What on Earth Am I Here For? (Matthew 4:18-22)

Clip from the film "Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring" - scene 39

Frodo: "I wish this ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."

Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is to do with the time that is given to us."

Once in a while, you see a movie that lifts your perspective to see the grandeur of life. So much of our lives is spent on the everyday that we often miss the big picture. Over the next forty days, we're going to be looking at the purpose for which God has placed you on this earth. We're going to look beyond the dishes in the dishwasher, the overdue items on your task list, the emails you haven't answered yet to the big picture. Why am I here?

Frodo said, "I wish that this ring had never come to me." One of the things I like about Frodo is that there is absolutely nothing special about him. Frodo isn't above average in any way. He's a hobbit, nothing more. Nobody expects great things from hobbits. We're going to look at a story today, found in Matthew 4, which will help us connect with our purpose.

I like this story because it's one I can relate to. There is nothing special about the people involved. They're remarkable for being unremarkable. There are lots of stories of God using rich people like Abraham or well-heeled people like Moses, but this isn't one of them. This is the story of you and me.

Do you ever see these commercials that show before and after pictures? They go and wreck it at the end by saying, "Results not typical. Consult your doctor before starting. Results may vary." I always think to myself, "What's the use of joining if the results aren't typical and I have to consult my doctor in case their program kills me?" I want something in which the results are typical, in which you don't need to be extraordinary. You can promise anything and then say, "By the way, this will only work if you're extraordinarily gifted." The problem is that this leaves the rest of us behind.

Today, we're going to look at what happens when Jesus meets ordinary individuals and calls them to follow him. I wish I could promise you that if you follow this story and apply the lessons learned, that your life will be successful and that all your problems will be solved. I can't promise any of that. But I can promise you this: that those who hear Jesus' call and follow him and discover his purpose, his agenda - those people make a difference. They may not be successful, as the world defines success. Their lives may not be easy. But they make a difference. Our lives are never the same when we respond to Jesus' call.

Let's read the story together:

One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers-Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew-fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and went with him.

A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, mending their nets. And he called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind. (Matthew 4)

God Uses People

Jesus had just spent thirty years preparing for his ministry. He was just starting to launch his public ministry. Like a chess player, nothing that he did was random. His first move was strategic. His first move was surprising. He recruited people. I don't get this. I don't know why. But when God goes to act, he always seems to look for people that he can work through.

Don't forget, this was God walking on earth. This is the one who spoke the universe into existence with a word. He could have done it all himself. Jesus didn't really need to use people. I can't think of a more inefficient way to minister. Jesus could have gone all around and taken care of everything himself. He could have just spoken, and everyone in Israel would have been healed. Every time the Pharisees gave him problems, he could have just spoken and presto, they would have all disappeared.

Instead, Jesus decided to recruit ordinary people to join him on his mission. Let's think about that. Do you remember when he sent them out in groups to heal? How did that go? Not always that well. They couldn't always heal people. Jesus could have done a much better job of it himself. They fought. They said stupid things. They even tried to correct Jesus a number of times. I'm sure there were times Jesus had to shake his head in frustration. He could have picked a much better way to get the job done. He could have done it all himself. But Jesus strategically chose to work through people - ordinary people at that. It's still how he chooses to work today.

One day, I want to ask God about this. I'll never understand why God, who could do it all himself, has chosen to work through people who consistently get it wrong and let him down. The pattern remains the same today. Jesus' first move was to look for people, ordinary people, to follow him.

When you think about purpose, I don't know of anything more encouraging. The God of the universe, who could do it all himself, is looking for people that he can use. God looks for ordinary people to do what he could have done all by himself. God is still looking for people he can use.

God Looks in Unlikely Places

It's not an accident that Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee and that he came across Simon and Andrew. Does anybody know what was significant about the Sea of Galilee? Nothing. It was Hicksville. I always try to think of a place around here to compare it to, but every time I do I get in trouble. Somebody comes up after the service and tells me they were born in the place that I mentioned. So I won't give you any names, but we can all think of an out-of-the-way place, a place where not much of anything happens. Jesus went to an unlikely place to find people that he could use as key players within his kingdom.

