by Mike Ratliff
The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad! Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around. His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles. The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all the peoples see his glory. All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; worship him, all you gods! Zion hears and is glad, and the daughters of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O LORD. For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods. O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Psalms 97:1-12)
I love to worship my Lord. Why? It is not about me. It is about Him. When we truly worship the Lord, we do so in spirit and truth. We worship and bless Him. Worship is not about us. I have seen many people get upset because they do not enjoy certain types of worship music. When we do that, we have it backwards. I have also seen many people sit through wonderful praise and prayer songs as if they are in some sort of trance. They may even be singing along, but their hearts are somewhere else. Does this bless God?How do we worship in spirit and truth? What does that mean? Jesus Himself revealed this truth. He was traveling from Jerusalem back to Galilee by traveling through Samaria. His disciples left him at a well while they went into town to buy food. At the well, Jesus had an encounter with a woman of the world. He spoke to her and they had a very deep conversation. In the middle of that conversation He said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” I confess I did not understand that statement for many years. Let us look at it in context.
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:21-24 Emphasis Mine)
Worshipping God in spirit and in truth is how we actively love Him with our entire being. When we really love God that way we cannot contain it. As I am writing now, I am listening to praise and worship music. I can be typing away or working through a thought or looking up scripture and one of those songs that really express that deep love for God which resides in my heart (like I Exalt Thee) will come through these headphones and I stop everything. I raise my hands and heart in worship. I bow before my Lord. My heart breaks. I cannot imagine a better place to be. Why? My Lord is being glorified and blessed!
The worshipping heart is a broken heart. Blessing God this way comes from genuine humility, which is displacing self-confidence in our hearts. When we are walking in self-confidence, we cannot really worship in spirit and truth. Why? We may actually enjoy a certain praise song very much and sing it or listen to it and not worship God through it at all. In self-confidence mode, we have put ourselves in the lead role. We are calling the shots. We are being gods. We are Soul-led. Yes, the maturing believer can and will do this. I hate it when I catch my heart doing this.
However, when we get our hearts focused on Him we have the right perspective. We are walking in constant prayer. I cannot help but thank Him and praise Him constantly as I walk this way. I never want to leave and I do not have to. One of the things that can help keep our hearts focused on our Lord, living every minute for His glory, is to saturate our lives with godly things. Fasting from secular entertainment as we feast on godly music, books, and scripture will open our hearts to the Lord’s good work.
Before I became a believer, I read a book about end-times prophecy. In that book the writer made some statements that really angered me. She stated people needed to spend all their spare time seeking God instead of doing things to please self. I was not a believer and the attitude I read into her statements seemed self-righteous to me. Even after I became a believer, I resented things like that. I did not understand fulfillment comes only from being in the presence of God. I did not know that so I sought fulfillment from self-gratification. I thought that maybe someday I would mature enough to enjoy godly pursuits, but they just did not seem that “entertaining” to me. Did you see where my focus was? Praise and worship at church was simply something to endure so we could get to the meat I was after, the sermon. My how I have changed! I pray you have as well!
The heart that pleases God is genuinely humble, broken, and full of love for Him. It is a worshipping heart. Yes, worship is all about blessing God, but in return, He fills us with His joy and peace. I have thought and meditated much about this. Do I worship God for the joy and peace or because I love Him? If our focus is on what we get out of it then we will find ourselves getting tired of certain worship and praise songs we used to love. On the other hand, if we truly love the Lord and bless Him in spirit and truth then we are not self-concerned at all. I love being there. It is the emptying of me and my desires and directing all of my being to Him. I weep. I can feel Him drawing me close and loving me. He is such a wonderful and gracious God! The song Draw Me Close puts me on my face every time I hear it. Why? There is a repeated lyric in it that speaks exactly what I want to express to my Lord. It says, “You are all I want!” That is the essence of the worshipping heart.
