A CALL TO WORSHIP
The word “pro” means before or to bow before and the word “skyneo” seems to be a derivative from the word kiss. Together the word indicates one who bows or even prostrates himself before someone and kisses his hand as a dog kisses the hand of his master. This a delicate and powerful verb and it brings strong and profound images. It is the word most used in the New Testament when translated worship. It not only requires an unusual focus without compromise, but it requires a knowledge of the object of our worship that is so powerful it literally breaks us away from the temporal and ushers us into an eternal realm which is filled with His presence. It is unlike anything upon this earth.
You can see people idolizing rock stars, and Hollywood actors, and politicians, and even religious figures. That may appear to be a sort of worship and in the fallen realm it is. But that is purely idol worship whether it is a man or beast or a material thing or even part of the creation. It is an abomination before God and He literally hates it. That kind of idol worship is rampant through this fallen nation as well as the entire world. And it has infiltrated the church as well. I will deal with idol worship and true worship in the Spirit in this post.
Idol worship appeals solely to the flesh. But God created man to receive His goodness and worship Him. So man has a capacity, and even a need, to worship. And if he does not know God through Christ then he finds something that he can worship. It can be a job, or a car, or a house, or a person, or his own success, or a philosophy, or nature, or clothes, or his own body, or his intellect, or it can be any number of things. He may not prostrate himself physically before these things but in his heart he worships them. But that worship is all vain and nothing more than idol worship.
The only true worship is the worship of the Creator. It is why man was created. God has given man the highest privilege of worshiping Him which glorifies God and fulfills man. Now when a sinner is redeemed by faith in Jesus Christ his spirit comes alive and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within his being. This a great truth as well as a great mystery. But the Spirit of God is what gives us the desire and the direction of our worship. He empowers us to understand the magnitude and majesty of our Great God and he guides into a worship that truly glorifies Christ.
But please understand that worship is not music. True worship emanates from the heart of a believer. Now music can assist with worship if it glorifies God. And even the music itself can help lead our hearts and minds away from the earthly and temporal realm. Even instrumental music helps to insulate us from earthly distractions and allows us to focus on our Lord. The first use of the word “worship” is in Genesis and it relates to Abraham going to worship the Lord by the sacrifice of his son Isaac. My pastor friend Scott LaPierre reminded me of this truth and it does have obvious implications and applications. All true worship comes through the divine sacrifice of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can praise God for food and clothing and life and health, but worship is eternally tied to the cross.
I have passed by church signs which say “Exciting worship!” or “Contemporary Worship!” or “Great worship!”. Now those phrases not only misrepresent the essence of what it means to worship God, but notice that the adjectives have to do with how it moves us. It is a humanistic expression of that which should be sacred and holy and given to our Wonderful Lord and Redeemer. It is meant for His glory and His glory alone. But make no mistake, you cannot truly worship God without His presence changing you. If you are just temporarily blessed than you have enjoyed some good music, but you did not enter into His presence.
Now you cannot include worship in a multi-task situation. Rick Warren suggested that you can worship God even while taking out the trash. That is absolutely wrong. You can praise God in those kinds of situations, but worship cannot be done as a “kill two birds with one stone” kind of exercise. In order to truly worship God we must forsake the cares of this world, sanctify the Lord in our hearts, and seek His face without distraction or compromise. That requires sacrifice and time and a sincere heart which must not be set upon anything in this temporal realm. If you are worried about lunch after church you are not worshiping. If you are thinking about bills or a job or a child or anything in the material realm you are not worshiping in the Spirit. Are you beginning to see just how shallow these worship times are in so many churches. The worship leader can gently guide the congregation through the various music songs, but if he draws attention to himself, or if stimulates the crowd by the weight of his personality or exuberance, then he is a stumbling block.
Worshiping God is a sacred and holy place. It is a labor of love to cleanse yourself of all filthiness of the flesh and of the spirit, but we must be cleansed in the brazen laver even before we enter the Holy Place. No one can come out from the filthiness of this fallen world and rush right in and begin to worship God. A worship time is not part of a daily schedule which is allotted a certain amount of time. If time is a factor than worship is not. We must not only be redeemed, but we need to be cleansed by His blood and the power of His Word. If you spent no time in God’s Word or in His presence during the week then your Sunday worship will be soulish and not spiritual.
I am not saying that if you have been careless about your spiritual life during the week you cannot worship Christ on Sunday, but I am saying you must go through some sincere repentance. You have grieved the Spirit and you must make things right. That is why I believe it is wise and beneficial for the congregation to pray at the beginning of the service even before the music begins. To truly enter into the presence of God is not stepping into a closet and then leaving when you are done. I admit that being in God’s presence in a way which exceeds His general omnipresence is a wonderful mystery, however it is essential for believers even though it has been substantially lost to the western church.
But unless you truly take time in private to worship God you will be dependent upon auditoriums, a vibrant worship leader, great music, and a certain time and place before you can at least feel something. The average Sunday morning “worship service” is a well crafted event designed to move people emotionally and it has a time limit. So millions of church members come to a building on Sunday morning after having spent little or no time with God during the week. And the music begins and the worship leader comes out upbeat and exuberant and encourages the people to come alive. People begin to clap to the music and the praise band plays and the praise singers sing and after the allotted time it closes in prayer and the pastor rises to greet people. Yes, it is all so predictable and redundant. And that is what is called “worship” in the average evangelical church.
