An Essential Truth
• As we have spent this month focused on the thought “Fresh Start”, I pray that each of us has experienced a “FRESH START” in our walk with God. Every now and then we need a ‘reboot.’ In this computer age, we know what it is for the computer to work through so many operations, process so many bits of data, and run so many programs, that it hangs up. Then NOTHING works right. You call a technician and what does he say? Let’s reboot. A reboot means that the power is taken from the processor, the RAM (Random Access Memory) is erased, and computer restarts with just the basics required for processing.
• RAM is that part of the memory which contains the most recent information which has been used by the computer. That information is held in the RAM to allow the computer to run the needed programs, to run more smoothly, and to run more quickly. Interestingly, RAM memory continues to get larger and larger with each passing generation of computers – and the need for reboot become more and more necessary.
• Compared to our minds and life, consider how much information is fed into our minds to help us function, more smoothly, and more quickly. The problem is that much of the information we feed into our minds are counter-productive to our walk with Christ. Think about the information from the newspaper, TV, conversation, books, and the like – now, ask how much of that information aids, assists, or enhances your walk with Christ? Your answer will depend on your honesty.
• We are going to take a look at a story which is somewhat familiar, somewhat surprising, and somewhat sad. It is always sad to me, when I read of or see someone who ‘believes’ they are part of the spiritual elite only to discover that the one who is thought to be spiritually empty is full.
• (READ TEXT) Wow. Jesus went to dinner in the house of a “Religious Leader” and concluded the evening by saving a soul and teaching a religious person about his faulty way of thinking. How would you have felt if you had been this Pharisee? We could develop this story by looking at the “Problems of the Pharisee, The Love of the Lord, and the Salvation of the Sinner” and it would make an engaging message.
• But for us tonight, let’s focus on this woman. The scripture calls her a ‘sinner’ (in Bible terms probably means she was a prostitute). She comes in with an attitude & action which teach us.
• There is a growing conviction in me and I sense a growing desire from many in our church family that now is the time for us to step out of our box, out of our comfort zone, and even out of some of our strongly held positions to become a part of God’s Kingdom work of rescuing the lost. This is our call, our command, and even our obligation before the Lord.
• While all we do in His work should begin in prayer (Pray First), one of the most need expressions of faith that Christ-followers need to have is worship (passionate, authentic, & heart-felt). Every time I approach this subject I am reminded of the many times we see movie producers portray worship. We see people on their knees or faces with their heads bowed low. Why? This is the attitude of worship. Gene Mims in Kingdom Principles for Church Growth said, “The purpose of worship is to come before the Lord in obedience to praise Him, to hear from Him, to confess to Him, and to commit our lives to Him. Every worship service is to be an encounter with the Lord, transcending our feelings, desires, and even our abilities to perform.” Worship is an attitude & experience of the heart. When our heart is right before & with Jehovah God, worship is as natural as breathing which results in a ‘can’t wait’ attitude to gather.
• We know that true, authentic, & spiritual worship is born in the hearts because of the word which Isaiah wrote and Matthew & Mark repeated, “They honor me (worship me, draw near me) with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, in vain do they worship me…”
• Tonight let’s learn from this woman (a sinner like us) the H.E.A.R.T. of worship. (By the way, I read about this acrostic from a Military Chaplain…I thank Him for his inspiration to my heart.) Each of these attributes are essential to experiencing true worship.
1. H – Humility – To worship humility is required. A human being will never worship someone or something that they do not believe to be ‘superior’ – this is human nature. This woman knew who she was & recognized who He was so she approach Him from behind. Perhaps she was afraid that if He looked into her eyes, that He would see to her soul & know the sinful life she had been living. Compare that to Jesus’ host, Simon the Pharisee. He was so critical of this woman & the fact that she would ‘dare’ to come to Jesus that he missed his own sinfulness. She came in an act of worship of who Jesus was, Simon came in defiance of wanting to show Jesus who “HE” was compared to this ‘sinner.’ She saw herself in light of Jesus, Simon saw himself in light of the woman – and he never experienced worship. He was a man of some means, influence, and status, so why did he need to humble himself? After all, he had it together – unlike this woman. Keep in mind Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6 or Peter, James, & John on the Mount of Transfiguration – seeing yourself in light of God is a humbling experience. This is the first step to worship.
