THE WORSHIPPING BRIDE
"…again there shall be heard in this place…the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the
Jer 33: 10, 11
God is restoring the ‘voice of the Bride’ in this generation. The voice of praise and worship – the voice of a passionate and pure love is being heard again across the nations. But as thrilling as this is it’s important to understand that in God’s biology the mouth is always connected to the heart (see Mtt 12:34; Rom 10:10). It inevitably speaks from the abundance of what is within.
The Unheard Sound Of A Pure Heart
So, in worship the thing that brings pleasure to the heart of God is not so much the physical sound of our voice or instruments (as important as that is), but the sound that resonates with his own nature – that emanates from a pure heart. A sound not heard by the natural ear. This is why, when we touch the heights of worship, it is so revelatory – "the pure in heart shall see God" (Mtt 5:8). The thing, therefore, that either reveals or obscures God in our times of worship is not the music, but the condition of our hearts! True worship is the unheard sound of a pure heart.
Worship then, is not just a matter of human expertise, musical skill, or creativity. Nor is it a matter of musical style or preference. This is why Jesus said that, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" (Jn 4:24). And is why the Lord cried out through Amos, "Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps" (Amos 5:23). Israel, while maintaining the outward physical performance and expression of worship, had lost its inner reality: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Isa 29:13).
God – The Ultimate Music-Maker
So, what is the answer? It is certainly not getting rid of music or musical instruments. That’s been tried by previous generations, and to their loss. Nor is it getting rid of certain styles of music. I thank God for musically gifted people, and for the powerful creativity and diversity that flows from the One who is himself the ultimate music-maker. Man made in the image of God cannot help but create. Music and the arts by their very nature reveal God’s glory to the world.
The Heart Of A Lover
The answer, therefore, is found in our heart-relationship with the ‘Great-Heart’ himself. The heart of God is revealed to us throughout Scripture as the white-hot heart of a passionate lover. This is why when Jesus was asked to reduce all the revelation of God down to one commandment it was to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mk 12:29, 30). It is why he relates to us as his Bride. And so he says through Jeremiah, grieving over Israel’s
backslidings, ‘‘I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the desert, through a land not sown" (Jer 2:2).
Worship is how we are intimate with God. And to the degree our worship, whether in song, on instruments, or even in silence, issues from a pure heart of passion for God to that degree it will ascend as a sweet smelling aroma to him. "But thanks be to God, who … manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him…" (2 Cor 2:14 NASB).
God is interested in our singleness of heart toward him. Israel pursued other lovers – the gods of the nations, committing spiritual adultery with idols. James teaches that "friendship with the world" is spiritual adultery for the believer: "You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas 4:4 NASB). Now many of us have thought ‘the world’ in the church is rock music, belly rings, and shaved heads! Seriously now, do you think that Satan, the master strategist, gives two hoots for our music
preferences, or where we wear our jewellery? If he has distracted your heart from its pure devotion to Christ he has succeeded. Whether you listen to Mozart or MTV, wear a business suit or ripped jeans, the issue is your heart.
The wisdom-writer is right-on when he exhorts us to, "Watch over your heart with all dili flow the springs of life" (Prov 4:23). In fact, ‘the world’ in the church is much more likely to manifest itself in its measurements of success and its self-seeking spirit as we "compare ourselves among ourselves" (2 Cor 10:12). Or through gauging someone else’s spirituality by their outward appearance.
The fact is, if the Lord has our hearts and minds he will have our obedience in every other aspect. This is why Satan’s strategy is to draw the concentration of our inner affections away from the Lord: "I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." (2 Cor 11:2, 3). Satan is even perfectly happy for our hearts to be distracted by the ‘work of God’ if it means we are drawn away from intimacy with the ‘God of the work’.
And it is why Peter’s exhortation reaches to the entire Bride of Christ: "And let not your adornment be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God" (1 Pet 3:3, 4 NASB).
The Bride – ‘All Glorious Within’
So, the mark of the Bride is not found in anything external – to what might be considered glamorous, or even ‘religious’. But it is the inner beauty of the heart. Speaking of the Bride the Psalmist declares that she is "all glorious within" (Psa 45:13). This is the "glorious church" of Ephesians chapter 5 (v 27) without blemish and holy. Holiness therefore has nothing to do with religious appearances or activity, but everything to do with the indwelling presence of God. She radiates the beauty of a heart filled with his glory.
The Alabaster Box
So what does this look like, and how does it work? According to Peter this beauty is manifested through a "gentle and quiet spirit". This in my estimation is the most costly and yet the most crucial quality of the inner life. Peter says that in God’s sight it is ‘precious’, or of a ‘great price’.
