Why Do I Worship?

Graceway MediaNot long ago I was reading from Matthew 15:7-9. Jesus was addressing the Pharisees and said, “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (ESV). After reading these verses, I spent most of the day examining my own worship to see if there were any part of me that was merely honoring God with my words, but my heart was far from Him.

When I arrived home from work that evening, the first words out of my wife’s mouth were, “You didn’t call me today!” She was not angry, but surprised. You see, after years of marriage she is accustomed to my calling, emailing, or texting her several times a day to see how she is doing, say “I love you,” and just to talk for a few minutes. So, it was very unusual for me not to contact her in any way for a whole day.

Without any explanation I quickly replied, “Do you want me to call you because I love and miss you, or because I feel guilty for not calling you all day?” Understandably, she was shocked at first, then hurt, and finally a bit concerned. She asked, “Do you ever call me out of guilt and not out of love?” I quickly assured her that it is because of my love that I call her almost every day, and that it had just been one crazy, eventful day at work. Then I talked with her about my Bible study that morning (Matt. 15:7-9). I had asked her the question, not to be a jerk, but to see her reaction to the thought that I might just be honoring her with my lips and not my heart. We want our spouse to love us, long for us, and be honest with us. My comment left her wondering, “Is he faking his love for me, and if so, for how long?”

Shirley’s reaction and the following conversation made both of us stop and reconsider our daily acts of worshipping God. Is my quiet time, which consists of prayer and Bible study, just something I cross off the list each day to feel better about myself spiritually? Do I listen for God during quiet time or just hurry through it? When attending a worship service, am I more concerned about how long it takes, what I have to do after church, or how it affects me more than lifting up praise, adoration, and thanksgiving to the One who died for me? Am I just going through the motions of what is expected? Is my spirituality a mask I put on to play a certain part when I am around my Christian friends or at church?

None of these “spiritual activities” are true worship. Jesus has commanded us, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). Just as we would be offended at someone faking their feelings for us to get something they wanted, so is God! Worship, Bible study, church, living a righteous life, and obeying God’s commands are not things we do to keep from angering God. These good things are not to be practiced so that He will give us everything on our wish list of wants, needs, and desires. Worship is giving to God what He deserves. As the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Christians should reflect the character, attributes, love, and holiness of God. We don’t do it because of what we might get, but because the Spirit of God resides in us and that is who we are in Christ.

I don’t want to live a hypocritical life. I don’t want worship to be out of guilt or something I do for my benefit.  I want my worship driven by an insatiable thirst for God’s glory, honor, and praise. I want my worship to be the direct result of who I am in Christ. I want my worship to be something I live out every minute of every day. I want my worship to be sincere, honest, and from a heart of love!

Take time today to read Matthew 15:7-9 and examine your motives for worship.

An Outrageous Love!

When we are truly in love with Jesus, there are no feelings within that can compare to the depth of love we hold for our Savior, Lord, and God. A genuine love for God requires every ounce of our being; there is no room for another. Nor is there a love like that between The Groom and His bride, between The Deliverer and the delivered, or between The Redeemer and His redeemed. A true love for Him consumes us. It compels us to “love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength” (Mk 12.30).

Those who have never opened their hearts to receive this perfect love cannot fathom its depths. In fact, they think us foolish for demonstrating our devotion with lives surrendered to bringing Him glory regardless of the cost. They cannot comprehend the simplicity of thought that denies one’s self the temporal desires of this life in order to pursue the immeasurable, limitless, infinite pleasures which “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2.9).

However, those who have tasted the fruit of this sweet love gladly abandon their former worldly passions. They are no longer enticed by such bitter fruit, but are constantly satisfied and filled with a pure, unmerited, sacrificial love. A love with no pain, separation, or ending. They have gladly abandoned everything this world has to offer and counted it as loss that they might give themselves wholly to their one true love—JESUS!

It is curious that there are those who view such a love relationship with our God as foolish or strange. In his post “Oh, to Know Jesus!” Jon Bloom describes this relationship in simple terms that all can understand.

Bloom writes,

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord (Philippians 3:8).

One thing is for sure: Christianity is not for stoics. The Bible is the most wild, romantic book ever written. The New Testament is no cool, reasoned analysis of Jesus’s system of thought. It is a passionate book written by people who were ravished by Jesus, who felt and said ardent things like Philippians 3:8.

You know what the world calls statements like Paul’s? Religious extremism. Fanaticism. You “count everything as loss”? Sounds dangerous. Have you thought about seeing a therapist?

