In Part 2, we stressed the importance of location in our relationship to God. Not a physical location (i.e., I can only sense God when I’m sitting in church), but a spiritual location. How close are our hearts to God?
We’re not the first ones to struggle with this. Note Jesus’ words to the Pharisees in his time:
“Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’” (Mark 7:6–7 NLT)
Ironically, their mechanism (worship and teaching) lead their hearts far from God. How can we prevent making that same mistake today?
I should note, Jesus is not saying that worship is a farce… Jesus is saying that THEIR worship is a farce. There is nothing wrong with getting together with others before God and worshipping (sorry to take away your excuse to sleep in on worship days!).
The mechanism of true worship is a combination of honest time before God while seeking God’s face, and listening via the Holy Spirit. Here’s what I mean:
Honest time before God:
We’re not trying to hide… not trying to look good. God already knows the condition of our heart. Our time of confession before God will not be a surprise to God… it will be more of an “Aha!” moment for us as we realize how far we can be from God.
The Pharisees specialized in trying to look good on the outside. The true worshipper focuses on the inside… the heart… without trying to hide. In fact, we must invite God into the process with us:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psa 139:23 NLT)
Sometimes, our honesty becomes self-defeating. We realize how far we are from God and we become discouraged. We beat ourselves up and tell ourselves we’re worthless. But is that what God intends?
Most assuredly… that is not the life God desires for his children. So how do we prevent our honesty from defeating us?
By recognizing that this is a means… not an end. After we’re honest with God… there’s more waiting for us. Keep going!
Seeking God’s Face:
Let’s be honest, most of our prayer time is about seeking God’s hand, not his face. We come before God with our lists of things we need God to do for us, as though God were our cosmic handyman.
Seeking God’s face is about “us”… seeking God’s hand is often about “me.”
When we seek God’s face, we seek relationship, we long to know God… to be a student of God. Dare I say, we want to be a disciple (one who is there to learn and become just like their teacher). Only when we come to learn will the next part of Psalm 139 make sense.
In the verse above, we find our flaws revealed… our weaknesses exposed. If that were the end of the story, it would be utterly miserable. God doesn’t want to leave us there, God wants to lead us out of there. The Psalmist continues:
“Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” (Psa 139:24 NLT)
It turns out there are obstacles on the path of everlasting life…. and they are inside us! We can’t avoid obstacles that we can’t see, and we can’t go forward until we get through the obstacles. That’s why we start by surveying the field of our hearts.
Only then can we see the course before us clearly, but even that doesn’t guarantee success. When it comes to the path of everlasting life, I find that my eyesight is poor. It allows me to wander off the path without even realizing it.
No… what I need is the voice of an experienced guide to keep me on the path. But even the voice of the most experienced guide in the world will be useless if I’m not listening to it.
In our times with God… we must listen if we are to be lead. But that takes one more thing… so stay tuned for part 4!
– What’s your greatest fear in being honest with God? Write it down and journal: what do you think will happen when you take it to God? Then, use Scripture references to flesh out what will actually happen. Make note of the role of grace and forgiveness offered in Christ and keep that where you will see it regularly!
– How would you define the difference between seeking God’s hand and God’s face?
– What are ways that you make room for listening to God? How do you remember what God says?