posture for true worship while simultaneously actively involved in sin? 

What is Active Sin?

I usually try to steer clear of a varying view of sin. The natural outcome of viewing sin in this way is to belittle certain sins because they aren’t as “bad” as others. Because the wages of any sin is death, thinking less of one sin is a very dangerous practice. 

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:9-10)

What John is basically saying here is that if a person is truly regenerated, God’s spirit resides in them. Therefore, that person’s desire to sin is changed to a desire to magnify the name of Christ. Of course, we aren’t truly free from sin until we are with Christ, but I think this text is warning against living in a pattern of sin. 

To me, that’s what active sin is. It’s living in unrepentant sin while being completely content with it. I’m not sure how a truly regenerated person can worship God with sin in their life—at least that’s not the case for me. Whenever I’ve given into sin and refuse to turn from it for a season, church is the last place I want to be. I imagine it's how Adam and Eve felt when they ate of the forbidden fruit—hiding from God and wallowing in their shame. That’s not where God wants you to stay.

Don’t Waste Your Time

“If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). 

I can go to church, shake hands, plaster on a smile, and always respond with “great!” when asked how I’m doing. But if I’m unwilling to repent of my sin and worship, I’m just wasting my time. There isn’t any use in pretending. 

In this situation, the words that the enemy wants me to keep repeating to myself is that this sin in my life is totally worth it. Satan wants you to think that you can serve two masters, that it’s not that big of a deal. He wants you to believe that you can live a life of sin, and be completely fine going through the motions on Sunday morning. 

I don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting. Living a double life is something I did for years. “Great!” on Sunday morning, but on Monday through Saturday I was a completely different person—selfish and wicked. If it weren’t for God gracefully revealing that sin and allowing me to turn from it, I would still be stuck in that pattern. He is so faithful. 

The Cross is So Much Better

Coming out of the rut of sin is difficult. We naturally hate everything about God (John 3:19, Ephesians 4:17). Sometimes, when I feel lost and defeated, like there isn’t any way out of my sin, I find myself asking God to quicken my heart. I imagine Him pulling me out of the quicksand, eager to embrace me. It’s amazing how faithful He is to restore my joy in Him. Like the psalmist prays in 51:12, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

He is eager to restore you. That is the whole point of the Cross. He purchased you with His blood, not for you to wallow in sin while Satan barrages you with shame, but for you to share in His victory over sin and death. There is nothing more freeing that realizing that Jesus’ atoning blood takes away sin’s grip on you, and you are free to resist it. 

God wants you to remain in communion with Him. Because He is holy, sin drives a wedge between you and God that inhibits your worship and prayer. Sure, sin can seem fun, but the cross is so much better. Jesus is so much better. Sin never reveals the price tag of bondage and death, while Jesus’ death on the cross always displays the price tag of your freedom. 

The first thing that probably came to mind when brainstorming for this article was the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 5:24, Jesus tells his followers what must be done before they can offer any gift to God. “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

In other words, your worship isn’t worthy until you repent—make things right with your brother/sister. If there is sin in your heart, e.g., wronging your brother, then you must first reconcile things with that person before you are able to truly worship God. I think you can pretty much replace the emphasis on anger here with any other sin. So if you’re practicing lust, greed, pride, etc., repentance is necessary for worship. 

Come to the Altar 

The altar is where God wants you. And even if there is sin in your life, deep down that’s where you want to be as well. Like the prodigal son, Jesus wants you to come running home and cast your sinful burdens on Him because he cares for you. He wants your childlike faith that He will sustain you. Whatever you’re dealing with, lay it at the feet of Jesus. He is faithful to set you free from it. 

We don’t have to clean up and try to be perfect in order to come to Jesus. He accepts us as we are, and transforms us through His Spirit. Perfection is needed to stand before God, but only the perfection of Christ imputed to us. To me, that is an overwhelmingly peace-giving truth. The burden for perfection is not mine, it has been fulfilled in Jesus. I can live, knowing that it is Christ that lives in me. I can worship, knowing that it is the unquenched Spirit enabling me to do so. 

God desires and grants us to come to repentance, and I suspect that worship is a major reason for that. He wants us to approach His throne with clean hearts and clean hands to offer our worship to Him. He wants us to be able to come to Him and lay it all at His feet. 

Why would you want anything less than to be able to sit at the feet of Jesus and freely worship Him? When we let go of whatever sin is keeping us from that, we experience a freedom that we don’t want to let go of. Complete and unbroken communion with the Father is infinitely more valuable than the sin that is wedged in your heart. Don’t let Satan try to convince you otherwise. 

Topher Lee Haddox is a caffeine-addicted husband, daddy, and drummer. Born and raised in Louisiana, Topher enjoys the great outdoors and his fascination with hiking. He can usually be found swinging in his hammock, coffee in hand, or pecking away at his next article. He has a deeply ingrained passion for worship and feeding others the Word of God. His work appears regularly on Crosswalk. Visit his blog at

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/m-imagephotography