This year’s Church Theme-“From Fan to Follower-Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus Christ” has been a challenging theme for me. Since last year, Pastor Bottoms has been prepping us for the theme-he told us about the book; he hosted a workshop on it for us, so we were forewarned-thank you Pastor Bottoms! Sis Janie McCall blessed me with a copy of the Kyle Idleman book (Not a Fan), and I was so happy-another book to read, and I SO love to read. However, I got as far as the prologue, and realized that this was not just any “book”. I couldn’t bring myself to read past the first few pages for about 6 months, and it collected dust on my night table. The first few pages alone brought such a conviction over me, and in spite of how highly I thought of myself in regards to my walk with Christ, I clearly saw that there was a likely possibility that I was simply a fan, a fraud, a fake, a hypocrite, a Pharisee???? Little by little, I began to read the book. Line by line, page by page, chapter by chapter, the book has provoked much introspection, self-reflection, and self-examination, as never before. Causing me to “DTR”-define the relationship that I have with Jesus Christ-by His standards. And I still have 6 chapters to go! But God is faithful-I know that He who has begun a good work in me is faithful to complete it, Just so you all know, I had a different topic for today. Relevant, but different.
I was in the hospital, and God had my full attention. And I couldn’t stop thinking about WORSHIP, this 7 letter word that is often misunderstood, and what that really means. Many of us love to think of ourselves as “worshippers”, because we like to sing, or we love the so-called “Praise and Worship” portion of the service, or like to listen to Christian/Gospel music. But what is a true worshipper? Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at the well ring as true today as it did when He declared them over 2,000 years ago-“But the hour cometh, and now is, when the TRUE WORSHIPPERS shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth” (JOHN 4:23-24). So today I’d like to talk to you about “GOING FROM FAN TO FOLLOWER IN WORSHIP”
For a long time, a very long time, I operated under the misconception that worship was something that I did when I came to church, sang a song, or when I lifted my hands to God in prayer or praise. I’ve now learned that worship is not relegated to just these things. I’m learning that worship-true worship-is obedience and sacrifice to God, in every area of my life, and glorifying God in everything that I do-EVERYTHING! So…this means that worship is much more than the latest, most popular “worship” songs, so much more than performance in a choir, or on the Praise and Worship Team, the Dance Ministry, or playing an instrument in the Music Ministry, although all these things can be PART of worship. However, these things do not fully describe what worship is. I’m finding out, with every day, as I move from fan to follower that worship is a lifestyle-a way of life. It should be part of the core purpose of every believer. Isaiah 43:21 lets us know that we have this purpose, because it declares-“This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise”. I believe “this people” also applies to the Church today, the Ecclesiasts, the called out ones-we were made for God’s pleasure. We were created for and have been saved to worship him, to bring him glory. Pastor Bottoms has taught us that to give God glory is to declare His full worthiness. We declare God’s worthiness by living a life for him that he will be pleased with, because he is worthy of getting the best out of our lives! So, Rick Warren’s book-“The Purpose Driven Life” (which is used in the 40 Days class, as a supplemental resource, but as all of the past and present 40 DAYS students know-OUR BIBLE IS OUR TEXTBOOK) helps us by asking us-what on earth am I here for? For many years, I struggled with the answer to this simple, yet profound question-Cheryl-what IS your purpose? What are you here for? What were you born for? I can now say that I know for a fact, without a doubt, that I was created to bring God
glory! I was created to serve him, and to serve his people. Growing up in my house, as the 6th of 7 children, I would often do whatever it took to let my voice be heard, above the voices of my older siblings. Ok-sometimes I was loud, and downright obnoxious. Often, my mother would say to me-Girl, you have a BIG mouth! I wouldn’t take that too kindly then, but now, I no longer feel bad about that, because now I know WHY I have a big mouth-GOD gave me this mouth to give him praise, to tell somebody about HIM! So I’m learning that God can use your personality, even your charisma, to bring himself glory. So…if WORSHIP is a lifestyle, and not just a Sunday morning, Church-based activity, what is it? WORSHIP is a mentality. A belief system, a value system. We WORSHIP God in the way that we live our lives, in the way that we love and treat one another. We WORSHIP God in the way that we perform ministry. In the way that we take care of our bodies. WORSHIP is when we make a decision on what we stand for, when we line up our principles and priorities with what God says in his Holy Word. WORSHIP –bringing God glory- should be our daily motivation, the reason why we do everything that we do. Because we have been commanded by God to serve him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, and with all of our minds! David inquired (In Psalm 116:12) “what shall I render to God for all of his benefits”? David wanted to know-what it was that He could give to God; to demonstrate his gratitude for all that God had done for him-for all of his many blessings bestowed upon him. David wanted to give something back to God, yet being fully aware that there was nothing that he could ever give to pay God back in full. We as followers need to ask God this question-God, what can we do for you today, and for the rest of our lives. We owe God everything, because everything that we are, and everything that we have are all due to the goodness of God.
