October 5, 2008
Part 1: Who do you worship?
Introduction: “Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve.” Matthew 22:37-40, Joshua 24:14-15, 1 Kings 18:16-40
October 5, 2008
Part 1: Who do you worship?
“Made to Worship” song and video.
We were made to worship. Not just here in church one hour a week; we were made to worship 24/7. What is it like to worship God:
• With our words?
• With our actions?
• With our work?
• With our money?
• With our time?
• With our relationships?
• With our lives?
That’s what we’re going to talk about for the next six weeks: 24/7 worship-living a life full-on for God. True worship is not just a song we sing in church; it’s a life surrendered to God’s glory, a life that brings Him pleasure.
Before we can talk about 24/7 worship, there’s a big question that has to be decided. The big question isn’t if you’ll worship, because everyone worships. Everyone worships someone or something. The big question is who do you worship? That’s what we’re going to talk about today.
Offering and announcements and baptisms:
Life Group Sign-ups
Volunteer Central at the Info Center
Crown Financial and Financial Peace are beginning soon. Info on the tear-off tab.
Pursuing Purpose: Men’s breakfast with Jim Hayford and Craig Ehlo, Tuesday through Thursday, October 14-17 in the MPR.
Intro baptisms and ask people to stay seated while the offering is passed and then the worship leader will invite you to stand.
Introduction: “Choose for yourselves this day who you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15)
When I say the word, “worship”, what do you think? Most people think of something that happens in church. They think of a ceremony or liturgy; they may think of singing, or chanting, or praying, or dancing, or lighting candles, or
genuflecting. Most of us think of the act of worship that we offer to God at church. And that is worship.
But worship is far more than just what we do in church. Worship is a lifestyle; it happens 24/7. To worship God is to love and honor God. We love and honor God with far more than just our songs; we worship Him with our lives. When Jesus was asked what was the most important of all the commandments, He said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Love God with all you’ve got; love God with your whole life. That’s 24/7 worship. That will be our focus these next several weeks. How can we worship God with our lives?
Before we dive into that, though, I said there is a big preliminary question that must be answered. The big question is not if you will worship, but who you will worship.
ILL: Bob Dylan, in his Christian phase, wrote this song:
You may be an ambassador to England or France;
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance;
You may be the heavy-weight champion of the world;
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls;
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Yes indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
Well it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.
You’re gonna serve somebody. You’re gonna worship somebody. You’re gonna love somebody. There will be someone or something at the top of your values pyramid. Who will it be? Let’s look at two Bible stories.
Joshua has led the Israelites into the Promised Land and now he’s old and getting ready to die. So he gives this final charge to the Israelites
Joshua 24:14-15 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
Joshua throws down the gauntlet; he challenges them, “choose for yourselves this day who you will serve.” There were options. There were the gods of their forefathers when they lived beyond the Euphrates River. Or there were the gods of Canaan, the land they had just conquered. You’re gonna serve somebody; who will it be? Joshua makes his declaration: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Would you say that with me? “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” You’re gonna serve somebody; I hope it’s the Lord.
Our next story is in 1 Kings 18. Four hundred years have passed, and the Israelites are so deeply entrenched in idolatry that King Ahab and Queen Jezebel personally support 450 prophets of Baal, a male fertility god, and 400 prophets of Asherah, Baal’s goddess wife. Elijah sets up a showdown on Mt. Carmel. He invites the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah and all the people.
1 Kings 18:21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
It says “the people were silent.” No answer. Folks, this was a duel to the death. Armed men were present and the losers were going to die. Now, do the math. It’s 850 to 1. And the One is throwing down the gauntlet, challenging you to take a stand, to make a decision. “Give us a minute; we’re counting. One…”
So to help them decide, Elijah proposes a contest between himself (representing the true God) and these 850 prophets (representing Baal and Asherah). Each will build an altar, lay the wood, and sacrifice a bull. Then they will each call on their god to send fire to burn up the sacrifice. The god that answers with fire is the real god. The big team gets to go first. They build their altar, lay the wood, sacrifice the bull and start praying. They cry out, they dance, they shout, they prophesy, they even cut themselves to show how earnest they were. Elijah started making fun of them. “Shout louder. Maybe he’s hard of hearing, or busy, or going to the bathroom!” By evening, the Baal team had exhausted themselves.
1 Kings 18:29 But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
Then Elijah called the people around. He built an altar, laid the wood, and sacrificed the bull. Then he did a crazy thing. He had them douse the whole thing with water…three times…until everything was soaked and water was running everywhere. Then he prayed,
1 Kings 18:36-37 “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
And the fire fell from heaven and licked up everything. And the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God. The Lord, He is God.” That would do it!
