Part 3: Mary
This week Krista Westfall and I collaborated on this blog devotional. Krista is the Worship Director at GracePoint Church in Tigard, OR. She is also a very talented recording artist and songwriter. Krista has a profound prophetic gift and a committed obedience to the Lord’s will that has brought many people to faith in Christ.- DL
When you think about who typifies WholeLifeWorship in the Christmas story, Mary (the mother of Jesus) is probably the first person who comes to mind. After all, when she received the word that she would bear the Son of God conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit, she knew that others would only see that she was pregnant out-of-wedlock, misunderstand her and condemn her. But in spite of this, she still chose to believe and receive this wondrous, but extremely difficult calling from God.
“Yes, let it be done to me as you say.” Now, that is WholeLifeWorship! Total surrender to God, a total offering of herself as a living sacrifice, no matter the cost.
But the aspect of Mary’s journey that we want to zoom in on is the ramification of what happened to her when God-in-the-flesh was conceived in her. The manifest presence of God now dwelt inside her being. In some ways, God chose her to be like an “Ark of the Covenant” upon which the presence of God dwelt. Mary, growing up as a Jewish girl, would know the stories of the Ark (both the stories of awesome power and the stories of awesome judgment when the holiness of the Ark was not honored – see 1 Samuel 6:7). She understood the seriousness of God’s presence and holiness. So, when the angel told her that she was going to carry the Son of God, she probably thought about the Ark. She might have even freaked out thinking, “I am now the living Ark of the Covenant! I am carrying the manifest presence of God!”
And while she most likely led a very good and obedient life up to that point, the stakes were much higher now. As the holy presence of God was in her, she would need to live deeper into holiness, now as a vessel of the Most High God. And we see that commitment to holiness in her life from that moment on: how she persevered in the face of persecution and misunderstanding, how she endured the hardships in the long journey to Bethlehem and the even longer journey to Egypt, and how she did absolutely everything she could to protect and nurture this tiny “God-man paradox” throughout the early years of His earthly life. Years later, she would even have to endure the soul-piercing sword of watching her beloved Son suffer and die on the Cross. Knowing that she was carrying Holiness within her motivated her to step into a more “set-apart” (holy) life and to press on, no matter what.
Fast-forward to today: we know that when we Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit – the manifest presence of God – comes to dwell in our lives (1 Cor. 3:16). But we often do not realize the magnificence and the overwhelming greatness of that truth. Think about it: we (like Mary and like the Ark of the Covenant) have the holy presence of God in our being. Because of that we have access to God’s counsel to guide us, God’s power to do His will and God’s enabling to transform our character to bear much fruit. In a very real sense, when people see us they should be seeing Jesus.
But, if you’re like us, we’re a far cry from looking like Jesus. Part of that might be because we just haven’t grasped – as Mary did – how huge it is that God chose to dwell in us. We don’t have that sense of awe (or even trepidation) that Christ dwells in our hearts (Ephesians 3:16). We, too often, look at Jesus-in-us as merely our “salvation ticket to get into heaven” rather than a calling and an empowerment to “bring heaven to others.” We forget that if Christ is in us, His main goal is to transform our character so that we would love others unconditionally, serve others radically, and forgive others extravagantly.
What would it take for us to develop that WholeLifeWorship mindset that Mary had?
Solitude: it begins by giving God space to encounter us. If we’re too busy to give God quality time, we will never grasp His holy presence within us. We need space away from the maddening crowd to be alone with God.
Silence: it continues as we quiet our souls from the craziness in our heads. We need this in order to hear His holy messages to us – messages of love, hope and presence, as well as messages of calling, conviction, mission and doing the next right thing in His eyes.
Surrender: it finalizes when we say to Him, “Yes, Lord. Let it be done to me as you say.” WholeLifeWorship is all about surrendering ourselves to God. We are the Living Sacrifices He desires more than any burnt offering. As we are surrendered to Him, His presence can then be manifested to the world.
So, let us, like Mary, treasure the presence of God in our lives. Let us ponder on what that means in our hearts. And as people who carry God’s presence, let us dive deeper into holiness through repentance, surrender and obedience to His will.
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