Style vs. Substance
November 14, 1999
We love mirrors. It is hard for us to walk by one without taking at least a quick glance. Some do it in a clandestine fashion. Others are overt about it. They just walk right up and check themselves out—hair, teeth. Mirrors are omnipresent. They are in our homes, in our cars, at the health club, in the boardroom. Even office buildings are constructed with mirrors. We use them to apply makeup, to style our hair, to insert our contacts. I have even heard that some guys flex in front of mirrors. I just heard that.
We love mirrors because mirrors reflect an image of who we are. I am in the second part of a brand new series entitled “www.godonline.com.” It is a series on worship, and the “www” stands for the wonderful world of worship.
When you look at worship, a lot of it centers around mirrors, revolves around mirrors. If you missed last weekend, please pick up the tape since each message builds on the one that preceded it. We defined worship as having intense passion or esteem for a person, place, or thing. We discovered that all of us are worshippers. All of us are intentionally passionate about a person, place, or thing. Worship.
This series is a special one. It doesn’t matter if you are like the couple I talked to several days ago who said that they were just getting back into church or if you are like me and have been a believer for decades. I am firmly convinced to my core that this topic can change the trajectory of your life and my life, both here and now and for eternity.
The most important question a person can ask is, “Why am I here? Am I just taking up space on a planet spinning into nowhere? Am I here just to perpetuate the species, to dream and scheme of collecting stuff, to do deals and die? Or is there an ultimate purpose out there? Is there a true reason for living?” Sadly, millions make their way through this one and only life without ever knowing why they are here, what this life is all about. It centers around mirrors.
Well, to understand what I just shared with you, we have to go back to the first human beings ever created, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve never asked the “why am I here” question. They understood why they were in the garden. They saw themselves as mirrors, human beings reflecting the majesty of their Maker. They understood when they communicated, when they laughed, when recreated that they were involved in worship, that they were mirroring the majesty of their Maker. Everything was going perfectly. Remember, God always has a passionate purpose behind everything. He created us for worship. He created you and He created me to be mirrors to reflect His glory. God wants to be able to look at your life and mine and see Himself reflected back from our lives.
We are made in the image of God. We are referred to in the Bible as the crown of God’s creation. No other thing in creation can intentionally be a mirror to reflect our Maker like we can. However, something bad happened in the garden. Adam and Eve made the call to elevate their will above God’s will, thus they sinned and the mirror was marred. It was messed up. God is holy and man rebelled against God and messed the deal up. From that day forward until 1999, we have been struggling with this marred mirror.
At this point, God could have deleted us off the screen. He could have said that He didn’t want to mess around with people who have marred mirrors. But God didn’t. God didn’t. God loved the world so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to live a sinless life on this earth. Jesus said these words about himself in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” In other words, Christ was saying, I reflect the brilliance of My Father, of God, in a perfect manner.
We know that Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, for a crime He did not commit. He was tried before Pilot and crucified. He hung on a cross for six hours, and right before He breathed His final breath, He said this: “It is finished.” He was buried and rose again. If we come to a point in our lives and make the defining moment decision to receive Christ’s finished work, then His finished work refinishes our mirrors. It restores them, remakes them, and refurbishes them for their original purpose. Thus, by God’s grace, He turns wanderers into worshippers who mirror the majesty of our Maker.
That brings us to another aspect of our definition of worship. Worship is being intensely passionate about mirroring the majesty of our Maker in all that we do and say. Worship should transcend everything that we are about.
Let me press the pause button and ask you a question. What about your life? What about your worship? Think back over the last seven days, the in-between service time. Think of every word that you uttered. I’m talking about the last seven days. Think about every thought you processed. I’m talking about the last seven days, the in-between service time. Think about every image that was before your eyes. I’m talking about the last seven days, the in-between service time. Think about those things. What if God could freeze frame those interchanges, those thoughts, those activities. And what if God put those frames on the side screens. Could God say, “Oh, that is worship. That person, that student, that single adult, that married couple, that parent is mirroring My image in all that he or she is doing and saying.” Could God say that about you?
