John 4:23-24 MSG
But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter. It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.
Who are you worshipping?
There was a time in my life when my worship was anything but authentic or true. Quite the opposite, in fact. I came face to face with that fact with a single question. One Sunday morning I heard God ask… “Who are you worshiping?” I stopped as a veil was lifted. I finally ‘saw’ with clarity how performance driven I was. My heart wasn’t right. My focus wasn’t on Him. I had been singing for my own glory, for a place of significance, because I loved it, meaning it was all about me, not about Him. Ouch. I was crushed. I honestly hadn’t realized it until then. He wasn’t condemning me, He never condemns. He just gently and lovingly asked the question and I knew that I hadn’t passed that test.
When you’re in the presence of God, His light exposes what’s truly in our hearts. Although I was cut to the quick with that simple question, He knew it was the right time; my heart was ready to receive truth and act on it. That’s redemption. My entire focus changed immediately and has forever been changed, or even better – it’s been redeemed.
I remember the most eye opening message I’d ever heard on the topic of worship had nothing to do with a song, or a musician or singing of any kind. It was the story of a father and a son and the ultimate test required of him. Reading this story blew my mindset on what worship truly is. In this case, it was pure trust and obedience that sang louder than any voice could ever produce.
Sometime later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
What a test! I don’t know about you, but this isn’t my idea of worship AT ALL. Notice that Abraham said “WE will worship….then WE will come back…” What complete faith. God tested his obedience, his worship in the form of offering up his promised son. Sound familiar? Seems like God did the same thing with Jesus, His only Son. “Selah”
But back to Abraham; he ‘seemed’ to have had no trouble in obeying God at all. He rose early, took the wood and two helpers, and proceeded up the mountain to do just as God had instructed. Continuing on in Genesis…
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” … (6-8)
Notice two things… First, Abraham put the wood for the offering on his son Isaac. I thought, wow – isn’t that what Jesus did? He carried that wooden cross that he himself would be crucified on. What a picture – a “type and shadow.” The Old Testament is so filled with these pictures, I love it!
Second, Abraham never questioned that God would provide a lamb, even as he was planning to offer up Isaac. This is where the “picture” ends and the real story takes over. I’m sure his heart was breaking as he lifted that knife to obey… Then BAM! God’s word comes down and He rescues Isaac, and Abraham too!
Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. (10-13)
So what has this got to do with worship?
Abraham’s authentic, true, pure obedience was a sweet-smelling “act of worship” to God. He trusted God, acted on that trust and passed the test. God was pleased.
The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you … because you have obeyed me.” (15-18)
It’s all about HIM
A true heart of worship is exposed and real before Him. It’s a “spirit to Spirit” connection that’s a lifestyle. When you’re standing before God, regardless of where you are physically, is your heart focused, exposed and truthful before Him?
It’s a battle for sure, but one worth the fight because being authentic before God is what He desires. He doesn’t need my performance; He wants my true self, my heart, plain and simple.