The Prize of Worship

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series The Heart of Worship

INTRODUCTION

Today is the last message in the series on “The Heart of Worship”. Before we begin this morning I’d just like to take a few moments to summarize what I spoke about in the last two messages in this series.Remember that the heart of Worship – the essence of worship is found in the midst of people who are hungry/thirsty for more of God. True worship flows out of a deep, wrenching hunger and thirst desire to know God and not only to know Him but to dwell in His presence. It goes beyond the ritual or traditional worship into true God-inspired worship.

The first message of the series was the presence of worship. From the words of Jesus in John 4:23-24 and through the illustration of these words in Luke 7:36-50 we learned that true worship is not determined by place or posture but by the attitude of our hearts and the longing of our spirits after the heart of God.

True worship is birthed from a heart that has reverence for who God is, that is humble and repentant, and that has a penetrating love for God. True worship is not only birthed from these attitudes of our heart but also from the longing of our spirit after God’s heart – when we seek the giver not the gifts and are concerned more with ministry to God rather than ministry FROM God.

Last week, in the second message, I talked about the price of worship. Through the account of the Israelites at Mount Sinai in Exodus 19:1-20:21 we learned that there is a big difference between worship and true WORSHIP! The Israelites didn’t enter into a place of intimate worship with God because they were afraid to pay the price and sent Moses in instead. Paul wrote in Romans 12:1 that our spiritual act of worship is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.

True worship is birthed by the attitude of our hearts and by the longing of our spirits after the heart of God but as the Israelites understood there is a price to remaining in this intimate place with God. The price of worship is ourselves! God wants us! In the process of bringing ourselves to God as living sacrifices in true worship there are some uncomfortable places that we’ll find ourselves: The place of repentance; the place of sacrifice; and the place of brokeness. As we begin to enter into true worship we’ll be confronted with the price that has to be paid and then we’ll have to ask ourselves – do we want to stay back and watch or do we want to enter into the intimate presence of God – knowing that it will cost us ourselves!

But after all this has been said, after we’ve learned about the presence of worship and the price of worship today it’s time to talk about the wonderful, blessed, glorious prize that is experienced by true worshippers in the midst of true worship.

PRAY.

The Call to Worship had just been pronounced starting Easter Sunday Morning service in an East Texas church. The choir started its processional, singing “Up from the Grave He Arose” as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the church. The last lady was wearing shoes with very slender heels. Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered that hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one shoe sank into the hole in the register grate. In a flash she realized her predicament. Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle. There wasn’t a hitch. The processional moved with clock-like precision. The first man after her spotted the situation and without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe, but the entire grate came with it! Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached. Everything still moved like clockwork. Still in tune and still in step, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight. The service took on a special meaning that Sunday, for just as the choir ended with “Allelujah! Christ arose!” a voice was heard under the church shouting…”I hope all of you are out of the way ‘cause I’m coming out now!” The little girl closest to the aisle shouted, “Come on, Jesus! We’ll stay out of the way.” (Autoillustrator.com, “WORSHIP”)

In another instance, after attending church with his father one Sunday morning, before getting into bed that evening a little boy kneeled at his bedside and prayed, “Dear God, we had a good time at church today, but I wish you had been there.” (Autoillustrator.com, “Worship”)

There are many people that miss out on the prize of true worship because they aren’t willing to “get out of the way” and let God do what He wants to do!! God has a great desire to enter into our services and manifest Himself to us but He won’t do it if we’re in the way. Sometimes we can be so organized, so proper, so “perfectly in time” with our worship that we resist any intrusion into the traditional order of our worship and thus place ourselves at a distance from what God wants to do.

When people worship God in Spirit and in Truth (discover the presence of worship, and embrace the price of worship) they will soon encounter the wonderful prize of worship: which is the manifested glory of God!

When you find yourself face to face with God’s glory you find yourself in a place that you don’t want to leave. Why? Because it is in this place that your very being finds completeness!

8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
James 4:8-10 (NIV)

What a wonderful promise! “Come near to God and He will come near to you!” It is echoed in the Psalms by King David and later by Isaiah.

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
Psalms 145:18 (NIV)

Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
Isaiah 55:6 (NIV)

However notice that this promise is followed James 4 by the commands:

Wash your hands, you sinners – True worship (coming near to God) brings you to a place of repentance.

Purify you hearts, you double-minded – True worship (coming near to God) brings you a place of sacrifice. God becomes your only desire – not one among many.

Grieve, mourn and wail….Humble yourself before the Lord – True worship (coming near to God brings you to a place of brokenness.

