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Friday, February 10, 2017

Worship and Self-Denial

Worship and Self-Denial
Psalm 96:8

Psa 96:8  ...bring an offering and enter His courts.

In the course of my walk with Christ... I've had the opportunity to attend the worship services of several different denominations. Each group I've visited, claimed that their worship was “Christ-centered” and in accordance with the the Scripture. And I'm not going to disparage the customs and practices of the various groups because I understand that what appeals to me... doesn't necessarily appeal to everyone else.

For instance... there are those who desire to worship in a more “high church” and “liturgical” fashion. They love to see their priests or pastors wearing the vestments of their calling... or their robes. The sound of the pipe organ playing the lofty hymns of the church... and the performance of various rites and rituals each week brings a comfort to their heart and soul that they won't find elsewhere.

But there are others who prefer their “worship” to be at the other extreme. Services that are more in line with a rock concert or music festival. Where a band plays contemporary christian music... loudly... while a worship leader or worship team leads the congregation in the singing. There might be lights flashing all over the place... rising smoke... and there could even be people with flags or banners... dancing up and down the aisles.

Most churches though... fall somewhere in between these two extremes. But regardless of the form or fashion of the services... in order to truly be called worship... there are certain demands... or elements... that have to be present if the worship is to be according to Christ's command that... Joh 4:23   ...true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.

Now... as I've said before... “in spirit and truth” means that worship must be from the “inner being”, or from the “heart”... and it must also be in accordance with the truth... or the “Word of God”.

So... one of the elements that would be included in “heart-felt” worship is an attitude of thanksgiving for the goodness of God... which He displays toward us each and every day. You know, we slip up all the time... yet He doesn't pounce on us in judgment... does He? Of course not... but with grace He leads us into repentance and restoration.

Heart-felt worship will also include a sense of our own spiritual need... and the knowledge that only God can fulfill that need. And because He has fulfilled our needs through His Son... our worship will also include an attitude of indebtedness. In other words... we owe Christ everything... because He loved us and gave Himself for us. That it's through His death that we have any hope... and it's through His Spirit that we have any strength.

Thanksgiving... Spiritual need... Indebtedness... All of these attitudes have to meet and mingle together within our worship... if it's to be considered true worship. And if they aren't included... then the person who comes to church will more-than-likely leave the church no better than they came.

But there's another attitude that's also included in worship that's just as important as all the others... but it's most often ignored... because of the demands that it places upon us. This other attitude is “self-denial” or “self-sacrifice”.

Mar 8:34  Summoning the crowd along with His disciples, He said to them, "If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.

Now most of us... when we think of worship... we think of praise. And we all know that praise is an important part of worship. We like praise. It's fun. It's easy to do. It flows naturally out of our gratefulness toward God, for all He's done for us. But its also easy for us to become so locked in praise, that we forget that worship also calls for self-denial.

You see... there's joy in worship... but there's also duty. And our duty in worship can be seen...

I. In Our Offering

Psa 96:8  ...bring an offering and enter His courts.

Exo 23:15  ...No one is to appear before Me empty-handed.

Worship... from the very beginning of time... has always included some sort of financial offering... Whether it be in the form of animal sacrifices... food or baked goods... or actual money... everyone brought something and no one came with nothing.

No Jew would ever come to worship empty-handed. Giving of his means was simply a natural part of his devotions. Within the Temple was an area that was called the “treasury”... and around the treasury were 13 boxes boxes... 4 of which were for the free-will offerings of the people.

And it was here, that Jesus... Mar 12:41-44  Sitting across from the temple treasury, He watched how the crowd dropped money into the treasury. Many rich people were putting in large sums.  [42]  And a poor widow came and dropped in two tiny coins worth very little.  [43]  Summoning His disciples, He said to them, "I assure you: This poor widow has put in more than all those giving to the temple treasury.   [44]   For they all gave out of their surplus, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she possessed—all she had to live on."

You see... it didn't matter whether someone had a lot of money... or a little... everyone gave. It was simply the natural thing to do. And though He didn't condemn or make light of those who were rich and gave a lot... He did make special mention of the woman who gave sacrificially. She gave until it hurt. She actually had to deny herself something in order to give anything to the Lord.

And from the earliest of times... it has been felt by spiritual men that true offerings should touch on self-denial. For example... King David knew that when making an offering to God... it should come at personal expense...

2Sa 24:24  The king answered Araunah, "No, I insist on buying it from you for a price, for I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."

And then when Zacchaeus came into contact with Christ... we hear him cry out... Luk 19:8  ..."Look, I'll give half of my possessions to the poor, Lord! And if I have extorted anything from anyone, I'll pay back four times as much!"

You see... he had always given according to the Jewish custom... in the Jewish way... Whenever he entered the Temple, he never came empty-handed. But when he came face-to-face with Jesus... he couldn't give enough!

This also puts me in remembrance of the children of Israel... while in the wilderness... they kept giving and giving and giving until Moses had to actually order them to stop!

Exo 36:4-7  Then all the craftsmen who were doing all the work for the sanctuary came one by one from the work they were doing  [5]  and said to Moses, "The people are bringing more than is needed for the construction of the work the LORD commanded to be done."  [6]  After Moses gave an order, they sent a proclamation throughout the camp: "Let no man or woman make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary." So the people stopped.  [7]  The materials were sufficient for them to do all the work. There was more than enough.

And this ancient spirit of worship through giving has passed through Judaism into the Church. But now... it's been deepened and intensified by the addition of Christ's sacrificial death for our sins... and our desire to further His ministry through our giving...

