Publication: Pastoral Letter, September 2003
Dear Friend in Christ:
Let me tell you a true story….
The man was not insane, though he certainly acted like it. He tore his clothes off, broke free when others attempted to bind him, and he lived in the cemetery and threatened all who came near. This man lived like this a long time until one day a stranger came, and then it all changed. He changed and his purpose in life changed.
The stranger had arrived, walking up the road with some of his friends. The wild man came running toward the stranger, but instead of doing violence, he fell down before the stranger and spoke these words, “What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!”
“What is your name?” Jesus asked.
“Legion,” the man replied. “We are many.”
The apparently insane man was not insane after all; he was tormented by evil spirits. Even in his condition, he was able to bow before the Son of God.
Then something dramatic and violent happened; Jesus cast out the evil spirits and released them into a herd of pigs that were nearby. The pigs immediately stampeded over a cliff and into the sea, where they drowned. This event so frightened the pigs’ herdsmen that the men ran into a nearby village and told everyone what they had seen.
The villagers came out to see Jesus, the stranger with such power. They also saw the formerly wild man – whom they knew – now in his right mind, sitting clothed at the feet of Jesus. This event so shocked the villagers that they asked Jesus to leave the area. The man who had been delivered had a different idea; he wanted to go with Jesus. But Jesus said no. Instead, Jesus said, “Go home and tell everyone what great things God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).
This story has a tremendous relevance to what I want to share in the remainder of this letter to you. Right up front, I want to note briefly just a few of the lessons to be learned from those dramatic events that occurred near the cemetery that day:
Pete Sanchez, Jr. wrote an excellent article in the recent Summer 2003 issue of One-to-One Magazine entitled, “Worship: Touching Heaven, Changing Earth.” In the article, Pete quotes Jim Dethmer as saying, “Worship is responding to all that God is with all that we are.” This observation is profoundly true and describes the story in Luke 8, about the man who was delivered of many evil spirits.
We are currently experiencing a great worship revival due primarily to the massive outpouring of the Holy Spirit during the last century. The Pentecostal-Charismatic revival has affected virtually the entire Church with a renewed emphasis on worship. Worship music has been at the forefront of this revival. Music has become more contemporary, as opposed to traditional, and congregations have frequently become more responsive.
Not all churches have been affected and not all change has been for the better, nor has it been without controversy. But worship has become a “hot topic,” and that is good. The question before us is this: “What constitutes true worship?” Does a change of style or lack of change really measure worship? The answer is no. If not, then how do we measure authentic worship? To be sure, God does measure our worship. He looks on the heart.
Jesus discussed worship with the Samaritan woman in John Chapter 4. He stated that worship was defined by two things: Spirit and Truth. He said it was not defined by place or form. One’s attitude and honesty before God are the defining issues.
Strangely enough, a man thought to be insane – a wild man – gives us a classic example of true worship. He comes into the presence of Jesus, bows down, confesses his problem, is delivered, and enters into the purpose of God – “Go tell.” And he did. Interestingly, this example happened on a road beside a cemetery.
Some groups have made form the issue; others have made conversion the issue. Still others have made deliverance the issue. To be sure, these are all important issues. But they all serve a greater issue: mission. A “good worship experience” is not one that merely ends when the music stops – rather, a truly good worship experience is one that frees us to do the will of God.
Jesus asked this question in Luke 6:46, “Why call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not the things that I say?” Learning the language of worship without the heart of obedience is a very old problem for religious people.
When we meet God, we meet the Sovereign One who saves and delivers us, and also owns us. Any experience that falls short of that realization falls short of true worship. The Sovereign sends us into His purpose. The true measure of worship is its power to send us into His mission for our lives.
“Worship” without mission is like a car without a motor; it may look good, but it is going nowhere.
Matthew 8 tells a story about Jesus and a Centurion. The Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant who was paralyzed and in pain. Jesus volunteered to go and heal the servant. The Centurion responded that he was unworthy for Jesus to enter his house. He stated that he also was a man under authority, and since he could send people by his word, he knew that if Jesus simply said the word, his servant would be healed.
Jesus was impressed with this man’s faith and understanding of authority. Jesus sent His word and healed the servant.
The true measure of authority is the power to send. If a person acknowledges Jesus’ authority, but refuses to go, something is seriously wrong. Bowing down is the posture of obedience.
The classic example of true worship is cited in Isaiah 6. Isaiah is worshipping God in the temple. He saw the Lord high and lifted up, and His presence filled the temple. The encounter ended with God asking, “Whom shall I send and who will go for Us?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me.” The Lord then sent Isaiah with a message for Israel.
God is a Sender. He sends angels; He sent His Son; and the Son sent the Holy Spirit; He sends apostles (the “sent forth ones”). He sends prophets, pastors, evangelists, and teachers. He sends all who come to Him into His eternal purpose.
In Matthew 9:38, He told His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth workers into His harvest. This is our prayer as well.
Several years ago, we who work at CSM came to believe that the Lord would have us make the message more personal. He wanted us to inspire individuals to enter their mission. Only 50% of professing believers even attend church regularly. In some cases, it is much less. Of those who attend, many see simply attending as the mission itself.
One friend of mine once related to me how he saw the Church as an army who listened to their commander, applauded at the end, then took off their uniforms and went back to civilian life. That is how it is for some. But then that is not the true worship. True worship is, in fact, “responding to all that He is with all that we are.”
No matter how bad our condition may be, we can bow before Him; He can deliver us out of our situation and set us on the path of mission to tell someone else the Good News. When our heart is right with God, He can make everything else right – and then we can share our testimony with someone else. That is what true worship does; it puts “Gospel” shoes on our feet.
Scripture References: Luke 8:39; John 4; Matthew 9:38; Luke 6:46
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.