Friday, January 17, 2020
I’m stuck. The Lord has put up a roadblock and has asked me to stop for a while. My first reaction to a roadblock is always selfish – “How can I get around it to get where I want to go?” But I have learned that never ends well. So here I sit in my devotional car, stopped at a roadblock at the intersection of Heart Highway and Isaiah 58.
Isaiah 58:6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Twice in this passage the Holy Spirit emphasizes the condition of our heart as it relates to the worship of God. You see, worship is not external, but rather internal. Outward expressions must originate in a clean and pure heart. Worship is not an event, but a lifestyle.
The other day I saw two worship leaders from different parts of the country promoting their upcoming worship events. Both said it was going to be awesome. They used words like “epic” and “unbridled” – buzz words to create emotional responses. I personally know the hearts of both worship leaders, and I know how their lives are lived as consistent worship offerings to the Lord. But my question is this – “How do we know that worship will be epic if we don’t know the hearts of the people who will be attending the worship service?” We must not lower worship to the level of musical perfection or emotional enthusiasm. We must always make worship a response to the love of God in our hearts that has transformed our lives.
I desire emotional worship. I want quality sound, good instrumentation, and crisp vocals. I desire excellence in serving the Lord, and that excellence is an act of worship when done unto God and not for self-exaltation. But I also understand that those things do not create a worship atmosphere nor do they capture the attention of God. The condition of our hearts is what gets God’s attention.
It is hypocrisy to believe that we can worship God while we are harboring resentment against other people. It is self-deception to believe that God hears our prayers and expressions of praise while we are harboring sin in our lives. It is offensive to God to come to worship on Sunday or any other time and put on the mask of love for God when in the rest of our life we wear the true face of love for self.
This is the roadblock. Have we learned methods and traditions of worship that allow us to be fakes? Have we chosen religious rituals that offer us temporary satisfaction of our spiritual desires without the true transformation of the heart? Have we chosen to live as the people of Isaiah’s day?
Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
For many people, worship is the beginning of a new week, when they lay down the shortcomings and sins of the past week and look for a fresh start. Yes, that is important. But how different worship would be if we would come together to celebrate victories rather than reviewing defeats. What would our praise sound like if we were living every day as worship to the Lord? If we want worship to be real, it must be the response to what God is doing in our hearts, not the beginning of what we want God to do.
Let me repeat that with emphasis.
If we want worship to be real, it must be the response to what God is doing in our hearts, not the beginning of what we want God to do.