Confessions of a Worship Pastor: Sin, Worship & My Lesson Learned
When I was 16, I felt God stirring my heart towards worship ministry as a vocation. Fast forward 6 years and I’m at Azusa Pacific University getting ready to finish my education. It had been 6 years of fumbling forward in pursuit of what I felt God calling me to. Six years of leading worship in every venue I could find. Youth groups, college groups, camps, adult Bible studies (with 7 people in the room), Sunday night church (remember Sunday night services?). Six years of piano lessons, voice lessons, guitar lessons. Six years worth of mistakes and embarrassments as I learned how to lead worship — and how not to lead worship. I had pursued God and what I felt he was calling me in the best way I knew how.
That’s where I was 6 years in. About to graduate and on the very edge of entering ministry — the thing I had been dreaming of and pursuing. However, it was in this season, at this time, that I was also caught in a behavior that God was trying to correct. Sin had crept in. It’s important you know everything I mentioned above as context for the way I felt as God was pursuing me on this issue. I felt unworthy. I felt guilty. Embarrassed. Ashamed.
Not unlike Adam and Eve in the garden. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, Genesis 3:7 says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Verse 8 goes on to say they hid from God when they heard him coming.
When we recognize sin in our lives, our instinct is to hide from God. We pull away. In our rebellion we tend to run from God’s voice. If you search your own history, I’m confident you will find this to be true in your life too.
BACK TO THE STORY
So one day, in that sixth year when guilt was heavy on my shoulders, I found myself at church on a Sunday morning — nothing unusual. It was in the middle of the worship time when I began to hear Satan whisper in my ear, “You can’t worship. You’re a hypocrite. You’re acting like everything is fine, when you know it’s not. You should just sit down.” And I did. I sat down in the chair and began to wait for the worship time to end.
It was only a few seconds later, though, that by God’s grace I began to hear a different voice — the voice of the Holy Spirit — and this is when I learned one of the most valuable lessons I have ever learned. God, in is compassion, reminded me that by pulling away in worship I’m cutting off the very flow of His Spirit into my spirit — which is the empowerment I need.
When we sin, our instincts tell us to hide from God, but we need to break that instinct. Worship is the very thing we need in our darkest moments, but often we are too embarrassed or stubborn to press in past our sin. For, it is when we press in past the sin that God’s Spirit will remind us that our sins have already been forgiven.
As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. — Psalm 103:12
You see, our adversary, the Devil, uses many tactics to keep us from worshiping God, who is our source for life and peace. Guilt. Shame. Embarrassment. And of course our flesh doesn’t help by digging its heels in with stubbornness. When the enemy uses one of these tactics on us or our flesh flares up, know that God’s love for us is more vast than the ocean. His blood has already covered all of our sins, His grace is more than enough, and that warmth we feel is Christ’s righteousness clothing us.
Resist the enemy and he will flee. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. — James 4:7-8
It’s easy to say resist the enemy and he will flee, but if you’ve ever tried it, it’s not so easy. At least it’s not for me. One of the ways we can resist him is to begin to worship God. Don’t let guilt and shame keep you from worshiping Him. Instead, when you feel guilt and shame, let that be a reminder that drives you to His feet. Humble yourself before our compassionate and merciful God. Begin to worship Him and you will find that sin no longer controls you in the same way.
NOTE: simply worshiping God is not a cure all for all bad behavior. There may be some hard work involved, depending on what you are dealing with. You may need to forgive someone or yourself. You may need an accountability partner. You may need to see a counselor to help you through some deep pain. However, worshiping God will keep you connected to the source of abundant life. The danger of pulling away is that it creates distance from God, and we weren’t designed for that. We were created to walk and talk with God in the garden. Worshiping God will keep you from pulling away from God and being pulled into the downward spiral of sin.
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