As a kid I was filled with a little more angst than was good for me. I grew up in Brampton, which now is practically connected to Toronto. Back then, it was nothing. Back then, Toronto was nothing. It was much smaller than it is today, much more removed from the rest of the world. Everything seemed to be happening in other places. I remember feeling like I lived in an out-of-the-way place, that nothing really happened in these parts. Strange thoughts for a kid to have, but I remember feeling that way.

Some of us might feel that way today. It's not so much where we live, but it's how obscure we feel. We're in a job or a situation in which we're pretty limited. We're overlooked, obscure. You can't get much more obscure than a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee. That's precisely where God loves to look when he's looking for people that he can use.

I have all these images of heaven which I'm sure are completely wrong. One of the images that I have is something like a film festival, when all the stars walk the red carpet, with all these paparazzi taking their pictures. I think this is a completely wrong image, but can't you just picture us yelling out, "Look, there's Billy Graham! There's Saint Augustine! Look, here comes Mother Theresa!"

If heaven has anything like a red carpet, I doubt it's going to be those people who are walking the red carpet. Nothing against them at all, but I'll bet you it will be people that you and I haven't even heard of, who knew nothing but obscurity and hardship in their lives, who are granted honor and recognition and reward.

We like prominence and fame. God loves to work though ordinary people, often in obscurity and hardship. They will receive that recognition, but then they will give it all to God and say that he alone is worthy of the honor. God always seems to look in the most unlikely places for people that he can use.

God Takes the Initiative

You'll notice that Jesus approached Simon and Andrew and said, "Follow me." It wasn't unusual for a rabbi to have followers in that day. But here's how it normally worked: a rabbi would be approached by people who wanted to follow him. The rabbi didn't look for followers. The followers looked for a rabbi. You see this in Jesus' ministry. Other times, he was approached by people who wanted to follow him. He usually tried to discourage them by telling them how much it would cost them. Rabbis didn't usually take the initiative. The followers took the initiative.

But here, Jesus approaches these two fishermen and tells them, "Follow me." He doesn't wait for them to ask to follow him. He pursues them. This is exactly what Jesus still does today. He doesn't wait for us to decide to follow him. He calls us long before we even think of following him. We hear the call, and often times we're scared to respond for any number of reasons. Jesus doesn't wait for us to take the initiative. He takes the initiative and invites us to follow him.

Isn't it true that this has happened in your life? There have been those moments when it's been unmistakable. You've heard the call of Jesus in your life. You may not have had words to describe it, and you may not have told anyone about it. You've felt that tug, a sense of his presence, maybe of his calling. You may or may not have responded well, but it was there. He's already taken the initiative in your life.

Over the next forty days, it's my prayer that this will happen again. God is still taking the initiative in calling us to respond to him, to follow him, to do something with our lives beyond living for the day to day.

God Elevates our Professions

I love what Jesus does here. Verse 18 says that Andrew and Simon were "fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen." This was incredibly hard work. They had already been up all night fishing, and the parallel passage in Luke tells us that they hadn't had a successful night. They still had the hard work of repairing and drying all the nets.

Jesus came along and said, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." I don't know what Jesus meant for sure. He could have been saying that their new work would be just as hard - lots of work for few results. He could have been focusing on the nature of the work, that they would be capturing people, not to kill them as they had fish, but to bring them into the kingdom. But he didn't really ask them to leave their profession. They would still remain fishermen of a different kind. They still occasionally went back to fishing to earn a living. Jesus didn't terminate their profession. He elevated it. There's a world of difference.

Do you know what happens in our churches? Because pastors are often the ones up front speaking, we hear a lot about people who are in vocational ministry. We talk about "the call" as if God calls pastors and missionaries, but the rest of you are out of luck. We occasionally hear pastors issue an alter call, saying, "If you would like God to really use you in your life, would you come to the front and become a pastor, or maybe second best, a missionary." Because pastors are the ones teaching, you sometimes get the idea that God uses pastors and sometimes missionaries, but the rest of you are out of luck. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, pastors really are at a disadvantage. I can't be used as effectively in many situations as some of you. When you go to a dentist, don't you expect to hear that you should floss? When you go to the doctor, you know before you get there that they'll tell you to quit smoking or to lose ten pounds. When you go to get your car's oil changed, you know in advance that they'll try to tell you that all these other things need fixing. It's the same with a pastor. You expect to hear some things from us. It's our job. It makes it easy to tune us out. We're the religious professionals.