2Co 9:6-7  Remember this: The person who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the person who sows generously will also reap generously.  [7]  Each person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.

So when it comes to our duty of giving... I think from time to time, it'd be a good idea that we ask ourselves... “Have I been giving to the point of sacrifice?”, “Have I ever denied myself anything that I might bring an offering to the Lord?”

Our self-denial in worship can be seen in our offerings... but it will also be evidenced...

II. In Our Heart

Psa 51:16-17  You do not want a sacrifice, or I would give it; You are not pleased with a burnt offering.  [17]  The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit. God, You will not despise a broken and humbled heart.

As men became more spiritually minded... the thought of self-denial deepened. It simply wasn't enough to worship God with an offering in hand anymore. It slowly began to dawn upon the Jews that the truest form of offering came from the heart.

Think about David. He was a man who had been trained in ritual worship... and from his earliest years... you can be sure that he never entered the Tabernacle empty-handed. His worship would cost him something. The God he found while shepherding his flock wasn't a God to be worshipped cheaply.

But after his rise to kingship... and then his fall... his sorrow for his sin against God brought him to the realization that the blood of bulls and goats just wouldn't be enough. No outward sign would make him a true worshipper again...

That would come from the inside... from a broken spirit... and a broken and contrite heart. In other words... He had to give himself... deny his lusts... lay aside his pride... and be repentant... or all his worship would mean nothing.

He may have known from the first that worship meant denial... but in his trials... it was those thoughts of denial that deepened. He could be the possessor of great wealth... and he could give it all to the Lord... but it would mean nothing if his heart wasn't penitent and humble.

And this was a great truth for him to grasp... and it has helped to enrich worship throughout the ages... where it passed from the old covenant into the new covenant... and into the gatherings of its saints where we see self-denial also...

III. In Our Sacrifice

Listen to the words of David's greater Son... Jesus... as he spoke in the Sermon of the Mount about bringing offerings to the altar... Mat 5:23-24   So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you,   [24]   leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

He's talking about our attitude in worship... and what attitudes are necessary if we're to worship God in spirit and in truth. He doesn't tell us about giving... because that's a given... He's taking that for granted because no one comes to the Lord with empty hands.

But He does point out that behind every gift... there should be self-denial of the heart. You see... it's far easier to give up a quarter than a quarrel... isn't it! It's easier to lay down a generous offering than to lay down a long-standing grudge.

And Jesus is showing us that if worship is to be acceptable... the worshiper has to lay aside his pride and become as humble as a child. We need to clear our hearts and our thoughts of anything that would hinder our worship. Any resentment or anger that we harbor in our hearts... will be like a wall between us and the Lord.

And giving that up... or tearing down that wall... isn't an easy thing to it! It goes contrary to the natural man who would rather bask in anger and unforgiveness... than in patience and self-sacrifice.

But true worship isn't meant to be easy. It's hard. It's not just a comfortable hour or so on a Sunday morning... singing beautiful songs of praise... and listening to a sermon preached. It's an attitude of the heart and soul that demands self-denial if it's to be appropriate.

Jesus has placed a demand upon our soul... and it's a call to sacrifice and cross-bearing... because the road to church is like the road to heaven... it lies in the shadow of the cross.

And our self-denial in worship then can also be found in the regular attendance...

IV. In Our Church

Heb 10:25  not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

I'd be willing to bet that just about every person in here today can easily see an element of self-denial in coming to church... week after week. Do you remember what I said at the beginning about the worship attitude of self-denial being most often ignored... because of the demands that it places upon us?

Well... one of those self-sacrifice demands that is most often ignored is in the weekly gatherings of the saints. There was a time when it was frowned upon... or a person would lose their good name if he seldom went to church... but those days are long gone.

These days... many believers are just simply too tired at the end of a hard week... and the Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest... right? Or maybe... we're just not feeling too good... or it looks like it might rain... or, you know what... I can get more out of worship on the golf course than I can in the sanctuary...

But whatever the excuse is... it demonstrates that our natural inclination is not towards church... and that a denial of self is needed if we are to be in the sanctuary every Sunday.

And that very self-denial that's required to do this, is not only good for man... it's pleasing to God. The best of all beginnings to the week... can be found when we take our desire for ease... and crush it a little...

When we do on Sunday what is our Christian duty... we are bringing our will into subjection... and this is a better beginning for the week than listening to the finest sermon being preached on TV from our easy chair.

Luk 4:16  And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day...

Did you ever think about that? His custom was to be in church on the sabbath. He is the Son of God... and heaven is His home... and yet His custom was to go to church.

He never said that He didn't need to go... that He could have fellowship with His Father anywhere. He never used the excuse that there were simply too many hypocrites. No... His custom was to be in the Temple... or the Synagogue... on the sabbath.

And this should be our custom also. Not only that we deny ourselves and make a habit of worshiping Him regularly in the church... but also that we deny ourselves in our offerings... and our hearts... and our sacrifices.

All of these are included in His command that we take up our cross... deny ourselves... and follow Him.

He has done so much for us. How can we not desire to give Him our sincere worship and our complete allegiance? I mean... His love toward us was so great that even when we were His enemies... he gave Himself for us.

Would you do that? Would you willingly give your life for someone who hates you? Well... that's exactly what He did.

Rom 5:10  For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!

So we have a decision to make. Continue doing things the way we always have... sort of haphazardly and grudgingly...

Or make a full commitment to the Lord today. To deny ourselves... take up our cross... and follow Him... wherever that might lead..


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