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Craig Groeschel - Hollow Worship


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Hey, it's great to have all of you with us today. I hope that you came with your hearts prepared, because I want you to understand that we are going somewhere today. Richard, I'm not sure if their hearts are prepared. I'm gonna just tell them again. We are going somewhere today. Before we go there, I just want to say thank you to those of you that are stepping into Life Groups. We believe and know that life is better together and we've got lots of new Life Groups forming during this message series. Amy and I were a part of our Life Group last week and we laughed together, we cried together, we prayed together, and life is better together. If you're not yet in this type of a community, it may be the very thing that you're missing spiritually as we grow and sharpen one another together.

If you're new with us, we're in a message series. It's not called What Would Jesus Do. There's a lot of bracelets that people have worn for years. Our message series is called What Would Jesus Undo? What are the things that break the heart of Jesus? What would He undo? Last week, we talked about Jesus undoing spiritual indifference. If you were here, I opened up the message with a story about a gift that I gave to a person and the person was indifferent toward the gift. Didn't even notice it and left the gift behind. Today, I want to open this message with another one of my gift-giving mishaps. Evidently, I need to grow in the spiritual gift and style and heart behind giving gifts that really matter.

It was years ago when we only had four children. We had a small starter family. Only four children. We were just getting going, and we had a goal to pay off all of our debt, and when we paid off our debt, we were gonna buy a refrigerator big enough for a family with four children, and then we were going to take our kids to Disney World as a celebration that we were now out of debt. Well, we got that goal, we bought the refrigerator and it was almost Christmas time, and so I decided to make the Disney World trip a surprise gift to our kids and take the refrigerator box and actually use it as the box in which I would put the piece of paper that would announce the glory of the trip that we were going to Disney. I decided to wrap the box, put it out by the tree.

Mistake number one was I forgot, in all the excitement, to put the piece of paper in the box. The second error that I made was I wrapped a refrigerator-sized box and put it outside of the tree and so literally for weeks, my kids were besides themself with excitement. What could be in the box? It's the biggest box ever. There's never been a bigger Christmas gift. This is gonna be the best Christmas gift ever. What could possibly be in the box? Christmas morning, it was perfect. We saved that to the very last gift. They opened up all of their other meaningless and useless gifts, waiting for the grand prize of all Christmas gifts ever. They ripped into the refrigerator box, opened it up and there was nothing inside. Nothing whatsoever.

They looked at me, et tu, Brutus, you know? I can't believe you betrayed us, Dad. Oh I forgot, I forgot, and I went in and I got the little piece of paper out of my room. I forgot to put this in there. Here is your gift. We're going to Disney World. And they're reading this piece of paper. They're still confused. To this day, two of them are in counseling, trying to overcome the disappointment of the empty Christmas box. I blew it. What if the songs that we sing, the sermons that we preach, and the acts of service that we do are often empty gifts to our God? What if our lives are wrapped up with a spiritual image on the outside but sometimes on the inside, because our hearts are far from God, we're actually offering to our God an empty gift?

What would Jesus undo? Jesus would undo what I call hollow worship, or empty worship, or what Jesus calls worship in vain. What turns the heart of God? What is it that upsets Jesus, and that is hollow worship. I want to show you this in Matthew's gospel, Matthew chapter 15. We'll start in verse 1 and I'll show you a very interesting conversation between some Pharisees and between Jesus. Scripture says this. Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat. Why don't they wash their hands before they eat? Well, we have to understand is the Pharisees were obsessed with something called ceremonial cleanliness. This is not the same thing as physical hygiene. It's not physical cleanliness, of which I honestly am obsessed with.

Amy will tell you, as a minimum, I will take two showers a day. Often three, occasionally four. If I walk into a Mexican restaurant and I get that fryee stuff smell on me, I will immediately take a shower and change clothes. I am obsessed with physical cleanliness. You can pray for me. Amy often does. This is not the same type of obsession. They were obsessed with ceremonial cleanliness. Why, because a devout Jew believed that there were two categories for everything. Everything is either clean or it's unclean. Animals are clean, there are clean animals, there are unclean animals. There's clean ways to prepare your food, unclean ways. There are things to touch that are clean. There are things that are unclean. If you have any type of bodily discharge, you're unclean. If you have a skin problem, you're unclean. If you touch a pig, you're unclean. If you touch a dead body, you're unclean.

