The Sacrifice of Worship
God wants YOU!
In Matthew 7:21-27, Jesus gives his disciples a revolutionary teaching. Just like us, the early followers of
God wanted an easy measuring stick to evaluate their value in God’s kingdom.
Having the right gifts and abilities, knowing the right phraseology, being known for powerful ministry – any of these things – do not make a worshipper! Frankly, God can do his work without us. He chooses to use us. He doesn’t want our successful ministry and gifts – he wants our hearts. He wants our lives.
In 1987, when Jim Bakker’s reputation and that of the PTL ministry fell apart and he was incarcerated, Jimmy Swaggart was purported to have been asked whether his ministry was in danger of falling as well. His apparent response was that his ministry would never fall because if it did, 90% of the world’s evangelism would come to a screeching halt. Less than a year later his encounters with a prostitute became public knowledge and he and his ministry fell. And 90% of the world’s evangelism didn’t come to a screeching halt.
Let’s get this straight. God longs for you to use your gifts for his work. His heart is broken by men and women who have started with a heart-filled passion for God and then lose it in the intensity of their ministry. We can never forget that even the words ‘our ministry’ are antithetical to a worshipper . . . it’s never ours. We are his servants.
God cares more about a person than he cares about their ministry. No matter how well you are known. No matter how important your gifts and talents are. No matter how much ‘ministry’ happens. No matter how much adulation you receive from the church or society. If your personal life is not developing a closer relationship with God, if your talk is different from your walk, if your private life doesn’t reflect a friendship with and passion for God – God isn’t impressed. He will do whatever he needs to do to bring you to a place of repentance and restoration.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Christian theologian and pastor who died at the hands of the Nazis, declared in his book The Cost of Discipleship, “When Christ calls a man (to follow him), he bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship [New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1963] p. 99). Following Jesus is not about pampering the self-will. It is about putting self-will to death. Christ does not offer us self-fulfillment, but crucifixion. Paradoxically, when we truly follow Jesus in this way, there is true joy, freedom and abundant life. In losing our life, we gain life.
Isn’t that what Jesus was saying in the Gospels about leaving everything behind so that you might ultimately find what is worth having? In Mark 8:34–35 Jesus “called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’”
Following Jesus is not a simple thing of just saying ‘yes’ to his offer of salvation! It begins there but the journey to becoming like Jesus is filled with sacrifice of self so that he might be glorified.
I will not offer to the Lord a sacrifice that costs me nothing.
Our life with Christ is based upon a covenant. And every covenant has two sides to it. On the one side are the things Christ covenants that he will do for us: to love us with an everlasting love, to forgive us of all our sins, to speak to us, to lead and guide us all our days, to prepare a place for us to dwell with him for eternity, to empower us with his Holy Spirit so we can defeat the enemy.
On the other side is what he asks of us: to lay down our lives for him, to die to our self-will, to seek first his kingdom, to forcefully take hold of the kingdom, to lose our lives for the sake of the gospel, to make all relationships secondary to him.
In fact, Jesus was so committed to this covenant that he willingly laid down his life on a cross for us. And he is so committed to the covenant that he reminds us that the cost of that commitment for him is no less than what he requires of us. In essence, discipleship is death – dying to ourselves and living for Christ. So much so that he says in Luke 14:27 that “anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” A true act of worship for a disciple is to lay down their life in preference to the One who laid down his for them. Each day a disciple works to fulfill their covenant with their Lord and Saviour by picking up their cross and following Jesus. Each day they invite Jesus to participate with them in whatever activity they do and look to participate in those things they see him doing.
I will not offer to the Lord a sacrifice that costs me nothing.
Our sacrifice of worship needs to be more than what happens on a Sunday morning. As important as that is to our worship practice and experience, our worship needs to move beyond Sunday worship services, worship songs and worship events. Our worship needs to intersect with our lives – our walk – because God desires to intersect with our lives, totally.
As I have studied and taught and attempted to live as a worship walker every day with God, he has surprised me in many ways with how he desires to communicate with me. He has surprised me with the variety of ways he has invited me to interact with him. He has encouraged me to worship him in whatever activity I am participating in. He has opened my eyes to see him and all his glory in the smallest of things, events and occurrences.
My desire with this book is not to provide you with a step by step ‘here’s how to’ journal of learning to live as a worship walker each day with God. My desire is not to stop or to discourage the use of music in worshipping God. I love music and I love to worship God through music. I love to lead others into worship through music. But I don’t want us to stay in the place where worship equals music. My desire is that through this book we will be able to begin a journey of exploration – exploring all the ways that God makes himself known to us everyday so that we might always be aware of his presence and always be living in an attitude of praise and worship to the Lover of our souls.
There have been many things which have helped me to explore a multiplicity of ways to enjoy worshipping God each day. I share them with you not so much as steps to follow but as suggestions to ‘jump-start’ you in discovering the wealth of worshipping God with every breath, with every step.
And so, in these next chapters you will find written the expressions of my journey of discovering how God can receive our worship and praise each day. My journey is such a small fragment of what God can do and is doing, but I pray that it will stimulate your hearts and minds to broaden your worship expression and experience.
Worship is for God. Let’s not limit ourselves in this world as we anticipate an eternity worshipping in his presence in the next. As we walk, let’s learn how to recognize where worship and life intersect everyday.
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