A few weeks ago I was in Paris with four college seniors finishing up ten days of travel, teaching them history and current events in light of a biblical worldview. “My guys” were some of the most gifted, leadership young men I’ve ever spent time with and the products of fine Christian families.
One of our discussions was on what it meant to “be filled with the Holy Spirit”. I told them that one of the reasons that concept might feel foreign and theological to them, could be because they’ve never been spiritually drunk.
First, allow me to go back a week to a conversation we had as a group in Krakow, Poland, our first stop. We were talking about worship, specifically about the dangers of having worship becoming so familiar, so routine that we simply “go on automatic,” doing what everyone else does simply because that’s the way it’s done. Doing church! That kind of “worship” is easy, mindless and quite probably a sin.
I reminded them that there’s only one person who matters in real worship – God! So, within the boundaries of scripture, do everything you do as if he and you were the only two people in the room and give others that same freedom. (I covered some of this in my February blogs, Does Jesus Hate Religion?)
“Therefore, the next time you’re worshiping, forget you’re with your friends and just do everything for God and do anything he tells you to do, or to stop doing. Close your eyes when you sing and pray. Imagine God only a few feet away and let the awareness of his presence intensify and let your inhibitions fall way.
Get Drunk with God
Paul uses an interesting metaphor in his letter to the Ephesians, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 When a person gets drunk they throw their fears and inhibitions out the window and give themselves over to alcohol. In fact, we say they are “under the influence of alcohol.” They do things they’d never do sober – generally embarrassing or sinful. Paul says, in the same way, again within the boundaries of scripture, give your mind and body over to the Holy Spirit and give little thought to the consequences, if you’re reasonably certain what you’re about to do will honor him, or please him. Be under the influence of the Holy Spirit! This applies to all aspects of the Christian life, not just in worship.
Get drunk with the Holy Spirit!
Ok, so we’re now in Paris worshiping at The Bridge, a small, English speaking church plant of perhaps 100, held in a hotel meeting room. Wonderful, spirit-led worship – strong, biblical teaching, the lifting of hands during singing, prayer requests from the members and an air of expectancy in the room. And, in the providence of God, the message topic that morning was What does it mean to be filled and led by the Holy Spirit.
At the conclusion, the pastor asked very sensitively, if anyone wanted prayer they could simply step into the aisle and pray with one of their team. I was literally in tears because I couldn’t have set up the service any better given our previous discussions. But, none of my guys moved, or appeared to be moved by the service.
Confess your sins to one another
A half hour later at lunch I made this statement: “I sensed some spiritual warfare going on during the service today. I believe some of you wanted to respond to God in some visible way, but you were more afraid of what your friends would think, than what God wants.”
After an awkward silence the first brave soul spoke. “I really wanted to be prayed for, but didn’t dare step out.” Another admitted, “I felt moved to raise my hands in praise during the singing, but I was afraid of what you guys might think.” “You, too?” asked another young man. Eyes were moist. They were ashamed at their lack of courage and sad that they missed a real opportunity to risk some small thing for God. You could almost hear the cock crowing for the third time. But, they were beginning to get it!
“Mr. De Graaf, how did you know that’s what was going on in us?” I said, “It’s because I experience those battles every day of my life, myself. But, I’ve come to understand that unless I’m willing to let my faith in God override my fear, in every area of my life I’ll always be a slave to fear and public opinion and useless as a follower of Jesus.” This is at least a 2,000 year old problem. John the Apostle made this observation about some Jewish religious leaders who believed in Jesus but were afraid to follow him, “For they loved human praise more than praise from God.” John 12:43
Plan A Here’s the problem I’ve observed with leadership men or women. Like the rich young ruler most of us are scared stiff that we’ll lose our followers, our admirers, our friends, or somehow lose our edge. We sniff around the trap, desperately looking for Plan B, a less costly, less intrusive, less public way of following Jesus. I know. I tried it for years. (And, still do occasionally.) But, Jesus offers no Plan B. He simply says, “Come follow me”. Plan A.
“Mr. De Graaf, how do we do that? How do we begin living out Plan A?” “Guys, assuming you’re confident you are truly born again, that’s what the 10 second rule is all about. Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do. The power of the Rule is that it will help you learn to break the habit of fear and begin living by faith – getting drunk on God and being led by the Holy Spirit! If you don’t, you’ll end up doing church and doing Christianity like so many others and totally miss the adventure Jesus promised all who would follow him!”
Question: I’ve listed a few ideas for turning worship back to God. Do you have others to add?
• As soon as you sit down in church, begin by quieting your mind and heart and offer yourself to God in prayer. • Don’t sing the words to songs you really don’t mean. Better to not sing them, than be hypocritical. (Here’s an example: “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold,” when sitting in the church parking lot are millions of mites being withheld from God! I think it angers God when we thoughtlessly sing songs we don’t really mean and then call it worship.) • I leave my cell phone in the car, so I’m not distracted or tempted to check messages. If you use it because your Bible is on it, but you’re tempted occasionally to do anything other than read scripture, consider taking a paper Bible to church. It still works. • If you’re embarrassed to be seen carrying a Bible, then perhaps you have your first pre-decision right in front of you. • If, when your pastor is praying and your mind wanders, try paraphrasing his/her words and offering your own prayer, in your own words to God. • If you sense God impressing you to give more in the offering than you planned – do it. • If you’re in church and you see another person you have an issue with, covenant to get up at the close of the service and offer to meet with them before next Sunday. (Matt. 5:23-24) • If you’re about to take communion and you know you have a serious unresolved issue with any person or unconfessed and unrepentant sin, let the cup pass rather than eat and drink judgment to yourself. (I Cor. 11:27-30) • Make notes of the message and ask this question of yourself at the end. “How does God want me to live differently?” Then review what you’ve learned the next time you’re alone with God.
Following Jesus in Real Life