And the problem with when you were unclean is that uncleanness was contagious. It was transferable, kinda like cooties in the fifth grade. If you got cooties, you give cooties. If you were unclean, you could transfer it. So if an unclean mouse touched a cup, the cup was unclean. If you touched the cup, you were unclean. If your spouse touched you, your spouse was unclean. Therefore you were not fit for worship. What did you have to do? When you were unclean, you had to go through an elaborate ceremony to cleanse yourself spiritually so you were eligible to worship God. And what you had to do was take a certain amount of water known as a quarter of a log. How much water is a quarter of a log, you ask? A quarter of a log is enough water to fit in an eggshell and a half. True story, I'm not making this up. An eggshell and a half full of water.

Then you would have to take your hands like this and someone would pour the clean water over your unclean hands, thus cleansing your hands, but when the clean water touched your unclean hands, then the water became unclean, so you had to have your hands like this, so the unclean water would drop to the ground, and not make any other part of your body unclean, because then if the unclean water rolls down your arm, your arm becomes unclean and you're still ceremonially unclean. Then you had to do your hands this way, and the water would fall again, and then you'd rub your hands together and you would be ceremonially clean, so you could worship God. A devout Jew would not only do this before their meals, but they would literally do this ritual between courses. In other words, you would cleanse yourself before your hamburger. Then before your tater tots, and then before your chocolate malt.

And the Pharisees were asking Jesus, why don't Your boys do this? And Jesus unleashes on them. He says, you're not even treating people with respect. You're not even showing love to other people. Your hearts aren't even connected with God, and here you are obsessing about all these externals when internally, you are so far from being right. This is what Jesus says in verse 7. He says, you hypocrites, and then He quotes the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah. Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you. These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me. They give Me lip service, but their hearts aren't right.

Then, Jesus says this. How do they worship? Jesus says, they worship Me in vain. Their worship isn't pleasing to Me. On the outside, it looks like worship, but because the inside is not right, it's simply an empty gift. It's hollow worship. It's worship that doesn't touch My heart. It's worship that is in vain. What would Jesus undo? He would undo a show on the outside, a hypocritical expression, a pretend faith, a, hey everybody, you know I'm kind of a Christian, when inside, your heart is very very very far from truly worshiping God. I would say to you that as a church, we have a lot of potential to grow in our heartfelt expression of worship to God. In fact, just as your pastor to me, this is one of the greatest areas of potential spiritual growth that all of us have, you, me, all of us together.

And so I want to talk for a few moments about worship. When we talk about worship, what most people immediately do is they think about music. They think about the style of the music. I like this style of worship, I don't like that style of worship. Or they may think about the environment. In other words, perhaps they think, well, worship should be done in a very reverent and a very holy environment where someone else would be, oh no no, it needs to be rowdy, it needs to be fun. We serve a joyful God and we should express to Him with great passion. Which one is right? For example, those of you who've maybe worshiped anywhere else. Maybe at a liturgical church during a funeral, maybe at a small country church, maybe overseas, where the style was very different, maybe at a traditional format, maybe in a charismatic format.

How many of you have ever been to a place where the worship expression was a very different style than what you saw today? Yeah, I grew up with a very very different style. When you think about it, with all of the different people all over the world, the different races, the different life situations, the different styles of cultural music, the creative ways to express worship to the goodness of our God, are almost limitless all over the world. I grew up in a traditional United Methodist Church. I don't know if you've ever been to a church like this. It had pews, it had choir with robes on it. We would stand up and then sit down, and stand up and sit down, and stand up and sit down, and then we would sing not songs with the words on the screen, but songs out of a book called a hymnal. If you don't know what a hymnal is, you can look it up in Wikipedia. It's a book with hymns in it that numbers by it, and we would always sing verses one, two and four.

