So we’re still considering this matter of authentic worship…
what it is…
and what hinders us from it.
In my last post, I broached the subject of friendship with the world.
I wonder if all the focus on the external made you nervous.
All the talk of letting go of worldly affections…
Taking a stand on issues that matter to God…
Refraining from activities that look a little too much like friendship with the world.
Did it cause you to think twice?
Like maybe I was touting a works-based faith…
that we have to behave a certain way in order to be loved by God.
Am I focusing too much on the outward appearance?
Isn’t God more concerned about my heart?
Am I being legalistic?
Honestly, these questions made me stop and think…more than a little.
And in doing so, the understanding of another obstacle to authentic worship began to form in my mind.
The lie that affection for God is a good measure of godliness.
This idea is so prevalent among us today, it’s difficult to detect. Probably because it’s subtly nestled inside of truth.
After all, “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
And it’s true. He does. He sees our hearts.
But He sees them so much better than we do.
He sees the parts that are hidden…
And to us.
And what He tells us is that if we really want to know the state of our hearts,
the way we feel can be the worst place to look.
Even the way we feel about God.
Because “the heart is deceitful above all things.” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Oh yes, our hearts often want to deceive others.
But the heart’s greatest deception is potentially even more destructive…
because my heart won’t hesitate to deceive me, either.
So if I’m measuring my worship only by how loving I feel as I’m singing in church on Sunday morning…
or by how encouraged I feel after reading God’s Word…
or by how thankful I feel for God’s blessings…
or by how amazed I feel as I’m gazing at a sunset…
or by how humbled I feel when I consider His sacrifice…
There’s a chance I’m deceiving myself.
Remember our passage in Isaiah 58?
Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways… (v. 2)
It’s pretty clear from this verse and the context that these people would have been the first ones to say that they loved God.
They felt like they were worshipping Him.
They felt like they were seeking Him.
They felt like they had humbled themselves.
So they assumed they were pleasing Him.
And they presumed they were okay.
But God saw their hearts so differently.
This idea that our hearts can lead us so far astray is a pretty scary truth.
But I have good news:
God doesn’t want the true state of our hearts to be a mystery.
You see, these people who were so deceived…
they would have seen the truth if they had examined themselves more thoroughly.
If they had evaluated honestly, they would’ve recognized that they were not doing righteousness, and that they had forsaken the judgment of their God (Isa. 58:2).
If we want to know the state of our hearts,
we need to examine our actions.
For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:43-46)
Scripture is clear in teaching that whatever is being produced is a good indication of the nature of the source.
So a good person with a good heart produces good.
An evil person with an evil heart produces evil.
There isn’t much room for debate here.
Jesus talks about this pretty extensively in John 14, saying in very clear language those who love Him will obey Him.
And He didn’t just say it once.
He said it three times.
So I think we can safely assume it’s pretty important stuff.
I don’t know about you, but it’s time for me to do some self-evaluation.
No, wait, even better…
Let’s let God do the evaluating. Here’s a beautiful way to start:
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)
One of the things I love about this chapter is the intricate description of God’s tender creation of us, and His intimate knowledge of us.
So we can ask Him to search us…know us…and try us…
as our loving Father.
Because He knows us better than anyone else. And He loves us anyway.
And His desire is always to lead the earnestly seeking heart in the way everlasting.
And that’s the truth.