Matthew 28: 16-17 (the message)
Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
In the verses above, the disciples are meeting a resurrected Jesus. Mary Magdalene had already seen Jesus and given His message to the disciples: I’m alive! Come and meet me in Galilee! Even though I try, I can hardly imagine what they must have felt and thought. And we see that although many of them began to worship Jesus the minute they saw Him, there were those who held back…uncertain about the risk of worship.
Worship can mean many things depending on who you ask. For me, in this stage of my life, worship has come to mean two things. First, the outpouring of my devotion, gratitude and love to God through singing, lifting my hands, closing my eyes, kneeling or just being still. Because I don’t want to fake it, I sometimes just close my eyes and imagine myself at the feet of Jesus. He’s sitting on His throne in Heaven and I am there at His feet…in worship…offering my heart to Him through words of thanksgiving and songs that express how I feel about who He is in my life. I have discovered that finding moments to stop and worship Jesus in my car or in my home have affected my daily life beyond the 9:30 appointment I have on Sunday mornings. I have felt God’s presence many times as I worshiped Him and the comfort and love I sense there is no doubt the glue that has held me and mends my life.
Another way I have been learning to worship the Lord Jesus is through yielding to Him as He speaks to my heart through the Holy Spirit. See, I think that worship is not just an outward practice. It’s not just showing up at your “place of worship” or even the acts of service we do in the name of worship. The Bible says God is looking for those who will worship in spirit and in truth. In Spirit…the core of who you are relating to the Spirit of God…the Creator. God is looking for those that will worship from the center of who they are. He is looking for those who will worship in truth…again, in my mind a humility and a brokenness before God. Realizing how majestic He is…how completely Wonderful…how Marvelous. Worship is a state of our heart. I could sing and lift my hands and appear to be really spiritual but if I leave the service and then consistently resist and refuse to yield to God then I must ask what does my hand-lifting and pious pose really mean? It’s a tough one, I know.
Even some of those that actually witnessed the miracles of Jesus weren’t sure if they were willing to worship Him…they were unsure about “risking themselves totally.” That really caught my attention this morning because to me, it seems like the heart of worship: totally risking ourselves with God. What are we risking? Maybe we risk hearing some things about our lives that Jesus wants to talk with us about. Maybe we risk the pain of letting Him into the darkest rooms of our hearts…the places we have double-bolted so no one can get in. Perhaps we risk being let down…afraid that if we really open up completely to God it will turn out to be nothing more than religious talk. Maybe we risk, and I’ll wager the most common, our pride and sense of control. When we live a life-style of worship we risk what other people will say or think about us. We turn from the flow of modern culture and swim against the current in a different flow…the rivers of grace and joy and surrender. A heart of worship will cost you initially, just as it did those disciples. Upon seeing Jesus alive and well, there were those who fell into worship and then there were those that wanted to weigh it out. Jesus still loved them. He still appeared to them. He still had plans for them. Jesus was still Jesus and would reign in power and glory and compassion regardless of whether they would worship Him and risk themselves for Him.
So, if God is still God no matter what then what is the point of pouring out my praise and yielding? Who is it for? What I find is that God deserves the worship but I am the one who benefits. How else can I find my way? How else can I draw closer and know Him more, except by offering myself. Every time you sense that desire on the inside of you to sing to Him or turn your palms up in surrender and song it is not only what He deserves, it is for you. When you draw close in worship He will draw closer to you. Do you risk the person’s opinion that stands beside you? Yep, you bet. And every time you sense in your heart God tugging and asking something of you…come back to church, extend forgiveness, quiet your gossip, give, don’t give up…it’s not only an act of obedience to a Holy God, it can be an act of worship and bring you closer to Him. Is there a risk? Yep, you bet. It’s hard to forgive, but it’s not about what is fair. It’s hard to take a stand and not gossip, it’s awkward to shine the light on what is wrong. And it can be quite difficult to choose not to give up because the devil tries to wear us out until we are ineffective. But here’s the thing: we find as we begin to risk ourselves that there is no real cost. Knowing Jesus, following Him, brings a kind of inner joy, peace and purpose that far outweighs the opinions of others. Its value far exceeds any cost to my pride.
Do I write this post today as though I am completely surrendered in worship? No I don’t. I don’t think anyone is perfectly surrendered and risking themselves 24/7. We are very human and Jesus so understands that. I believe it’s not so much about whether I am “there” yet as much as am I still heading in that direction? Am I still hungry to know Jesus? If that sounds a little odd try it this way: Do I still want to know more about God and His ways and how He wants to work in me more than I did last year or last month? Or have I grown satisfied with my worship? Oh, I question myself if I am satisfied! Not because I am trying to earn my Spiritual Points with God, but because I believe a heart that is longing for peace and more of Him will be a life willing to risk it. Risking self and discovering the cost pales to knowing Jesus so alive and well and waiting.