I have no idea what was wrong with verse three but in my church, we never ever ever sang verse three. And this is how I was accustomed to and comfortable worshiping the God that I thought I knew. I went to college and I had a friend invite me to his church. And oh my goodness, it was nothin' like my Methodist church. The moment I walked in, I knew something was different when I saw the flags of the nations all across the walls. There were not pews but there were seats. There was not an organ but there was a band. And when the music started, people just didn't stand up and sing. They stood up and started dancing and singing out loud. And a lot of them raised up their hands. I'm like, what's the matter? You got a question for somebody?

Someone answer that guy's question here. I'd never seen this before. Then there were a few people who pulled out ribbons. I, what in the world are ribbons doing in this church? Then over to the side there was always every week, Tambourine Lady. Tambourine Lady was in her seventies and there was only one, and the one week she wasn't there, there was another Tambourine Lady in her place. There must have been like a Tambourine Lady list where they sign up for it, and there's always tamb, but ribbons and tambourines, I was so confused. A few weeks went by and something started happening. I kind of adjusted to this and I thought, they are so passionate and so expressive, and I met Tambourine Lady and she was so wonderful that suddenly I started to express my worship in a way that was different than before. So we can talk about liturgy, we can talk about acapella, we can talk about high church, we can talk about charismatic church, we can talk about 15 minutes of worship or two hours of worship in some countries and we have to acknowledge there are limitless ways of expressing our love and worship for God around the world.

So, with so many different ways, which way's the best? Which way's the best? Let's just take my two examples. Let's take very traditional and let's take very expressive and charismatic. Which one is right before God? The answer is both are right before God. Or neither are right before God if the heart is not right. Going somewhere. Both or any expression of worship honors God when our heart is connected to who He is. But no form of expression or worship is right when our heart is not right. They honor Me with their lips, Jesus said, but their heart is far from Me. Therefore they worship Me in vain. What we have to understand is that true worship that touches the heart of God is not about the style of music, but it's a reflection of the condition of the heart. True worship that touches God is not a reflection of the style of the music. It's a reflection of a heart right before God.

Think about this. This would never happen but if my six children came to me on Father's Day and said, Dad, we've prepared a song to express our adoration and worship for you. Imagine all six of them standing there, completely acapella, singing a song to me from their hearts and I say, oh no no no, children, you don't understand. That's not the style I prefer. When you tell me how great I am and how much you love me, I prefer praise band. With fog, lights, and one of you needs to wear tight jeans and put some spiky stuff in your hair. One of you needs to be the worship leader. If I don't see the worship leader, then it's not right. Never do that. At the same time, imagine if they came before me banging pots and pans. Bang, bang, bang, bang. Hey Dad, you're the greatest. Stop, no no no no. Your father prefers the more austere, serene environment where you read some liturgy first, because liturgy is what turns my heart towards you. Express it in such a way that brings me real honor, the way I prefer.

Listen, they can do whatever they want when it's from the heart, because true worship that pleases God isn't about the style of music. It's about the condition of the heart. What would Jesus undo? He would undo hollow worship. We have to understand that Christianity is not a hobby for us. It's not an interest. It's not a label. If we're a follower of Jesus, Christ is our life. Therefore, worship isn't just songs we sing, but worship is the life that we live. It's the life that we live. In fact, if I could for a moment at all of our different churches, would you mind, could we get the bands? Would you guys just come forward right now, and when you're ready, you can begin playing.

And Pastor Chris, would you mind, could I have a handheld mic? If you think that I'm about to start singing, let me calm your fears. I have so much more self-awareness than that. What I want to do is I want to give you a moment to just get your hearts prepared to think about who God is and visualize what He did for you. Through His Son, the sinless and perfect Son of God, who was obedient, even to death on the cross. Who suffered, bled and died so that our sins could be forgiven. Jesus defeated death, hell and the grave. He rose from the dead. He ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and at this moment, He makes intercession for you. In other words, He's praying for you. He didn't leave you alone. You'll never be alone. I'll never leave you nor forsake you. He sent the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead to dwell within those of you who are followers of Christ.

