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Maybe worship songs should come with a warning about the side effects. Something like “prolonged exposure will cause you to repeat phrases 10 times in everyday conversation,” or “do not operate heavy machinery while singing.” For some people, it may be time to step away from worship CDs for a while.

But there’s another side effect that no one’s talking about, and it’s not pretty. Worship is all about standing in God’s presence, giving Him thanks, and acknowledging who He is and what He’s done for us. But there’s something that happens when we’re in God’s presence that’s a little embarrassing. Our sin starts showing.

Welcome to my world. Lately, it seems like everywhere I turn I see the sludge in my life. And the closer I get to God, the more evident the sludge is. You would think it’s the other way around— that you would really feel good about yourself when you’re hanging out with God.

But God is holy. He is pure. And when I come into His presence, I realize I’m not. Back in the day when churches used hymnals, we used to sing an old hymn called “At the Cross.” The first verse ended with the phrase “for such a worm as I.” Modern versions have reworded it to “sinners like I,” but I think the old one’s more accurate.

Fortunately, God doesn’t see me the same way: the blood of Jesus washes my sludge away. He sees someone who’s forgiven, loved and made holy. Someone He doesn’t mind His Spirit living in. But He cares enough to point out those parts of my life that are being well-fed, areas that are growing my flesh, not His Spirit. Areas where there is more of me and very little of Him.

James 4:17 says: “Anyone . . . who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Sometimes I wish I wasn’t learning about all the ways that I fall short. And although I beat myself up a lot more than God does, the fact is that once I see the sin, He wants me to do something about it. He wants me to give it to Him and walk away from it. Because if I don’t, according to James 4:17, I sin again.

God doesn’t point these things out to condemn me (see Romans 8:1). Like I said, He doesn’t see me the same way. He points it out to show me where He wants to work in my life and to make Himself known to others.

Maybe the worship movement will look drastically different in a few years, when we’ve moved past the cool bands and the catchy songs. Maybe all of our sludge will rise to the surface and we’ll acknowledge just how much God has forgiven when we can’t hide behind our masks anymore.

And hopefully, my life will look different too. I hope you won’t even recognize me. I hope all you see is Jesus and what He can do with a life of surrendered sludge.

[Tim Walker is a writer and editor of YouthWalk magazine. He lives in Woodstock, Georgia.]

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