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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
Webster says, “Boredom is the condition of becoming weary by dull, uninteresting, or monotonous activity or focus.” It’s trying to get satisfied with something, and then after you try it for a while, it doesn’t satisfy, so you try something else, and then things just get dull. If you don’t think we’re a culture that struggles with boredom, consider the word “amusement,” and the multi-billiondollar industry. Do you know what the word muse means? It means to think. You know what amusement means? It means, not to think.
We have amusement parks, video, TV, vacations, bungee jumping, thrill seeking, adrenalin riding.
We’re a culture that lives vicariously. We are so bored! We are so empty when it gets down to what matters. We vicariously live through rock stars and sports figures, and romance novels, and the latest movie.
We have to line up and we have to get there first because in the office, we want to talk about – what? Fictitious people in made-up stories, who live in Southern California, whose lives don’t work, who they paint up after surgery, to put on pretend lives that we pay seven bucks a ticket to watch. You tell me we’re not bored?
We’re bored. Why are we bored? I’d like to suggest something. I’d like to suggest that boredom is the inevitable result of seeking an infinite reference point in a finite object. It’s a matter of trying to find significance in things and in people that can only offer success.
Boredom is what happens when the new wears off. You’re in a new relationship, Oh, this is so exciting! And then, what? You get a new car – wow! And then, what? Get a new house! It’s your dream! And then, what? Then it’s repairs, fixing it up, working through dysfunctional backgrounds. And what I’ve observed is that the boredom and the blues go hand-in-hand. The blues, that low feeling of: life doesn’t really matter, is the emotional baggage of boredom.
The blues come when that inner voice in your heart and mind says, “This is the next hill to take, this is what you can do with your life.” And this inner voice says, “been there, done that.” And then you awaken to the reality that the next venture will only yield more of the same.
You see, there’s a vicious cycle. It’s new venture, excitement, challenge, growth, plateau, boredom, then the blues. And so you say, that must not be it. New venture, excitement, growth, challenge, plateau, boredom, and the blues. Well, that must not be the right person, I’ll try someone else. Excitement, growth, challenge, venture, it’s a vicious cycle. It’s a vicious, vicious, cycle. You know some people spend seventy, eighty years, and never figure this out? Like little hamsters in big cages running faster and faster, changing colors, never going anywhere.
Could boredom, in fact, be a gift in disguise? I’d like to suggest that boredom, this sense of not being able to get satisfied in this life, is God’s gentle reminder that we are spiritual beings made for not only time, but eternity. That’s why we’re bored. Boredom is the natural result of seeking to scratch an eternal itch with temporal things. It just can’t do it.
In fact, boredom tells us that the object of our worship isn’t big enough or great enough to be worshipped. You can worship success, and once you get it, it just gets small. You can worship a person, you get it, it’s not what you expected.
You can think: if you raise this family this way, then, it happens; if you can get this job; if you can drive this car; if you can score on this test; if you can get into this college. And then once you get it, if you happen to...
See, I think, those of you that happen to be successful are really fortunate. See, if you’re successful, then you actually learn it doesn’t come through. Some of us that fail a lot in a lot of those areas are still believing that we can.
God’s answer to boredom—interesting—is authentic worship. The great theologian, Augustine, wrote, and this was after he sought meaning in a wild, wild, life seeking pleasure in everything imaginable.
Augustine wrote, “God has placed a God-shaped vacuum in every heart, and we will not be satisfied until we find Him.” He went on to say, “And our hearts will never be at rest until they find their rest in Christ.”
So what’s authentic worship? One writer says, “Worship is pulling our affections off our idols, and putting them on God.” The definition of worship is: worship is our response to God for who He is and what He’s done. That’s a good working definition. It’s the key. It is the key to overcoming a life of meaninglessness or boredom followed by the blues.
Real worship is our response to God for who He is and what He’s done. So the sixty-four dollar question is: what does He want, right? What should your response be? What does God want? Can you imagine if Jesus would come in the flesh and stand before us, and we could get microphones and line up and say, “Excuse me, Sir, what would you like from life? I mean, since I’m made for eternity and I’ll only live here for a little while, I’d like to use it well. And I don’t want to be bored, and then I don’t want to get the blues. So, excuse me, Lord, Jesus, what do You want from me?”