2. E – Emotion – This woman stood behind Jesus, weeping. I fear this is one of the great losses in the modern day church, crying to the point of weeping. We have become such a callous people, that crying is only done when one of our loved one leave this earth & go to heaven. We seem more concerned for people who have gone to heaven than for people who are headed for hell. She was not weeping for weeping’s sake, rather, she knew that she was in deep spiritual trouble and had now found the one who could offer her redemption. She did not hide her emotion & thus, not her need. Simon was unmoved by Jesus or by this woman’s display of affection & emotion. In fact, he was somewhat indignant. Wonder what the prevailing attitude is today. Jesus touched her heart.
3. A – Adoration – As I read this story, it is evident to me that she adored Jesus because of who He was and what she believed He could & would do for her. Continuing in verse 38, Jesus had not ‘DONE’ anything for her as of yet. Yet, she fell at His feet, weeping so profusely that her tears covered His feet. In a great act of worship, she cleaned his feet with her hair. Quite likely, her hair was long, soft, and beautiful, because that was indeed the glory, an alluring quality of those women who were prostitutes. She offered the best that she had and then took it one step further. She used the flask of ointment to anoint His feet. She not only cleaned the feet of Jesus, but she prepared His feet for the journey. Contrast her adoration with Simon’s attitude. Although Simon wouldn’t verbalize it, in his opinion, this woman should not have been allowed to touch Jesus. Not only did Jesus call Simon out, but just like He does us, Jesus didn’t let Simon off the hook. Simon’s response to Jesus’ story sounds much like our response to the truth. “Well, I guess,” is what he said. Translation, “You are right, but I don’t like it.” Simon invited Jesus in – but on his terms. This woman came in to see Jesus and simply adore Him. That is worship.
4. R – Repentance – This entire story reveals a woman coming to Jesus with a repentant attitude. Please don’t miss this: In this culture, the attitude is, “I am who I am, this is me, take it or leave it or get over it because I am not changing for anybody, anyone, or anything.” I offer 2 things about this attitude: a) In this story, you can identify that attitude with Simon the Pharisee. In truth, this is the attitude of the Pharisees. And b) It is not compatible with being a Christ-follower. Authentic or true worship is ushered in on the avenue of “Repentance.” While this is not a popular truth, it is still a truth. In Luke 13 & Revelation 2 Jesus says, “Unless you repent”, in 2 Chronicles 7:14 we read that repentance is ‘humbling self, praying, seeking God & turning from wickedness”, repentance is Jesus’ first word on earth, and last word in Revelation. It is not trite or an option. We will worship if & when we repent of our sins which opens the flood gates of forgiveness.
• Personally, I believe the absence of humility, emotion, and adoration (who He is versus who I am) is the culprit to why there is so little repentance in today’s church. Doesn’t the story which Jesus offered as an illustration and His application speak worlds of truth to us today? He who has been forgiven much will ‘love’ more. It is at this point which we offer:
5. T – Thanksgiving – It is obvious to me that this woman, who was known to have a sinful past, had become a woman of faith. Before Jesus ever told her that her sin was forgiven, she came in faith with her best, to offer her best to Him. That ointment was likely the most expensive possession she had. In that culture, a man would take woman for a wife based on what she had to offer. This ointment could have been her ticket to attracting a man for more than a one-time encounter, but it would seem that she valued Jesus and His offer so much that she was “Thanking Him” for what He WOULD DO, not just what He HAD DONE. She displayed her love & faithfulness & commitment to Him by bringing her best. Simon, on the other hand, probably felt like “I’m a religious man, I go to church twice a week, I give a tithe of all I possess, and I’m thankful that I’m not like this lowly prostitute who is hopeless.” (Sound familiar?) He confessed little, repented of less, and showed little or no love for Jesus. Quite likely, he invited Jesus into his home to impress Jesus.
We worship Jesus when we express thanksgiving for who He is, for what He will do, and for what He has done.
ONE LAST THING: There is little we do which is more powerful than worshipping our Lord with abandon. A lost person sees someone who professes to be a Christ-follower worship in a ‘half-hearted’ manner – they are put off or put out and may walk away. Conversely, if anyone sees that same person worship from their heart (not just with their lips) the Spirit of Christ gets involved and can use that experience to melt a cold heart, crack a hard heart, & revival a dead heart.