Yes, coming near to God can be a painful process. But the end result is that God draws near to us! And as James ended this particular passage – He WILL LIFT YOU UP! What does this mean? I believe that this phrase accurately describes two things that happen when you have a God-encounter as a result of true worship:

RENEWAL

The first aspect of this phrase, “lift you up” that I’d like to focus on is the idea that when God draws near to us is that there is a spiritual, physical and emotional renewal that takes place. He “lifts us up” spiritually, physically, and emotionally.

15 For this is what the high and lofty One says– he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite. 16 I will not accuse forever, nor will I always be angry, for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me– the breath of man that I have created. 17 I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways. 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will guide him and restore comfort to him, 19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel. Peace, peace, to those far and near,” says the LORD. “And I will heal them.”
Isaiah 57:15-19 (NIV)

ILLUSTRATION
There is a great lesson to be learned from the dictionary. When things start going bad, we often fear they will only get worse. It seems the “worse” will take us to the “worst”. To prevent the “worse” from turning in to the “worst” look at the unique set up God has provided in the English language. Any standard dictionary will separate the words “worse” (and it’s derivatives) and “worst” with one special word – “worship.” When circumstances seem to be slipping in the wrong direction, remember that worship is the buffer between “worse” and “worst”. (Websters Dictionary)

When God draws near to us in response of our drawing near to Him we move from…

a place of repentance into a place of righteousness…

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV).

There is a need for us to confess our sins before God in that place of repentance but the scriptures promise that, uncomfortable as it is we will come to a place of righteousness as God purifies us from all unrighteousness. A good example of this worship is found in Luke 18:9-14.

9 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

What is righteousness? Righteousness quite simply, is “rightness” it is the quality or condition of someone who is free from sin and is “RIGHT” before God. It is righteousness that allows one to stand in the presence of God. God will not draw near to unrighteous people because His glory will destroy them. God is a Holy and Righteous God and just as light dispels darkness – His holiness and righteousness will destroy unrighteousness. (When the High Priest went in to make the sin offering on the Day of Atonement he would have fellow priests tie a cord around his ankles in case he died so that they could pull him out. They would know he was dead if they stopped hearing the tiny bells ringing on the tassels by his feet as he went around doing his duties).

Sinful flesh dies in the presence of God and it was necessary that the High Priest make sure He was sprinkled with the blood from the sin offering and made sure that the Holy of Holies was smoky with the Holy Incense so as to veil His flesh from God.

When we go through the place of repentance in worship we are really acknowledging our unrighteousness or “not rightness” that keeps us from seeing God’s glory. But praise God righteousness has been made possible because of the one and only sacrifice paid by Jesus Christ. And this righteousness is gained by faith in Him.

21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
1 Corinthians 1:30 (NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV)

Now, because we are righteous before God, He is free to reveal Himself to us! There is something tremendously wonderful about knowing you are right in God’s eyes! And the truth of the matter is He wants everyone to be righteous.

I want to make one thing clear, true worship is not what makes us righteous but it is the vehicle by which worshippers can truly become aware of their righteousness before God – not on their own merits but by Jesus Christ. In the midst of this worship experience you are able to identify better with what Paul wrote to the Romans.

Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.
Romans 6:13 (NIV)

a place of sacrifice to a place of blessing
As I said in the second message, true worship will bring you to a place of sacrifice – but the sacrifice you bring to God will soon be forgotten as you begin to experience the blessings that God brings. But the ultimate blessing the most wonderful experience is just being in the awesome presence of God and having an intimate relationship with Him.

In the midst of this glorious worship experience we’ll start to see wonderful things happen that will blow away our concept of “church” and life as a Christian.

In the last message I used Romans 12:1, I’d like to repeat it here and then add the next verse,

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

Friends, in the place of true worship there is a transformation that happens! One of the greatest blessings we can know is when God renews our minds from an unrighteous way of thinking (the pattern of this world) into a righteous way of thinking (God’s way of thinking). Paul wrote, “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”. How many of you would like to know what God’s will is? True worship brings us to this wonderful, blessed place of knowing what His will is because of the prize of having God manifesting Himself in our midst and transforming us!!

a place of brokenness to a place of healing
One of the most wonderful of all the transformations that takes place when God manifests himself in the midst of true worshippers is the healing of one who has entered the place of brokenness. God takes the broken and contrite heart and touches it with His healing love. In the midst of their brokenness they feel a wonderful peacefulness and joy that is matched by nothing else on this planet – Has anyone here ever felt this before? You know what I’m speaking about then. This healing that is found in the presence of God is greater than any physician, psychiatrist, chiropractor, dentist, masseuse, or surgeon can give you! It is more powerful, more potent than that received from any painkiller, any prescription, and cold medicine, any head pills, any heart medication. It is greater than the thrill received from any drug or drink. Truly it is a taste of heaven. And truly we can experience a little bit of heaven on earth when we worship God in spirit and in truth.