I believe that most of the people God is using most powerfully today aren't pastors or missionaries. The call isn't reserved for those who make their living as pastors and missionaries. God doesn't want you to quit your profession. For most of us, he wants to elevate our professions. He turns fishermen into a different kind of fishermen. He turns doctors into a different kind of doctor, teachers into a different kind of teacher, accountants into Christ-following accountants. God probably doesn't want you to change your profession. God can use you right where you are, with what you're doing. He can elevate your profession. It's what God has been doing for thousands of years.

It's Not About Me

This is the most challenging part about today. God is looking for people. He's looking in the most unlikely places. He takes the initiative and elevates our professions. But here's the key for many of us. Verse 20 says, "At once they left their nets and followed him."

Do you know what this means? Their nets were their livelihood. Their nets were their lives, their security, all that they knew. Jesus called them to walk away from their source of security, their lifestyle. He was calling them away from their agenda to follow his agenda instead.

This is where it's different. As we talk about your purpose, we won't be talking about ascending the hierarchy of needs to self-actualization. This won't be a Christian version of Anthony Robbins or Deepak Chopra. When God issues his call, you discover that your life's purpose is not at all about you and your agenda, your fame, your success. It's about his kingdom, his agenda, his glory, and his renown.

In God's kingdom, there are no famous people. There are people who are famous, but they say, "I wish I wasn't famous. I didn't look for this. I want God to get all the glory in my life." They didn't look for fame. They want to give up all their fame to Jesus.

In God's kingdom, there are no rich people. There are people who have lots of money, but they say, "This isn't mine, and I don't want to keep it for myself. I want everything that I have to be used by God. I only have it so I can give it away to accomplish his purposes and to seek his glory."

In God's kingdom, there are no successful people. There are only people who say, "I want to use every talent, every ability that God has given me to seek his glory."

It's not about us. When we live for our purposes, and our agenda, we live shriveled lives a few feet wide by a few feet tall. When we live for God's purpose and his glory, when we die to ourselves, we trade up to a purpose that sweeps all of eternity. We join the stream of God's activity. We seek his glory. It's not about us. It's all about him.

I want to close today by asking you to respond. You have been given this life by God. All we get to do is to choose what to do with the time that we have. As we start these forty days, we have the opportunity to respond to the call that God continues to issue to us today.

There are some of you who are here who needed to hear that God can use you. He uses ordinary people in obscure locations to do his greatest work. There are some of you who are so discouraged about yourself, your abilities, track record, your situation, that you needed to hear today that you are exactly the sort of person that God loves to use. With heads bowed, if this is you, would you please stand and say, "Thanks, God, for the reminder that you use people like me." I invite you to stand.

There are some of you today who needed to hear the challenge to drop your nets. You needed the reminder that your life is not about you, your welfare, your glory. You need to stand today and say, "God, I give it all back to you. My life is not about me. It's not about my glory, my success, my security, my fame. It's about you. Today, I stand and give it all back to you."

Then, lastly, I invite you to stand if you would like to hear God's purpose for your life once again. We're going to read a book on your life's purpose, and this book is a New York Times bestseller. But really, that doesn't matter. We don't need another book, another sermon series. All the books in the world can't change our hearts, change our souls. But if we meet with God, hear his voice, and respond to his call, then our souls will be changed. I invite you to stand and to pray, "God, would you meet me and speak once again so I hear your purpose for my life, and give it all over to you."

Thank you, Father, that you use ordinary people in obscure locations. Thank you that you take the initiative and you elevate our positions. Thank you that you call us to trade up from our agendas to your agenda, your glory. We want to live your purpose. We want to drop our nets. Meet with us, and speak to us, we pray. Amen.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

The Audience is Listening (Colossians 3:16-17)

I love going to movies with THX sound. My favorite part of some movies is when the THX logo comes on and the speakers play that cool sound, and the words appear on the screen that say, "The audience is listening." That's actually the best part of some movies that I've seen. I'm glad the theatres haven't figured out that I'd probably pay a few dollars just to see that one part.

