I believe that worship is the single most important key to keeping on track with God’s best for your life. And by worship I mean the kind of interaction with God that is based upon not only a real and personal relationship, but one that is based upon the truth of what God has disclosed to us about Himself in the Scriptures and carried out in the medium He has provided for that relationship: the Holy Spirit. I believe Paul was referring to exactly this when he penned:
“for through Him we all have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18)
The Bible says that Jesus Christ came to “bring many sons to glory” and to “bring us to God.” We are told that in Christ we can now “approach the throne of grace with boldness.” Sadly, many (most?) Christians have limited this to mean that Christ died and rose again so that if we believe in Him we can go to heaven when we die. But that’s not what any of these verses are talking about. The Father wants us to come before Him now. On the basis of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and by the help of the Holy Spirit who indwells all true believers, we can by faith actually approach the very throne of God. We can go into His immediate presence.
That’s what worship and prayer are about. But people will not go to God unless they have expended or refused the God-substitutes in their lives. And we’ve got plenty of those. Things like money, pleasure, entertainment, fear, worry, and false gods keep us from Him. Intellectualism and humanism block our approach as well. When man is the center of your world view and belief system, you are forfeiting the grace that could be yours in Christ Jesus.
There’s a story in the Bible about a woman with a seedy history who came one evening to a dinner party where Jesus was and extravagantly worshiped Him. She poured out some extremely expensive perfume on Jesus in an amazing act of worship. Those watching were critical of the “waste” and the excessive show of emotion. But Jesus scolded them for their criticism of the lady. Then He gave what was obviously a prophetic insight:
“She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial. Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her.” (Mark 14:8-9)
Jesus says two amazing things about the woman. First, He says that she was anointing His body beforehand for the burial. In those days part of the ritual surrounding a burial included pouring in perfume and spices and wrapping the dead body. Jesus says that this woman was anointing His body ahead of time for this. Is it likely that this was the actual intention of the woman? Are we to assume that her motivation for crashing the dinner party and facing so many critics was to prepare Jesus’ body for burial? I just don’t think that was her conscious intent. I think her motive was to get into Jesus’ immediate presence and express her deep gratitude and love for the mercy He had shown her previously. She wanted to be near Him. Her heart and life demanded an opening by which it could be poured out for the Master. She had been forgiven much and therefore loved much.
Next Jesus says that what the woman had done would be spoken of in every place where the gospel would be preached “in the whole world.” Certainly this could be a prediction that what the woman had done would be included in holy Scripture. But I think there’s even more here than that. I think Jesus is showing us what the effects of the gospel will be in the hearts and lives of those who really “get it”. They will be transformed into radical worshipers! The gospel, if rightly understood, will result in a river of worship flowing out of your heart and life toward God in Christ.
Finally, let me share with you an incredible principle that can be drawn from this worshipful account. I don’t think the woman actually knew that her anointing Jesus with perfume was preparing Him for His burial. Nor could she had known that her extravagant worship was going to be included in the future cannon of Scripture that we call the Bible. The amazing thing that we learn here is that God can direct the hearts and lives of true worshipers into the paths that He has predestined for them, even when they are unaware that it is happening! Worship can move you into your destiny!
If you draw near to God today, and worship Him in Spirit and in truth, and move forward in the Spirit-directed inclinations of your heart, you will find yourself flowing in a course of actions predestined before time began! And that without even having to fully understand it. This reminds me of an incredible exhortation, again from Paul:
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
The “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” – wow! Paul says that the devil will try to pull us away from this. The worshiping woman knew probably only one thing: Jesus is the Savior and He loves me and has forgiven me. And He desires that I come to Him and He will never cast me out.” And so she approached His presence boldy and received mercy and found grace…again and again. I am sure there were still many questions in her mind about God’s plan. She probably didn’t have an answer for every theological concern she still had. But as she brought every thought into captivity to the grand theme of God’s redemption and love that are in Christ, everything else took care of itself!
In simply and sincerely worshiping Christ she kept in step with her destiny.
I don’t care how smart and educated you are and how much of a Bible expert you may consider yourself. If you bypass this lesson of extravagant worship you will in the end find that you have adulterated the gospel. (I realize that was a very strong statement. But I stand by it.) You will have made Jesus into a means to another end rather than the glorious end that He is! And for those of you who feel you are disqualified from being wonderfully used of God because of your past failures or your great lack of Biblical knowledge – take heart! If you will worship Christ whole-heartedly, He will direct your steps into the fullness of your destiny. There is no doubt about it.
Oh God, please help us take time to truly access Your presence today. We don’t want to miss Your best for our lives. And we realize that You are Your best for our lives! You are more than enough. You are all we need. You are the goal of our faith. Amen.