Monday, October 10, 2011

Deep Worship flows from Grace-filled Hearts

I love these verses found in Luke7:36-50: "…When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she bought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them…" They are a beautiful account of a woman who understood the love of Christ. The account tells us about her repentant heart that loved deeply because she experienced the forgiveness of Jesus for the sinful life that she had lived. 

In this story, Christ was invited into the home of a Pharisee named Simon, who had not treated Him like an honored guest was to be treated in that day. The customs of the time would call for him to have his servants wash Christ's feet and anoint His head with oil because He was considered by many to be a prophet, but neither was done. 

When she entered the home, Christ was reclining at Simon’s table to eat. She stood at His feet. She was a woman who was known for her sinful lifestyle. She was most likely a prostitute. As she stood there, her tears begin to fall on his feet and she took her hair, which was considered a woman's glory and wiped her tears from His feet. Not feeling worthy of anointing his head, she poured a bottle of perfume on His feet and then wiped it off as well.

Upon seeing the scene unfold in his home, Simon thought, "If Christ were really a prophet, he would have known what kind of woman was anointing His feet." Christ, knowing his thoughts, confronted Simon as only God could. He pointed out she had done what Simon had failed to do. He then used a parable to show that because she had been forgiven much, she was able to love much. She had been so humbled the grace Christ had shown her that she wept hard enough to anoint his feet with her tears. 

The self-righteous Simon could not comprehend that he, too, needed the grace Jesus offered. As a result, He didn’t experience Jesus' love, which lead to his failure to love both the Lord and the woman, both of whom were guests in His home. He strongly resented the woman's outpouring of worship. 

Ironically, the actions of each person involved revealed their hearts. It was the young prostitute standing in the presence of a Holy God, weeping and worshiping unashamedly, who in a bold action clothed with humility, wiped His “dirty” feet with her hair, continuously kissing them and covering them with expensive perfume. It was bold. It was loving. And, it was kind. It was the only way she knew to worship Him. 

When I struggle with sin, I tend to "beat myself up" and withdraw from the Lord. I want to hide from others and shut down my emotions so I don't feel the guilt and the shame that comes from hiding sin.  If an invitation is given to pray with someone about our struggles, I often remain in my chair worried about what others might think. She was different! She fully understood God’s grace and she, a sinful woman, publicly accepted it. Even more importantly, He accepted her worship. This woman's actions show us how to let the Jesus' light pierce the darkness of our sin. I realize that His grace has a way of hurting as it humbles us and pours His love into our hearts. It is in that state that we can respond with the same kind of bold love that she demonstrated through her act of worship. This woman's actions were a testimony of her deep understanding of God's forgiveness. 

By contrast, we have the Pharisee, Simon, who was embarrassed that she had entered his home and talked to his guest. He chose to focus more on the cultural morals that said that it was not proper for teachers of the Scripture to talk to women publicly, especially those labeled by their sin. In doing so, he failed to recognize the redemptive work done in her heart by the God reclining at his table. Because of his pride and his self-righteousness, he didn’t experience Christ’s love that was being offered to him. He refused to look honestly at His own heart and the sin residing there. He refused to acknowledge the harsh judgements he held on to. He didn't grasp that God’s love wasn’t based on his performance, but on the Lord’s character. Because Simon had not experienced Christ’s love, He could not love the woman as Christ did. 

The woman was guilty. She was guilty of very visible sins and her sin had had huge consequences on her life both relationally and socially. Simon was just as guilty. And, His sins were invisible ones like pride and self-righteousness which resulted in him showing a lack of love. His sins were just as deeply rooted in his heart as hers were rooted in her heart. Both were equally guilty before a holy God. It is interesting that both Simon and the nameless woman came face-to-face with Jesus, but sad that they responded so differently to Him. In Christ’s presence, she understood who she was, but he continued to deny who he was. She publicly recognized Christ as Messiah, while he silently questioned Christ’s deity. She was humbled by His presence, while he grew more indignant. She believed Jesus was the Messiah, he did not. Though, they both tried to publicly honor Christ—she through her anointing and him through his banquet, their actions flowed from very different hearts. Her heart was filled with love and grace, his pride and arrogance. 

Do we judge people the way Simon did? Do we look someone over as they come in our church doors and wonder what they are doing there? Jesus came to set sinners free. We would do well to recognize a girl’s inappropriate dress may indicate her desperate need of love and our eye rolls and whispers could drive her away from the very thing she needs. We would do well to recognize a guy cussing and talking rough needs Christ as much as we who know how to talk the language of the church. We would do well to remember God wants us to boldly and humbly approach him with the sin in our lives, trusting God's love is big enough to see the broken hearts beneath it. I want to be someone who worships as honestly and sincerely as she did in the face of criticism. We would do well to remember tears are not a sign of weakness or a lack of faith, they are a sign of worship in its purest form. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!