Sunday, October 9, 2016

Matthew 26 - "A beautiful thing"

Matthew 26:6-13 – “A beautiful thing”
3 choices of authentic worship
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.
And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste?  For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.”
But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman?  For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.
In pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial.  Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Focus in on that phrase – “she has done a beautiful thing to me.”

When you visit Stonebridge, you are going to hear that ‘You matter to God.’  It’s true – you DO matter to God
  • you matter so much that God gave His only Son for you
  • you matter so much to Him that God is interested in you personally in spite of all the things you’ve done
  • He longs to be a part of your life, to minister to your needs, and to bless you in such a way that you will never be the same.  
WITHOUT QUESTION, you matter to God!

Maybe the BETTER question is, ‘Does God matter to you?’

Is it obvious that we value Him – by the things we say, through our priorities, are we communicating that HE matters to US???   
C. S. Lewis wisely observed, ‘On the whole, God’s love for us is a much safer subject to think about than our love for Him.”
Where is God on YOUR list of priorities???
If we could somehow take a look inside your heart… and weigh your priorities - review how you spend your time and your money, WHERE DOES GOD factor in all that?    
When you think about it, it is an amazing testament to God’s faithful love that He doesn’t give up on us in frustration.  Knowing how selfish and demanding we are, and yet He continues to shower us with EXTRAVAGANT LOVE?!?!  It’s truly amazing!

If God REALLY matters to us, HOW do we show it?
Worship. .. that's how!   
Of all the people surrounding Jesus that day, only ONE seems to have had a heart of worship.  And surprisingly, they all, to a man, criticized her… they ALL thought they knew what real worship was… what things were most important.  But according to Jesus, they were WRONG.
We will go to great lengths for the thing we worship.  We will make any sacrifice, we will look for every opportunity to express our love.  As I’ve told you before, the word “worship” means “worth-ship.”  

Worship is an expression of the value we place upon God.  And Mary understood that.
This incident takes places in the home of “Simon the Leper.”  We don’t know much more than this… it would appear that Jesus is eating in Simon’s home

(which is a testament of the grace of God IN AND OF ITSELF… that the KING OF GLORY would eat in an unclean man’s home!)  

That’s how the Jews saw him… but not how JESUS saw him.

During this time of fellowship, in slips Mary holding in her hands a flask of costly perfume.  She breaks the seal and empties its contents on His head.  At once the room is filled with the incredible aroma of worship.  

ALSO “at once,” the room is filled with criticism of her “extravagant waste.”  But to Jesus, this act of love and sacrifice on the part of Mary was the very essence of worship.
This story shows us three important characteristics of genuine worship that are often missed:  If you desire to worship, 3 things are needed:
1.  First, you must IGNORE the CLUTTER.  

I think MOST PEOPLE are truly confused about what REAL WORSHIP IS.  We think MUSIC determines worship.  TALENTS… GIFTS determine worship.  CHURCH BUILDINGS or even HOW MUCH WE ENJOY THE SERVICE determines worship.  No All of that is clutter.
  • Worship is about relationship.
  • It’s about expressing our love for God OUT OF that relationship.
  • It requires THOUGHT.
  • It requires a heart that is prepared.
Just because you attend a worship service – doesn’t mean that you have actually worshipped!
Somehow people have developed the misconception that real worship is something spontaneous and unorganized and entertaining… akin to the emotions we experience at a ballgame.  They believe that planning and preparation somehow PREVENT genuine worship.
That’s clutter.
In fact, when Paul wrote the Corinthians, he specifically told them that worship requires careful planning.  It doesn’t have anything to do with the style of music or how interesting the sermon is… or even having our needs met.  Real worship is an outward expression of our love for God.
With that in mind - Think about our expressions of love to each other.  
  • Whether it is a piece of construction-paper-art from a 5 year-old for Mom’s birthday…
  • or a 50th anniversary diamond ring…
  • from a candle-light proposal
  • to the purchase of a ‘get-well-soon’ greeting card
we measure the value of the gift by the THOUGHT that is behind it.
Grabbing a handful of flowers out of the neighbor’s flowerbed in a last ditch effort to appease an angry wife won’t cut it.  If it doesn’t mean something to US, it isn’t likely to mean something to THEM.
Do you put thought into your worship?  Is it something you plan for… that you PREPARE for?
It is obvious by Mary’s lavish expression of love that she had been thinking of just how much the Lord meant to her.
  • She thought of all that He was going to do when He entered the Holy City.
  • She knew that the time of His sacrifice was near… that He would suffer, bleed, and die for the sins of all mankind.
  • And as she took stock of all that He would endure because of His love for her - she wanted to give Him her very best… her most prized possession, as a token of her love for the Lord.  (Scholars suggest that, more than likely, Mary had been saving this perfume for her wedding day.)
Mary had given careful thought and preparation to her worship.
Do you put very much thought into YOUR worship?  As the Lord’s Day approaches, HOW do you prepare yourself in anticipation of a meeting with the Lord?
  • Do you spend time praying for the service?
  • Do you go to bed at a reasonable time on Saturday Night so that you will be rested and fresh?
  • Do you start thinking of the areas of your life that need to change… or of some gift or talent you wish to offer Him as an expression of just how much He means to you?
  • Do you prepare yourself for your meeting with God and do you anticipate hearing His truth, hoping it will change your life?
Sadly, Sunday seems to be the least prioritized day of the week.  We leave the planning to others.  We think we’ve accomplished something just by showing up.  We do little to ready our hearts, minds, and bodies.  We stay up late and sleep as late as we can, then we have a half dozen arguments trying to hustle our families out the door.  Once we finally get to church, we are not in the frame of mind to focus on Jesus.
Our heart isn’t into the singing.  We tolerate the teaching and preaching.  We think about other things – things that we want to do once we get out of here.   The idea of making sure our hearts are clean and ready – never even occurs to us.  

