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Marks of the Spirit Part Five: Worshipping God with all Your Heart

March 29, 2009 Speaker: Allen Snapp Series: Ephesians

Topic: The Spirit-filled Life Passage: Ephesians 5:18–5:21

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Marks of the Spirit-Filled Life Part Five

Worshipping God with All Our Heart

 

Ephesians 5:18-21

 

We've been looking at the emphasis in this passage that the Spirit-filled life will be a worship-filled life and this will be the last message on the marks of the Spirit-filled life. Paul says that to be filled with the Spirit will result in our being a people who "sing and make melody to the Lord with all [our] hearts". The Spirit-filled life is marked by genuine, heart-felt, God-glorifying worship. Paul says a Spirit-filled people will be a worshipping people!

 

The Real Worship War

 

Some of you may not be aware of this, but there is something going on called "the worship wars" which is a debate over what kind of musical style should be used in church worship. On one side you have more traditional churches advocating the singing of the hymns played on a piano or organ. On the other side you have contemporary worship songs played with full band including electric guitars and drums.

 

Now I'm not really qualified to comment on the various points made by either side and not my purpose this morning to do so. I think for the most part it reflects the diversity and variety within the church and in church styles and should be celebrated and not result in a worship war. But ultimately worship doesn't emanate from a piano or organ or electric guitar - it emanates from a heart that is fully devoted to God. A heart that loves God. And that is where the real worship war is going on: in our hearts. What will I love? What will I worship? Will I love God with all my heart and worship Him alone? Or will I give my affections to lesser things?

 

Singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart. Worship is only genuine if it comes from the heart. In Mark 7 Jesus blasts those who made an outward pretense of worshipping God, but did not worship from the heart: "well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, 'this people honors me with their lips, but their heart are far from me; in vain do they worship me...' " (Mark 7: 6-7)

 

God is not impressed with our words - He doesn't just read our lips - He reads our hearts. He seeks a people who worship Him with all their hearts - and that means a people who love Him with all their heart.

 

I.                   Worshipping God with all our heart flows from obedience to the first commandment

 

Turn with me to Mark 12:28-34. A group of Sadducees have been testing Jesus with questions and he silences them with his answers. When a scribe who is there listening sees that Jesus answers them well, he decides to put his own question to Jesus: which commandment is the most important of all?

 

Maybe this scribe hoped to trip Jesus up - make him fumble for an answer as he tried to prioritize the commandments. Maybe he expected Jesus to list the order of the commandments so that he could measure how well he was doing. But Jesus raises the standard way far higher than anything we could obey when he says we are to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. Selfish, sinful, weak, unloving creatures that we are - we find this first commandment to be, as Spurgeon puts it, a step far too high for us to reach.

 

If Jesus died on the cross to save sinners who had broken God's commandments - this is the

 commandment we have most especially broken. The One who hung on Calvary did love God perfectly with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, and He died in our place so that we could be saved, not by keeping the commandments, but by trusting in his finished work.

 

But Calvary doesn't make it unnecessary for us to love God - it makes it possible for us to love God. When we are saved and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our hearts, He gives us a new heart, one that loves God. This commandment still stands - we are still commanded to love God with all our heart - not in order to be saved, but because we are saved.

 

  1. We are to love God emotionally and affectionately (with all your heart and soul)

 

In the musical Fiddler on the Roof, a sentimental Tevye asks his wife of 25 years if she loves him. Marriages were arranged in those days and love wasn't considered an important factor. Incredulously she answers,

 

Do I love you?
For twenty-five years I've washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?

 

After listing several other things she's done for him over the 25 years, she says, "if that's not love, what is?" When it comes to our love for God we need to resist the temptation to pull out a list of all we've done for Him and equate that with love. "I read my Bible, pray, go to church, tithe, witness, and try to help others. If that's not love, what is?"

 

Heart refers to the seat of our emotions and affections - and soul deepens that expression. The soul was used to refer to the inner man - in distinction to the body. It includes the mind and heart - all that we are in the inward parts. We are to love God deeply, emotionally and affectionately.

 

Some have taught that love is simply a matter of the will and not an emotional thing because Jesus commands us to love and you can't command your emotions. While it is true that love is more than just emotions, it is never less than deep affection. You can't separate affections from genuine love - Jesus said we are to love Him more than father or mother or child. Those are relationships with deep emotional bonds - that's the point. We are to love Jesus more (with a deeper emotional bond and commitment). And actually Jesus commands our emotions quite often!

 

¨       He commands us to rejoice in certain situations such as when we are persecuted for his name's sake. (Matt. 5:11-12)

¨       He commands us to fear God and not those can only kill the body. (Matt. 10:28)

¨       He commands us not to feel shame over him. (Luke 9:26)

¨       He commands us to forgive from the heart. (Matt. 18:35)

 

I shared a couple of weeks ago how we were not to be led by our feelings - now, Jesus goes a step further. Not only are we not to be led by our feelings, we are to lead our feelings, stirring up affections for Christ.

 

  1. We are to love God by growing in our knowledge of Him (with your mind)

 

If our love for God isn't grounded on a knowledge of God, then it's not really love. We can't love what we don't know. It is learning about God's attributes, His character, His holiness, His love, His mercy, His glory that awakens and deepens love for God in us.

