Today we are going to look at attitudes that characterized Abraham as having a heart of worship. Abraham's worship worked - he pleased God. We'll look at three qualities that characterized his worship. We'll see a strong link between worship and obedience. We'll see how Abraham was not afraid to give everything to God because he knew he would never lose anything. For us to encounter God in our lives, we need to follow the example of Abraham. We will come away convinced that he had a devoted heart of worship.
Let me read this story from Genesis 22, the first eighteen verses.Genesis 12:1-18
You might be wondering why Abraham? In the NT we are told that Abraham is our father when it comes to faith in God. Remember the song?I first began to apply this chapter to my life when I was thinking about marrying my wife Jeanie. I was a church musician, just learning about having a heart of worship. I pictured a knife and myself on the altar… All I think was, "You want to kill me?" Kind of a weird way to start a courtship.Genesis 12:1
What does it take for you and me to hear God, to have a heart of worship? What does God have to do to get our attention? When we do make connection, do we answer Him with "Just a minute, I'm busy." Or "Lord, can't we talk about this at church?, or during my devotional time?"Abraham's response was immediate, without delay. He does not need to make excuses; he appears ready and waiting to hear from God. Don't you think God knew exactly where he was? and yet Abraham said "here I am" as if he was eager to make connection.Genesis 12:2
Other translations add "your dear son" or "yes - Isaac, whom you love so much". What was so special about Isaac? He was a miracle son. He was born to Abraham and his wife Sarah in their old age as the result of a promise from God when he was 100 years old. Isaac also represents a covenant promise through which God would make Himself and His purposes known through Abraham's descendents. Gen. 17 says that Abraham would become the father of many nations through the birth of Isaac, and perhaps too the father of all worshipers - the original worship leader because he had a heart of worship. Romans 4:16 says Abraham, is the father to us all, in regard to our faith. That's what makes Isaac so special.Genesis 12:3
Here we see, Abraham had a purpose - he had intentionality. That's our first point. Worship that works or honors God is characterized by Purpose. He prepared for worship. He cultivated a heart of worship. He cut the wood before he left. He probably didn't stay up late the night before he left. He wanted to be alert to make sure he could follow God's directions. He got up early - he was on a mission - God gave him a task and it was in his mind to get it done.
How might this apply to us? Are we getting meaningful times alone with God? Times where we can refocus our priorities? When we do spend time with Him, are we at our best, or does God sort of get the leftovers? Is our time with God purposeful?. Ways to do this… Reading the Bible, have a prayer list, are the usual, but if need a little variety try praying the verses you're reading or reading the words to an old song, like "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." Or pray through the words of a song like "Draw Me Close". 'You are my desire, no one will do 'cause nothing else could take Your place'.
Sometimes being quiet is a great way to get reconnect with God. Things like this can really tenderize your time with God and add purpose to your worship. Again, I'm reminded worship is more than a one day a week exercise. Abraham's lifestyle certainly shows that. He had a heart of worship. Just the other morning, in our men's small group we touched on this. One of the guys was saying how profound it is to realize worship is not for us, but rather for God. Abraham definitely had a handle on this. He had purpose. And his purpose resulted in preparation.
What must have been going through Abraham's mind those three days? The promise, the laughter, the birth, the first words, the first steps - the whole mystery of being 100 years old before God granted their request. Maybe wondering about Ishmael…Genesis 12:5-9
How did Abraham know Isaac would be with him when they returned? He trusted God's promises. He had a promise that through Isaac all the families of the earth would be blessed. This was a covenant promise God had made.
A covenant promise means there's no way God would not come through. For more detail about Abraham's faith, let's look at Romans 4:18-21.
What gave glory to God? Verse 20 says that Abraham did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God. That's what glorified God! Here is Abraham's main point of surrender. Certainly this whole story is about surrender. This is how he demonstrates that he had a true heart of worship. Worship that works is characterized by surrender. Everything around him is looking contrary to the promise he had believed regarding God's provision - where was the lamb for the sacrifice?
