Sunday’s highest calls are for us to love & worship Jesus Christ, and then to love & serve others. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Truly it would be, if not for one persistent problem that continually seeks to get in your way. Nope, it’s not the devil. It’s not your spouse, your children, the weather, the music at church, the economy or the person who did you wrong ten minutes ago or ten years ago. That is not what is getting in the way of your worship.
Your biggest obstacle to worshiping God and serving others is You.
Before you accuse me of accusing you, let me assert that this same difficult thing is true of me. My biggest issue when it comes to unhindered and potent worship and service is Jeff Lyle (wherever I go, he is there). You and I have a natural self-focus that must be overthrown during the days of our earthly lives, in the hope of leaving us joyously God-intent and others-focused. Sundays serve as a wonderful opportunity to get militant about this required coup, and the first step is to learn to deny yourself. It is easy to say but excruciating to master: your life is not solely about you.
Most of you reading this will be involved in some form of corporate worship this Sunday. Before you arrive at that place of gathered worship with those other people, convince yourself that the time you spend together doesn’t have to suit your taste. No, really, you don’t have to be pleased with everything. As long as the music has an objective focus on the glorious Savior, then choose to joyfully engage your heart, even if the tempo is slower or faster than your personal preference. Is the teacher loud and demonstrative when you prefer a subtle and soft voice? Then pay more attention to what he or she seems to be passionate about, and consider if you ought not also to be stirred. Perhaps the style of the one instructing you is a little subdued, and you are craving some communication umph; well, be careful not to give into the style-over-substance nuance of our culture. He or she is not auditioning for Lectern American Idol; he or she is communicating sublime truth about Holy God. Yes, we are prone to have an inner remote control that flips off songs and sermons if we don’t like style of the presentation. Don’t mute the messenger.
Let me stipulate again, it’s really not about you or me. You are the servant, the doulos, the bondslave. Your Savior told you to show up wearing your servant’s robe, not a queen’s tiara or a judge’s clipboard. You and I, if we made it our aim, could be so persistently engaged in meeting the needs of others that we are scarcely able to be subjected to fits of frustration because things are not just-so. What is it which makes us think our opinion is so essential anyway? I’ll tell you: it is our PRIDE. If we are to ever experience the presence of the Lord in a manner that lastingly transforms us, then we must abandon the persistent pull of our flesh which presumptuously puts us at the front of the line. This change in our thinking never happens accidentally or incidentally. God calls us to assassinate that part of us that presumes entitlement and exaltation. What an awful potential might await us this Sunday, as we gather in the humbling grace of the Master. We come together to magnify Him, to speak of Him, to exalt His unspeakably worthy name in song and prayer and sacrifice. We gather to serve others by sharing our gifts and words and deeds. We willingly renounce our rights and wants and preferences and presumptions. We are a people who have proclaimed God to be centermost, others to be our aim and our own selves to get used to the bottom of the list but…
Self doesn’t exactly like that. Self may not mind it too much, as long as Self has its needs met first, but Self is not going to cooperate with this removal of authority. Self runs the show, or have we forgotten?
So let’s kill Self today – is that radical enough for you? Let’s spend the Lord’s Day as assassins. Target your enemy and slay him. Don’t think this to be too dramatic, because there can be no unworthy extreme in humbling ourselves, if our aim is to honor Christ and bless others. If someone has to be disappointed today, let it be you. If someone has to be denied this morning, make it the person who stares at you from the mirror. If someone has to ardently commit to move to the back of the line, then you be the one who hyper-extends an elbow as you pump your hand in the air repeatedly to volunteer as the person who will be last. Get extreme as you look Self in the eye with a locked jaw and pointed finger and say, “Not today, mister. Your vote doesn’t count because you always vote for you. My Sunday is for my King and His servants. Take a seat in the back.”
Then, when the sun sets on Sunday night, tell me if this was not the best day of worship you’ve experienced in a long time.