We have a messed up view of worship. We think worship is confined to a church campus. Worship is a 24/7 deal. I don’t care if you are changing diapers. I don’t care if you are preaching messages. I don’t care if you are closing deals. I don’t care if you are throwing touchdown passes. I don’t care if you are coaching or teaching. I don’t care what you are doing. We can do it as an act of worship. Worship must transcend everything we do and everything we say and everything we touch. It is all about mirrors.
How about your mirror? Could your mirror be cracked because of anger? Is anger holding you back from truly reflecting the majesty of your Maker? Maybe your mirror is foggy because of lust. Is that tripping you up? Is it? Maybe your mirror is very ornate and you struggle with stuff. You don’t have things, things have you. Is that keeping you from mirroring the majesty of your Maker? Maybe the mirror is messed up because of a character flaw or difficulty. God wants to refinish and refurbish your mirror and turn your life, as well as mine, into a constant state of worship. It is a 24/7 deal. It is not confined to a church campus. Worship should transcend everything we do and everything we say.
Let’s go to another question about worship. Today’s title is “Substance vs. Style.” How about the style? How do we worship? “OK, Ed, I see I am a mirror. I see that 24/7, I am to mirror the majesty of my Maker. I see that everything I do and say must be an act of worship. But how do I do it?”
Well, to explain the “how,” let me get you to think about this statement: Dallas/Ft. Worth is a very fashionable city. Wouldn’t you agree? People in this area are into clothing. Some sport that cowboy look—the boots, belts, hats, and Wranglers. Others sport that country club look. They look like they have just rolled off the 18th green. Others here sport that Abercrombie and Fitch, Gap, Old Navy type look and those baggy pants that are about four sizes too big that show the top of one’s underwear. I don’t get that one. Those shoes with lug soles that you can hardly pick up. Some people are fashion conscious and others are fashion unconscious.
Speaking of fashion, how many married men do we have in the house this morning? Yes, yes, a married man. Guys, remember before you were married. You would dress yourself. You would go into that closet and look at your wardrobe and come up with the coolest ensemble. You just knew that you were looking good, looking clean. Then you got married. Several months into the marriage, you would come up with a cool ensemble to go out with your wife. She would stop you in your tracks and say, “You’re wearing that?” Just a subtle hint. It begins to mess with us guys, doesn’t it? We begin to think, “Oh no, I’m becoming fashion unconscious.”
Years roll by and you find yourself sitting on your bed in your boxer shorts looking down at your five-year-old son saying, “Mommy is going to dress us and we are going to be looking good tonight.” We can talk about style all day and all night. But at the end of the day, it is just about clothing, materials that cover our bodies. That is what it is about.
We can talk about worship styles all day and night until the cows come home. But Jesus said it is all about substance. We can chose our style and we can talk about that over the ensuing weeks, but worship is a substance deal. Jesus uses an interchange to teach us about worship in John 4:24. My brother calls this passage “the whore in John 4.” Now before you react to my saying the word “whore,” you should know that the word “whore” is mentioned 75 times in the Old Testament. The word “whore” is used in Revelation as a reference to a one-world religion. So, just chill on the word “whore.” No letters, please.
He was dealing with a prostitute. And this prostitute was hanging out near a well. Jesus is going to turn her from a wanderer into a worshipper. Why would He choose a prostitute? Why didn’t Jesus choose a religious person, a Pharisee, a Sadducee? Why? Jesus, the radical, the man who was otherworldly, Jesus, fully God and fully man, rattles our cages on this one. And here is what He said about worship. He summed it up in His conversation with this prostitute. John 4:24, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” Spirit and truth. There are two interpretations of the word “spirit” here. Stay with me for a second, it will get a little bit dicey. Some interpret this word “spirit” as the Holy Spirit. Others, like me, interpret this word “spirit” as referring to our emotional makeup, our feelings. Both interpretations come to the same point, and I will explain that later.