But the world is full of such talk when it comes to romantic love. We expect lovers’ language to be obsessive and imbalanced. Listen to the way the poet John Keats speaks to his beloved Fanny Brawne:

You have ravish’d me away by a Power I cannot resist: and yet I could resist till I saw you; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often “to reason against the reasons of my Love.” I can do that no more — the pain would be too great — My Love is selfish — I cannot breathe without you.

Keats’s overwhelming passion gave him a profound insight (in the same letter):

I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion — I have shuddered at it — I shudder no more. I could be martyred for my religion.
 Love is my religion and I could die for that. I could die for you.

Paul is no fundamentalist extremist driven by fear or anger to force his creed on others. He’s a man in love. Keats idolized Fanny. Paul worshiped his Lord.

Christians are people in love with Jesus. He’s not our worldview; he’s our Bridegroom. We pour over the Word and pray to commune with our Beloved. Theology is only worth studying to help us know him! Preaching, teaching and evangelism is not our vocation or obligation but a longing that others know him too. “For we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).

Our love for Him is an outrageous love in the eyes of the world. It is a love that demands all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. It is not possible to express this love with mere words. No, it must be demonstrated through the works of genuine faith. It is a life designed to bring glory, honor, praise, and worship to our beloved. This love may cost us our goals, dreams, desires, or even our very life. Nevertheless, we gladly relinquish these ephemeral flowers, which are here today and gone tomorrow, in exchange for eternal love which has been poured out for us upon Calvary. It was there that Jesus’ love paid the dowry to remove any and all obstacles which would prevent us from being betrothed unto Him.

In a relationship that demands so much, one might ask, “What is in it for you?” Our Beloved gives us everything we need for life and breath and meaning. In Him we have light in the darkest of nights, warmth on the coldest of days, hope in midst of hopelessness, strength when we are too weak to stand, vision for eyes shrouded in darkness, love for the unlovely, forgiveness for the most egregious of sinners, rest for the weary, food for the hungry, and oh so much more. He is our Redeemer, our Sacrifice, our Propitiation, our Hope, our Light, and our Love, the God of all creation, and our personal Lord and Savior. Is it any wonder that we “count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord, for whom [we] have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that [we] may gain Christ” (Philippians 3.8).

The True Measure of Greatness

Dear Jesus of Nazareth,

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interests above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel it our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and particularly Simon the Zealot have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale. Thaddaeus is definitely sensitive, but he wants to make everyone happy.

On of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.

Sincerely,

Jordan Management Consultants

Greatness starts with a heart hopelessly in love with God. That is the true measure of greatness!

Source: “The Apostle” by Gene A. Getz, pg 3-4

Dearest

George Beatty of Cleveland, Ohio, had a wonderful jewelry store, remarkable for its window displays. Over the years, Mr. Beatty had bought a stock of small precious stones that he kept in pint cups. He had a cup of small rubies, a cup of topazes, and a cup of diamonds—all sparkling brilliance. Some of them were small stones and chips that were worth very little. Early in the morning, before the customers came, he made pictures by placing the stones on black velvet squares; a magnificent peacock with its tail spread out was on one. He put these portraits in stone in the window, and many people stopped to look.

A wealthy customer wrote Mr. Beatty that his dearest granddaughter was going to have a birthday; he wanted something distinctive of real beauty. Five times in the letter, the customer spoke of the granddaughter as “dearest.” The old man looked at me and said, “I prayed and asked the Lord to give me an idea. I noticed how many times ‘dearest’ appeared, so I underlined it. When I sent my customer the sketch and told him what I proposed to do, he was greatly pleased and thought my idea was wonderful.”

Mr. Beatty sent him a ring with baguettes so beautifully cut that the light scintillated from them. Across the top of the ring, the first stone was a diamond; the next, an emerald, then an amethyst, a ruby, a second emerald, a sapphire, and then a topaz. I looked at it and asked, “Buy why do you have two emeralds?” He smiled and said, “Because there are two e’s in ‘dearest.’ If you take the initials of those stones, it spells the word ‘dearest.'”

Before the Lord God Almighty created the sun, the moon and the stars, He chose us, and—as it were—He put us in a ring to be worn as a signet upon His hand. Spelled out in the heart of God, we are his dearest.

Source: “Timeless Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching” by Donald Grey Barnhouse.

Is it Biblical to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?

Trevin Wax gets to the heart of this issue in his post “Is it Biblical to Ask Jesus Into Your Heart?

Trevin writes:

The Southern Baptist blogosphere has erupted in conversation on whether it’s proper to use phrases like “asking Jesus into your heart,” “accepting Christ,” or methods like the “sinner’s prayer” when sharing the gospel. Like many online conversations, this one has tended to generate more heat than light, and I get the feeling that good folks on both sides of this issue may be talking past one another.

