Wander or Worship

If your life means so little that you are content to wander through life and come together each week to “worship,” then you haven’t freely given your life to God as a true worshiper.

 

Painted Ladies 0102Worship alone brings unity in the diversity of life

Individually, we are very complex. God made each of us individually so unique. I love the diversity in life. I love it very much. I love the different people groups. I love what each people group brings to the experience in this world. In fact, the older I get the more I value and appreciate diversity.

Individually, each one of us is so diverse. God did that for a reason. If you are married, you have the opportunity to see in that other person what you lack in your diversity. You get to see it every day, if you are paying attention. That helps you to complete the human experience God wants you to have. If you don’t have the opportunity to be married, you have a similar opportunity to complete your human experience through people you confide in as trustworthy companions. They will reflect to you some of what you lack. God records for us in Genesis 2 that this experience is what it means to become one, to complete your human experience through another human. Therefore, even in our diversity, we are completing one another, especially the people we allow ourselves to be very close to. While there is great value in these close relationships, we will only to be fully known, and know ourselves, when we see Jesus face to face, Colossians 3:4.

The worship of God is the key factor in bringing the diversity of our lives into one purpose.

 

True worshipers worship in spirit and truth

John 4 is a familiar passage to us, if we have spent much time in the Scriptures or listened to others instruct from them. Let’s set the scene. The disciples and Jesus are travelling north, and the disciples would rather Jesus go around a particular area. Jesus is not going to go around, but through the area, because He does only what the Father tells Him to do. As they travel together through this area, the disciples are uncomfortable for familiar reasons. They feel threatened, and they feel insecure. So, they run off into town to get something to eat at a fast food place and get back to Jesus as quickly as they can.

In their absence, Jesus sits down by a well. Which, by the way is the same well where God met with Jacob. That alone is a very important truth that we can consider at another time. So, Jesus is at the well, and the disciples have run off into town. It is the middle of the day, and a woman comes to the well. Jesus, while at the well, hears the Father tell Him to talk with this woman. Jesus asked her for a drink of water.

Jesus begins to dialogue with the woman about water, which leads to living water, and the disciples come back. When they return, they find Jesus in conversation with this woman at the well, and they are even more uncomfortable now. They cannot grab Jesus and get going north fast, which they had hoped they could, because Jesus is sharing the Father with this woman. As recorded in verses 19-20, the lady responds with a sincere desire to worship. In verse 23-24 we get to our text where Jesus says, “…an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father is spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” When your read a text, if you want to study it, look for the key words. Key words are words or phrases that if they were removed from the text would leave the text making no sense, and void of its meaning. There are three key words I want us to consider as it relates to worship; true, spirit and truth.

True

There are many people on a professional football field during pregame that are wearing something that identifies them with the team, such as badges or lanyards. To be a true worshiper is to go beyond the association, and submit your life to every aspect of the team goals. It is not even enough to show up and wear the jersey. A true player aligns every aspect of who they are to every goal of the team. Therefore, there are few people on this field that are true members of the San Francisco 49ers. To be a true worshiper of God goes beyond associating yourself with Him, and into yielding every aspect of your life to God to align with His goals. That’s a true worshiper.

Spirit

To worship in spirit is to make a choice to connect your mind with the mind of Christ, to what is important to the Father. James 1 is where

James uses a word we don’t like, the word religion. In our day, we associate this word negatively as an impersonal relationship with God, a relationship to God where we imitate the creed of others without variance in word or deed. For James and his audience, the word religion means something right and good. It means to understand what is important to God and associate yourself with that. The only way to understand what is important to God is by the Spirit. In chapter 5 of James, he instructs his audience about prayer. In James 5:16 he uses two words, effective and accomplish, which are the same word. Effective prayer is accomplishing prayer. That can only be done by the Spirit according to the will of the Father, Ephesians 6:18. Inside of every believer, the Spirit of God is forcefully and persistently seeking and asking for the will of God, James 4:5. James knew the Spirit of God as the only source for anything effective or accomplished. Paul will forcefully teach the same in the years following the letter of James, 1 Corinthians 12:6-11; Galatians 3:5, 5:5-6; Ephesians 1:11, 3:20; Philippians 2:12-13, Colossians 1:27-29, 1 Thessalonians 2:13. If we are going to be true worshipers of God in spirit, we must train our minds to connect to the Holy Spirit.

Truth

Jesus captures this in Luke chapter 4. As Jesus is in the wilderness being tempted by the devil, he offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship before the devil, verses 5-7. Jesus responded to the devil in verse 8, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” It is in the second half of the verse that we see the expression of what it means to be a worshiper in truth, “and serve Him only.” To respond to God, to serve God according to what you hear from the Spirit is to worship in truth. The discipline and training for this kind of life happens by the Spirit as you humbly expose yourself to Him. Through such time in relationship with Him you learn to recognize His voice, and respond to it. Therein God continually express the truth through you. To worship in truth is your responsibility, it is your freely given response to do and say what He tells you to do.

 

Game IMG_0118More than wearing the jersey

To be a true worshiper in spirit and truth is more than wearing the jersey. It is choosing to learn and align every part of who I am with goals of the team. Think of some of the things professional athletes go through — the exercise, the diets, the dietitians who live in some of their homes, and the athletes learning how their body responds to different exercise and foods. The athletes seek to align every part of who they are to the goals of the team. Along the way the athletes learn to recognize the voice (spirit) of the instructor, to recognize his or her ways and acts (Psalm 103:7) and they freely yield to the coach in service (truth).

God is eager about you and your diversity

There is nothing about the diversity in you that God is not interested in. There is nothing He is not eager to evaluate and encourage. He desires us to reason with Him, and evaluate according to His Spirit in the way God wants us to go.