I’m going to tell you exactly what He’d say. He wrote it to through the apostle Paul, Romans chapter 12, verse 1. He would say to you, Do I want a little song? No. Songs are okay. Do I want you to come to a worship service; is that what worship is? He said no. They’re good. Do I want you to have a special feeling inside? If you have this special close feeling, is that worship? You say, Oh, that’s important, but that’s not it.
He would say, “I urge you, therefore my brothers and sisters, in light of God’s mercy, in light of all that I’ve done for you, to present your bodies, your life, as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.”
The word means well-pleasing. That’s what He wants. “…which is your reasonable service of worship.” And that last little phrase, reasonable service of worship, very interesting word in the New Testament. It’s a technical term. In fact, if you look in different translations, some will talk about reasonable service, and other translations will say spiritual service. It’s because the translators don’t know how to handle the word. What it is, is that it became a technical term for worship, but the word logizomai, we get our word logic. In other words, it’s the most logical thing to do. He’s the Creator, you’re the creature.
What is logical, what’s wisest, what’s the emotionally, most healthy positive response for you and your life is to present your life on the altar. And by the way, that word present, it’s in a tense of the verb that means: in a point in time.
It’s not some vague, some way, somehow, yeah, I believe in God, or even I go to church. This is presenting yourself on a specific day, on a specific day of the week, at a specific time where you say – you may already be a believer even – and you say, “I don’t want to worship anything less than You.”
It’s when you do a little gut check and you look at your boredom account, and you say in my heart of hearts, “I think I’m worshiping my girlfriend.” “In my heart of hearts, I think I’m worshipping my boyfriend, or my job, or my mate, or my kids, or money, or success because that’s where all my energy, and my time, and my dreams gravitate to.”
And you call a “time out” in life and you say, “You know, God, I’m going to make a willful decision, point in time, to present myself on the altar as a living and notice, holy. Holy means: I’m going to do it Your way, I’ll be set apart. My speech, my life, my words, my sexuality will be holy, and that’s what You want.
In fact, notice the summary. It says: worship is the complete and total giving of ourselves for that which we believe has ultimate purpose and will provide the greatest reward. I like that definition. See, real worship is the complete and total giving of who you are for what you honestly believe is the ultimate purpose in life. And, this is important, what you believe will bring the greatest reward.
And that’s why when you want to know what you’re going to worship; if you really want to know what you worship, it has little to do with what your mouth says. Does it? What you worship has very little – “Oh I worship God.” Well, maybe. If you want to know what you worship, I’ll give you three litmus tests. Number one, go track your money; number two, go track your time; and number three, ask, “Where does your mind drift to when you’re dreaming about what could be? Where does your mind gravitate?
If it gravitates to the things of God, if it gravitates toward intimacy with Christ, if it gravitates toward seeing people come to know Christ, if it gravitates toward your heart breaking for the things that God’s heart breaks over, then you worship Christ.
If it just unconscientiously gravitates to the next deal, the next novel someone’s going to bring out, which team won, whether you can get home in time to check the scores on ESPN, whether so-and-so is going to go with you or go with someone else; whether you’re going to get this job or get into that school. If your time and your money and your dreams revolve around anything other than Christ, that’s what you worship.
Now, here’s the deal, that can sound very threatening. Understand God’s heart. Understand God’s heart. We all do that at times. I certainly do. But the heart of God is not, if you heard and if you felt emotionally a little bit of a: “shame on you….na, na, na, na, that’s a bad boy, that’s a bad girl,” then you missed the point.
This is a God who wants to give you authentic pearls, and you’re holding on to these little plastic things that you think will deliver for you and He’s holding authentic pearls and He’s saying, “If you could let go of that junk, I could give you something real.”
That’s what the lordship of Christ is. That’s what worship is. You can spend your life chasing that girl or chasing that guy, or the ideal marriage, or being successful, or getting rich, or building the big house or remodeling this or doing that, or driving that. You can do that.