This discussion over methods and terms has been bubbling under the surface for a good while now. A younger generation of pastors look out at the state of evangelicalism and are rightly concerned that many people with cultural Christianity in their background cling to assurance they are saved despite an overwhelming lack of evidence of genuine conversion. It’s no surprise that some pastors are blaming the methods and terms that became prevalent in the previous generation. That’s why we hear a pastor like David Platt consider a phrase like “asking Jesus into your heart” to be “dangerous” and “damning.”

The response to this critique has been to trot out the biblical and historical precedent for using such terminology. That’s not hard. The idea of “receiving Christ” is all over the New Testament. It is certainly a part of the good news that we are not only in Christ, but that Christ is in us. Pastor Steve Gaines’ rebuttal to David Platt, for example, focused on the biblical preponderance of such language and how it offers a full-orbed view of what takes place when a sinner places faith in Jesus Christ.

A Global Perspective

The first time I questioned the legitimacy of expressions like “ask Jesus into your heart” was when I was a student in Romania. Several Romanian pastors challenged the use of such terminology. They considered it to be another example of the American tendency to water down the nature of true repentance, and they recommended the use of such phrases only if fully explained. They saw these expressions as distinctively “American” and worried that they did not give sufficient weight to the idea of surrendering one’s life to King Jesus in repentance and faith.

Though some in the Southern Baptist Convention want to make this a debate between Calvinists and non-Calvinists, a broader perspective shows that this is part of an ongoing conversation between Christians in the U.S. and Christians in other parts of the world. The pastors I knew who had concerns with this language were not Calvinistic at all. Still, they were afraid of creating false converts and offering them false assurance. It ought to at least give us pause that many Christians in other parts of the world are uncomfortable with this terminology.

The Real Issue is False Assurance

At the end of the day, the conversation about “the sinner’s prayer” and “asking Jesus into your heart” is not really about the legitimacy of such methods or the biblical justification for using expressions like “having a personal relationship with Christ” or “receiving Jesus.” I believe that properly understood and explained, any of these methods and terms can be used, to good effect. And I bet David Platt would have no problem at all with the careful way that Steve Gaines explains what it means to “receive Jesus.”

The real issue comes down to finding our assurance in these methods and phrases. False assurance is when a pastor says, either explicitly or implicitly, “as long as you walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, or asked Jesus into your heart at some point in time, you’re safe.” It’s the kind of false assurance that doesn’t take into account a Christian’s fruitfulness (as Jesus commanded us to) and tries to convince tares they are wheat. The debate is not really about the usefulness of a sinner’s prayer, but the grounding of one’s assurance in a particular moment in time where one felt remorse for sin, regardless if true repentance was present or later evidenced.

Growing up in independent Baptist circles, I recall how much emphasis was placed on the moment of conversion. Revival speakers would come into town and scare us as teenagers, telling us, “If you don’t remember the when, the where, the how, and the who of when you got saved, you’re probably not. So come down and get it settled today!” Multiple baptisms were good for the evangelist’s PR and dozens of teens getting re-baptized made the church feel good (“Look what God is doing in our young people!”).

Despite the hype, I never got re-baptized. I couldn’t articulate all the reasons why this was wrong, but I knew something wasn’t right. It felt like the shenanigans of these revival speakers put way too much emphasis on a moment in time and not on a life of fruitful faith.

True Conversion

This conversation about our methods and terminology in evangelism is an important one. I just hope that people who share a lot of the same concerns will understand the common ground they have and not impute mistakes to one another.

To my young pastor friends, we are often more apt to express concern about the precision of evangelistic language than we are to celebrate the passion of evangelistic outreach. Let’s not impute the excesses of revivalism to everyone who uses terms that are familiar within that stream of evangelicalism.

To my older pastor friends, please don’t assume that those who critique shallow evangelism are necessarily criticizing you or your ministry. And don’t think that young guys are gun-shy when it comes to evangelism, afraid to call people to personal faith and repentance, or have a problem with a moment of conversion.

Again, the issue is one of false assurance. No pastor wants to stand before God and find he offered false assurance to someone who showed no signs of genuine repentance and faith. We all ought to tremble at the thought.

Meanwhile, is it biblical to ask Jesus into your heart? Absolutely. We ought to say more than this when we evangelize, and our main focus ought to be on the biblical terminology of repentance and faith, but surely it is proper to speak of receiving Jesus.

Let’s just make sure we explain our terms and phrases so that the nature of true repentance and saving faith is communicated clearly, boldly, and graciously. I hope that’s something all of us can agree on.