Summary: What should be the result of Real Worship?
A circus parade was moving through the streets of Milan, Italy. In Milan, church doors are large and in the summer are often wide open. This made possible an interesting situation. Suddenly, one of the elephants veered from the line in the parade and marched into a church. This visitor wandered up the center aisle, trumpeted a bit, swung her trunk around and then headed back to the parade.
Unfortunately, many of us seem to imitate this pious pachyderm. On a Sunday morning we lurch into church, make a few noises, observe the congregation, then step out to resume our place in the parade. The great drama of worship is played out, but it is lost on us.
What impact should the experience of corporate worship have on our lives? Let's see what impact Isaiah's experience of worship had on him.
Real Worship will result in my . . .
1. Hearing the voice of God - v. 8a
The Bible makes it clear that God desires to speak to his children today just as definitely as he spoke to Isaiah back then. God speaking to the hearts of his children is part of what we refer to when we speak of our personal relationship with God.
"Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" - Matthew 17:1-5 (NIV)
Peter, James and John had an experience of heavenly worship! They had been made freshly aware of the presence and power of God. They had seen the Lord, exalted and glorified. But one thing remained. If they were to benefit from this glorious experience of worship, they were told they need to listen to Jesus and what He had to say to them. Our failure to listen for what God wants to say to us may be the reason we are kept from being blessed when we gather with God's people.
When we refuse to listen for the voice of God, we deprive ourselves from the blessings of God; and our worship is an exercise in futility.
"But there is something I’m looking for: a person simple and plain, reverently responsive to what I say. Your acts of worship are acts of sin: Your sacrificial slaughter of the ox is no different from murdering the neighbor; Your offerings for worship, no different from dumping pig’s blood on the altar; Your presentation of memorial gifts, no different from honoring a no-god idol. You choose self-serving worship, you delight in self-centered worship - disgusting! Well, I choose to expose your nonsense and let you realize your worst fears, Because when I invited you, you ignored me; when I spoke to you, you brushed me off." - Isaiah 60:2b-4a (The Message)
Jesus made it clear that God's voice will be heard and His truth will be revealed to the listening heart.
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them." - Luke 8:16-18 (NIV)
If God's voice isn't heard by His children, the problem doesn't lie with God's voice but man's heart. The parable of the Sower or the Soils (Luke 8:4-8) reveals the importance of the condition of one's heart in enabling us to hear the voice of God. The soils represent four types of person who might be part of any worship gathering. Jesus explained it:
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rocky ground are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." - Luke 8:11-15 (NIV)