SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Authentic Worship Changes Us and Renews our Trust in God
Key Verse: My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. – Psalm 73:26
Seldom do we encounter a person as honest as the Psalmist when he admitted, “I was envious of the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Few of us are willing to confess our envy of the wicked and their wealth. We are more prone to condemn than to acknowledge the jealousy that burns within us.
Yet as long as we remain unrepentant, worship will do us little good. Self-righteousness quenches the fire of the Spirit, allowing us to walk away from worship without having had a genuine encounter with God. We have little chance of meeting God as long as we smugly consider ourselves better than others. When we truly meet God in worship, our sins bring us to our knees. There we plead for mercy and God is able to cleanse and change our hearts.
In addition to being envious, the Psalmist was paying too much attention to other people, especially the prosperous wicked. Most of us do that also. We compare ourselves to others, trying to make ourselves look better. When we catch ourselves making such comparisons, we should remember what a waste of time it is. If we can stand it, we will always find it more helpful to compare ourselves to our Lord Jesus.
Most of us rather enjoy standing in judgment of others, especially the pagans who make no effort to live for Christ. This fruitless endeavor never assists us toward spiritual maturity. Indeed, it hardens our self-righteous attitudes and thwarts our growth in Christlikeness. We should more wisely devote our attention to ourselves, asking the Spirit to show us our flaws and help us mend our ways.
I can never forget a decisive moment when God spoke clearly to my heart. He made me keenly aware of how negative I had become toward my congregation. My sermons were filled with condemnation and chastisement. Gentleness had departed from my countenance.
In my prayer time one morning, the Lord said to me, “My son, your focus needs to change. You are so focused on what other people are not doing, that you fail to see all that I am doing in your midst. Get off the backs of your people and start paying attention to me and my many works of grace.”
What a wake up call that was! I had thought myself so spiritual in comparison to my “lost sheep” that I had elevated myself to the judgment seat. God invited me to come down and keep my eyes focused on Him. Ever since then, I have loved that phrase in Hebrews 12:1, 2: “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus….” Worship becomes so much more powerful when we choose to gaze at Jesus and only glance at others!
My friend Ellsworth Kalas offers a penetrating insight about Psalm 73:17. He says that “until” is “the loveliest word in this psalm.” How true! Until is the hinge word in the worship experience of the Psalmist. His perspective changed when he met God. This did not happen, however, “until I went into the sanctuary of God.”
It is true that we can worship God on a stump in the woods, or on a mesmerizing seashore. However, we are not likely to worship in such places on a consistent basis. There surely is no better place to worship God than in his sanctuary, by which we mean the place in the church designated for worship.
I love the word sanctuary. I do not want to give it up for the phrase “worship center.” The word sanctuary has several important meanings. We use it to describe a place of protection or refuge for people as well as birds and animals. However, for me it will always mean the holy place in a sacred building where we may find refuge and peace in the worship of God. Some of the most significant moments of my life have taken place in the sanctuary, and for that I am deeply grateful to the hardworking people who have provided and maintained the sanctuaries where God has touched my life.
The Psalmist’s perspective was changed gloriously because he met God in the sanctuary. Over the centuries since then, God has continued to change the hearts of his people through authentic worship. Genuine worship helps us see things from an eternal perspective. Looking backward, we can see where God was at work in our lives, guiding, changing, and molding us. True worship helps us overcome our love for money and possessions and understand better the priorities God wants us to live by.
May God give us a thirst for Himself that can only be quenched by authentic, life-changing worship that cleanses our hearts and restores our trust in Him. Then, like the Psalmist, we can discover in the sanctuary that “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”!
+ + + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)