June 24, 2013

Worship from a new heart

This week, the flooded areas in southern Alberta are experiencing some ebbing of the rivers. However, the task ahead is unimaginable. Four-story underground garages are filled with water and floating cars. Many homes and businesses not only have water-filled basements but the first floor is submerged. Water is destructive by itself, but added mud, debris, fuel, rotted food, and dead things makes this task astronomical.

As my mind tries to wrap itself around just one home (my sister’s split-level), I feel overwhelmed and have difficulty keeping my attention on the needs at hand. Praying about them is even a challenge. Part of me just wants to ignore the whole thing, think of better things, or do my own thing. Today’s devotional challenges that attitude.

G. Campbell Morgan says that worship is finding my own life and yielding it completely to God. My first question is what does he mean that I find my own life? Jesus said I must first lose it and for the most part, my focus has been negative, the goal of getting rid of my sinful self. The trouble is, sin in me is a bottomless pit and sometimes looks like the gigantic mess on the television news. 
Where does one even begin to deal with all that displeases God? How can the unholy be made holy? The devotional says to read all of Jesus’ statement about losing my life…

Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 10:39)

Morgan says sacrifice and self-denial are necessary, but these are preliminary. I’m to take up my cross and die to the ambitions of selfish desire, but go beyond that. Jesus does not want my old life laid on the altar in dedication to Him; He wants the new life.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

The old life is dead, separated from God and useless. It died with Christ on the cross. The new life is that “living sacrifice” in this verse. It is created by God, holy and acceptable. When I come to worship, He says, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!” (Psalm 96:9) Put away the old and unholy, but find that new life and give it to Him.

Morgan also talks about an “inner song” in worship. This is the joy of the Lord who lives in the heart of all who truly believe. It springs up when the old self gets out of the way. It can be blocked by complaining, gossip and greed, but it can also be blocked by my self-efforts to be a good person.

In worship, the inner song must be there, finding full expression in a life yielded to Jesus. Outward actions and mouthing the words are not important. If I have not been worshiping God all week, I struggle to worship Him on Sunday morning. The inner song prepares and enables me to sing His praise, and that inner song is part of the new life, never the old.

It is also spontaneous, flowing out of a life that has been made new, not merely cleaned up. Using the flood mess again as an analogy, some of those homes will need a bulldozer, not drain hoses and disinfectant. They will never feel clean and right again, and are better razed and rebuilt.

That is what Jesus does with our sinful selves. Instead of fixing them up, He makes all things new, and out of that newness flows worship in the splendor of holiness. Almost without being aware of it, my life becomes a song, a praise, full of worship. This is what happens for those truly find themselves and become what God intends we should be.

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