Abundant Life

Wrestling with Worship: A Surrendered Heart, Part One

Have you ever fought with the knowledge of godly wisdom? I mean, you read the Word and know the truth, but in the heat of a trying moment the walking out is taxed, stalled even.

That was me last night; and, if I’m being honest, it’s me far more often than I like to admit.

Here’s the backstory: I opened my heart to someone, becoming vulnerable with health issues that plague my spirit. In my vulnerability, I opened a door called “weakness”, one I’m prone to, which inevitably got trampled through.

When unanticipated words gnashed a grotesque wound within me, I cried. Anger raged. Flags of injustice flew. All of me, minus the spirit which was pointing me toward forgiveness, clung to the hurt still pulsating despair into the depths of my being. The seemingly legitimate right to cry out “foul play” consumed my thoughts as, second by second, the searing intensity of my torment grew.

Forgive her! Yes, I knew I needed to, for we war not against flesh and blood. In fact, the Bible says the enemy is the accuser of the brethren and can work through others his biddings. To remove the personality behind the words and see them for whose they really were is a righteous call that offers hope of forgiveness.

But the surrender felt beyond my capacity. My thoughts were still storming vile accusations and repetitions of the felt-atrocities directed towards me. Forgiveness was a distant endeavor.

Enter the still small voice…

Getting up from my seated stewing spot, my mind wandered to Romans 12:1

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. (NIV)

In view of God’s mercy; the words caught me off guard! Mercy is what offered each of us forgiveness through Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s mercy that drew us in, and it’s in view of that mercy that we are called to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, as true and proper worship.

It was God’s mercy toward me that directed me to forgiveness. Somehow, we can forgive because we’ve been forgiven. But what is the somehow? Like a lightbulb switching on, the word appeared:

Surrender.

To present my body is to offer it; to recognize that the flesh in me is still desperately in need of refining fires. It’s an act of atonement. Reverence for God, true worship, is a surrendered heart that’s willing to lay aside the flesh to bring glory to the One who makes all things new.

This is worship that’s proper. It’s pleasing to God, and a fragrant offering to the One who alone is worthy of our praise.

David directs his son Solomon to know [God] and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. (1 Chronicles 28:9)

Knowing that God searches our hearts, and understands our minds, we can be assured that our worship is tried from the depth of our hearts, beyond any outward display. In the Old Testament, an offering that pleased the Lord was a fragrant one by way of justification from the heart. Sacrifice and worship to false gods had a pleasing aroma of incense, but was actually detestable in God’s sight. (Read more about the significance of an offering’s aroma HERE)

A whole heart. A willing mind. These are the defining conditions of surrender.

As I purposed myself toward forgiveness, I realized that the Bible gives clear instruction for surrender. It directs us to transform our minds with intentionality. Choose proper focus. Take thoughts captive to obedience to Christ.

Beyond the call is also the promise of fulfillment.

I can because He already did; trusting that He who began a good work in me will carry it out to completion. (Philippians 1:6)

In view of God’s mercy—with fixed eyes and a surrendered heart—I can choose obedience, which is a true and proper act of worship.

So I chose to forgive, and that choice brought restoration; freedom from the wound which is now healed by the blood of the Lamb.

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