These three things combined – moving from the place of repentance to righteousness / sacrifice to blessing / brokenness to healing – as a result of God manifesting himself to worshippers works a tremendous renewal in the life of the worshipper spiritually, physically and emotionally. You WILL be changed, and you WILL want more of God, and you WON’T want to leave!!

RADIOACTIVE

The second aspect of the phrase “lift you up” from James 4:10 might at first raise a few eyebrows. It is described best by the word, radioactive. That is, not only does God renew you spiritually, physically, and emotionally, but He also begins to use you to bring revival in the hearts of others. He makes you radioactive spiritually.

There is something remarkable that happens to those who are exposed to the glory of God:

29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, 35 they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD.
Exodus 34:29-35 (NIV)

When Moses returned from the presence of God’s glory on Mount Sinai he had been there so long that He reflected the radiance of God’s glory on his face when He returned to the Israelites. You can bet that they knew that something was different about Moses! In fact when they saw Him they were afraid to go near Him. Here was the man they had sent into the thunder and lightning to pass on God’s messages to them and now they were afraid just because they saw He was changed? No, they were afraid because they saw the presence of God’s glory manifested in the face of Moses!!

This happened in the life of the apostles as well because they spent time in the presence of God’s glory.

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 (NIV)

15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
Acts 5:15-16 (NIV)

True worshippers become radioactive as they spend time in God’s presence.

9 If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! 10 For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. 11 And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! 12 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:9-18 (NIV)

The true purpose of God’s presence manifesting in our lives is evangelism. The more that true worshippers hunger and thirst after God and linger in His presence – the more He begins to reflect Himself in their lives.

Have you ever asked yourself as a Christian, “Why can’t I win my friends to the Lord? Why is it that my family members just don’t seem interested in God?” The reason people who know you aren’t interested in your God may be because you are more worried about convincing them of God’s presence that you are with dwelling in God’s presence and letting Him convince them. Without the presence of God you are just another somebody to those around you!

But the true worshipper…when people are around them they know that there is something different about them. I remember when my wife worked at Bi-iway that she would sometimes come home and tell me of how she was amazed at the number of people that would come to her and start sharing their problems (sometimes their life stories) with her. The reason people did this is because Kerryanne was radioactive spiritually! God’s glory was being reflected in her life and people recognized there was something different.

Tommy Tenney made this statement in his book, The God Chasers,

“I don’t know about you, but I am tired of just being ‘another somebody’ to the lost around me. I have made a decision. I made up my mind and set my heart to declare, ‘I am going to pursue the presence of God in my life. I am going to get so close to God that when I walk into secular and public places, people will meet Him.’ They may not know that I’m there, but they will definitely know that He is there. I want to be so saturated with God’s presence that when I take a seat on a plane, then everyone near me will suddenly feel uncomfortable if they’re not right with God – even though I haven’t said a word.” (The God Chasers, by Tommy Tenney, p. 113-114)

What about you?

CONCLUSION

The prize of worship is the presence of God manifested in our lives and through our lives. In the story that was read this morning, once again we have a woman who was a true worshipper. The same woman who anointed Jesus feet, and anointed his head was once again on her way to anoint Jesus body in his death in worship. Yet when she arrived at the tomb she found her Lord and Savior gone and began to weep. On his way to the true mercy seat to sprinkle His blood as an offering for the sins of the world, Jesus heard the cry of a true worshipper and it arrested Him – Jesus returned to Mary to receive her worship. There is a tremendous pull on the heart of God that is exerted by the broken and contrite heart of a true worshipper. God will manifest Himself where people are longing after Him.

Do you understand the heart of worship?

Lowell Ogden tells the story of a little boy who lived out in the country around the turn of the century. He had never seen a traveling circus, and one was coming to his town on Saturday. When he asked his father for permission to go, his dad said he could providing his chores were done early. Saturday morning came. Chores finished, the little boy asked his father for some money to go to the circus. His dad reached down in his overalls and pulled out a dollar bill, the most money the boy had ever seen at one time. Off the little wide-eyed fellow went. As he approached the town, he saw people lining the streets. Peering through the line at one point, he got his first glimpse of the parade. There were animals in cages and marching bands. Finally, a clown was seen bringing up the rear of the parade. The little boy was so excited that when the clown passed, he reached in his pocket and handed him the precious dollar bill. Thinking he had seen the circus when he had only seen the parade, the little boy turned around and went home. Isn’t it sad that some people come to church like this little boy who went to the circus? They may come with the intent to worship God, but all they see is the parade – the parade of liturgy, hymn singings, prayers, and preaching. They peer through their pews at all the activity and then turn to go home at 12:00 noon; thinking they have been to God’s house, but yet they missed the main event – a personal encounter with Jesus Christ! (Autoillustrator.com, “WORSHIP”)

It’s time for us to get back to the heart of worship!

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