I heard a preacher say recently that when we worship the Lord, praises are not the offering, we are. We are the sacrifice set before the Lord. The more I thought about that I couldn’t help but wonder, “Then what do our praises represent?” This morning God showed me that our praises are the sweet aroma that ascends to the Father’s nostrils; that sweet smell of repentance, humility, mercy and adoration reflecting from us being sacrificed on the altar.
I love to worship! What I mean is I love to sing, I love to get lost in the words and the solitude of thinking only about God and His love for me and mine for Him. But the thought occurred to me, is my worship truly a sweet aroma? Is it just my singing that pleases the Lord? (If it’s based on the sound of beauty, I can attest my singing is not. I don’t have a great voice; I know, because I’m sure that anyone standing next to me would like to politely tell me to shut my mouth!) However, the Lord does indeed love my heart for Him, but is it possible for me to come to the Lord in worship and offer a sacrifice with blemish? I think so. This is something I really never thought about until I read the words from Jesus that said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13).
When we come to the Lord in worship, are we coming with bitterness in our heart toward a person? Are we secretly hiding an habitual sin in our life? Is there pride controlling our actions? Is it greed that traps us in materialism? What is it that we come to worship with? It’s not that we need to be perfect before we worship, but we do need to add a flavor, a cleansing to this offering in order for it to be a pleasing aroma to the Lord. That flavoring is repentance.
Repentance is often a skipped over teaching today. We rush right by it and go right to the blessings the Lord has in store for us. But repentance is a cleansing agent. It cleanses our sin but it also rights our heart and our mind. Once we flavor our worship with repentance, then our sacrifice turns our heart of hatred into a heart of love; it turns our condemnation of others into a heart of compassion and understanding; we gain more knowledge and revelation of God; our humility wipes out the pride of our life and the greed of our flesh. The desires of self we had before are transformed into the desires of the Father. Where sin corrupts the sacrifice, repentance (true sorrow for sin) cleanses the offering. It sweetens the aroma and pleases the heart of God. Jesus said to the Pharisees who condemned him for eating with the sinners and tax collectors, “Go learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” It is impossible to know what that means without the cleansing agent of repentance? No. Sadly, repentance was not the act the Pharisees and teachers of the Law wanted to experience, therefore they could not understand mercy; they only knew sacrifice which made them harsh and hardened shepherds of the people. And their sacrifice was filled with the stench of arrogance (which was not pleasing to the Lord!)
It was Jesus that said to the Pharisees and teachers of the Law who condemned him for eating with the tax collectors and sinners, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31). Jesus at one time applauded the Pharisees for their righteousness, their right living (Matthew 5:20). They knew the law. They (in most cases) were obedient to the Law of Moses. But they lacked mercy. They lacked the cleansing agent of repentance needed to make their life a sweetened aroma to the Lord. John the Baptist called them out; he said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8).
Our sacrifice of praises must contain this element, this ingredient of repentance, to please the Father and heal our heart. Repentance represents change of direction and it also reflects a broken and contrite heart. It is this broken heart that can be fixed by the power of God. After all, it’s the sick who needs a doctor. I would like us to look one more time at Luke 5:31 and consider some new meanings to the words, “It is not the healthy (prideful) who need a doctor, it is the sick (the humble). I have not come to call the righteous (the arrogant), but sinners (the broken) to repentance (cleansing).” Could it be that we come to worship the Lord in a “healthy” state, one that cannot be penetrated by the power of God? Could it be that our arrogance is putting a stench in our sacrifice?
Paul (used to be Saul) was a righteous man, one to be honored for he had accomplished so much. He had a high standing with the teachers of the Law. He had zeal for God. But his pride blemished the sacrifice. His “healthy” standing created a stench in the aroma of worship he offered to the Lord. But when Paul met Jesus, he became sick. He became a humble heap of waste. It was in this condition that repentance truly cleansed the sacrifice. His humility gave him the right view of himself, but it also righted his view of Jesus, His Savior, who had the power to heal the sick. Paul admitted to being the worst of sinners. Yet, He also learned of Christ’s immense patience. Because he was the worst of sinners, Paul said, “I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who believe in Him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:16).
Jesus cannot heal the “healthy” nor can the “healthy” offer a sacrifice that is sweet to the Lord. We cannot reflect the goodness of God if we cannot receive it in repentance. We are either a reflection of the Father of Life or the father of lies. Our worship is tainted in our “healthy” state, but it is made perfect in the baptism of repentance and the oil o humility.
The next time you attend a service and the worship leader begins to lead, ask yourself, “Is there anything I need to repent of? Is there a sin I need cleansing from?” Offer that first in a prayer to our God. Then lose yourself in the sacrifice and know with assurance that what Christ is receiving is sweet to the taste and fragrant to His nostrils.