Can you imagine the conversation that had been taking place? Isaac was probably asking a lot of questions. And Abraham is answering them all the same way - maybe sounding like a broken record but it was all he knew - "God will provide the lamb".Genesis 12:10-12
Here is encounter, our last point. Worship that works is characterized by encounter. Abraham encountered God. Notice - no lamb yet. Abraham has been saying God will provide the lamb - that's what faith had told him. What a test! In verse 10 do you think God would have intervened if he had stopped short of actually taking the knife?
But his surrender resulted in obedience. And obedience resulted in meeting with God. Meeting with God is what a worship leader with a heart of worship does. So here's a link between worship and obedience. They flow out of each other. Romans 12:1 supports this. In the OT we read about acts of worship, but after Jesus came - our response to Him is to a complete lifestyle of worship obedience. Spiritual worship an only be done by a living sacrifice.Genesis 12:13-14
Do you see Abraham's surrender? Abraham surrendered - he sacrificed what meant more to him than anything else - except believing that promise. The Lord will provide. Abraham was not afraid of giving everything because he knew he wouldn't lose anything. How can one develop a heart of worship leader without this same lesson?
Surrender can have a negative connotation in today's culture. Without God to surrender is to lose, but surrendering to God is not losing. I like to think of surrendering as transferring focus. Surrendering to God just meant receiving more of God, more encounter, more closeness.
Do you see his sense of purpose? He prepared for the task God gave him. Do you see that Abraham encountered God and that his worship was characterized by surrender? Hopefully, by now you can see this link between worship and obedience, the true life indicators of a surrendered heart of worship.Genesis 12:15-18
Does obedience matter today? Isn't this just a really old story about stuff we'll never be asked to do? John 14:21 says that whoever has Jesus' commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Him; that one will be loved by the Father, and Jesus, too, will love him and show myself to him." How can we be led to God unless they have been in His presence? A heart of worship leads others.
Look again at verse 18; "and through your offspring  all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." Let's look at Psalm 67
Why do you think God blesses us? That all the ends of earth may fear Him. Men, this is so crucial for us. I've been reading a book about how sin can be passed on from generation to generation, unless the chain of sin is broken.
Obedience matters, not just for your family, but your family's families can be transformed by your obedience, by you and me building a lifestyle of surrender. Be the one who cultivates this heart of worship in your family!
Did Abraham strive for obedience? Doesn't it seem like he was asking, "How holy can I be?", as opposed to "How far can I take this questionable behavior and still look like I love God?".
Do you see the difference? If I strive for obedience then everything is a candidate for Abraham's lifestyle of worship. Everything is open to God. Nothing is hidden. If you and I have a standard other than obedience in our personal lives, it could look like this - I love the Bible, I want it to influence me more than anything, but does God really want me to believe the best about that person who hurt my feelings? What about gossip? Can I become a worship leader and still have negative notions about another person? Can I really trust the leaders in my local church to have a heart of worship?
Our worship really works because it's pleasing to God as we grow in purpose, surrender and encounter. A worship leader practices these things.
I got the greatest sense of this a few Saturdays ago when our church switched buildings and had to move. Let's break that down: there was purpose. A lot of planning had gone into that event. There was definitely sacrifice, or surrender, involved. And I imagine that, like me, many of you encountered God is a fresh way. You all were doing what someone with a heart of worship does - using your best to serve God.
Think of an index card as an altar. What I'm asking you to do is write down your Isaac. No one is going to see this but you and God. This could be something God has been tugging on your heart about - some behavior you slip into that pushes you away from God. It could be something you've been trying to do to devlope a heart of worship leader thing all by yourself and it's time to give it to God. Or it could be a dream of yours, maybe you dream about a friend or a family member finally coming to faith in Christ, Or perhaps you dream of living so closely to God that to have a heart of worship is a logical next step.
So as the music is playing, (better put some on, if it's quiet where you are), let's take a few minutes to fill this card out - and in doing so - to lay whatever your Isaac is, on the altar before God.