This is the same word used to describe the ‘very expensive’ perfume that Mary of Bethany in an act of pure worship poured out over Jesus (see Jn 12:1-8; also Mk 14:1-11). But to do this she had to first break the alabaster box (see Mark 14:5). This symbolises the breaking of the outer man to enable the pouring forth of worship. Without this breaking there will be no release of the Spirit – no pouring out of the inner n in abandonment to God. In one momentary extravagant act of devotion it had cost, in monetary terms, an entire years wages provoking the censure of some (including Judas) claiming that it should have been sold for the poor. Those who refused to allow the breaking of their hearts and of their natural
thinking could only see an act of foolishness. Jesus however endorsed this seeming foolish extravagance as true worship. It was, in effect, a prophetic preparation for what was to come – for the cross and ultimately the crown. Through the pouring out of this costly perfume she had effectively anointed him as King.
The ‘Quieting Of The Soul’
Here is the lesson: David who was used of God to restore true worship was first led in unusual and perplexing ways to break the strength of the natural man. Through these experiences he could say, "My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me" (Psa 131:1-2). The ‘quieting of the soul’ in the face of perplexing circumstances is the most difficult thing. When our mind and heart cry out, "This is crazy – it just doesn’t
make sense any more!", "God has forgotten me!", "He’s not really in control of my life after all – its all up to me now!", or "This is impossible – it can’t be done!", it is the time to subdue the ‘soul-man’ by waiting on the Lord. As we do so our heart, mind, and will yield to him and to his ways in our life. Our anxiety and striving melt away as we take time to behold him and we are filled by the peace of God: "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You" (Isa 26:3). The Hebrew for having our mind "stayed on the Lord" means "to lean upon, lay, rest, support, uphold". When we lift our hearts in worship we are ‘weaning’ our soul from the things of the flesh – we are leaning into him, to trust him for our lives: "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths"
In worship we lay down our own understanding and trust him. This creates within us what Peter describes as, "the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit" – it is the inner beauty of a Bride yielded to the one she loves. It is significant that the NT Greek word for worship is ‘proskuneo’ which means ‘to make obeisance, do reverence to’, or more literally, ‘to kiss towards’. Worship then is the surrender of our spirit to being romanced by the Bridegroom.
New Frontiers of the Spirit
The Bridegroom is calling the Bride to new frontiers of the Spirit. The old boundaries and frameworks within her spirit are being dismantled. He is putting within her a new framework and new facets of the image of Christ. She hasn’t been this way before. The old ways and ministrations of the Spirit were good for the last season, but they will not take her into the next phase. He is calling her up to new heights of worship, of revelation, and glory. There is right now an open door in the heavens for her. It will bring her, I believe, into the fullness of Christ and the complete manifestation of the Father’s glory. This is the woman
of Revelation 12 clothed in the sun (the Father’s glory) and standing on the moon (the finished work of Christ), crowned with twelve stars (the fullness of the Spirit and apostolic power). She is crying out in childbirth, in intercessory prayer, for the full manifestation of Christ and his kingdom in the nations.
There is a shifting in the heavens taking place right now. The stage of history is being set – nations are rising and falling according to the Father’s predetermined plan to have a Bride for his Son. He will gather her from all nations, tribes, and peoples, so that, "He will say to those who were not his people, ‘You are My people!’ And they will say, ‘You are my God!’" (Hos 2:23b). Speaking of today the Bridegroom prophesied, "’In that day…you will call me ‘my husband’… I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will know the LORD’" (Hos 2:16, 19, 20).
This is the time like never before to let go – it is the time for spiritual extravagance. Perhaps your ‘alabaster box’ is the measure of grace you carried for this last season – for a day that is rapidly passing. A new day in the Spirit is now upon us. But if we hold on to the ministration of the Spirit given for the last phase we will soon discover it has worms and that it smells (Ex 16:20). It was fresh and fitting for then, but for the next season we will find it doesn’t sustain and is stale.
It is time for change. There is a fresh wind of the Spirit coming and it will encode our spirits with the ‘new thing’ that God is about to do. It is time for the ‘alabaster box’ of the last anointing to be surrendered. James says that the Spirit within you longs jealously for you (see Jas 4:5). God is a jealous lover and therefore, he "opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (Jas 4:6). This is the season to humble ourselves and submit to the ‘Father of spirits’. Under his hand your spirit, at this time, is being re-shaped for you to share in his holiness. It is time to let go of the old that you might be part of the new – the worshipping Bride that has made herself ready (see Jas 4:7-10; Heb 12:9-11; Rev 19:7-8).
The voice of the Bridegroom is calling you, "My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside… let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet…"
(Song of Solomon 2:14). He wants to hear your voice – the voice of the Bride – the unheard sound of a pure heart.
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