How’s your worship life? Do you take time to adore God? As Mary anoints Jesus, the extravagance, humility and sacrifice of her actions remind us that it isn’t enough to worship God by the way we live. We have to go one step further, we are actually created to give God glory through deliberate focused adoration of him and we find our ultimate fulfilment as his people when we lovingly adore him as Mary did.
We see one other thing that happens when we adore him. Mary anoints Jesus for her own reasons, but she is also anointing Jesus for his burial without her knowing it. What we see is that her actions become more than she intends as the Holy Spirit weaves them into the bigger story of salvation. The timing, the action itself, all become prophetic of Jesus’ death and its significance. This is why adoration is so important: when we worship God in this way he “inhabits the praises of his people”, God does amazing things, the Holy Spirit pours out his presence and his gifts and does powerful things among us – “the fragrance fills the whole room”. By contrast Judas apparent concern for the poor was from an evil motivation and he was actually working against what God was doing through Mary. We must be careful then that adoration of God lies at the heart of our own individual and church lives so that we can be like Mary, being part of what God is doing, rather than like Judas, the “appearance of religion but without power”.
1. Adoration is For Everyone. We must be careful not to think that adoration is only for people of a certain temperament – “I’m more like Martha, I like to serve practically, not praise God!” – Actually that isn’t an option. Our adoration may look different to other people’s, but one way or another it should touch our deepest affections and move us to express them fully – we are to love the Lord with all our heart, mind soul and strength.
While we shouldn’t be too prescriptive in how people should worship God (e.g. specific styles of songs or, “if you were really worshipping you’d put your hands in the air!”) we can say that adoration is recognised by the fact that it involves humility and sacrifice. Adoration always involves us stretching ourselves, coming out of our comfort zones, there should always be a sense of giving yourself more and more to God, of not holding back anything from him. Every Christian, regardless of personality should set their sights on worshipping God like this. We have our sights set on this as a church too, when we meet on Sunday’s our hope is to have that kind of adoring worship together.
2. Adoration Comes Through Understanding. True worship comes when we actually understand why God is worthy of our adoration. In the Bible we see that the heavenly worship of God is focused around the fact that he made and upholds all things (Rev 4) and that he saved us from judgement through his own merciful love at the cross (Rev 5). We don’t just worship God because he is God, but because of what he is like, what he has done and promises to do. If you lack the desire to adore God then it could be that you just don’t understand why he is worthy of worship. That’s not a criticism, but it’s important to recognise and change if it applies to you. If you don’t feel like adoring God ask the questions: Why don’t I feel like worshipping God? Do I actually understand what it means to be a Christian? Do I know why Jesus died? Do I know what God promises to people who believe in Jesus? Have I forgotten these things or never understood them, or do they seem a long way from my own experience?
3. Meditate on God. When we take time to actually think about God only then do we find reasons to adore him. The bible tells us that we need not only to worship, study or pray, but we need to think and reflect on God (e.g. Psalm 1). Our Puritan forebears believed that this was the purpose of Sunday, the whole day should be set aside from work to think about God and to grow in our adoration of him. However we do it, we should carve out time when we can think about God, his works, his salvation and give him all our attention. This is especially important in busy seasons of life (busy work-life, or when we have young children), it is good to develop habits (e.g. daily walks) when we have time to think about him and worship him in a focused way.
4. Nothing Kills Adoration Like Idolatry. It is remarkable that Judas could have got it so wrong when he criticised Mary, but his greed made him blind to her heart and to who Jesus was. In the same way idolatry makes us blind to how worthy God is of our adoration. Jesus speaks to the church at Laodicea (Rev 3:15-18) and says that their lukewarmness is down to idolatry. They’ve lost their passion for Jesus because they are full up with other stuff, wealth and pride. It’s also hard to really give our all to God if we are doing something we know is wrong! When we fill our lives with things other than God we soon forget why he is worthy of our adoration, we lose our passion for him and become lukewarm. The good news is that Jesus says that if we repent he will reignite the fire of true worship, giving us sight to see his worthiness, the gold of spirit-wrought righteousness and the white-robes of faith working through love. Are there idols in your life? Is he your highest and greatest joy? Would you sacrifice a year’s wages, or your own pride to worship him as he deserves?