The Lord says: “These people come near me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”
– Isaiah 29:13
As long as I have been on staff, every December at NewSpring we have a three day conference that we call the Staff Leadership Conference or SLC. The purpose of this time is for the staff to take a step back, catch our breath from the day-to-day ministry that we do, and learn from some of the best leaders in the country.
Typically during this conference we have “worship” right at the start of each day. This, just like in church on Sunday, is meant to draw us in to the presence of God in order to hear the words that He would speak to us through whoever is communicating.
Last year, on one afternoon during the conference, we also had one whole session, a solid hour, of nothing but worship.
For me, this was one of the best sessions of the entire conference. I raised my hands, I shouted, and I begged God to see His face. I cried. I heard God speak very intimately with me. It was amazing.
More Than A Song
There is a connection between myself and my God that is at its strongest when I am in those moments. I hear things from God that I don’t typically hear. Perhaps my guard is down. Perhaps I’ve opened myself up to more of the His Spirit. Whatever it is, I can hear and see God an order of magnitude better during these times.
But I’ve learned that worship is more than just the songs we sing during a service.
Worship is how we treat our family before we get to church on Sunday morning. Worship is how we steward our money. Worship is what we say and do when that guys cuts us off in traffic, what we look at when no one else is home, and how we love on our mother-in-laws when they come in town for a visit.
So many times we sing to the Lord on Sunday with full hearts that shout about His great love and how we want to worship Him for eternity, but we don’t want to worship him at our jobs on Monday. We will cry like a baby with our hands raised high but we will get angry with the girl who messed up our $4 coffee order on Tuesday. We may not outwardly say anything to her or we’ll tell her it’s okay, but inside our heart is seething. “How dare she? Doesn’t she know who I am? Doesn’t she know I’ve got someplace to be?!?!”
What’s going on inside of you is much more worship than what is coming out of your mouth.
The Lord knows the heart. He can split marrow and bone. What’s inside of you, “the parts you don’t like to talk about at parties,” says Colonel Jessep from A Few Good Men, that’s true worship. God says that our hearts are far from Him.
Words vs. Motives
Outwardly, what we say sounds like God. But inwardly, we sound more like Satan. We go through the motions of worship on the outside because that’s what we’ve been taught to do.
- “Yes, ma’am.”
- “No, sir.”
- “I’m sorry.”
- “I’ll pray for you.”
These are all things we’ve been taught to say and do but I question them. We say these things because we think they sound polite (and they do) but if we don’t mean them or believe them, what’s the point? If our heart isn’t in it, if we’re just doing it because that’s what we were taught to do, then it’s just rote memorization and physical memory. It’s not worship.
One thing I think I’ve gotten right as a parent is that I’ve always told my kids that when they hurt someone they should apologize for hurting them. But I told them that I never wanted them to say “I’m sorry” if they didn’t mean it. I want to teach them to actually be sorry, not just say they were.
Words are just words. If you don’t mean them they are just trite contritions and wasted breath. People can see through your bull crap. They know, deep down, if you mean what you say or not. Don’t let your words just be lip service. Mean what you say or don’t say it at all.
I feel like that is kind of how God sees us and what He is getting at in the verse above. Mean what you say. It has to come from somewhere inside your heart, not just words that come out of your mouth.
A quick warning then I’ll be done:
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
– Luke 6:45
Other versions have it: “For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”
This is basically saying that what comes in also goes out. Garbage in, garbage out. Just be careful that the things you are filling your heart with are the things that you’re okay with saying out loud. Because they will come out of your mouth. Probably when you least expect it.