Today’s post is part two of the lesson I taught in my church’s youth class a couple of weeks ago. As I mentioned last week, after teaching the lesson, I still felt the burden to share and to give a warning to my generation which is why I decided to post about. I gotta listen to IT, remember?
In case you missed the post I’m referring to, let me explain:
I was invited to teach on the subject of worship. This is something I’m extremely passionate about, so I didn’t struggle to come with a bunch of thoughts. In the first post of this two-part series, I talked about how terrifying some of the quotes I found in my research were. In this post, I want to talk about how raw and cutting the Scripture is and what it has to say about worship and love.
Betrayal is everywhere. It’s a bitter knife to the gut every time and leaves us hurting, angry and numb. Strange how you can feel both hurt and angry and numb all at once, isn’t it? The desire to never be hurt again creates a numbing barrier between our heart and the outside world.
Unfortunately, in the believer’s case, this barrier also comes between us and God.
I’ve talked in the past about the importance of forgiveness. It’s not a new concept to us and most believers are familiar with the verse that says “… if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15 ESV). I think, deep down, we always want to forgive each other, but what if we don’t follow through?
Until I started studying for this lesson, I never really put together the pieces of the salvation puzzle regarding worship and forgiveness. Now that I get it, I’ve noticed a new depth to my worship, a new charge or spark or fire. I’m in a new realm when I lift my hands and heart to the Heavens.
I want that for all of us. But it’s hard to get and, worse, hard to keep. Let me explain.
Worship is adoration.
That’s what makes it different than praise. You can praise someone you don’t like, all you have to do is compliment them. You can’t worship someone unless you adore them. It’s beyond pleasant words or action, it’s an all-consuming love. So consuming that it results in action.
You’ve probably heard it said that “worship is a lifestyle.” This simple phrase bears a much weightier truth. True adoration evokes consistent action.
When you fall head over heels in love, what do you spend your time doing? When I fell in love with Mr. MTBR (this is a reference to my work-in-progress memoirs which none of you but myself will get.. sorry 🙂 ), it looked something like this:
- Wake up, remember last night’s conversation with Mr. MTBR, say a prayer for him and wonder how his day will go
- Work, get a text or call from Mr. MTBR, commence daydreaming about the next time I’ll see/talk to him
- Lunch break, drive home and hear a sappy love song or quote on the radio, smile to myself thinking about the memory of Mr. MTBR it sparks, whisper a quick prayer that his day is going well
- Back to work, wonder every time my phone buzzes if it’s Mr. MTBR and if we’ll get the chance to catch up on the phone before bed, per sort-of-tradition
- Off work, head home to eat dinner and watch Netflix then take off to spend time with friends or go to church, all the whilst wondering what Mr. MTBR is doing with his evening
- Get ready for bed, text Mr. MTBR to see if he’s up for a chat, he usually is, hang up and fall asleep daydreaming about the possibility of the word “future”
Now that was a sickeningly sappy version of love. I didn’t mention the parts where life got really hard and he came through for me, or the parts where it got worse and he didn’t, but I loved him all the same. Love is more than a feeling, it’s a commitment and you choose to be in or out of it.
Anyway, the point is, love evokes action and thought. It’s not something you feel once a day or week or month. You think about the object of that love throughout the day. Now this kind of love, human love, is built on the concept of equality in worth.
Worship takes it a step further. It’s only in existence when you are less worthy than the One you’re worshiping. That knowledge creates an obsessive and extreme adoration for the One who is higher, which evokes action. In other words, when you truly adore God (that One who is higher), you spend your day constantly loving Him and reverentially loving on Him and therefore, your lifestyle becomes one of worship.
Worship and love have a lot more in common. Have you ever noticed that when you love someone and get in a fight with someone they care about, it affects your relationship with them? Things become stilted and awkward, you have a harder time relating to one another. Once again, it’s the same thing with worship.
Worship connects believers to one another. It is key in revival, not just because of how it evolves our relationship with the Object (a word which here means “Incredible, All-Consuming Spiritual Force that gives life to all and can take it away with a single thought”) of our worship, but also because it unites us together. When all of us are not thinking of ourselves, rather the God of the world, we are focused in mind and purpose – we are in one accord (Acts 2:1-5).
There is no more pure unity than in when we come together in worship. Take a moment to reflect on the times you felt closest to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Was it around the altar?
There is something about worship that causes us to forget ourselves and finally think of others first. When you realize that you are nothing in comparison to the One whom your heart adores, it’s easier to let your pride and ambition go. It’s easy to love one another, but sometimes hurt creeps it’s way into the picture.
Jesus was clear that the first great commandment is to love “the Lord your God” and the second is to “love your neighbor…” (Luke 10:27). There’s a reason those commandments are in the order they’re in. When you love God, when you worship Him, you automatically love your brothers and sisters.
Have you ever experienced what I call a “Holy Ghost high” after an incredible service and altar call? A Holy Ghost high looks a little something like this: You’re overflowing with love for God, gushing about how wonderful He is, and exuberantly participating in conversation with your friends. Suddenly, after being so entirely enraptured by the love of the One you adore, you find within yourself an endless stream of tolerance and love for the people with whom you just shared that experience.
This is how you, and the world, can tell if you are genuinely worshiping:
You will have love for each other.
1 John talks about this very thing, though I never realized it in the past:
… if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:17-18)
Do you remember that verse that talks about believers worshiping God in “spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)? Have you ever wondered what the “truth” part meant? I have, and after a lot of prayer and prep for this lesson, it stuck me. What if that truth is what the passage we just read says: love.
I felt fairly dumb about my realization after reading the next verse that literally says this:
… and this is how we know that we are of the truth… (1 John 3:19)
That makes so much sense, doesn’t it? To worship God in spirit is to allow our souls to love Him, and to do it in truth is to love one another.
When this began to sank in, I immediately began wondering what it means for us if we don’t love each other. I didn’t have to look long, just rewind to a couple verses earlier in the passage:
By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)
Let me rephrase this in layman’s terms, shall I?
If you don’t love your brother, you’re a child of the freaking devil.
HOLY CRA- er.. insert some sanctified exclamation here.
I mean, the Bible has always been clear on the importance of loving your brother, I guess I just wasn’t ready to see it. There are consistently references to God refusing us if there are things between us and others in the body of Christ. One of the most plain and painful Scriptures is in Matthew. Let’s replace the word “gift” here with “worship” to make it even more obvious.
So if you are offering your [worship] at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your [worship] there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your [worship]. (Matthew 5:23-24)
God is pretty serious about this whole thing. But just to lighten the mood, I’ll rephrase:
“Don’t even bother worshiping Me if you’re just gonna be all irked by your bro, yo.”
This is what makes worship so unifying- because it can’t be done with bitterness and anger towards your sister or brother. It can only be done in grace. When we love God, when we truly adore Him (Who, by the way, is Love – just check out 1 John 4:8), we love each other.
I’ll end with this wonderful, beautiful encouragement:
Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:21-24)
“This is how all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.” -Jesus, the God whose love was so great that He died for us.
What are your thoughts? Please keep it friendly. 😉