We've been talking about worship the past few weeks. We've talked about how God desires a relationship with us, to meet with us. We've talked about the primary reason to worship God: not for what it does for us, but primarily because God is worthy of our worship. We've also looked at the fact that God does not want worship. Instead, he wants worshipers. He wants our hearts more than any external act of worship we could ever perform.

Today, we're going to finish off by looking at how we worship. I mentioned last week that all of life is worship -Sunday to Saturday. Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father." Worship isn't an event; it's a way of living. It encompasses all of life.

Today, though, I want to look at corporate worship - what happens when we come together to worship God as a group of Jesus followers. This is where the whole theatre analogy comes in. When you came in today, you could have re-arranged the chairs into a circle and sat and talked with a few friends. You could have brought a coffee and a muffin and enjoyed food with others around you, but you didn't. Instead, you sat in rows and faced the front. You likely looked at your watch to see when the service would start, and when the service started, some of you checked again to see if we were on time. Your attention has been mostly focused on what's happening up front here.

This setup has some advantages. It's easy to come, or to invite somebody new, without feeling threatened. But it also presents some challenges. It's not wrong, but we need to be aware that we're losing something, especially as it relates to worship. When we say, "The audience is listening" in most churches, we think of those who are sitting in the pews or rows of chairs facing the front. But you are not the audience of worship. God is the audience, and he is listening. Rather than sitting as spectators, you are the participants in worship, and God is the one who is watching. Worship is about participation.

I wonder if you could switch pictures in your mind from a worship service in a theatre setting to a worship service in a living room. Early church worship services took place in homes for the first few hundred years of the church's life. Groups of up to 50 people met in living rooms. It would be a little more spontaneous than we're used to. Justin Martyr described a church meeting around 150 A.D.: people came, had prayer, read from a portion of Scripture "as long as time allows." Then, someone gave a discourse to encourage everyone to imitate what was in the Scripture. They would then stand, pray, take communion, and go off to work, since Sunday was a workday. It had many of the same elements of a worship gathering that we have: prayer, Scripture, communion. It was structured very differently, though, and was highly participatory.

We think of preaching today as somebody getting up to lecture a crowd for 3o or so minutes. A lot of that type of preaching in the early church took place not in the context of a worship gathering, but instead in the Temple, synagogue, or other place so that people could hear the Gospel story. Within a worship gathering, the teaching of God's Word probably took a more informal form. I doubt somebody stood up and just talked for half an hour. We get hints of what it might have been like in a few passages, and we're going to look at them today.

If you have a Bible with you, turn with me to Colossians 3. Verses 16 and 17 say:

16Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. 17And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of the Lord Jesus, all the while giving thanks through him to God the Father.

Notice anything different in this passage? There's a lot you'd expect to see: a focus on the words of Christ, passed down and taught among the churches, along with the Law and the Prophets. You have different types of songs, old and new. You have thankfulness - the idea of worship expressing the heart's gratitude for Jesus Christ. All that looks familiar, not all that different from what we would expect to find in a worship service. But there is something different that we normally find today.

Verse 16 says, "Use his words to teach and counsel each other." That's very different from how we do it today. We don't usually come expecting to teach and counsel each other. We expect to hear it from the front, from the pastor or whoever is speaking that day.

I really appreciate good preaching and many of the preachers I've heard throughout the years. But we may be losing something by making them the primary or only teachers of God's Word. I'm a pastor, but I can say this: we all expect pastors to say certain things because, well, they're pastors. We also believer that they're at least a little removed from the life of an average person. They work for churches; you work for some guy your pastor wouldn't know how to handle if they ever met. So when the pastor speaks, it's not always directly into your world, because your pastor doesn't completely understand your world.

It makes a big difference to hear a co-worker talk about a passage of Scripture that's really helped her cope with pressures at work. It's helpful to hear another parent of teenagers talk about his struggles, and how he's found comfort in God's Word that have helped him deal with having a teenage daughter. That's very different from just having the pastor speak.

