By Whitney Miller
“Out damned spot! Out I say!” These are the words of Lady MacBeth as she walks in her sleep, unable to cleanse herself from the bloodguiltiness of her murderous conspiracy. They are also the words that reverberate intrusively around my mind one day, as I think about my vain efforts to serve and worship the Lord as He deserves. No matter how hard I try, my acts of service are tragically flawed, my gestures of devotion half-hearted. Surely this God who saved me and deigns to commune with me deserves far more than this!
And so, desiring to be “approved of God, a workman who need not be ashamed” (2 Tim 2:5, paraphrased from the KJV), I look at the inadequacy of my work and worship and continually disqualify myself for service. It’s back to the drawing board I go to tinker and weld, overhaul and discard in an effort to make something acceptable out of it all. It’s not just my service and devotion to God that are wanting, it is my ministry to people in God’s name. I do not consistently love others as myself or faithfully witness to them, and even when I do, either my motivation or my delivery are corrupted. Please believe me, I am clear about the fact that we are not declared righteous by our works. This is not about work; this is about worship in all of its forms, about conducting myself before God and man in such a way as to bring Him glory. A God who is so perfect, holy, loving, forgiving and self-sacrificial deserves acts of worship worthy of His majesty. Such perfect acts of worship I am incapable of producing.
Friends remind me it is all covered under the blood of Jesus, and indeed it is. Why doesn’t that give me any peace? As I asked God this question one day, He gave me a picture, as is so often His habit with me: I saw myself “covered by the blood of Jesus” as if a big red velvet cloak had been thrown over me. It is clear that my shortcomings, whatever they may be, cannot be seen under this opaque covering. Goodness! You can hardly tell I’m a person underneath it! But as I continue to watch, God takes me inside, underneath the shroud. Inside of it, there I sit, covered head to toe in dirt, still bearing the filthy stains of my shortcomings and imperfections. No wonder I am so preoccupied with my own faults: under the darkness of the cloak, there is nothing else I can see. Knowing that I am tainting the beautiful fabric with all my “dirt” makes my condition even more unbearable. There, obscured from His view, I try to create an offering worthy of my King, but everything I touch becomes soiled. The reality of my condition is oppressive. I am out of ideas of what to do.
As I spent time reflecting on God’s visual aid, I finally see how I got it wrong. Jesus’ blood covering doesn’t just hide us, it makes us clean. It is not a cloak that merely covers over our filthy stains, it is a flow that washes them away. God has not just declared us righteous, He has imputed His own righteousness to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. Though I continue to fall short, I am still declared righteous because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross and His bright whiteness becomes my own.
As I think even more about a lifestyle of worship, I realize Jesus’ blood is not just a cover, not just a shower; it is an infusion. The infusion of Jesus’ blood transforms my very nature from a self-exalting, rebellious God-hater, to a Christ-exalting, ransomed, grateful lover of God, despite my human flaws. It is not the quality of my worship that satisfies Him or commends Him to others. It is the miracle that I worship at all that proves His transformative power and might. The fact that my heart, once cold and dark, now loves to ascribe worth to God is what affirms His preeminence. Someday in heaven the character of my worship will take on the perfection of the Object of my worship. For now, God is well pleased with all that I offer Him in love.
I wonder if any of you struggle as I do: wanting to give God the worship He deserves and feeling ill-equipped for the task. Know that what God wants from you is not perfection but affection. Your love for God is the proof that He is a miracle worker, and you exalt Him every time you give yourself to worship and serve Him with your whole heart. Accept His work of covering, cleansing and infusing. Allow Him to flow freely through you toward the throne of His majesty, and toward a world that desperately needs to know Him. As you do, God will be honored and you will be set free!