In John 12 we find a picture of what the life I am trying to describe looks like. The events recorded here are some of the most exciting and at the same time saddest true stories recorded in the scriptures. Here is the time when Jesus gets the word that His earthly life is about over. Surely it was a solemn word for Him.

Jesus lives His life in such submission and dependence to the Father that He only says and does what He believes the Father is instructing Him to say or do. We know Jesus is God, but we also know from Philippians 2 that Jesus did not utilize His attributes as God while among us. I don’t know exactly what that looked like in His experience. But, we know from Isaiah 50:4 that the Father awakened Jesus each morning to disciple Him.

Beginning at verse 12 of John 12 we read, “On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, “Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.” Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.” These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. So the people who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead, continued to testify about Him. For this reason also the people went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him,” John 12:12-19. Here is the high point where Jesus seems to be well liked by many. Many are wearing His jersey, except for most of the religious leaders. Those wearing His jersey want to make Him king. While in that experience, Jesus encounters another most disappointing thing beginning in verse 20.

“Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus,” John 12:20-22. It was at the point of this event that Jesus understood His earthly life was near the end. Perhaps the Father had told Jesus in their morning discipleship that today would be the day. Perhaps Jesus had been told weeks, months or years before. But, regardless Jesus knew that when these Greeks come to see Him, He needed to take a deep breath. His earthly body was about to stop working.

 

A life freely yielded to God in worship

Jesus responds to the disciples in verses 23-26, and it is here that we find a picture of a life freely yielded to God in worship. Don’t fail also to consider that Jesus now knows the end is near, and the Father gives Him things to say we would be wise to pay extra attention to. After all, humanly speaking, the person who knows the number of their days usually lives differently than the person who knows their days are numbered. “And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit,” John 12:23-24. A grain of wheat is initially hard, and narrow, and self-contained. But, when it yields to elements around it, all of its diversity unifies in support of one purpose to become what it was made to be. The grain of wheat far exceeds what it could have ever been had it remained sealed up in a protective pouch. In other words, Jesus has just told Andrew and Philip that they would find their lives as they freely give their lives away, according to His ways and actions.

To be a true worshiper can be understood as one who not only wears the jersey, but also goes beyond that expression to willing yield every part of their life to what the instructor would have. That is what Jesus just said. A grain of wheat yields everything that it is to the elements around it, as it then becomes something it could have never imagined. Without yielding to the elements, the grain of wheat will never realize the creativity inside of it. The diversity would remain unused.

Self-preservation

John 12:25, “He who loves his life loses it,” A friend of mine, my age, who manages financial resources for people, made an interesting discovery. Among a few 100 employees at a Fortune 500 company he works with, he found that married couples raising their children typically accumulate more for retirement than the couples with double-income and no children. Now, I am not saying either way of living is right or wrong. But it is interesting to me that people who give their lives to someone else learn to sacrifice in ways they would otherwise not need to. As a result of learning to live on less, they often save more and give more away. As parents equip children, we may be seeing the way and eventually the value of losing your life in giving (in an earthly context) being played out.

John 12:25-26, “…and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Hate means to love less. I love my life less than now than when the Lord and I started this covenant, meaning I am much less concerned about protecting my earthly pursuits today than I was in 1975. “Life eternal…” in verse 25 is in a different order than Jesus normally spoke. Here His emphasis is on this earthly life. Life eternal is a life that experiences God’s kind of life now as you give your life away according to His purpose for you.

A promise

Look at the promise in verse 26. Promises like that are what keep me going. “If anyone serves (is continually serving) Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” Parenthesis mine. Serving and following is the truth part of true worship. If God sends me over there to do or say something, and I go, I have a promise in these verses. In obedience I will find He is there, waiting for me. He will not send you somewhere He is not. This truth came vividly to my spirit and mind nearly one year after Donna and I had moved to Kentucky, having left our professions and income to give our time fully to the ministry there. Our oldest son, Kyle called us. He wanted to read me a verse to encourage me. Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” The call from Kyle was incredibly encouraging for me. Our son had taken the time to purposefully encourage me with the Scripture. His thoughtfulness was encouraging, as well as the Word. Little did Kyle know, but I had recently sat on the floor of our cabin and labored with doubt over whether God was with us there or not.

I told Kyle of another verse in Deuteronomy, when Moses said he wasn’t going forward with these people unless God was going with them, Exodus 33:15, 17. “Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here… The LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing of which you have spoken; for you have found favor in My sight and I have known you by name.”

If we learn to recognize His Spirit, yield our lives to Him, and He sends me to do or say something, and I go I will find Him there. The Father will be really proud of that kind of living. That is really awesome, even amazing. So, in this way I learn to live in dependence more on His friendship than on yours. This way doesn’t lesson your friendship to me. It actually puts it in the right perspective.

 

Wander or worship

If your life means so little that you are content to wander through life and come together each week to “worship,” then you haven’t freely given your life to God as a true worshiper. You’re not living in spirit and truth. You’re not worshiping. You’re not doing the instruction we have just considered.

Worship and His pleasure

God made you for a purpose, and when you do that you experience His pleasure, John 12:26. In this context, there are times when life becomes so full that it seems there is not enough of you to keep up with what God seems to be doing with you. All has become an offering to God.

As you freely yield the diversity of you to God, all the pieces of you find unity there. God doesn’t change the pieces of you, but continually teaches you how to express them in a unified way according to His purpose. The only unity there is in this life or beyond is found in freely yielding to God. He desires to focus you into the expression of Him in its various forms, Romans 12:6-8, 1 Peter 4:10. As life becomes worship you are no longer content with anything else, such an exciting way to live. That is true worship in spirit and truth.


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