  • Planning ahead???  
  • Making sure that our relationships are right and that God is pleased with us????  
Is foreign.
And we wonder why we so little happens at church.

It isn’t “worship” until we give careful and deliberate thought to what we are doing.  Mary sought the Lord.  She brought Him her very best.  She valued Him above all earthly treasure.  And until THIS becomes OUR mindset, we aren’t ascribing unto Him the value He deserves.
2.  But not only must you Ignore the Clutter… Secondly, if you really want to worship you must Ignore the Crowd.  Mary wasn’t being disrespectful.  It wasn’t her desire to crash the “all boys club” and show them up.  In fact, I believe she wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible… after all, this act was not about pleasing anybody but Jesus.  She wasn’t interested in receiving their praise.  She was focused on the LORD and no one else.

I want you to think for a moment about your worship.  How many times have you felt particularly moved, touched by some passage of scripture or song, and you felt a strange need to go to the altar and pray.  Or maybe you wanted to shout!  Maybe you wanted to testify or raise your hands.  You felt God stirring your heart,

but the moment was ruined because you started thinking of others:
  • “What will people think of me if I go to the altar?”
  • “What if someone notices that I am raising my hand?”
  • “I can’t sing as well as so-in-so, so I’m not going to sing.”
  • “I would testify, but others speak so much better than I do.”
And on and on we go, allowing our concerns for what others think to hinder our worship of the Lord.  We are too mindful of others for our worship to have any meaning.
Real worship is only concerned with what GOD thinks – not how some backslidden Christian might judge us for our expressions of love.
Will there be critics when we worship the Lord from our hearts?  Sure.  Always.  Even our Lord’s closest friends – men who had walked with Jesus for 3 ½ years… men who SHOULD HAVE known better, criticized Mary for her act of worship, calling it “wasteful.”
And you know what?  They were wrong… just like others still today who stand back and judge what everyone else does… too proud of themselves… too out-of-touch to understand the things that matter to God … too hard-hearted to be happy about what we are doing to honor Jesus.
Mary made a decision that day – “I’m not going to live my life by what others think of me.  I’m doing this because I love and want to honor my Lord.”  

That, my friend, is WHY this was ‘a beautiful thing.’
3.  Additionally, not only must we Ignore the Clutter – and Ignore the Crowd -  third, we must Ignore the Costs.  My FIRST concern should be honoring the Lord… NOT, “How much is this going to cost me???”
It grieves my soul to see how much a church lets its “bottom line” determine what it does or doesn’t do for the Lord.  The same can be said of Christians.  Sometimes it seems that the only way to determine God’s Will is whether or not we have enough money in the bank.

Digging a little deeper into the text, John tells us that Mary’s gift cost somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 day’s wages for the common worker.  So you are looking at something poured out on the head of Jesus that would have taken a common laborer nearly a YEAR to pay for.
One of the men so disgusted by “this waste” was Judas.  Judas was the treasurer for the group.  He handled the finances for the Lord and His disciples.  Whenever the disciples got a little money, they would give it to Judas for buying food, paying taxes, or giving to the poor.  After Mary offered Jesus her costly perfume, what did Judas do?  Yes, he criticized her…
but read on. The following verses tell us that Judas went straight to the chief priests and took 30 pieces of silver to BETRAY the Lord.
  • Interesting, don’t you think, that Mary GAVE 300 days wages, while Judas RECEIVED 30 pieces of silver?
  • Interesting that one was preoccupied with giving… while the other was preoccupied with receiving.
  • One worshipped,  the other betrayed
AND HERE is where so much of what we do in church falls short of genuine worship.  Our attitude is “What can I get out of it?” instead of “What can I give?”  It seems to me that most Christians make the whole church experience about “US.”
When you start out wrong, is it any wonder that our worship experience fails to deliver what we think it ought to?  Is it any wonder that we leave the presence of Jesus disgruntled and bitter - just - like – Judas?
Church today is all about feeling good or what we can GET out of it.  People go to worship only when they don’t have something else they’d rather be doing.
I’m just being honest.
When people get in a bind or need God to do something for them, they show up.  When circumstances improve, or if there is a ballgame, they are gone again.  People want to receive God’s best, they want His blessings and protection but they want it WITHOUT a relationship.  

Which is why their worship means nothing.

But let’s not be too hasty to judge “THEM.”
  • Some of US go to church only because we know we should - not out of any real desire of meeting with God or engaging in worship.  It’s habit – something our parents instilled in us when we were young.  
  • Maybe we go to church to set a good example for our children.  
  • But when we hear that worship can be so much more, we just yawn, look at our watches, and let our minds drift to whatever plans we have AFTER church is over.
Somewhere along the way, we have made worship about us, and because of this, many of us will never know what REAL worship is.

But not Mary.  No sir.  She ignored the clutter… the crowd… and the cost – and determined to do nothing less than offer HIM her very best.  As a result, not only did she honor Him, HE honored her.
Here’s the bottom line:
Our Worship will mean something to Jesus, when it starts meaning something to US.
How’s your worship?  Have you determined to bring Jesus your very best, regardless what others think or say?  Have you determined to bless Him regardless the cost?  Only THEN will our worship be what it ought to be.  Only THEN will we ascribe unto Him the honor and glory He deserves.

You can make a change today.  You can break away from a worship that is focused on self – and offer Him your heart.  It’s all He has ever wanted from you.  Will you do that right now?