Have you ever been lost? I’m not talking about forgetting where you parked the car at the shopping center. I’m talking about being by yourself, no one around and unable to find your way back kind of lost. I was back in 1987. I was living in Winston County not far from the Bankhead National Forest. One day I decided to go deer hunting. After not seeing anything I decided to do a little scouting and go back to my truck a different way. I did not have a compass because I thought I didn’t need one. After 6 hours I finally walked upon the house of a friend, some 12 miles from where I had parked. I understand how easy it is for people to panic. I had to fight it every step of the way. It’s unnerving and panic can unravel us at the seams. After that I made sure I had a compass in my hunting gear.
The fear of being lost is about being disconnected; cut off from home, friends, and community. This fear is not limited to Forests, and for some, it goes much deeper. Every day can be a battle. We all need a way to keep our heart focused on the God who loves us perfectly. How do we keep our focus? I think this passage is Luke 7:36-50 (The Message) has the answer.
36-39 One of the Pharisees asked him over for a meal. He went to the Pharisee’s house and sat down at the dinner table. Just then a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at his feet, weeping, raining tears on his feet. Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man was the prophet I thought he was, he would have known what kind of woman this is who is falling all over him.”
40 Jesus said to him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Oh? Tell me.” 41-42 “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred silver pieces, the other fifty. Neither of them could pay up, and so the banker canceled both debts. Which of the two would be more grateful?”
43-47 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who was forgiven the most.” “That’s right,” said Jesus. Then turning to the woman, but speaking to Simon, he said, “Do you see this woman? I came to your home; you provided no water for my feet, but she rained tears on my feet and dried them with her hair. You gave me no greeting, but from the time I arrived she hasn’t quit kissing my feet. You provided nothing for freshening up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it? She was forgiven many, many sins, and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal.”
48 Then he spoke to her: “I forgive your sins.” 49 That set the dinner guests talking behind his back: “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins!” 50 He ignored them and said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
Think about this woman. Her morals were a far cry from God’s standard. Her reputation in the community was well-known. Everyone looked down on her, especially the Religious Police. And her own self-image? The community didn’t have to heap shame on her, she already felt it. She was told that her heart was unworthy of God and that God wouldn’t accept her heart. She lived with this mind-set day after day after day.
But one day, she must have heard Jesus speaking about the real God of real love. Perhaps she’s in the crowd listening. She’s not too close to Jesus because people wouldn’t allow her around them. She is on the edges. But even on the fringe, she hears enough that something stirs in her heart that she believed died so long ago: Hope! And this hope that God plants in her heart refuses to go away. God’s Prevenient Grace keeps going before her until that moment she finally surrenders her heart, such as it is, dirty as it is, unworthy as it is,—she surrenders it to God.
What she had heard would never happen, did happen! God accepted her heart, cleansing her and releasing her from all her guilt and shame. Can you imagine the relief she felt? The weight of it all had been lifted from her. So what can she do for the One who set her free? Does she volunteer at the local homeless shelter? Does she become a street preacher to other women who have been living like she has? Does she try to read and memorize the Torah? The answer to all of these questions is NO! Let’s learn something important from this shameful woman; this woman who had been deemed unworthy and unlovable. Let’s follow her steps:
She Is Determined To Seek Jesus First.
Maybe she looks at that place where she first heard His voice. Up one street and down another. She hasn’t found Him, but she doesn’t give up. Maybe she goes to the local synagogue, but He’s not there. Maybe she knows where some sick people live. So she goes there but He’s not there. So she starts asking people, “Do you know where Jesus is?” Some in the community ignored her because that’s what smug self-righteous people do with “sinners”. Those that do speak say “I haven’t seen Him.” No one seems to have an answer for her. She persists until finally someone says, “Oh, he’s having dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee.”
And what about you? Do you have the tenacity of this woman to seek the presence of Jesus? Before the act of worship occurs, there must be The Desire For Jesus. Some people come to church because they are determined to fulfill their duty. Others come to worship seeking to hear a good sermon or good music. But real worshippers, people whose heart is for worship, Come For No Other Reason Than To Seek Jesus. Look at what she does next.
She Overcomes The Obstacles In Order To Worship.
What she overcomes isn’t written in these pages, but deeply embedded in her culture. First, she has to find a way into the Pharisee’s house. She’s not on the guest list. Not only is she not invited, She Is Unwanted! No self-respecting Pharisee would invite someone of her morals into their home. But somehow she manages to get into the courtyard of the home, but Jesus is inside.
If she knocks on the front door she will be turned away. Another obstacle! But somehow she gets inside the house. But Jesus is in the one place NO woman was ever allowed. The dinner table! Another obstacle. But that doesn’t stop her. She finally works her way to Jesus. She’s behind him. There He is! She kneels at the feet of Jesus. Now what? She probably hasn’t thought it through this far, So She Does What Her Heart Tells Her To Do. Her tears start to flow; tears of release and joy! They drop on the feet of Jesus. Now everyone sees her and what she is doing! Her emotions are taboo! Respectable people don’t show their emotions in worship! And then she lets down her hair to wipe the feet of Jesus! Oh, no! Women who follow the rules don’t do that either. But she does!
And what are your obstacles to true worship? Is it Pride? Guilt? Fear? To worship God we have to overcome our obstacles—whether those obstacles are self-imposed or pushed on us by our culture. Worship is not about the style or songs or preacher. It is about overcoming any obstacle just to be in the presence of the only One who can set you free. Look at what she does next:
She Pours Her Whole Heart Into Her Worship.
She has an alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. This isn’t Dior J’adore where you can spray just a little bit. The jar is sealed and has to be broken. It’s a one-time use jar. Maybe it was being saved for her wedding day, but that dream has probably long died. Maybe it was being saved for her burial; after all, no one would spend that kind of money on someone like her. She takes all that she has, and offers it in worship. She broke so many rules just to be to this moment, and she doesn’t hold anything back, so she breaks that jar. And the aroma of her perfume, The Fragrance Of Her Worship Fills That Room. And everyone around that table looks at her with contempt—everyone except Jesus. He accepts her act of worship by looking into her eyes and into her heart.
Worship is not about the items we associate with worship: Announcements, Prayers, Hymns, Anthems, Scripture, Sermon, and what many consider the best part of all, the Benediction. It is about pouring out all that is in your heart as the only acceptable response to God’s unconditional love. Worship Is Not About The Acts That You Do, But The Total Surrender Of Your Heart, Such As It Is, To God.
You Never Truly Worship God Until You Break Your Alabaster Jar And Empty All The Contents While You Are At The Feet Of Jesus.
Worship is the compass that helps us find our way back to God. When we get disconnected from life, worship points us to the one who will rescue us from our fears and despair. Worship is about realizing that we have been invited into His presence. True worship reminds us of the Infinite Love, Unparalleled Grace, And Unending Mercy God Has For Us And That Keeps Us From Getting Lost All Over Again.
Worship, true worship strengthens us and helps us become more like Jesus. And as much as we may mess up during any given week, it is our worship that keeps us From Messing Up Even More And Even Becoming Totally Disconnected From The Life We Long For And The Life We Were Made For. Have you poured out your whole heart in worship today? If you haven’t, it’s not too late.
Love God with all your heart. Love others the way Jesus loves you. And make sure all the glory goes to Him!