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About this series
Breaking Through Life's Biggest Barriers
Do you ever feel stuck behind roadblocks in your life? Have you experienced boredom, loneliness, or a sense of futility that keeps you from growing spiritually? In Breaking through Life's Biggest Barriers, you will learn how to grow in your relationship with Christ, worship and serve with passion, and make an eternal impact in the world around you.More from this series
We find in John Chapter 4:21-24 Jesus ends up talking with a lady, a Samaritan. It’s very interesting in verses 21 and 22 they’re talking about geography and location. Authentic worship can happen anywhere. Now, we’re more open to that, but in that culture, that society, hey, God is gonna show up in this synagogue. Jesus said, “A time is coming when location means nothing.”
See, worship is not about form, it’s about function. It’s not about location; it’s about purpose. Worship can happen in a church building, nature, quiet moments, a human heart. 1st Corinthians 6:19 & 20 says, “Know ye not that your bodies are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?” God, we are told in scripture, doesn’t take up residence in things made by human hands, but what? In human hearts. If you know Christ as your Savior, if you’ve turned from your sin, believed on His death on the cross and His resurrection, and invited Christ to forgive you your sin. You’ve trusted in Him and He’s entered your life, you’ve been adopted into His family, the Holy Spirit lives within you.
You are His sanctuary.
It can happen anywhere. It can happen as you walk, it can happen as you talk, it can happen as you think. Every single moment of every day--anywhere, worship can take place, but it begins at a point in time when you say, “I want to worship You as a living sacrifice. This is me.”
Second, authentic worship flows from the heart. Did you notice that phrase happened two times? Worship in spirit. Everyone wants to know, should there be a big “s” there or a little s? You know, like in spirit has a big s—the Holy Spirit, or in spirit, out the human heart. From the context, it seems clear that it’s a small s. It’s from the heart because the Holy Spirit hasn’t even been given yet. But as we read our New Testament, what we know is both are true. It’s the Holy Spirit who teaches us how to pray.
It’s the Holy Spirit that leads and guides us into all truth, so both are accurate. But the idea here - Jesus is living in a world with religious ritual. Jesus is saying, “True worshippers have to be people from the heart.” Anytime you get honest, anytime you’re broken, anytime you say, “Oh God, I need You.” And you come just as you are, God says, “Wow, man I’m there, I’ll meet ya!” He’s just looking for people who’ll come honestly from the heart.
God has room for people that have blown it deeply, who’ve absolutely messed up morally, and they repent and they come back broken, and God has a place to forgive. Are there consequences? Sure, but He meets ‘em where they’re at. You want a father who’s seeking and pursuing you? First of all, realize worship happens anywhere—take advantage of it.
Second, authentic worship flows from the heart.
Third, authentic is rooted in an accurate view of God and of ourselves. Notice, in truth, it’s in spirit from the heart, in truth. Scripture is the standard for our worship.
John 17:17. Jesus is in the garden; He’s praying. He’s ready to check out of the planet, remember? “Sanctify them (He prays to the Father) sanctify them by Thy truth. Thy Word is Thy truth.” When we wanted to know what the object of our worship should be, what did Jesus say? “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” If you’re gonna have authentic worship, Jesus needs to be the center of it. What did Jesus say?
“If I be lifted up (what?) I will draw all men to Myself.” You see, worship has got to be much more than an experience—an emotional experience, even a religious experience. All kind of religions have all kind of religious experiences. It must be in spirit and in truth. The truth of Christ, the truth of Scripture, the truth of the resurrection. The truth of the character of God. What has reduced our worship in our day is? God has gotten so small, because we don’t think about God as He is.
God used to be so far away that people couldn’t get close to Him. And then this whole evangelical Christianity came in and we’ve swung the pendulum in our day where God’s everybody’s buddy. “Hey, Lord!” “Hey, Man upstairs, give me five, Man!” I got news for you, I got news for you. He’s a holy God, and when the people of the Bible see a holy God they fall on their face. And every time we open a curtain and you look at heaven, Isaiah 6, Revelation 5, anytime you get a peek at heaven, you know what you see? You see worship, and you see exalted angelic beings flying, and they cover their eyes, and they cover their feet because they are in awe.
They are in awe of the holiness, and the otherness, and the sheer power of the holy God who created all that there is…we are so glib with the God of the universe and we don’t think He can do much because we have shrunk Him down to our little size, and made Him our little, best- friend genie who works out our life. And we pray about parking spaces--I’m for that. And relationships and money and this and that. And you know what, when was the last time you thought, “Who is God?” And you worshiped Him for who He is.