But I call your heart and mind to hear what I am saying. If you and I truly desire to be changed into the likeness of Christ in 2014 we will have to enter into a deeper place of prayer and worship in our personal lives. If we want our lives, our actions, our attitudes, our thoughts, and our beings to manifest the Lord Jesus we must first sit at His feet like Mary and listen to His voice, worship His Being, and seek His face through prayer and fasting. Nothing is born of God without travail. Anything of spiritual value is not given to those who are living for themselves or even those who have carved out precious little in their lives to meet with God.
Yes, we were given that opportunity this past year, but who among could claim we could not have done much better for Him? But here we are on the week’s eve of another year and that same opportunity is before us. I wish to step out on a fresh journey with many of you who feel the unction of the Spirit. I’m not speaking of forming some kind of club. But I desire a spiritual partnership, and internet church so to speak, which challenges us all and makes us accountable to God and each other. There is no distance in the Spirit. I believe God can use this medium for His glory in and through us. I am hungry for more of Christ and less of me. If that bears witness with your spirit then watch for my upcoming posts and let us seek Him together in a worship and prayer experience which gives a natural birth to servanthood.
Lk.7: 37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.
39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.
41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.
42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?
43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.
45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.
46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.
47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.
48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.
49 And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also?
50 And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
This sinful woman would not be denied. She desired to worship Christ. Let us ask ourselves just how relentless were in order to get to Jesus? Do we clear our schedules? Do we experience hunger pains when we are kept from Him? Do we care what others think? Do we speak on the phone more than we speak with Christ? Is our personal worship time so essential and so spiritual that it really is foundational to our spiritual life? And in the past month just how long and deep was your time with Him? And how dramatically were you changed in this past month?
Jesus was moved by the unashamed worship from this woman who was obviously had a reputation of immorality. But she did not care who saw her and she was not to be denied. Oh to worship Christ with such abandon that nothing else matters. To be drawn to the sec ret place under the shadow of His wings and there seek His matchless face with brokenness and worship and not to be even aware of time because you were being swallowed up in His glory has all but been lost to us today. Is that not what He desires from us?
Corporate worship has become a tepid and predictable exercise which resembles last week’s worship in time and depth. One closes his eyes during a song and blesses Jesus and as quickly as it began it ends. The service continues. It is a nice time of fellowship and the preacher does a good job and the music was a blessing. Next Sunday will be the same, and this coming week may see some devotional time which finds a small space between everything else. And so it goes.
If that is what we desire and what we think pleases God then all we have to do is repeat 2013 and we will arrive in December of next year just as we arrived in December of this year. Make no mistake if we truly desire to seek Christ’s face and allow the Spirit to slay us and remake us completely into His very image then this will be a great battle. Prepare yourself for the spiritual battle of a lifetime. This kind of journey has many dragons which are made by the world and the devil as well as many dragons of our own making. Do not enter the year with some kind of frilly vision of experiencing soaring emotions and having your earthly life blessed. No, it will take an unusual commitment that will require the entirety of you will.
If you can be compromised to the point of quitting you will. If you can I do suggest some times of fasting especially in the first weeks. Your flesh has been trained to think about and plan and to worry about all things pertaining to this earthly life. It will not relinquish its lordship easily. The battle will be intense and you will receive no real encouragement from others. In fact, you may well incur criticism. There will be no earthly reward. The reward will be Christ Himself.
The church has gathered together and invited Christ to come to our meetings. And yet all through the week the Spirit has invited us to come and meet with Him. His invitations have gone largely unrequited except a few convenient times which literally cost us nothing. We have convinced ourselves that we can rush into His presence and rid ourselves of the world’s stench quickly and after a half hour we rise to do what we had already planned and that is worship. We have accomplished our objective and we feel good about having had a “devotional” time. It cost us nothing.
In the Book of 2nd Samuel we see God angry at His people in chapter 24 because they had conquered their enemies and felt very confident in their accomplishments. The Philistines and the Moabites had been defeated as well as other enemies. King David was a great leader and this string of great victories made them feel superior. God told David to number the men in his armies, and as David did the Lord saw just how proud he was in their number and strength. David now had his eyes on men and not on the Lord. 70,000 people died of a plague.
So David wants to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord and he approaches Araunah the Jebusite and offers to buy his land in order to make an altar unto God. But Araunah the Jebusite gives David the land and even says he will give him the sacrifice for free. But David refuses.
II Sam.24: 24 And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.
Oh my dear brothers and sisters how often have we offered to the Lord that which cost us nothing? In fact have we not settled into a religious patter where God is offered a small section of our lives and we have come to believe He is pleased with our offerings? If you will allow me some obvious allegory:
David’s leads a blessed life. His armies have been very successful and he is king. He rises and has his Jewish coffee while he reads from Samuel’s Study Torah for a few minutes. He bows his head and asks God to bless him that day and after a handful of minutes he rises to begin another wonderful day. He has met with God and he feels very blessed. He loves his country, he loves his family, his loves his preacher, he loves his life, and he loves the Lord. What could be better?
And here we are today going through the motions and training our minds to receive affirmation from a god we have created. This is not a shower of guilt designed to make us feel bad. This is the truth being exposed before our very eyes. This is what we have constructed and it literally costs us nothing save a few pennies in the church coiffeurs. We now can live our own lives and invite God to visit us once in a while. It is so very American, in fact it is the religious American Dream.
Now if that is what we want we already have it. It has been perfected into a well oiled machine. We can give God literally convenient scraps during the week and go to the gathering and perform self affirming worship during the music time and leave the building to live exactly the way we did last week. It is very chic.
But if we really believe Christ deserves more, and if we really believe we can find more of His presence, and if we believe we can be changed, then it will cost us quite a lot. But the cost comes before the reward. That is the divine order. The cross comes before the resurrection. Be prepared.