“Clear The Stage: Worship and the pursuit of purity”
A few weeks ago, as I was reflecting on what it means to worship God, the Holy Spirit lead me to ponder upon Matthew 6 about what Jesus taught about prayer:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
My personal reflection on worship is this: as worship leaders, if our main goal is to clear the stage for Jesus to be glorified and to serve His people with the music that God has entrusted to us, in light of this passage, how are we to bask in the glory of God if music is out of the picture and when no one is looking?
The two main things that come to mind are purity and self-image. At the get-go, we could render these as two different things, but I believe that these two go hand-in-hand.
There is a deep-seated craving in our hearts that longs to be satisfied by the momentary pleasure that is found in the applause and approval of people both in the realm of performance and the desires of the flesh. I have come to a full realization that these things are cries in my heart that can only be FULLY SATISFIED by GOD HIMSELF since He designed it to be only fully satisfied by Him.
Sometimes, I ask myself the question as to why God allowed to be that way. Why won’t the Lord take the struggle away? Why do I crave the approval of men, even in the way I worship? Why do I desire the things of the flesh such as pride, especially lust even if I know it’s sinful in the eyes of God?
In Matthew 5:8, Jesus on His sermon on the Mount says that “blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”. The Greek word for “pure” in Matthew 5:8 is katharos. It means to be “clean, blameless, unstained from guilt.” The word can be referred to, interestingly, to that which is purified by fire or by pruning. The Greek word for “heart” in Matthew 5:8 is kardeeah. This can be applied to the physical heart. But it also refers to the spiritual center of life. It is where thoughts, desires, sense of purpose, will, understanding, and character reside. So, to be pure in heart means to be blameless in who we actually are (source: https://www.gotquestions.org/pure-in-heart.html)
The concept of purity is not only knowing that we have been saved by the blood of Christ, but confidently understanding the sanctification process that God is doing in our hearts – He is making us more like Him on a daily basis. He is, as Paul says in Philippians 1:6, bringing “into completion” the good work that He started in You until the day of Christ. He is shaping and molding our character, making us into the people that He is calling us to be.
This is how purity and self-image come hand-in-hand – Jesus says in Matthew 6:5: And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”
What Jesus says about the hypocrites receiving their reward in full rings true for a lot of us, especially me knowing my greatest reward is the approval of man when I seek it – a desire that is, quite frankly, embarrassingly shallow.
What if our desire is greater than this? What if we desire true, genuine intimacy with the Lord where only His approval mattered the most?
In light of Matthew 6, worship comes in the picture when we put this into practice: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Worship, therefore, becomes a daily, joyful surrender to the work God is doing in our hearts as He makes us more like Jesus, bringing into completion the good work that He started. It is the joyful obedience of choosing Him above all else, especially in secret. Our worship in public is an overflow, an outpour of our worship towards Jesus in private.
your heart > your image
The care for your heart is greater than the care for your image. That’s right. Your reward is found in what you do in secret when no one but God is looking. As we pursue purity, especially in the secret, this reality of joyfully obeying God and CHOOSING HIM rings true. And trust me, the reward that He has for you isn’t the only thing that you should anticipate, but take hold of the glorious reality that HE HIMSELF is your REWARD and the GLORY that is found in basking in His presence.
Worship = purity
When you confidently declare that God is holy IN SECRET than in front of thousands, you’ve figured out what Worship is all about.
Praise God, as worship leaders we allow God to use us to serve His people, which is amazing. But, it is exciting to know that our worship deepens when we choose to joyfully obey and surrender to Him in secret. I believe that He is currently at this place in my heart where he is working – working in a mighty way, and that is my prayer for those of you who are reading this. May worship be more than a song, a choice to clear the stage, not just the literal one, but the stage of your heart for Him to be the centre of it.
Worship Leader at House of Worship Montreal