As I lay in that hospital bed at Vassar, I took out my paper and pencil, and began to write an acrostic for WORSHIP, with each letter representing a specific area that I need to WORSHIP God in. You can create your own; it may be different for you. But these are the things God dealt with me on:
W-represents WILLINGNESS to WORSHIP and follow God. Luke 9:23, our key verse for this year begins with the conjunction “IF”. This signifies a conditional situation. We must be WILLING to worship and follow Jesus. God gives us “free choice”-He is a free will God-he doesn’t force us-he offers us an opportunity, a covenant, and we either accept the call to follow, or we don’t. But God can surely orchestrate circumstances to MAKE you willing. Brokenness can MAKE you willing. Scandal can make you willing. A look at your wretchedness can MAKE you willing. Some people come to God without resistance-that’s not my testimony. I was doing my own thing, right in the church, acting like a typical fan, charting what I thought was my own course in life. It took brokenness-a realization that I had to have full dependence on God, and that God had a plan for my life that didn’t include my lascivious lifestyle. I needed to submit to His will. It made me run to Jesus. And I’m still running to him to this day. When I received the revelation of his sincere love, commitment and sacrifice for me, it made me want to stop shacking up with him, and move to a committed relationship with my Father. I owe Him me. He proved his passion for me, by picking up the cross, carrying it all the way to Calvary, and dying for my sins, my faults, my inadequacies. Because Jesus was willing, that empowers me to be willing, even when I don’t “feel” like it. Yes, we have to count up the cost, every day, as we move from fan to follower. Being a disciple WILL cost us something, sometimes everything. It cost Jesus shame, his life, and temporary separation from the Father. Yet he counted up the cost, and said “Yes” to the Father. We too must take up our cross daily, in order to follow him. As followers, we shouldn’t expect a carefree, problem-free life. We will be tested, tried, challenged, attacked, and experience all types of difficulties when we make the choice to follow Jesus. We may lose friends, family, position, opportunities. But the Bible promises us that the benefits of being a follower will outweigh the costs.“God, Help me, help us to be WILLING to follow you all the way”.
O-the “O” in WORSHIP for me, stands for OBEDIENCE. This can be a hard word sometimes, one that we would sooner forget, sweep under the rug, or put in the dustbin of our lives, until WE are ready to pick it back up again. And we tend to do the “easy” things for us individually, and then feel as if we have satisfied our obligation to God. I come to church on Sunday (maybe)-check; Bible Study on Tuesday (sometimes)-check; pay our tithes (or a portion of it)-check; sing in the choir-check; go to/teach Sunday school or membership class-check; and the list goes on. But I often sense God asking to me, as the prophet Samuel asked Saul (I Samuel 15:22-23)-“Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to OBEY is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams??? In the greater scheme of things, the choice between the two are clear-OBEDIENCE is always better! But we would rather give God our religious offerings, instead of offering God what HE requires. God gave Saul specific instructions on what to do with the spoils of the battle. Saul decided within himself to disregard God’s directives, and took back what he wanted, with the excuse that his intent was to sacrifice it to God. But God never asked him to do that! We need to give God what HE asks for! We bring our self-righteousness and our sacrifices to God-the one’s that we have deemed to be important, in an attempt to make up for our disobedience, and expect God to accept it. For years I did the same thing-thinking that I could sing a solo to make up for going so low in my conduct and behavior. That I could bring God a filthy sacrifice of praise, like the children of Israel did, when they presented sick and blemished lambs and bullocks to the altar. True worshippers give God what HE wants-and he wants US to obey him. “God, help me, help us to be truly obedient in what you command us to do, as true followers”.
R-the “R” for me, stands for REVERENCE FOR GOD’S HOLY WORD. John 1:1, 14a, very familiar passages to most of us, tells us that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us”. So God is the Word, and became flesh in the form of Jesus Christ, and dwelt in the earth. So-the Word of God is important. If I want to be a true follower, I need to respect the Word of God, be excited about the Word, Study the Word, and give his sayings the highest authority in my life. The Word should be my daily bread, what I need to survive-not Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, my Crackberry (as my husband Mike labels my cellphone) or my IPhone or IPAD (unless you’re using it to access the Word). As we crave the Word, and hear the Word, and apply the Word to our lives, it will begin to produce results-we will go from being fans/hearers of the Word, to becoming followers/doers of the Word, and therefore we will stop deceiving our own selves (James 1:22). The Word will be as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths, providing us with the direction that we need in our daily lives (Psalm 119:105) . We will respect the Word of God, as we hear it as it is being preached, and listen intently, and let it saturate our hearts, not playing with our cellphones, going onto every social network, carrying on conversations while the Word of God is being preached and taught. That way the Word can fall onto good ground, and the devil won’t be able to distract us, and steal it from us! When we have reverence and respect for God’s Word, and it gets into us, and begins to work in and on us, it WILL manifest in our lives. And we’ll feel the same way that Jeremiah felt about the Word, and won’t be able to hold our peace about it; it will be like fire, shut up in our bones! “God help me, help us, to have a true love and reverence for your Holy Word, so that it will burn in us, and manifest itself in our lives.”
