Once I sprayed the clothes I was ironing with cooking spray. Another time I sprayed under my arm with hairspray. I’ve stored the Saran Wrap in the refrigerator and accidentally emailed things to myself. I steal something almost every time I go through the self-checkout and have to go back in and pay for it. I have called my cell phone from the landline, so that I could find my phone and then, when it rang, I answered it. But the other day, I added this to my long list of blonde activities: I shaved one of my legs and thought “This razor is too dull. I’m going to get another one.” I got out of the tub to throw it away and get another, when I felt the dull blade with my fingers and realized the plastic cover was still on the brand new razor I was about to toss. I have glasses to help the vision problem, but last I checked, they aren’t doing brain transplants. That shave was a perfect example of doing something “in vain.” I went through the motions, but affected no change whatsoever.
My friend, Jennifer Webster, recently said that her 8 year-old daughter asked her dad if he thought it would be wrong to pray that the tooth fairy would bring her ten dollars for her lost tooth. Her dad answered, “I guess it would be alright to pray for that, but that would probably be a good example of praying in vain.” Again…something ventured, nothing gained.
In vain…Jesus said that it’s possible for us to worship in vain. Remember doing something in vain is going through the motions without the desired effect. Hear Jesus:
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:9)
In the context, this passage was addressed to people who honored God with their lips and came near to him with their mouths, but their hearts were far from him. It is important to remember that the God we serve reads minds and hearts. We may have all of our ducks in a row in the eyes of men, while God sees the chaos of our hearts. We may be doing all the right things, while God sees all the heart’s sin. We may be praising him on the outside and rebuffing him on the inside. He knows. When our lips are 100% and our hearts are struggling in the single digits, He knows. In this case, when we praise God with fervor and teach things that are inconsistent with His Will, He easily identifies the vanity of our worship. I constantly remind myself of His omniscience, because my lips honor Him and my mouth draws nigh to Him in a very public way almost every weekend as I travel and speak to women. I want to be sure all that travel, expense and, most of all, that worship, is not vain. I ask Him to help me never teach the commandments of men, but I need to study more. I constantly ask Him to help me be all about the cross and His glory and never about my glory when I talk to ladies, but I need to pray more and with more focus. I pray about my heart and about the hearts He will bring to the sessions, but I need to evangelize more. I want my heart and life to be on the same page with my mouth.
Just remembering we can go through all the right motions and yet, if our hearts are “out of range,” it’s all for naught can help us to get our mouths and our hearts in the same proximity around His throne. Worship, done right, requires a lot of intellectual effort. That’s the heart part and the hard part. That’s the part that makes me want to teach for doctrine His Will and His Will only. That’s the part that conditions my will for the tough things once I’m out the door of the house of worship. The hard part of worship is what makes resisting temptation outside of worship a little easier. It’s the heart of worship that produces the desired effect.