Monday, December 3, 2012

The Wise Men - Teach Us About Worship

The role of the Wise Men adds an almost mystical dimension to the Christmas story. Their identity as magicians, astrologers, and astronomers adds mystery. No one knows exactly where they are from. There is certainly not nearly enough Bible detail as we would like regarding their long journey through dangerous desert, or how many were in the caravan, or what motivated them, as non-Jews, to make such pilgrimage.

We do know one thing: if the story of the Wise Men is in the Bible, it is of extreme importance. And even though there is limited information, there is a lot we can learn from them - in this case, worship. That's good because it seems today, many don't even know what worship is. So here are four observations from the story of the Wise Men that can help us to become better worshipers.

OBSERVATION #1 - The Wise Men were Seekers
It doesn't matter if you've been a Christian for decades, or if you are just beginning a quest to find out who this Jesus is, Jesus draws us to Him, and the closer we get, the closer we want to be. Jesus said, "I will draw all men to myself." (John 12:32). There was something powerfully compelling about the Wise Men's decision to find this new King. Obviously there was a supernatural beacon, some call a star, (see my last post), that got their attention. But I'm astonished by their undaunted determination to find Him. They were drawn to Him. They were deliberate in their pursuit. They were relentless in their expedition. Nothing seemed to deter them. The long and treacherous journey, their life circumstances and distractions, their unanswered questions - it didn't matter, they went all-out to find Jesus. Each morning, each day, that was their mission. As worshipers, we must do the same - constantly seek Him on a daily basis. Be deliberate in your pursuit of Him - go all-out in finding out more of who this Jesus is. Desire to have an encounter with Him - a worship encounter.  
LESSON #1: Worship is Intentional. We worship on purpose.

OBSERVATION #2 - The Wise Men desired to be in His Presence
I love that the Wise Men approached King Herod, who was arrogant, powerful, and terrible, with boldness, asking him, "Where is the one who has been born King of the Jews?" To even mention that there was another "king" in the area no doubt infuriated Herod deeply, even though he didn't show it. How dare they ask such a question? Herod knew right on the spot what he would do - use the Wise Men to lead him to Jesus so he could kill Him. But the Wise Men were so focused and so convinced of a new King, they weren't hiding the fact they were trying to find Him so they could worship Him. Some scholars believe the Wise Men were actually kings themselves. If that's true, it adds even more amazement to the fact that they left their respective kingdoms behind, risked their lives and the lives of those traveling with them, in order to be in the presence of Jesus. They were determined, against all odds, to personally meet and worship the King. After all, they could have sent representatives. They could have sent ambassadors. But instead, they sought to find Jesus themselves. 
LESSON #2: Worship is Spiritual. In John 4:24, Jesus said that "God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." When we worship, it is a spiritual encounter. It's when we come into God's presence. Worship is spiritual, and our worship is based on the truth of who God is, and who Christ is, based on scripture.


OBSERVATION #3 - The Wise Men had the right Attitude
Just think of the moment when they first encountered Jesus - their admiration and their awe. Filled with wonder, they must have marveled at the Christ child. The Bible gives us very little detail about this initial encounter. It doesn't tell us what they said. It does, however, tell us what the Wise Men did - they "bowed down and worshiped." (Matthew 2:11). Unlike Herod, the Wise Men were sincere in their desire to worship Jesus. They had an attitude of reverence and humility. They were men of high regard themselves, highly respected, yet the Bible says they bowed down. In a sense, they laid down their crowns in that moment of worship.
LESSON #3: Worship is Emotional. It's emotional in a sense that it's about the heart. Real worship is from the heart, and our heart needs to be right.  Our worship moments must be similar to theirs - full of wonder and awe - full of admiration and reverence. God is full of glory and splendor. We should approach Him in that fashion. Our worship should include an expression of sincere praise, awe, wonder, humility, and thanksgiving. Certainly we can't be in sin and expect our worship to be acceptable. After all, if we are just going through the motions and our heart is not right, our worship is worthless. When He spoke about people whose hearts weren't sincere, Jesus said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," (Matthew 15:8).

OBSERVATION #4 - The Wise Men gave Gifts.
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh." (Matthew 2:11-12). Look at the order of their actions. They didn't present Him gifts first, and then worship Him second. The scripture says they worshiped Him first, "then" they presented Him with gifts. This is a good model for us to follow because true worshipers will naturally become givers, not only of their treasures, but of their services. Serving God, living for Him, is a natural by-product of worshiping Him. Jesus said, "Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." (Luke 4:8). 
LESSON #4: Worshipers Give. They give of their treasures. They give of their lives to God. True worshipers live for God. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again."

CONCLUSIONS
The Wise Men demonstrate several critical components of worship. They teach us that worship is intentional, spiritual, and emotional. When all three of those components are engaged, we are truly worshiping God. Another way to describe those three components of worship are 1. the mind (worship is intentional), 2. the heart (worship is emotional), and 3. the soul (worship is spiritual). In other words, when we engage the heart, the mind, and the soul in worship, we are, what I call, "worshiping in the zone." All three of these components must be engaged to be "worshiping in the zone" - the heart, the mind, and the soul. This is the true form of worship. It can happen anywhere, at anytime. It can happen in a brief moment or an extended time period. It can be prompted by a song, or a sunset, or a sermon, or anything that reminds us of God. When we are worshiping, we are demonstrating or expressing something to the Lord: like praise, thanksgiving, or adoration. This expression can be done through words, through prayer, or through action, as long as our heart is right, we are intentional about it, and we are spiritually connecting with God.


ONE SENTENCE DEFINITION OF WORSHIP
Here is my simplified one sentence definition of worship: "Worship is a deliberate moment when we spiritually bow down before the Lord and express our sincere praise, thanksgiving and adoration."

In this one-sentence definition, the heart ("sincere praise....."), the mind ("deliberate moment...."), and the soul ("spiritually bow down....") are engaged. One more thing: worship leads to serving God. Worshipers give - of themselves and of their treasures. These are the types of worshipers God seeks.
John 4:23-24: "Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”





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