Both Cain and Abel worshiped the Lord by means of sacrifice (Gen. 4:3-4). Despite the fact that they both offered a sacrifice to God, only Abel’s was deemed acceptable (cf. Gen. 4:4). In the eyes of man, Cain’s offering would have appeared visually acceptable and sacrificial. However, that is not what makes sacrifice or worship acceptable to God. Abel’s was received and Cain’s was rejected (Gen. 4:5) because one worshiped God according to His ordained way and the other didn’t (cf. Heb. 11:4; 12:24). Because it is not revealed in Scripture the reason why Abel’s offering was acceptable, we can only assume that the Lord had revealed the method to them prior (cf. Gen. 3:21) and by faith Abel acted on that (cf. Heb. 11:4).
Nadab and Abihu
Leviticus 10:1-3 records a sobering account of Aaron’s two oldest sons – Nadab and Abihu. The Lord had been clear concerning the way in which offerings were to be made (Lev. 1:1-7:38). However, these two men approached the Lord in a manner that violated God’s standard. They flippantly and foolishly offered “strange fire” while possibly being drunk (cf. Lev. 10:8-11). The issue here was that these men ignored God’s standard and came to Him in their own style. Such conduct ended in sudden destruction (Lev. 10:2). To learn about an example and evaluation of a contemporary form of offering “strange fire” click this excellent link.
By means of the prophet Samuel, the Lord instructed King Saul to destroy the Amalekites (1 Sam. 15:3). Saul defeated the Amalekites, however he spared their king Agag and selected goods (1 Sam. 15:9). Despite the fact that his act appeared to be virtuous and spiritual (1 Sam. 15:15), Samuel declared, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22). Sadly, many offer a kind of worship in their Christian life or in church that they deem worthy but it is not what God has required. They offer up words but they ignore what God’s word requires of them!
From these examples we learn that there is a kind of worship that is wrong. At the heart of it is the act of not coming to God on the basis of obedience. One can offer up the sincerest words and acts of sacrifice, but if it does not come from a life that lives in obedience to God it is wrong worship.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1-2)