Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Going Toward God, Part Three

Part Three: The Lifestyle of a Worshiper

Psalm 84:9-12

We have a goal in life: to know God deeply and to obey God fully; to become like Jesus in His loving obedience to the Father. It’s really not all that complicated. Get this right, and you’ll get life right. Get it wrong, and you get life wrong. Not only that, get it right and you know joy; get it wrong and you’ll only know heartache and frustration.

This is the fullest meaning of being a true worshiper of God. Now, sometimes we talk about worship and being a worshiper in the narrower sense of what we do when we gather to worship; as a matter of fact, I touched on that just a few weeks ago.

But today we’re talking about being a worshiper in its broadest sense—as a way of living. The heart of worship is love—loving God. What I want us to think about today is the worshipful lifestyle. And the worshipful lifestyle is one that brims over with love for God. It’s when you’re just bubbling over with love for God and it laps over to bless others as well.

We’re going to see that in Psalm 84:9-12. We’ve been on a godward journey the last few weeks as we’ve worked our way in this wonderful Psalm.

Psalm 84 is a Psalm about that journey—the journey toward God. It’s a “pilgrimage” Psalm. In vs. 5, the writer says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their heart on pilgrimage.” This is a Psalm for people who determined to get close to God. Hey, is that you? I sure hope so.

Psalm 84:1-4 speak of the intense desire to go and worship God at the Temple. It all starts with a vision of your life as a real worshipper of God, as fully devoted to Him. What would your life be like if you were fully devoted to God? What would your life look like if you set out to be sold out to Jesus and His mission? You get a picture of that in Psalm 84.

The Psalm is divided into three sections, each one ending with the word “Selah,” a musical notation marking the divisions of the Psalm. The first part, vs. 1-4 is about that desire to seek God.

Next, vs. 5-8, is about the journey to get from where you are to where you want to be—from desire to destination.

Today is about the lifestyle of a real worshiper as we examine vs. 9-12. That’s the destination of the Psalm, and it’s the real desire of God for us all, to become through and through, from-the-heart worshipers.

How do we get there? The big lesson of vs. 5-8, the middle section of the Psalm, is that you have to go through a valley—the Valley of Baca, Weeping Valley, to get there. There’s no such place in the ancient lands of the Bible—it’s symbolic of the fact that if you set your face to go to the center of God’s will, there’s hardship that you’ll encounter on the way, and God wants us to learn from that experience. Only when we learn those lessons do we put ourselves where God can make us into that kind of fully developed worshipper.

I was thinking on this, meditating on it, asking again, why is it so important that we pass through Weeping Valley on the way to being made into a real worshiper? And I think I heard God whisper something. The hard times are designed to make us gentle people. You want to tenderize meat? You have to hammer it! Now, hard times can make you into hard people; you have to choose. But think of Jesus. Jesus’ love was perfected—brought to completion—by the things that He suffered. I’m not making this up. Hebrews 5:8 says, “…He learned obedience from what he suffered.” In terms of His humanity, Jesus was brought to completion in His devotion to the Father by His suffering.

Suffering and even betrayal was the path Jesus had to follow to come the place where He obedience was complete. And when we follow Him, on some smaller scale we’re going to experience what He experienced. That gives us the opportunity to love like Jesus loved and in turn to become a gentle person, a kind, Christ-like person. Only then can we be that fully formed worshipers.

So what does that look like? What do our lives look like when we come through the valley into the plain? After the last “selah” we have verses 9-12, which says this:

9 Look upon our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

12 O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.

In these verses, I see three key truths, three elements of what it means to be a true worshiper.

1. The true worshiper lives protected by the shield of the King (v. 9)

Look upon our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

The “shield” in the first part of the verse is paralleled in the second part—the shield is the “anointed one”, a term used of the kings of Israel. And yes, it’s the same word as “messiah.” In Old Testament terms, the pilgrims on their way up to worship at the temple in Jerusalem prayed for the king because they knew that he was their protector—their shield. So this last third of the Psalm starts with a prayer for the king, the shield of the people of Israel.

Who is the shield of God’s people today? Who is our king? (Tell me!) Our king is Jesus, who really is our shield—the one who stands between the just wrath of God for our sins and takes the hit for us on the cross.

Now, we no longer pray for the king the way the ancient Israelites did—Jesus is the shield, and He intercedes for us, we don’t have to intercede for Him. He sits enthroned at the right hand of the Father, praying for us. He’s the priest who offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, once for all, and by His resurrection, He reigns as king, over all and for all times.

But here’s what’s the same: He’s our shield. Real worshipers have no pride: what they have is confidence in Jesus. Real worshipers have no sense of self-sufficiency. They know that the King is their sufficiency. Our king shields us. Our king provides for us. Our king defends us. Our king encourages us. Our king delivers us. Our king does it all.

Jesus does it all. Jesus didn’t just die to get rid of the consequences of sin; He died to break the power of sin. Our king breaks the power of the enemy. So, as Paul says in Romans 6:11-12,

11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.