“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” You’re gonna serve somebody; they chose the Lord.
The challenges of Joshua and Elijah ring through the centuries to us; we are faced with the same question: whom are we going to worship?
1. Everyone worships.
Everyone worships. Everyone. Even the person who swears he doesn’t have a religious bone in his body. Even the person who claims to be an atheist or agnostic. Everyone worships.
The word worship is a shortened form of the old English word “worthship”. Worship is “worthship”; you worship whatever you consider of the highest worth.
Everyone worships because everyone has someone or something that is of the highest worth. Everyone has something that occupies the highest place in his or her values; something that is number one, most important, your top priority. Everyone has something that is at the center of their personal universe, and everything else in their life revolves around that. Everyone has a god…be it little “g” or big “G”. Everyone worships.
ILL: Paul Newman passed away this past week. Here’s a Paul Newman story.
A woman entered a Haagen-Dasz store on the Kansas City Plaza for an ice-cream cone. After making her selection, she turned and found herself face to face with Paul Newman, in town filming the movie Mr. & Mrs. Bridge. He smiled and said hello. Newman’s blue eyes made her knees buckle.
She managed to pay for her cone, then left the shop, heart pounding. When she gained her composure, she realized she didn’t have her ice-cream. She started back into the store to get it and met Newman at the door.
“Are you looking for your ice cream?” he asked. She nodded, unable to speak. “You put it in your purse with your change.”
Everyone worships! When was the last time that God’s presence made you forget your ice cream?
Why is it that people from every tribe and tongue and nation in all of history have gods? What moves us to worship something or someone? Is it just superstition and ignorance? That’s what some would say, but I believe it’s something more than that. The impulse to worship is universal because God created us for relationship with Himself. Blaise Pascal said that we have a God-shaped vacuum inside, and that we’re never satisfied until that vacuum is filled with God. Augustine said that our hearts are restless until they find their rest in God. We were made for God; we were made to worship. It’s a built-in part of our humanity.
ILL: We have a couple cats that we’ve had since they were just kitties. When they were just weeks old I watched these kitties stalk a bird. They missed, but they practiced all the time. They stalked each other, they stalked us, they stalked our dog; they stalked pieces of lint that blew across the floor; they stalked ping-pong balls while we played. They were always hunting, even as kitties, and they still do. We often find mouse guts or bird feathers by the back door, a present from our cats. They are always hunting. Where does that come from? It’s the nature of the beast. Cats are hunters. No one gave my kitties hunting lessons. I didn’t have to take them to Stalking School for Kitties. It is just in them; it’s who they are.
We are worshipers. No one has to teach us; it’s the nature of the beast. Just like God made kitties to stalk and hunt, He made us to worship. We will worship someone or something. The question isn’t if you will worship, but who you will worship. You’re gonna serve somebody. You’re going to worship…everyone does. The question is who? The people of Joshua’s and Elijah’s day had options; there were other gods. Let’s talk about some of the options we face.
2. American idols.
I’m not thinking of the singing variety; I’m thinking of the common gods that are worshipped in our country.
The Israelites in Joshua and Elijah’s days had a tendency to worship the gods of the land they lived in, the gods of the peoples around them. What are the gods of our land that compete for our allegiance?
Perhaps the most popular and widely worshipped god in America is self. In the absence of something great and transcendent to believe in and live for, we end up living only for ourselves. We are by nature not only worshippers, but also selfish, which means that if we don’t find God, we happily take His place. We become our own god, running our own life, seeking first our own happiness.
ILL: Over the last several centuries, there has been a progressive exaltation of the self. The poet Walt Whitman wrote the celebrated “Song of Myself” in the 19th century, and we’ve been stuck on ourselves ever since. It begins with the lines, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself.” More recently, Joseph Campbell became a cultural hero because of his motto for self-fulfillment: “Follow your bliss.” In other words, do whatever makes you happy.
David Sharp, 34 years old, died in May, 2006 on Mt. Everest. That fact by itself is not shocking. Hundreds have died trying to conquer the world’s highest peak. What is shocking is that at least 40 climbers saw David Sharp lying by the trail, dying of oxygen deficiency, and trudged on without offering to help! Follow your bliss.
You’re gonna serve somebody. Who were these people serving? Themselves. The god of self is the most worshiped god in America.
• Self-made gods.
Another very popular option is to make your own god, which is usually just an extension of yourself.