Some of us aren't speakers or teachers, although I'll bet most of us have something to offer - an insight or an encouragement. No matter. Another passage talks of some other ways we can participate in the worship life of a group of believers. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says:

10God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Manage them well so that God's generosity can flow through you. 11Are you called to be a speaker? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Are you called to help others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.

You get the idea of a group getting together to worship God. Some are good at speaking, and can't wait to share what God has been teaching them lately. Others head right to the kitchen to help with the coffee and goods that are going to be served later on. Others come in and quietly sit beside someone who looks down and who needs a bit of encouragement. I could go on. Everyone has something to offer, something they naturally love to do. Nobody's a spectator.

1 Corinthians 14:26 puts it this way: "When you gather for worship, each one of you be prepared with something that will be useful for all: Sing a hymn, teach a lesson, tell a story, lead a prayer, provide an insight" (The Message). Everyone comes expecting to contribute something. The focus isn't on the front. It's on God, through each other. The audience is listening, but the audience isn't the people who come. The audience is God. Everyone participates in offering worship to God.

Some of you are hear all this and say, "That's the way it should be when we come together to worship God." How you respond is going to depend a lot on your personality. Let me talk to two groups of people here and see if we can think about how this might work in our setting.

Some of us are ready to say, "Great, when do we start?" We want to remove the barriers to make sure we're all clear that we're participants, not spectators, in worshiping God. I want to outline some of the ways that people today are rediscovering older ways of worship to recapture some of what took place in the early centuries of church life. Some are meeting in houses or informal groups. They say they're part of a church, but it's not a church with a name or a structure or a board or any type of program. They're a group of believers who meet together to follow God and to worship him together. That's one way of recapturing a bit of this ethos.

Some churches continue to meet as we do, but they're making changes to de-emphasize what happens up front and to move what happens off the platform and into the assembled group. I've heard of stages that are backlit so you can't see the people who are leading. We've got our worship leaders on the floor today, more among us than in front of us. I've heard of worship leaders start on the platform and gradually move off to join the people as the worship continues. They start as leaders but they finish within the group, worshiping alongside everyone else.

As you've heard me talk today, some of you have said, "That sounds a lot like a small group." You don't even have to call it a small group, but some people say, "Look, I don't want to give up Sunday morning, but I want more. I need more." You can start a formal small group, or you can just get together with some others on a regular basis to share life together, to read God's Word and teach it to each other, to pray and to support each other.

You can also work at participating on Sundays. In your programs today, there's a sheet with some of the opportunities you have to participate on a Sunday - everything from greeting people as they arrive to helping the kids to praying or participating up front. It's not enough to come and sit in rows. We need more. We need to sit in circles, in a living room format, somewhere in our lives. But even here, as we sit in rows, we need to make sure we're participants and not spectators.

The audience is listening. He loves when worshipers come together to praise him. Today we're going to participate by meeting at his table today, remembering the Lord's death for us. Jesus has invited us, and he is our honored guest. He wants to eat with you, to drink with you. Let's participate. Let's worship. Let's meet him right now.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.

God Doesn't Want Worship

Last week, if you were here, we began to look at worship. We asked the question, "Why worship?" We talked about God's deepest desire - to have fellowship with us. We also talked about what happens when we worship God. In our tradition, we usually focus so much on the gray matter that we forget that worship engages all of us. We talked about what happens when we worship God. John Piper put it best: "To see God and not to savor him is to insult him."

I have to confess to being a little nervous this morning. We have a group of people here who've been meeting for months to provide leadership to our church in the whole area of worship. They've been meeting and planning and talking about how we can learn to worship God better. I'm nervous because they might not like what I'm about to say today.

Here's what I want to say. God doesn't want worship. There. I've said it.

That might sound shocking to you, but it's true. I believe that we've wasted a lot of time talking about worship and thinking about worship and even spending time in worship. Meanwhile, God isn't looking for worship.