Well, let’s talk about spirit. We should worship God if we are going to be true worshipers—like the whore in John 4 turned into—in spirit with our emotions, with our feelings. We have got to worship God that way. However, there is a danger when it is just with the spirit. Spirit must be tethered to the truth. You have got to have spirit going on and truth going on. If you worship God in just the spirit, you’ve got some wacky stuff going on. If you worship God just with your emotions, with your feelings without being tethered to the truth, you can have a church full of granola Christians—fruits, flakes, and nuts all rolled into one church.
All you have got to do here in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area is turn on the television and see all of these crazy televangelists. They worship in spirit, but most of them do not combine spirit and truth. You see the Holy Spirit never called attention to Himself in the Bible. He didn’t say, “I’m the Holy Spirit. Here I am. Worship me.” No, the Holy Spirit put the spotlight on Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. He is our mediator. He is the one. It is all about Christ. We are saved by grace through faith.
This word “spirit” here is the opposite of empty traditionalism. Empty denominationalism. A lot of you think that if you have gone into a stained glass fortress, eaten a wafer, and sipped from a communion cup or heard hymns that you have worshipped. Come back? Now if you have worshipped in spirit and truth during that, you have. But just because you have come in contact with a little bit of stuff doesn’t mean you have worshipped. Jesus said, “Spirit and truth.”
What is truth? Truth is sound doctrine. Truth is the Bible. And that is one of the things that I love about Fellowship. We are a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching, Bible-communicating church. We are under the authority of God’s word. We have no man-made creeds. We have no group in Nashville or New York saying that we have to do church only one way or that, as a pastor, I can only serve five years in one place. No, no, no. We are autonomous and independent. We are Bible-believing and Bible-teaching. And we teach and preach the full economy, the full counsel of God. You can have granola Christians if you worship just in spirit. Conversely, you can have graveyard Christians if you worship just in truth. A lot of churches are graveyard churches, the pale and the stale. Boy, they downloaded a lot of data, but that’s just about it. It is just a head game, not a heart game. It is just a facts thing, without the feelings. You see you have got to merge both, have both. The spirit will never motivate or stimulate or challenge you to do something that the truth does not back up.
Christ’s words in John 4 tell us, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” But I have said that there are two interpretations. Well, in John 3, Jesus brings the two together. I don’t care which interpretation you take, Christ’s connects God’s spirit with our spirit. John 3:6, “That which is born of the Spirit…(I’m talking about the Holy Spirit)…is spirit.” True worship comes from our spirit made alive and sensitive by the Holy Spirit. God takes the responsibility of worship off our shoulders and places it on the back of the Holy Spirit who energizes our feelings and our emotions. He helps us worship God in spirit and in truth. He helps us mirror the majesty of our Maker. When you talk about worship, it is not all about you or about me, it is all about God.
We should never say, “Oh, I enjoyed that service. That big band stuff, that swing stuff. Boy, that was good. That one part of the sermon was really funny. I enjoyed it.” That is not the response we should have. It should not be whether I enjoyed it or not, but did God enjoy it. Did I sing to Him? Was I engaged? Was I listening? Did I come to worship worshipping? Is worship a part of my life? Is it a part of who I am? Is it?
Worship. What? We are mirrors. How? We must worship God in spirit and in truth. Well, having said that, I want to share with you right now several surprising sides of worship. When you get the mirror thing down, understand the spirit and truth deal, grasp the fact that it should transcend everything you do and say, here are some surprising sides of worship. First, my worship or your worship can move the heart of God. God has feelings, too. For some reason a lot of us think of God as an unflappable, clinical creator just calling the shots. Think of all of the emotions that you have displayed over the last seven days in-between service times. Some of you probably got angry over the last seven days in-between service times. Others probably felt sad or happy or had a lot of different emotions. Why? Because we are fashioned in the image of an emotional God.