And when you get done, your plastic beads will be plastic. And you will be bored, and it won’t deliver, and then you’ll get blue. Or, all those things have their place. You could allow Jesus to be the center focus of your life, and He will dictate your time, your energy, your dreams. And since He’s all knowing, and since He loves you, and since He died for you, maybe His plan is even better than yours for you. Just a thought.
Well, let’s ask the one question. Heart of hearts, don’t raise your hand. If someone asked you, “Who are you worshipping?” In your honest, heart of hearts, who are you worshipping? Is it Christ, or is it an idol? Person? Job? Success?
Could I suggest that as I keep talking you start having a little wrestling match with God about what has your best interest in mind, and what would be the wisest thing for you to do? And I want to challenge you before you walk out of here at some point tonight, decide whether you’re going to offer your body as a living sacrifice, or keep worshipping something else. It’s important. In fact, your whole future depends on it.
We find in John, chapter 4, verses 21 to 24, Jesus ends up talking with a lady, a Samaritan, she was a despised woman, Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans, so it’s an unusual conversation, and the historical history, Samaritans were like Jewish half-breeds. They had about half Jewish blood and half Samaritan blood, and they had a real tussle between the Jews and the Samaritans. And so Jesus is tired, the fellows go in to grab lunch and bring it back.
He’s sitting by a well, and this lady, we find out later, has a pretty checkered past. Jesus looks beyond all that, and they strike up a conversation.
Jesus declared, “Believe Me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” They got talking about worship, and she said, “Well, our fathers do it here and you Jews do it over there.” “You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when true worshippers,” that’s what we want to be, right? I do! “True worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”
Now, notice this line. “For they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” You want to be close to God? You want to experience God? You want to see God do things in your life about people that you read about in the New Testament and the Old Testament?
He is seeking. He’s got the spiritual x-rays out; probing, looking for men, looking for women, looking for students who would worship Him in spirit and in truth. He’s the “hound of heaven.” He longs to have a relationship with you. You are special, but He won’t interfere.
It’s like people dancing. It’s rude to rip someone else and say, “I want to dance.” See, when you’re polite, what do you do? You tap them on the shoulder and then the other person steps back, and then you step in. This is what God does. Day by day, moments like this, He comes to you and He taps you on the shoulder and He says, “Excuse Me, can I cut in?” And you say, “Well, I’m worshipping this house right now.” He says, “I know.” He says, “Not a good dance.”
And He taps you on the shoulder and He says, “Can I cut in?” “Oh, I’m worshipping my career and I have to go to school, and I have to do grad school, and then I have to do this and I have to do that.” He says, “I know, can I cut in?” See, He seeks after people who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Why? God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.
Now the question is, what, right? What in the world does it look like?
If the Holy Spirit will illuminate our minds do you realize that the Father will be seeking you? We find in John Chapter 4, verses 21 to 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 going to 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. 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 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”? 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 saying, He 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, Whoo, man, I’m there, I’ll meet you! 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 them 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 worship 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 going to 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 kinds of religions have all kinds 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’ve got news for you, I’ve 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 ought to 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 one hundred percent pure, one hundred percent 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 doing pretty good. I don’t swear anymore, I’m doing this a little better, and…
And you know what? 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 really 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, then 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 all right. 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 them and I think…
And so, I write them down. I don’t know why, but when I see it in print, I’m thinking, Oh Ingram, who are you fooling? 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 you.
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 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, A-C-T-S, 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 them. And then at the end of them I turn them 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 Ps by way of practical experience. The first one, and take this from a winsome heart, okay? Take this, because we don’t practice this well. I’ll warn you, is preparation. If you come to Saturday night, slow down earlier in the afternoon.
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, what you have to ask is –
This the most important thing you get to do all week. This is it! It’s like the NBA championship game, the NFL Super Bowl game. Those guys are not running around the hallway at three 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 ought to prepare. You ought to come emotionally low-keyed and focused in. You ought to come rested. You ought to have prayed for the service, the people involved in it. You ought to realize that the first fifteen minutes is not fluff time. It’s when we sing in adoration to God. So, coming here not on time, but five to ten 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 going to come with an attitude of - to hear from Him; He’s going 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 has revealed to us? Until we’ve done that, we have not worshipped. Jot down for your own Luke chapter 5:1 to 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.