Godly humility -the humility necessary for true, authentic worship -is a matter of understanding who we actually are before God. It is neither thinking more of ourselves nor less of ourselves than God thinks of us. When we understand this –when we let down our masks and our walls and all of those things that we build up around ourselves to protect ourselves, and we stand alone and vulnerable before God, something wonderful happens –we find the ability to truly worship.
But we have a very, very difficult time letting down our defenses –especially in the context of corporate worship as we worship with other Believers. We don’t easily allow other people to see behind the facade we have built. We have so carefully constructed the false personas that we want other people to see. We have these masks that we hold out. The real me is somewhere back here behind the mask, but the person you see is the mask, the person I want you to think I am. We all do this. We create an identity that we put on when we go out into public. This identity kind of protects us. If you don’t like me, you see, I know that it’s not me you don’t like, it’s the mask. If you only knew the real me, you’d probably like me. But of course, you might not and I don’t want to take the risk. If I let down the mask, and allow you to get a peek at the real me, and then if you don’t like me, then I might truly be hurt.
The ironic thing is that these masks and false identities that we construct become such a part of us that we forget we are even hiding behind them. When we go out into public, we put them on automatically. This is my public image. My public image is kind of like me, but it certainly is not the real me or the entire real me. Because we automatically put on these masks whenever we go out into public, and because we are so used to wearing them, when somebody suggest that we are hiding behind a mask, we automatically respond, “Un-uh. No way.” You see, part of our mask, part of our defense mechanism is to create the illusion that what you see is who I really am –but it’s not.
Now, understand this. At least in part what God is saying when He tells us that He requires that we worship in spirit and truth, is “take off the mask.” True humility is not about putting ourselves down or making ourselves less than we are; it’s about taking off the mask, tearing down the walls, removing the barricades, and being honest and open before God. Authentic worship cannot happen anywhere in any context without this. We can go through the motions of worship without removing the mask, but we cannot truly worship. One of the dilemmas we have in corporate worship, then, one of the reasons true authentic worship rarely takes place in church services is because it requires that we take off our masks in the presence of others. Let’s look at an example of what I’m talking about from the New Testament.
There is a story in Luke chapter 7 where Jesus is invited to the home of one of the Pharisees. Some friends and acquaintances and followers of Jesus evidently came with Him to this meal. As they were sitting around the table, something dramatic and a little wierd took place. A woman who had come with Jesus -a prostitute to whom Jesus had restored dignity by forgiving her was overcome in her love and appreciation for Jesus and fell at His feet crying.
This forgiven prostitute was weeping so hard that her tears made Jesus feet wet. She was actually embarrassed by this, so took her hair and attempted to dry Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee, of course, was appalled. He was thinking to himself, “How can Jesus call Himself a holy man when He allows this prostitute to do such a degrading, ridiculous thing in public?” The Pharisee said to himself, “There is absolutely no way that I would ever put up with that kind of thing –it would be embarrassing –it would be humiliating. First, she is a prostitute. She shouldn't even be here. Second, her crying and carrying on is too personal and intimate and is making everybody here uncomfortable. She should quit.”
Jesus, evidently, knew what the Pharisee was thinking and responded, “The one who has been forgiven much, loves much.” The Pharisee was a religious leader. The woman was a sinful, social misfit. The Pharisee made a lifestyle of worshiping God in public, and yet knew nothing about true worship. The woman knew nothing about decorum or style or appropriateness, or even how or where or when worship was acceptable. She only knew that Jesus had forgiven her and that she loved Jesus more than she could express. The woman is the one who was worshiping, not the Pharisee.
Now, I want us to understand what made this pathetic woman’s actions true, authentic worship. It was true worship because she did not care about what anybody thought, she was not inhibited by society’s rules, she couldn’t care less that the Pharisee thought her foolish and annoying. Her love for Jesus superseded what anybody else in the room thought of her. She took off her mask, she pulled down the walls, and she fell at Jesus feet and worshiped. And Jesus found that acceptable.
Lord Jesus, help us to worship you in Spirit and in Truth -without masks and without pretense. Help us worship in such a way that You find acceptable. Amen.