This is a great question that you can ask those people who believe in evolution. Explain to me how we got our feelings. They can’t give you a reason. It is because of God. Psalm 103:13, here is what David said, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.” It is not scary fear. It is astonished reverence. God has compassion on His children and our worship can move His heart.
Genesis 1 and 2—after God made the heavens and earth, created the animals and human beings, He was delighted. He said it was good. When His Son was baptized in the Jordan River, a place where I will baptize next week, in fact, God said He was delighted. He said, “This is My Son in whom I am well pleased.” Our worship can move the heart of God. But if we just do the external thing, we are going to miss what life is all about and miss a chance to move the heart of God.
I mentioned the Pharisees earlier. The Pharisees had lots of external stuff. They thought they had worship down pat. They jumped through this hoop and that hoop. Jesus one day looked at them and bottom-lined them. He said that they were a bunch of whitewashed tombs, dead on the inside while trying to make people think they were alive on the outside. Then he went on to say that they clean the outside of the cup but not the inside. That is powerful stuff against the backdrop of John 4:24, in spirit and in truth, isn’t it?
Is your life moving the heart of God? Is God delighted? Remember that God does not need our worship. He is God. But He wants it because we are made in His image.
Worship can also change and alter our perspective. Tuesday night, one of my five-year-old twin daughters, Laurie, was walking past me and she had a huge area of paint on the back of her blue pants. I said, “Laurie, you must have sat in a bunch of paint. Your pants have white paint all over the back.” She said, “Well, Dad, I sure am glad it is on the back.” I asked, “Why?” She responded, “Cause no one can see it from the front.” Perspective.
Perspective, that is what worship does. It turns us right side up, up side down. It challenges us. It motivates us. It makes us fearful, now and then. Sometimes it is very, very difficult. 1 Chronicles 29:14, David said, “Who am I….” And this is a priority, friends, of corporate worship. I don’t know about you, but I need a time when I come together with a bunch of people, and I need to leave the place saying, “Who am I.” Who am I? Who are you? God sought you, He bought you, He made you. And He has given you an opportunity to worship Him. “….and who are our people that we should be able to give as generously as this….” We will talk about giving in this series. Giving is a part of worship. David said everything comes from You, and we have given you only what has come from Your hand.
Do you want to know why I believe that worship is not really central in our lives? It is because when we truly worship we move the spotlight off of ourselves and onto God, and that is a very difficult thing for people like you and me to do. So the more I worship, the more I understand mirroring the majesty of my Maker, the more I understand spirit and truth, the smaller I become and the larger God becomes.
There is another surprising side of worship, and it is found in Isaiah 6. Worship causes me to take action. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord…” Anytime we see God, great things will happen and that is part of individual worship and corporate worship—seeing God. “…seated on the throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces…” Are you ready for that? Angels cower in the brilliant blaze of God’s glory. They have six wings and two of the wings eternally cover their eyes. “…with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty…’” Why do you think they said “holy” three times? God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, our co-existent and co-eternal triune God. “’…the whole earth is full of his glory.’ At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. ‘ Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘ I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips….’”
When we truly worship, we are going to truly confess. It draws us, it motivates us to see that our lives are mere filthy rags in the presence of God. Skipping to Verse 8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us.’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” How can we truly worship and not be changed. How? When the Wise Men worshipped the Christ child, the Bible says that they expressed their love to Him, gave gifts to Him, they bowed to Him. Then it says they returned by another way. When we truly worship, we return by another route, by another lifestyle.
Worship—becoming intensely passionate about mirroring the majesty of our Maker in everything we do and everything we say. At the end of the day, it is all about mirrors. It is all about mirrors. And when we mirror the majesty of our Maker, then and only then, will we know what it means to be on-line.