S-The “S” in WORSHIP, for me stands for being SPIRIT-FILLED. Zechariah 4:6b tells us “…Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts”. We can only go from fan to follower with the power of the Holy Spirit. Trying to do otherwise leaves me weary, depressed, feeling inadequate, missing the mark, and just downright frustrated. But when I say “God-I can’t do this on my own, I need your Spirit, and I know that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me”-the way becomes easier, I get energized, I get strength for the journey, I actually begin to enjoy life, the way God intended me to, and enjoy walking in my purpose and destiny. From the time that He wakes me up in the morning, I must acknowledge Him, and declare my full reliance on Him to do everything that I need to do. WORSHIP becomes a delight when we walk in the Spirit. When I claim- every day- that I have the grace that I need, according as his divine power hath given unto me all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called me to glory and virtue (2 Peter 1:3)-I’m saying that I have everything that I need for life-through his divine power! When we walk in the Spirit, and full of His spirit, we can do everything that we need to do, with ease, with grace. This is a challenge for me, as I have a strong-willed, independent spirit. But God is teaching me, and I am learning, that I need to lean and rely totally on Him, and not on my own understanding, or on my own abilities. When we are full of his Spirit, we will have the power to live Holy lives, to follow the Holy example set by Jesus Christ. We will produce the fruits of the Spirit-love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, instead of the works of the flesh. We’ll serve God with a passion, and purposely, so that God will not have to spit us out. When we empty ourselves, of ourselves, we’ll have the power to live sacrificially, sanctified, and set apart, as true servants of the most High God. “God, help me, and help us to rely fully on you, to walk in and be led by the Holy Spirit each and every day, as we go through the process of fan to follower”.
H-Honoring God in all that I do. This means living on purpose. Doing everything as an act of worship, with passion, skillfully, with excellence, to the best of our ability. Honoring him on my job, in my home, in my finances, in my relationships, in the world. Colossians 3:17-“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. These and many other scriptures tells us that we should give of our best to the Master. At that great day, we will all be held accountable for what we did with what God entrusted to us-the gifts, the talents, abilities, our children, the time, the money, and all the other resources that he has made us stewards over. Were we wasters? Did we bury our talents, as the wicked servant did, and make excuses for why we didn’t fulfill our God-given purpose? Were we half-hearted in the ministry-inside and outside of the walls of the Church? Did I love my neighbor as I love myself?
So why didn’t I throw out the lifeline to them, when I knew they were in need of a Savior? Why did I hold (fill in the blank with the name of whoever you refuse to forgive) all of these years? Why didn’t I visit the sick, clothe the naked, visit those in prison-why didn’t I show God’s love to the “least of these”, or support these missions when I had the means to? Why didn’t I love my fellow brethren, and treat them with the love of Christ, if I say that I’m his disciple? “Lord, I desperately need you to help me, and to help us to be people who seek to HONOR you in all that we do”.
I-For me, the “I” in WORSHIP stands for INTEGRITY. If I am to be a true follow of Jesus Christ, I will be like Jesus Christ. Jesus was holy. He was without sin, and walked in his integrity-they could find no fault in him! Although we are human, we cannot continue to use this as an excuse to blatantly practice sin. Followers will seek to have a pure heart towards God, of course through the Holy Spirit, and will have Godly, moral and ethical standards and Godly character, conduct and conversation. True followers prayerfully seek to be wise in business dealings, can be trusted with confidential information, and speak the truth in Christ and lie not. True followers seek to be about their Father’s business, instead of being in everybody else’s business. True followers seek to maintain a good reputation, knowing that we are his ambassadors, and we may be the only Jesus that the unbelieving world gets to see. “God, help me, and help us to be better at being children of Integrity, than the children of the world are at being crooked”.