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.” (Psalms 95:1-11)
There is a praise song based on these verses. When I read this passage from my Bible, I find myself worshipping Him just as if we were singing it at church. The attitude of worship that blesses our Lord is the one where we voluntarily submit to Him and offer the sacrifice of praise. He tells us we will be much better off if we will live a life of self-denial and come hard after Him. However, He does not make us do it. Instead, He draws us to do it by His grace. When we determine in our hearts to do it and then follow through, He takes our offerings of praise and in turn changes us. These changes, of course, are the heart shattering blows that break up the fallow ground there. He breaks up that hardness, cuts through it, teaches us, and refines us. If we will submit to this process continuously, we will grow to unimaginable levels of spiritual maturity.
To live for God’s glory we must submit to the refining fires of the Lord. This is a process that cycles over and over again. The engine that runs this process is the worshipping heart. When we love the Lord and bless Him through our worship in spirit and truth He will, in turn, start the refining process in our hearts. If we submit to these refining fires, our hearts become more tender. Our love for God grows even deeper. He fills us with joy and peace. In response to this, we worship even more. The following list is from my first book, Walking the Walk by Faith. It describes the processes God uses to refine our hearts unto Christ-likeness. Do you see how the worshipping heart drives this process?
Walking the Walk by Faith
- Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)
- Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)
- Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)
- Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)
- Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)
- Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)
This process is the refining process the Lord takes us through that matures us. It does not change even as we near the transition point of moving into the Mature Christian stage nor after. The only difference is the focus of the refining. As we mature, the heart of God’s cutting and pruning become more focused and defined on those deeply seated areas of which we may not even be aware. However, each of those things is a barrier to our spiritual maturity and must go. What sorts of things must go? Self-confidence, self-focus and self-protection are all deadly. These things can be deeply hidden and hard for us to discern. God, on the other hand, knows exactly what to look for and how to get rid of them. Our part is to submit to all of God’s pruning and refining no matter how painful. What should we do as He shatters our hearts? We must worship and love Him even more. Our worshipping heart enables us to endure even the deepest cuts and blows to our hard old hearts.
Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you. All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.” Selah. Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations– let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Selah. Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will perform my vows to you, that which my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble. I will offer to you burnt offerings of fattened animals, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah. Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me! (Psalms 66:1-20)
This psalm is great word picture of the worshipping heart staying in the fires of refinement for God’s glory. When God is taking us through some pretty rough stuff, Psalms like this one can be very comforting and edifying. Why? This attitude is the Spirit-led attitude. It focuses all on God and submits entirely to the Lords perfect will. The worshipping heart loves and blesses God through it all. However, if we pull away and turn from God in the midst of this we are in big trouble. We will still be in the circumstance, but we will be churning through it in our own abilities. That is never a good choice, but isn’t it one we make all the time?
Only the Spirit-led are ready for this type of walk. The Soul-led will be running away from this until God draws them into the refining process that will take them into the Adult Christian stage. The walk we are discussing here is for the Spirit-led believer who has learned to walk the Walk by Faith and understands what and where their treasure is. They understand this salvation is based on the blood covenant Jesus instituted with His death on the cross. They know their part of the covenant is to die to self and live for the glory of God. When the believer has come to treasure this then they know the only way to become the Christ-like believer God wants them to be is to be emptied, broken, shattered, and reformed by God Himself.
The Spirit-led believer has a worshipping heart; however, the call is to go deeper with God. It is time to submit to the ultra-fine refining fires of God. These refining fires will pulverize the fragments of our hearts into the fertile soil that is the genuinely humble heart of the mature, Christ-like Christian.
Oh Lord God, I pray for your Kingdom to Come! I pray for your will to be done on earth just as it is done in Heaven! You are gracious and loving. I praise you Lord for your perfection. You are intent on taking us through whatever refinement it will take to conform us unto the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord please give us the wisdom, knowledge, and strength to submit and glorify You in the midst of those refining fires. Open our hearts and give us the understanding of your eternal perspective. Give us worshipping hearts Lord. Oh, Lord we submit to your will. Do not let us get off the altar of self-sacrifice and self-denial. Take our offering of ourselves as living sacrifices and change us as you see fit. I ask all these things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—all for your Glory…Amen!
(Note: This post is an excerpt from my book All for His Glory. It is not under contract and is still being edited.)
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.