ILL: One famous example is Sheila, the California nurse interviewed by Robert Bellah, the author of Habits of the Heart. Sheila called her personal assortment of beliefs “Sheilaism.”
“I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilaism, just my own little voice.”
Sheila is remarkably typical. Most Americans say that they believe in God, but they don’t mean the God of the Bible, the God who revealed Himself in Christ, but a god of their own making. Usually this is a god that asks little or nothing of them; a God who has been stripped of holiness and is little more than an amoral and benign grandfather.
• Pleasure, sex, money, power, things.
This is another extension of self-worship. All of these things ultimately revolve around yourself and your own happiness. If I am my own god, if there is nothing transcendent, nothing larger than me to live for, then my happiness becomes supreme. And we have defined happiness in terms of materialism and hedonism.
ILL: I remember when I was newly married talking with a young man in Eugene who lived for one thing: sex. He tried to have sex with a different girl every night. He said that he couldn’t get enough sex. It was all he wanted to talk about…it was his god.
Sex is a good thing, but a lousy god. Money is a good thing, too…how many of you would like more of it? Money is a good thing, but it’s a lousy god. Pleasure, power, things…they’re all good…but all lousy gods.
Gordon Dahl said, “Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship.” You’re gonna serve somebody. For many people, their work becomes their god; their work becomes the most important thing in their lives. Your work can be an expression of your worship to God; or your work can be your god. You’re gonna serve somebody.
• Knowledge, science, technology.
We have deified science, technology and knowledge; many people openly claim that they don’t believe in God because they believe in science, a statement that shows a sad ignorance of both God and science.
ILL: Many years ago, I picked up a young man who was hitchhiking. In the course of our conversation, I asked him if he believed in God. “No, I believe in science,” he told me. I asked him to explain that, and he told me he believed that matter is all there is, and that everything evolved out of the first living cell. I pointed out that meant that all life forms were related and were just accidents. There was really no difference between him and the cows in the pasture we were passing, or the grass they were eating, or the bugs that were splattering on our windshield. They were all equally accidental expressions of the impersonal forces of nature. I asked him if he thought it was wrong for me to smash bugs on my windshield. No. Did he think it was wrong for me to smash him on my windshield? Of course, he said. But why? Why the difference? I pointed out that science had no answer to that question. It’s impossible to begin with nothing but matter and time and chance and rationally end up with purpose and meaning.
There are questions science can’t answer. There are problems technology can’t solve.
The Israelites worshiped the gods of the lands in which they lived; millions of Americans do too. Who do you worship? There is another option:
3. The revealed God.
If there is a god, how would you know him? You only know someone to the degree he reveals himself. For example, how well do you know me? Some of you who have been here a long time and heard lots of stories feel like you know me pretty well. Others not so much. And then there is Laina who lives with me and knows the good, the bad and the ugly! You only know me to the degree that I reveal myself to you, that I let you see and hear who I really am, what I’m like, what I feel and think.
Has God revealed Himself to us? The Christian answer is yes. God revealed Himself in several ways.
• In creation. If God created the world, we should see His fingerprints there.
• To people in history. God has acted in history, intervening in people’s lives.
• In the Bible…which is the written record of God’s revelation to people in history.
• In person: Jesus. The ultimate revelation of God is the man Jesus Christ.
ILL: If you wanted to know me, you could study something I made and learn about me. Or you could talk to people who have met me and know me. Or you could even read what these people have written about me. But by far the best way to know me would be to meet me in person!
In Jesus, we meet God in person. That is why He is the ultimate revelation of God. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Hebrews 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Colossians 1:19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,
If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. He is the Word, the full expression, the exact representation of God; all the fullness of God dwells in him. If you want to know what God is like, look at Jesus. And what do you see?
I see moral perfection, a sinless life that prevented even his enemies from finding any fault in Him.
And I see grace for all of us who lack that moral perfection. He said it’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick; he came to call sinners, not the righteous. He came for me…and for you.
I see truth that was not only spoken, but lived out.
And I see love for everyone, even the most unlovely, a love that moved Him to make the ultimate sacrifice for us.
I see a God I want to love and follow.
One of the most inspiring descriptions of Jesus I’ve ever heard was given by the great African-American preacher, Dr. S. M. Lockridge (Shadrach Meshach Lockridge) who died in 2000 at the age of 87.
Audio: That’s My King, by Rev. S. M. Lockridge
Song: How Great is our God.
How long will you waver between two opinions. Choose this day whom you will serve.
4. Choose who you will serve! As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.