Churches today are spending endless hours of debate about worship. Books have been written. Jesus even got into a theological discussion about worship once and bypassed the theological question entirely. Have you ever been in a theological argument that you thought was going nowhere? It reminds me of what one of my friends often says: "Never fight with a pig. Nobody wins, you both get dirty, and the pig enjoys it." A lot of the debates and arguments that people have over worship are useless, because God doesn't want worship. I can't find one place in the Bible where God says he wants worship.

I know some of you are flipping through your Bibles right now trying to prove me wrong, and the board is thinking of calling an emergency meeting right after the service. So let me try to show you a number of passages in which God basically said, "I'm not interested in your worship."

Anybody here used to watch the Flintstones? What's scary to me is that the older I get, the more I act like Fred. One day, Fred bought Wilma a gift: a bowling ball with his name engraved on it. Any husband here ever given his wife a present that he wanted? Fred wasn't giving Wilma a gift. He was giving himself a gift. That's probably what happens a lot with worship. We think we're worshiping God, but in reality we're giving ourselves what we want while thinking that we're giving it to God. God says, "I'm really not interested in your worship."

Remember Cain and Abel - the children of Adam and Eve? Cain offered worship to God - a sacrifice - but the Bible says that God "did not accept Cain and his offering" (Genesis 4:5). A couple of times, in Isaiah and in Amos, God says flat out that he's tired of worship. Listen to what God says in Isaiah 1:13-14 in the Message paraphrase:

Quit your worship charades.
I can't stand your trivial religious games:
Monthly conferences, weekly Sabbaths, special meetings-
meetings, meetings, meetings-I can't stand one more!
Meetings for this, meetings for that. I hate them!
You've worn me out!
I'm sick of your religion, religion, religion...

Jesus even said the same to some of the people in his day who spent most of their lives trying to worship God. He said of them, quoting Isaiah, "They worship me in vain" (Matthew 15:9). These aren't the only verses I could refer to. There are many, many more. I believe that we've made a serious error. We've focused so much on worship that we've missed the point. God doesn't want worship.

God doesn't want worship. But here's what he does want: God wants worshipers. God isn't lacking people who are willing to praise him, to attend religious services, to pray, to do all the things that we think of as worship. God isn't looking for more of that. But, according to Jesus, God is looking for something entirely different. God isn't looking for more worship. Instead, he's looking for more worshipers.

Jesus said in John 4:23, "But the time is coming and is already here when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way." The Father is looking for worshipers, for those who know how to worship him in spirit and the truth.

What's the difference between worship and a worshiper? There's all the difference in the world. There are two ways of approaching worship. The first way focuses on worship, on the external actions. It says that if we go to church, keep our quiet time, pray, sing, give - all the actions of worship - that it will change our hearts. This is the outside-in approach. If we're really honest, it's the approach that we usually take. We believe that if we go to church, sing, give, keep our quiet time, that we will become better followers of Christ.

But then there's another approach, the inside-out approach. In this case, worship isn't an external action. Instead, it's the overflow of hearts that are full of praise for him. The external actions are a by-product rather than the goal. God is looking for worshipers, who worship God not out of habit but out of the overflow of their hearts. He's not looking for more external actions. He's looking for more hearts that are full of praise for him.

I don't want to mislead you. There are times that the external actions affect our hearts and lead us into more worship. I don't think there's anything that's wrong with that. But even then, the heart is really the issue. At the end of the day, God isn't interested in what's taken place externally as we worship him. God's really interested in our hearts. He's interested in what took place that nobody else can see except for him.

For the rest of today, in the time that we have left, I want to look at two people who illustrate these approaches differently. One was an outside-in worshiper. The other was inside-out. God approved of one and rejected the other. I don't want to look at the techniques or the products of worship. I want to look at what it is about somebody's heart that enables them to be true worshipers of God.

The two people I want to look at are two kings of Israel, David and Saul. If you looked at these two kings side by side, most of us would conclude that David is the worse person. Saul once offered a sacrifice to God that he shouldn't have, and he was a little cocky. David, on the other hand, committed adultery and murder. Of the two of them, Saul comes off as the better person to us. But God didn't see it that way. God rejected Saul, but twice in the Bible, David is called a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). What was it that made God see them differently?