Sin desires to reign, but we have a different King. We are no longer in the dominion of sin; we are in the King’s land. The orders that sin issues are invalid for us. Sin and Satan are not longer our lords; Jesus is Lord. He is the shielding King.

2. The true worshiper desires to spend time with God above all else and to serve God—in whatever capacity—more than the world’s greatest honors

Vs. 10 is in so many ways is the high point in the Psalm, the objective that we’ve been aiming at for the last three weeks:

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

The Psalmist is expressing the utter superiority of worshiping God in time and in position.

First time: better one day in your courts than thousand elsewhere.

Let me ask you a question: would you trade a day with God for a thousand without Him?

The true worshiper comes to treasure time with God above any other time. To attend a Sunday morning worship time is a privilege, not a burden; and its overflow from a life of worship. The worshiper knows the sweetness of being with God; there’s other word that quite works—Psalm 19:10 says it: “sweeter than honey.”

True worshipers know that time with God, time thinking about God, time considering God’s ways are the best times of all. Psalm 37:4 says,

Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

We are commanded to delight in the Lord for the very reason that God knows that in that delight we are transformed for our joyful good.

Hey, a lot of people say that they’re Christians. 85% of Americans say that their Christians. Now let’s get real—do 8 out of 10 people you encounter “delight in the Lord”? Would you say that 8 out of 10 would say, “Better is one day with God than a thousand elsewhere”?

OK, let me make it even harder. Is that what you would say? “I delight in the Lord, one day with Him is worth a thousand at Disneyland?”

I’m not trying to guilt you, I’m trying to inspire you. You want a pure pleasure? Look to Jesus. One thing I’m convinced of is that there’s just not enough of us who know how to take pleasure in God. There’s a simple way to measure this: can you recall the last time your relation with God caused you to either cry for joy or to laugh out loud?

So in these verses there’s a time element (better one day with God that a thousand elsewhere), there’s also a position element, a prestige element:

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

I read about a theological professor who was an usher in his home church. Here’s a guy who’s published books on the Bible and who teaches Hebrew and all that, and as you can guess, this was his verse. Hey, I’m a doorkeeper for God and I’m a happy man! Any way I can serve God is fine with me!

In the temple in Jerusalem, the doorkeeper opened the doors, closed them at night, and at times also administered the offerings of the worshipers. He was important, but let’s be honest, he was a flunky! Doorkeepers don’t make decisions, and they aren’t leaders. Name me a famous doorkeeper!

The contrast is to this: to “dwell in the tents of the wicked.” The rulers of the lands around Israel—places like Edom and Moab—lived in ornate tents (think first-class Bedouin). Living in those tents meant living in the lap of luxury.

Pop quiz: if you had to choose between living in a tenement in East L.A. and knowing Jesus or living in Mulholland Drive prestige home with $10 million in the bank without Jesus, what would it be? Any hesitation there? If so, beware!

So the worshipful lifestyle lives under the king’s shield, chooses God above all else and, one more:

3. The true worshipper knows that God withholds nothing good from His people

Look now at Psalm 84:11-12

11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

12 O LORD Almighty,
blessed is the man who trusts in you.

The real worshiper rests in God and His blessings. To the real worshiper, God is the life-giving sun and the shield against harm; he “bestows favor and honor” and isn’t stingy with his blessings: “no good thing does He withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” And the outcome? “O Lord Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

This is the third blessing of the Psalm: vs. 4: “Blessed are those who dwell in your house”; vs. 5, “Blessed are those whose strength is in you” and now this one: “Blessed is the man who trusts in you.”

To be blessed is to be supremely happy in all that God is and all that God does. It is living in complete confidence that God is in charge, no matter what happens.

There are two kinds of contentment—one is natural, the other is supernatural. If it’s a rainy day, you may grouse until you remember you have a house and that you don’t have to sleep under a bridge. If you’re in a traffic jam, you may be kind of ticked until you remember that at least you have a car. That’s natural contentment, and it’s good.

But then there’s supernatural contentment. That’s living in the light of God’s blessings no matter what’s happening.

I think of Jimmy. He was parked in his wheelchair in front of a McDonald’s one Sunday night. Some of the students I was with, to their credit, struck up a conversation with Jimmy. It was breezy cold, the kind of night where you turn up your collar and where you can see you breath.

Jimmy was wearing his tattered old pea-green army jacket. Jimmy smelled like he needed a shower, real bad. Jimmy was a vet, a diabetic who’d lost a leg to the disease, homeless and—a radiant believer in Jesus.

We got Jimmy a hamburger and a cup of coffee, but he didn’t ask us to. As a matter of fact, Jimmy was one of the most together believers I’ve ever met. He was—there’s no other word for it—happy. Did he wish he had a home and some money and his leg? Sure. But he was happy anyway. “Jesus takes care of me”—he said that several times. As he rolled through the streets, Jesus rolled with Him. He’d gone through the valley and had come to the plain a complete man, a content man, a devoted man.

Oh, I pray that we’d all find what Jimmy found. We have a goal in life: to know God deeply and to obey God fully; to become like Jesus in His loving obedience to the Father. Jimmy’s doing well on that goal, to be a true worshiper. I pray that we’d all do as well as him.

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