by Mike Ratliff
1 The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice;
Let the many islands be glad.
2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him;
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.
3 Fire goes before Him
And burns up His adversaries round about.
4 His lightnings lit up the world;
The earth saw and trembled.
5 The mountains melted like wax at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare His righteousness,
And all the peoples have seen His glory.
7 Let all those be ashamed who serve graven images,
Who boast themselves of idols;
Worship Him, all you gods.
8 Zion heard this and was glad,
And the daughters of Judah have rejoiced
Because of Your judgments, O Lord.
9 For You are the Lord Most High over all the earth;
You are exalted far above all gods.
10 Hate evil, you who love the Lord,
Who preserves the souls of His godly ones;
He delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown like seed for the righteous
And gladness for the upright in heart.
12 Be glad in the Lord, you righteous ones,
And give thanks to His holy name. Psalms 97 (NASB)
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.
21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 (NASB)
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 flesh-bound. 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 God saved me, 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 fulfilling 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.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5 The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 (NASB)
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. Do you see how this drives this process?
Walking 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 continue to mature. 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.
1 Shout joyfully to God, all the earth;
2 Sing the glory of His name;
Make His praise glorious.
3 Say to God, “How awesome are Your works!
Because of the greatness of Your power Your enemies will give feigned obedience to You.
4 “All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”
5 Come and see the works of God,
Who is awesome in His deeds toward the sons of men.
6 He turned the sea into dry land;
They passed through the river on foot;
There let us rejoice in Him!
7 He rules by His might forever;
His eyes keep watch on the nations;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves.
8 Bless our God, O peoples,
And sound His praise abroad,
9 Who keeps us in life
And does not allow our feet to slip.
10 For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
11 You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive burden upon our loins.
12 You made men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water,
Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
13 I shall come into Your house with burnt offerings;
I shall pay You my vows,
14 Which my lips uttered
And my mouth spoke when I was in distress.
15 I shall offer to You burnt offerings of fat beasts,
With the smoke of rams;
I shall make an offering of bulls with male goats.
16 Come and hear, all who fear God,
And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.
17 I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
18 If I regard wickedness in my heart,
The Lord will not hear;
19 But certainly God has heard;
He has given heed to the voice of my prayer.
20 Blessed be God,
Who has not turned away my prayer
Nor His lovingkindness from me. Psalms 66 (NASB)
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 it is one we make all the time.
Only the Spirit-led are ready for this type of walk. The flesh-bound believers will be running away from this until God draws them into the refining process. The walk we are discussing here is for the Spirit-led believer who has learned to 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 following Puritan prayer expresses our need for God’s grace to enable us to do this.
O Lord, Thou knowest my great unfitness for service, my present deadness, my inability to do anytihng for thy glory, my distressing coldness of heart. I am weak, ignorant, unprofitable, and loathe and abhor myself. I am at a loss to know what thou woudlest have me do, for I feel amazingly deserted by thee, and sense thy presence so little; Thou makest me possess the sins of my youth, and the dreadful sin of my nature, so that I feel all sin, I cannot think or act but every motion is sin. Return again with showers of converting grace to a poor gospel-abusing sinner. Help my soul to breathe after holiness, after a constant devotedness to thee, after growth in grace more abundantly every day. O Lord, I am lost in the pursuit of blessedness, and am ready to sink because I fall short of my desire; Help me to hold out a little longer, until the happy hour of deliverance comes, for I cannot lift my soul to thee if thou of thy goodness bring me not nigh. Help me to be diffident, watchful, tender, lest I offend by blessed friend in thought and behavior; I confide in thee and lean upon thee, and need thee at all times to assist and lead me. O that all my distresses and apprehensions might prove but Christ’s school to make me fit for greater service by teaching me the great lesson of humility.
All of the circumstances we experience in this life are simply the refining elements God is using to purge and cleanse us. The worshipping heart does this. Without a worshipping heart, all we can manage is self-focused mediocrity. 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.
Soli Deo Gloria!