The Holy Spirit of God is here with you and in you. In view of who God is, and what He's done, when your heart is right before Him, sometimes you just have to creatively express your worship, your love, your praise for our God. You give Him honor, because He's the only One who's worthy. How do we do that? How do we do that? It's my opinion that we as a church, we have some room to grow. We've got potential to better express our love and adoration for the Creator and for our Savior. Let me give you some ways that we can grow in our worship. How do we express our worship to God? When our heart's right before Him, sometimes we bow in reverence. We bow before Him. The psalmist said, come let us bow down in worship and kneel before the Lord our Maker. Every now and then, we get just overwhelmed with who He is and what He's done. You just fall to your knees. You can't even stand in His presence like Peter who fell in repentance. Like the wise men who knelt down, bringing gifts and worshiping the Son of God. You can't even stand, and so you just fall down and you kneel, in an act of submission and worship because of who God is.

Sometimes we kneel in adoration and the good news is, you can choose to do that now or you will do it later, because Paul told the Philippian church that one day, every knee would bow and every tongue would confess that Jesus is the Christ and the Lord of all. In view of who God is and what He's done, sometimes we bow in reverence. Sometimes we lift our hands in adoration to our God. This isn't a weird thing. It's not a charismatic thing. This is a Bible thing. Paul said in the New Testament, lift up holy hands to God. David said this in the wilderness. He said, I will praise You as long as I live. In Your name, I will lift up my hands. Sometimes you're overwhelmed and you just praise Him. What do lifted hands symbolize in our world, in our culture? Two things. Lifted hands, whenever you're in a difficult place, you lift hands to surrender. I give up.

Sometimes we life hands in surrender to God. Not my will but Your will be done. We lift our hands in surrender but when also do we also lift our hands in our culture? We lift it in a moment of victory. Our team won. We won, we celebrate the victory. The amazing thing is, when you come before our God and you lift up holy hands, you get the same result at the same moment. At the moment you lift them in surrender, you experience the victory that you have in the Lord Jesus Christ. We lift up holy hands to our God. How do we worship Him? Sometimes we just kneel before Him in reverence. Sometimes we lift our hands in adoration. Sometimes we just gotta dance in celebration. Sometimes it just hits our whole body and we can't stop. Scripture says, let them praise His name with dancing. Most of you, you've danced at some point. You danced when you got your new phone or your new shoes or whatever. You danced when he gave you the ring and whoooo. You danced when your team won. You chest-butted total strangers. You're high-fiving people you don't know. You're dancing in celebration.

Every now and then, you just see the goodness of God and you can't contain it. David said that God turned my weeping into dancing. He turned my mourning into a moment of celebration. I don't know who it is, but I know there's someone here. You've been forgiven of so much by the grace of Jesus. He's turned your sin into a moment of praise. He's turned the lowest point of your moment in life into a moment where you sense His goodness. Sometimes you just have to let go and you celebrate Him in dancing. Sometimes we bow in reverence. Sometimes we lift our hands in adoration. Sometimes we dance in celebration. Sometimes we offer a sacrifice of praise. The writers of the Hebrew said, through Jesus therefore, let us continually, all the time, everywhere, in all circumstances continually offer to our God a sacrifice of praise.

In other words, we worship Him when we feel Him and we worship Him when we don't. We worship Him when we feel and see the blessings all around, and we worship Him when we're hurting. We choose even when we don't feel anything to worship Him with a sacrifice of praise. We sacrifice, we choose to worship Him, because our worship is not based on our circumstances. Our worship is based on His character. That's what someone here will do today. In the middle of your pain, in the middle of your heartache, you choose to worship Him with a sacrifice of praise. Sometimes we worship Him with a sacrifice of praise. But daily, daily, every single day, we lay down our lives as an act of worship. Worship isn't just something that we do. A worshiper is who we are, because of who God is. The way that we live becomes an act of worship.

Paul said it this way, Romans 12. He said, therefore, I urge you, I urge you. This isn't just, I urge you. Do this, guys. I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, in view of who He is and what He's done. Here's what I want you to do. Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice. The way that you live, let that be worship. Offer your lives, holy and pleasing to God. What is that? He says, this is your true and proper worship. In view of who God is, in view of what He's done for you, your only reasonable response is to offer a living sacrifice. Every day, I worship You. I worship You in the way that I live, in a job that I love. I worship You in the way that I live, in a job that I don't love. I worship You when I'm healthy, I worship You when I'm battling cancer. I worship You when I have plenty. I worship You when I'm in want. In the way that I live.