Holy affections are not heat without light, but invariably arise from some information conveyed to the understanding. The child of God is graciously affected, because he sees and understands something more of divine things than he did before-something more of God, of Christ, and of the glorious things exhibited in the gospel - Jonathan Edwards[1],

That is why we want the songs we sing in worship to be full of doctrine - so that our emotions are stirred by knowledge of who God is. There are songs that tell us to get all excited about God and sing and shout and clap and dance - but never tell us why to get excited about God. Songs like that will ultimately produce shallow emotionalism rather than deep affections for God because they don't awaken a knowledge of who God is.

3.      We are to love God with our lives (all your strength)

Worship (and love) is more than just singing - it is how we live our lives. Romans 12 says we are to present our bodies a living sacrifice - spiritual worship. Give ourselves to the work of God and the will of God with all our strength. In whatever way God calls you to serve Him, do it with all your heart. Serving the Lord half-heartedly is dishonoring to God. We are to serve Him with full hearts and with gladness!

What about our expressions of worship?

I want to very quickly touch on how we express ourselves in worship: what about the biblical call to clap, raise our hands, bow, even dance before the Lord? Not exhaustive, but hope helpful.

 

a.      We cannot measure the sincerity of worship by outward expressions.

 

We need to recognize that physical expressions of worship don't necessarily mean heart-felt expressions of worship. We can raise our hands as if we're lost in worship, but actually our hearts can be far from God. We also need to realize that someone can be singing and worshipping with all their hearts and not have a lot of physical expression. God is looking at the heart.

 

  1. We should not emphasize the outward expressions of worship but the inward reality of worship

 

I remember with great misgiving a service years ago in a church on Long Island where I was pastoring. My only excuse for what I did was that I was young. The poor worship leader was trying to lead us in a time of worship, but songs chose seemed like kind of depressing and as I looked around it just seemed dead.

 

So, being the leader that I was, I walked up to the front in the middle of a song and exhorted everyone that we needed to "sing like we mean it!" and in fact we needed to dance. Yeah, that's right, Junior here is going to lead us in an upbeat song and let's get out of our seats into aisles and dance. Well, some did. And I did. But while I'm dancing on the outside, I'm like the guy in the commercial "want to get away?" It was one of those services you want to forget.

 

Did I intend to manipulate? No. But in the end, I was pressing people to do a certain outward act to prove their passion for the Lord, and that is manipulation. The outward is important to God - He has made us whole beings so what is in our hearts will be reflected in our bodies, but there isn't one way that that happens and we need to avoid manipulating the outward at all times. Worship flows from loving God with all our heart.

 

c.       We should worship God passionately!

 

Having said that, the scriptures make it clear that our worship of God is to be filled with passionate emotion! While our exhortation must avoid stirring up outward expressions disconnected from inner affections for God (with sayings like "sing like you mean it!"), our exhortations to each other should be bold that we should mean it when we sing! We are created to be expressive creatures and the scripture is full of bodily expressions used to express a heart of praise and worship:

 

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house.

I will bow down toward your holy temple in the fear of you. Psalm 5:7 (ESV)  

 

I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. Psalm 9:2 (ESV)  

 

Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help,

when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary. Psalm 28:2 (ESV)  

 

Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared, a great king over all the earth. Psalm 47:1-2

 

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!  For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Psalm 95:6-7

 

Praise Him with the trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp!

Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!

Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Psalm 150:3-5

 

II.                Worshipping God with all our heart will include obedience to the second commandment

 

Jesus links the first and second commandment inseparably. If we are growing in our love for God we will also be growing in our love for our neighbor.

 

I heard the story of a worship leader who was dancing across the platform worshipping God with his eyes tightly shut and stepping on the feet of the others in the worship team. Worshipping God should not leave us ignoring and stepping on others around us.

 

Shared more fully on this aspect last week - but we cannot love God without loving each other as well. Worship of God will not only be upward - it will be outward as well. One of the ways we worship God is by ministering to one another to build one another up as a holy temple to the Lord.

1 John 4:20 links the two inseparably again when he writes that we cannot say we love God whom we haven't seen if we hate our brother whom we have seen. Wholehearted worship of God won't be oblivious to others but will lead us to a greater love and concern for others. Love them as we love ourselves.

 

Conclusion:

 

This must be a work of God in us - not a cop-out and it doesn't remove our responsibility, but it does bring us back to the passage that started all of this. The command that led to this series. We need to be filled with the Spirit if we are ever to love God and others in this way.

 

How do we respond? By crying out to God to fill us with His Spirit. Give us that new love, that first love that Jesus speaks of in Revelation 2. Charles Spurgeon leads us to pray well:

 

Lord give me a new understanding; wash my mind with the clean water of the Spirit; come and dwell in my judgment, my memory, my thought; and then give me the new strength of thy Spirit, and then I will love thee with all my new heart, with all my new life, with all my renewed mind, and will all my spiritual strength, from this time forth, even for evermore.

 

Let's pray together.

 

My God, I love Thee; not because

I hope for heaven thereby,

Nor yet because who love Thee not

Are lost eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me

Upon the cross embrace;

For me didst bear the nails, and spear,

And manifold disgrace,

And griefs and torments numberless,

And sweat of agony;

Yea, death itself; and all for me

Who was thine enemy.

Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,

Should I not love Thee well?

Not for the sake of winning heaven,

Nor of escaping hell;

Not from the hope of gaining aught,

Not seeking a reward;

But as Thyself hast loved me,

O ever-loving Lord.

So would I love Thee, dearest Lord,

And in Thy praise will sing;

Solely because Thou art my God,

And my most loving King.

 

Francis Xavier, 1506-1552 

 

 


[1] Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise on Religious Affections pg. 192

 

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