And then to think that He would grant a parking space, or a life-mate, or a financial need, is humbling. That One so transcendent, so powerful, even knows you want a parking space. Let alone answers that. But you know what He is? He’s intimate and He’s caring, and He’s compassionate, and so He’ll just take me and He’ll take you where you are. He’ll meet you where you are; not where you oughta be. A right view of God and a right view of ourselves, that’s what truth does.
When you look at yourself, you’re full of dignity because you’re made in the image of God, but you are fallen and I am fallen, and we are sinful, and the heart is desperately wicked above all else. And when you worship, you will find something happening. The closer and the closer and the closer you get to God, you will not have any problem with humility because God’s holiness expands. And you know what happens? Your sinfulness expands.
See, most of us--we think God grades on the curve; He doesn’t! He’s 100% pure--100% of the time, all the time. He doesn’t grade on the curve.
So you know what I do? In my weaker moments, and I have many of them, I find someone who’s a little less holy than me and I compare myself to them, and I think, “You know what? I’m doin’ pretty good, ya know? I don’t swear anymore, I’m doin’ this a little better, and… Then I get before God and He lets me see some of my motives in ministry and then He lets me see little things that come out of my mouth that reveal a heart that is so selfish. And then He lets me see some…just junk. And there are times when I have a great time praying. I just think, “God, how do You even put up with me?”
He says, “Jesus. That’s how I put up with everybody. He loves you, He died for you, He paid for that sin that I just pointed out.” And you’re in a life-long process of Him renewing and transforming you.
Well, are you a worshipper that the Father is seeking? Do you worship anywhere? Does your worship come from the heart? Does your worship reveal an accurate view of God? An accurate view of yourself?
Well, let’s move on. How can you experience greater intimacy in your worship?
Let’s get real practical. Let me give you some tips, if you will, from people who have walked with God a lot longer than me and a lot longer than most here. I think one of the greatest problems in our worship is lack of balance. We tend to get into ruts very quickly. Certain forms, whatever form we grow up with we think that’s “the way.” It’s amazing. If you grew up with hymns, and God spoke to you with hymns, you think hymns are what we ought to sing. Some of us that came to Christ through choruses, think choruses are where it’s at.
Some of you who came to Christ with electric guitars, you know. I tell you, God couldn’t even be in the building if there’s not an electric guitar and drums, because that’s how you came to Christ.
There are some of you who think you’re not really worshipping unless you raise your hands. And there are some of you who think if you do raise your hands, please don’t worship next to me. There are some people that unless the organ is playing and there’s stained glass, and there’s that sense of absolute silence when you walk in, that’s the way to worship. And there are others that feel that unless there’s the joy of the Lord, unless there’s celebration happening in the room then there’s not worship.
And you know what? You’re alright—you’re all right. But so easily what we do is we get in a rut, and we think it’s form instead of function. And then we slide into, very gradually, making our needs, our lives, our agendas instead of God, the focus of our time of worship. Private worship, I believe, is our declaration, our declaration of driving a stake to refuse to become little gods. To the extent that you worship privately you are driving a stake and saying, I’m going to have something in my life on a daily, or at least an almost daily basis. That forces me to stop and let go of all the plastic, all those beads, and remember who is Lord – King, Sovereign, Boss.
And private worship is a declaration of my refusal to be God. And when I don’t have time to worship, when I'm too busy to worship, you make the parallel. How could we not have time for Him who made us? It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Unless we really believe we’re God or we’re worshipping something else. In your private worship, so that you don’t get in a rut, this was taught me early on, but it’s been very effective. In fact, when I do - sometimes I have a hard time concentrating and I have a really hard time praying, and I feel like my prayers aren’t getting anywhere.
The other big problem I have in worship and time with the Lord is I lie a lot. I lie to myself. I pray prayers I don’t mean. I say things that sound good and then I hear ‘em and I think… so I write ‘em down. I don’t know why, but when I see it in print, I’m thinking, “Oh Ingram, who are you foolin’? That’s not true.” And then I write down what’s really true. And often in my journal, I’ll write down the letters A, C, T, and S. Because if I’m under a lot of pressure all I do is S. Supplication, supplication, supplication.
The A stands for adoration. In your private time with God read some passages about who He is or think thoughts about His character. Second is confession. This is an easy part to skip in a hurry. And every time I skip it my spiritual skin gets thicker and then it’s harder to hear God’s voice. But I’ll write C on my paper and then I’ll sit quietly and I’ll say, “God, will You bring anything to my mind that I need to confess, anything that’s produced a barrier between me and You or me and another person?” And I sit quietly.