Everything that I do, may it be glory to God, because worship isn't just the songs that I sing, worship is the life that I live. Worship isn't just the music out of my mouth. Worship is born out of my heart in the way that I live every single day. Could I get you at all of our churches, would you just stand to your feet, if you will. Stand to your feet. I want you to take a moment to get your heart ready, because I'm gonna give you the chance to worship our God. Who will you worship? Who is our God? He is our Rock. He is our Redeemer. He is our Righteousness. Our God is our Deliverer and He is our Defense. He is our Shield. He is our Salvation. He is our Strength.

Who is God? He is the Bread of Life. He is the Living Water. He is the Good Shepherd. He is the true Vine. He is the Way, He is the Truth and He is the Life. Who is Jesus? Who is Jesus? He is the Light of this world. He is the Lamb of God. He is the Lion of Judah. My God is all powerful. He is ever present. He is all good through and through. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the Beginning, He is the End. Jesus is the soon returning, conquering King of kings and He is Lord of lords. In view of who He is, we offer our lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, because worship isn't just the songs that we sing. Worship is the life that we live. At all of our churches, those who would say, I am a follower of Christ, and yet I want to be even more intimate in my worship before God, would you lift up your hands right now? Holy hands before Him.

Father, I thank You for a church full of people, growing and stretching, God. Sometimes we kneel before You. Sometimes we lift up holy hands before You. God, sometimes we dance around You. God, sometimes it's just sacrifice but we continue to praise You. But all the time, God, help us to worship You in the way that we live. God, make us worshipers in the church, as the church, in the world, showing Your love. Stretch us, God. Prepare our hearts, God. May we never offer to You an empty gift, lip service, when our hearts are far from You. Draw our hearts close to You, God, that we can worship You in Spirit and in truth. Stretch us, God. Be pleased with our worship, God. Be pleased with our worship, God.


As you keep praying today, put your hands down for just a moment. Everybody, if you wouldn't mind, just look up here. There are those of you, you're going to realize, just like I did. I was in church, singing the songs with my lips, but my heart was far from Him. I did not know Him. I believed in God, but I hadn't been changed by Him. I didn't know Him personally. Who is He? Let me tell you about our God. He loved you so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, born of a virgin, without sin, perfect in every way. Jesus lived the perfect life and He died the most brutal death and He did it for you and He did it for me. Jesus became sin on the cross. He died in our place, for our sins.

On the third day after His death, God raised Him from the dead. Jesus defeated death, hell, victory and the grave and because of who He is and because of what He's done, anyone, and this includes you, who calls on the name of Jesus, your sins will be forgiven and you will be made completely new. He doesn't want our lip service. He doesn't want to be a hobby in our life. He wants to be our whole life. He wants your heart. The greatest command is this, love the Lord your God with all your heart. Some of you, you're gonna realize, He doesn't have your heart. And guess what, today, He's gonna get your heart. At all of our churches, with everybody looking, those who would say, I need His grace. I recognize I'm living without Him. I turn from my sins. I turn toward Him. When you call on Him, He will hear your prayer. He will cast your sins away and you will be brand new.

Today, you give Him your heart. He is first. You are a worshiper. All of our churches, you say, I need His forgiveness, I need His grace, I turn from my sin. I turn toward Him. I don't care who sees. Today I give Him my heart. Lift your hands high right now. Lift them up high right now. Oh my gosh, lift them high right now. Lift them up high right now. All over the place, lift them up high right now. Oh my goodness, lift them up high all over the place. Say, I worship Him. Church, somebody better lift your voice and give Him praise, and give Him honor, because we aren't praying for revival. Can you see it? He is here. We're in the middle of it right now. Call on the name of Jesus. Call on the name of Jesus. Would you pray, just shout your prayer, pray aloud:

Heavenly Father, I give You my life. Pray it aloud. Forgive me of my sins. Make me brand new. Jesus, I surrender everything to You. Fill me with Your Spirit, so I can follow You every day of my life. My life is not my own. I give it to You. Thank You for new life. Now You have mine. In Jesus' name, somebody shout, in Jesus' name, somebody praise God. In Jesus' name, would you just honor Him, celebrate Him, celebrate Him, church.

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