P-Finally, the 7th and final letter in WORSHIP, “P” stands for PRAYER AND PRAISE. These should be anchors in the life of every follower. Jesus remained in constant prayer to the Father-he was in constant connection with Him as he journeyed on this earth, up to the very moment of his giving up of the ghost. Prayer keeps the disciple connected, intimate with the Father as well. Jesus kept admonishing the disciples to “watch and pray”, lest ye fall into temptation. In these last and evil days, the need for prayer is evident. We MUST pray. Pray for our leaders-both civic and spiritual. Pray for God’s direction, for his protection. Pray for believers everywhere. Pray for our communities. Pray for intimacy with God, pray for discernment. Pray to intercede for others, and for ourselves. The things to pray for are boundless. Deaconess Donna Johnson has provided for us a list of 80 things to pray for in the coming year. And even when we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, Romans 8:26 says that we should still pray, for the spirit will give us what to pray for. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). People of God, in case you don’t know, we are in a spiritual battle, the fight OF our lives, and FOR our lives-one that we cannot see with our physical eyes, or that we can fight with our physical weapons. The enemy of our souls, that wicked devil, is fighting for territory. He seeks to destroy us by any means necessary. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that we can defeat him, through the power of PRAYER, and PRAISE! The good news is that the prayers of the righteous availeth much! The good news is that God inhabits the praises of his people! God is there in the midst of our prayers, and our praises, while we are in the heat of the battle. More good news is that we can pray and praise anytime and anywhere-in our home, in our cars as we drive, on our knees, standing up, eyes closed, or eyes opened. That’s how you can pray without ceasing. Have a prayer and praise in your heart at all times. Bless the Lord at all times; let his praises continually be in your mouth. Praise is comely-it’s pleasing, and appealing to God. For the spirit of heaviness, put on the garment of praise! Let’s put our war clothes on! We praise Him for WHO he is and in gratitude for WHAT he’s done, and what he IS going to do. We must ALL praise him-for the BIBLE says let EVERYTHING that hath breathe, praise ye the Lord! We should never have to scratch our heads for a reason to praise God. God’s got rocks ready to praise him if we won’t praise him! When I was of the world, I partied like a rock star. So as a follower, I ought to give God my best praise-I ought to shout unto God with the voice of triumph, to bless his name, to dance before my God, for he has done marvelous things! On 09/12, I went to Vassar Hospital, with chest pains, and feeling fatigued. They found my pressure to be high, and my potassium level low, which they said can cause chest pains. They admitted me, as a precaution, to do further testing on my heart, to make sure there was no blockage, etc. In the early hours of the next morning, after they had sent Mike home, a technician came in to put an IV in my arm. I began to feel nauseous and very weak. All of a sudden, the Rapid Response Team came rushing in-according to their monitor; my heart rate had fallen to 34, and was dropping steadily. They prepared to administer a shock to my heart. All the while, I’m beginning to lose consciousness, but I could still hear and see what is going on in a limited capacity, and the nurses were admonishing me to keep my eyes open, and not go to sleep. As I lay in that bed, I could literally feel myself dying-a crazy feeling. I lay there, and I thought, God is this how I’m going to die? Is this it? I’m done here on earth? I then resigned myself to give in to the feeling, thinking, well-at least I’m going to heaven, and I’ll be at rest. It may sound corny, or cliché, but in an instant, the faces of my family members came into my spirit, and something, I believe it was the Holy Spirit, urged me to call the name of Jesus. I had very little strength, but was able to whisper-“ Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus”. I was so weak in my body. BUT GOD heard my prayer, my simple prayer!
I didn’t have the strength or ability to say a deep, long and intricate prayer, all I could do was call “Jesus”! Thank God, he was the only one that I HAD to call! HALLELUJAH!!! Little by little, moment by moment I began to feel a little stronger. When the room finally cleared, and the doctor spoke to me, he told me-we almost lost you. He and the nurses asked me if I remembered what had happened. The nurses said-“you kept calling Jesus…” I told them “yes, I know that. I knew that he could help me, and he did.”
Now more than ever before, I don’t have time to waste time. None of us do. It is appointed for men once to die, and then the judgment. The thing is we just don’t know WHEN that time will come. Like Pastor Bottoms says- the only pre-requisite for dying is to be alive. God is too good to me for me to not follow him. He is too faithful to me to not follow him. He is everything to me-I WANT to live a life of worship for him. I can’t remain satisfied with being a fan. There’s too much work to be done in the vineyard, souls to saved, lives to be delivered and set free. And God wants to use US (you and myself) to do it-isn’t that an amazing privilege? We are his hands and feet-to minister to those in need. Just want to encourage those who think “it’s impossible, it’s too hard, I can’t change”: that if God can change me, and use me to worship him, he can use anybody. If he can change me from being a true fan, to being a follower in training, he can change you too. If you haven’t already done so, I urge you, find your inspiration, your motivation to follow Jesus, find out what he requires of you, and allow him to mold and shape you into a true follower of Jesus Christ.
GOD BLESS YOU!