And I assume that what God brings to my mind, not vague…now, if you get a vague feeling like, “You are a jerk.” That is not God. No, it’s true. Because the scripture’s very clear. The Holy Spirit’s job is to - what? He illuminates in order to draw you nearer. That’s what conviction is. Conviction is the opposite of condemnation. Condemnation makes you feel bad and makes you want to go away from God. Conviction is, “Hey, I really love you and there’s this little problem between us. Why don’t we get this taken care of so we can get closer?” And you sit quietly and He’ll show ya.
Third, is T for thanksgiving. I find that multiple mornings I don’t feel like being Chip. I don’t feel like being a pastor, I don’t feel like doing anything. Maybe you can agree. And, you know, then you think well it’s a cup of coffee and then after my second cup of coffee and I still feel the same way, I realize maybe I have an attitude problem. And it’s amazing to sit down and fill half of a page, “God I’m thankful today for…” and then I start with my wife, and I start with my kids, and I begin to list things that I’m thankful for. And in about five minutes my attitude changes. And I offer them up to Him.
This little acronym, ACTS, I think it’s a great way to learn to worship. The final one is S, supplication. And what I do, I just take my concerns. I write, I’m concerned about… and then I list ‘em. And then at the end of ‘em I turn ‘em into prayers. God, would You take this one? Would You take this one? Would You take that one? Now, you don’t need to write all that out. I’m just a slow learner and it helps me. Because the other thing I’ve done is life gets complicated and it is a joy.
Sometimes when I’m feeling really even less motivated than when I talked before, then what I do is I just flip back in my journal three days ago and I see the checkmarks, the dates, the answers to prayer. Then I flip back a week. Checkmark, checkmark, checkmark, checkmark. Dates, answers to prayer. And you know what it reminds me? God is still on the throne. Ingram, you’re not the center of the universe; lighten up, buddy, I’ve got it all under control. I had it controlled last week, got it now, got it next week. If you get hit by a milk truck, life will go right on. And you know what? That’s a healthy thing to remember.
In public worship, let me give you three P’s by way of practical experience. The first one, and take this from a winsome heart, ok? Take this, because we don’t practice this well. I’ll kinda warn ya, is preparation. If you come to Saturday night, slow down earlier in the afternoon. Don’t run over here from the beach or wherever. Plan an extra half hour or 45 minutes where your RPMs just aren’t going crazy. If you come on Sunday, the night before, you can’t stay out until 2:00 in the morning and have effective worship at 9:00 or 11:00.
See, this the most important thing you get to do all week. You know? This is it! I mean it’s like the NBA championship game, the NFL Super Bowl game. Those guys are not running around the hallway at 3:00 in the morning playing cards. Man, they’re on a special diet and they’re thinking. They’re focused. Because that day’s the big day! You know why? Because that’s what they worship.
Now what we worship, man, we oughta prepare. You oughta come emotionally low-keyed and focused in. You oughta come rested. You oughta have prayed for the service, the people involved in it. You oughta realize that the first 15 minutes is not fluff time. It’s when we sing in adoration to God. So, coming here not on time, but 5 to 10 minutes early to interact, and maybe share what’s going on, and encourage someone, and actually being here when it starts. And see, if you’re gonna come with an attitude to hear from Him; He’s gonna to meet you.
The second P is for purpose. The purpose of worship is not to evaluate if Chip had a good night, if you liked the music, and if so-and-so was here that you hoped would be here. The purpose is to not get anything. It’s to come to give. It’s your opportunity, in community, to focus on the sovereign, living source of all life, and tell Him how you feel about Him. How much you love Him, how much you thank Him. And so your purpose is to come to give--to offer yourself and your praise to Him. That would change then, how you listen. That would change how you sing.
Third P is participation. Church is not a spectator sport nor is it a spectacle to come and observe. Now, we know that many people that don’t yet know the Lord and God is bringing, they can spectate, and that is fine. But, if you’re part of the family, it may be hard to sing at first, it was for me. Singing out loud was, like, weird. I never did that in my life. And then I became a Christian and I found out all these Christians sing. And I used to go…and little by little I warmed up. And I realized the Spirit of God works as we sing.
It’s a place to pray for, reach up, reach out, and listen with an ear to say--truth. I must obey the truth. See, real worship always ends in participation. Once you see who He is, you’re changed. Now you’ve looked into the mirror, the perfect law of liberty, what specifically are you going to do, and am I going to do, to put into practice the truth God’s revealed to us? Until we’ve done that, we have not worshipped. Jot down for your own Luke 5:1-11. Read that through with eyes of worship and see how Peter worships and how he ends up following Christ.
Conclusion. Worship is not a service you come to or an activity you practice. Worship is a life focus and expression of your deepest longings, passions, and devotion to whom or what you love the most.