Saul offered God worship, but he didn't seem to be a worshiper. He once offered a sacrifice by himself - an act of worship - but did so disobediently, because he did so out of fear and ignorance, without the presence of a prophet. Another time, he kept a bunch of animals that he plundered from an enemy nation instead of destroying them all, as God commanded. Saul said, "Then my troops brought in the best of the sheep and cattle and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal" (1 Samuel 15:21). He offered God worship, but God didn't want his worship. God wanted his heart. Saul worshiped, but he wasn't a worshiper. He had an outside-in approach to worship.

David worshiped, but more importantly, David was a worshiper. David obviously wasn't accepted by God because of his morality. It's not our own value or worth that we bring to God that makes him accept our worshiper. David was accepted because despite all of his faults, he had a heart that worshiped God. God said, "The LORD doesn't make decisions the way you do! People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at a person's thoughts and intentions" (1 Samuel 16:7).

Whenever you look at David, you find him worshiping. David worshiped God in almost every circumstance you can imagine. David ran from Saul and hid in a cave - and he worshiped (Psalm 58). He pretended to be insane to save his life from a foreign king, and he worshiped (Psalm 34). When he returned to God after committing adultery and murder, he worshiped (Psalm 51). He worshiped when he couldn't sleep at night (Psalm 6) and when he felt like he was dying from misery (Psalm 31). If you read the headings of some of the psalms, you discover that David worshiped in all kinds of circumstances.

David was also brutally honest in his worship. He praised God for his glory, but he also worshiped when God's glory wasn't first on his mind. He worshiped when he had questions for God (Psalm 10). He cried out to God and said, "How long, oh Lord? Will you forget me forever?" (Psalm 13:1) Rather than condemning David for his honesty, God has preserved his prayers for us to read today.

David hungered for God. He wanted to worship God with all of his heart. He said:

The one thing I ask of the LORD-
the thing I seek most-
is to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
delighting in the LORD'S perfections
and meditating in his Temple. (Psalm 27:4)

And again:

A single day in your courts
is better than a thousand anywhere else!
I would rather be a gatekeeper [guard] in the house of my God
than live the good life in the homes of the wicked. (Psalm 84:10)

David worshiped God passionately. He had a reputation to uphold, but he didn't care about that. He praised God before the people. He danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14).

Sometimes those of us who are men think that worship is a female thing. We don't think it's manly to worship. I dare anyone to go up to David and tell him that he's not a man. He killed lions and giants and was a brilliant warrior. He's a man's man. But he was also a worshiper.

You could go on. In fact, you could spend years studying David as a worshiper. But here's the main point: David wasn't accepted by God because he was more moral than anyone else, or because of his outward acts. David was accepted by God because his heart was that of a worshiper. God is looking for people - not perfect people, not moral people, not good people. God is looking for worshipers. He is looking for people who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

How do we become worshipers? It doesn't come by trying harder. I'm just na‹ve enough to believe that God answers the prayer of those who want to become his worshipers. When we cry out to God and say, "I want to become a worshiper who worships you in spirit and in truth," I believe that this is the type of prayer that God loves to answer. When we seek him, God says, we find him. The Spirit is all about God's glory. He turns hearts that are hard and stony into hearts of flesh. He can turn those who worship into true worshipers when we ask him, when we seek him, when we turn our hearts toward him.

God doesn't want worship. He wants worshipers. He wants you to be his worshiper. No matter who you are today, whether you've ever worshiped God before or not, God invites you to become his worshiper today.


Confession: we have often focused on the externals

Help us to not focus as much on worship. Help us instead to become worshipers.

Thank you for Jesus Christ, who came to this world and died for us so that we could become worshipers. Through his death we are forgiven. Through his resurrection we are given new life. Through him, we pray that we would become worshipers. Amen.


Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash is a graduate of the University of Waterloo, Heritage Theological Seminary, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He’s married to Charlene, and has two children, Christina and Josiah. Darryl is currently planting Liberty Grace Church in Liberty Village, Toronto. He previously served as pastor of Richview Baptist Church and Park Lawn Baptist Church, both in west Toronto.