October 26, 2008
Part 4: Worship is Obedience
We’re talking about 24/7 worship, about loving God with all we’ve got all the time. Today, I’m going to propose that real worship is obedience. It is doing what God wants because you love Him.
ILL: When I’m away from Laina, even if it’s just at work each day, I stay in touch. I call her a couple times a day just to check in, tell her that I love her. I always call when I’m on my way home to let her know when I’ll be there and see if she needs me to pick up something. The other day, I was in a meeting, and I texted her a love note. We text…we’re cool. Why do I stay in touch? Because I have to? Because I get in Big Trouble if I don’t? No…it’s because I love her, and I know she likes it. I love her and want to make her happy.
That’s what I mean when I say that worship is obedience. To love God is to obey Him. We do what God wants because we love Him. That’s what we’re talking about today.
Offering and announcements:
#6 for parents of kids in Adventureland. A few weeks ago I said that Adventureland exists to partner with you in the spiritual training of your children. When you pick your kids up today, take a moment and sign up to observe and help in your child’s class. We’ll make it worth your while!
Mosaic moves to Wednesdays this week! (items 7 and 8)-meetings for students and parents at 7 PM.
Offering for Christ Clinic:
Christ Clinic is a medical clinic that offers medical care to the uninsured and underinsured in Spokane. For years, the clinic has operated in a very small space; this year, they are building a new clinic on Monroe Street which will allow them to greatly increase the number of people they can serve. Take a look at this: Video.
Christ Clinic offers medical care to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it, and offers it as an expression of God’s love. Christian doctors and nurses offer their services-it’s their ministry. If there are any docs or nurses here who would like to help in that way, contact the clinic.
I believe in the ministry of Christ Clinic: I serve on their campaign committee, and Laina and I have already given to this project. Today, I’m asking
you to give. Your gift is a gift to help the poor in our community in a very tangible way. And the Bible says that when you give to the poor, you are lending to the Lord and He’ll repay you. Thanks for being generous.
Look at the top of your outline and let’s read our text together.
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
If you love me, you will obey. Worship is obedience. It doesn’t do much good to sing to God and tell him we love him, and then turn around and disobey. If you love, you obey. Let’s take a closer look.
1. We obey God because we love Him.
Think of love and obedience as two sides of the same coin. We love and so we obey. We obey because we love.
The obedience that God desires from us is motivated by love. It is an act of worship. “Because I love you, Lord, may your will be done. As you wish.” It is possible to obey God for other reasons-reasons which may not necessarily be wrong, but are not the motivation God wants. Here are three common motivations for obedience.
First, we may obey out of fear. Sometimes, the threat of punishment may be the only thing that makes us obey. We don’t want to obey, but we do it anyway out of fear of punishment.
ILL: This is why many people obey traffic laws. We would like to drive faster and just slow down at stop signs, but fear keeps us in line…the fear of a ticket. How many times have you been exceeding the speed limit and suddenly you see a police car. What do you do? Slow down. And does your heart beat faster? That’s obedience out of fear.
ILL: I’ve seen this work with kids who won’t make their beds or clean their rooms or pick up their dirty clothes. Mom or Dad threaten them with punishment. If your bed isn’t made, no TV that day. If your clothes aren’t picked up, they won’t get washed and you’ll soon be naked. If you don’t clean your room, we take pictures and put you on Oprah!
Many people obey out of fear. And many people obey God out of fear. Fear of consequences. Fear of punishment. Fear of hell.
Fear gets a bad rap. Some folks are dominated by fear and it’s not healthy. But not all fear is bad; the right kind of fear is healthy. We live in a dangerous world-you ought to be afraid of snarling dogs and poisonous snakes, spiders and televangelists. More importantly, the Bible talks a lot about the fear of the Lord, and it’s a good fear.
There are hundreds of references in the Old Testament about fearing God, including these verses from Proverbs. Tell me if you think fearing God sounds bad or good.
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.”
Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the Lord adds length to life.”
Proverbs 14:27 “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death.”
Proverbs 16:6 “Through the fear of the Lord, a man avoids evil.”
Proverbs 22:4 “Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth, honor and life.”
All through the Old Testament, it was a good thing to fear the Lord. And lest you think it is only an Old Testament concept, listen to these verses from the New Testament.
Luke 12:4-5 Jesus said, “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Jesus said we should fear God!
Acts 9:31 “the church…grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.”
2 Corinthians 5:11 “Since we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.”
1 Peter 2:17 “Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
Cover to cover, the Bible says that we ought to fear the Lord. It’s good, and some of us here need a healthy dose of the fear of God. To fear God is to have a healthy respect or reverence for God that shapes your behavior.
But fear is not the highest motivation for obedience. I think Jesus would prefer us to obey out of love.
ILL: Moms and Dads, would you prefer your kids cleaned their rooms because you threaten to ground them, or because they love you? How many of you don’t care as long as the room is clean?
I’ll bet you’d prefer obedience motivated by love. I think God does.
1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
Love is a stronger reason than fear to obey. First, we may obey out of fear rather than love.
Second, we may obey out of duty. For example, there may be civil laws we don’t like, but we obey because we say, “It’s the law, and I am duty-bound to obey, whether I agree or not.” Most people pay their taxes out of a sense of duty…it’s the law. Your teacher or your boss gives you an assignment that doesn’t make much sense; it just seems like busy work. Your protests are overruled, so you do it out of duty…it’s your job.
Duty is a good thing. Your duty is your responsibility, your obligation, what you have to do. Doing your duty is doing the right thing, and that’s the right thing to do!
Many people obey God out of duty. God has given His law and it is our duty to obey it. They have highly developed consciences, a strong sense of morality, of right and wrong. That’s good-it is not wrong to obey out of duty. But the downside is that we easily become legalistic. The Pharisees, those legalistic religionists who opposed Jesus, had a strong sense of religious duty, but not much love. Many Christians suffer from legalism, which is being obsessed with the Law rather than the Lawgiver. It’s an exaggerated sense of duty without love.
Duty-bound. Does that describe you? Is your faith more a series of moral codes that you keep than a love relationship with God? Duty is good, but God wants to take you deeper. He wants you to obey out of love.
Third, we may obey out of self-interest. We obey for what we can get out of it. There is really no desire to please the other person, only ourselves. A classic example is the kid who kisses up to his parents to get what he wants. That kid is not really trying to please his parents; he’s placating them to get his own way.
Another example that we talked about two weeks ago: the motivation for our worship. Do we worship to warm God’s heart or to make us feel good? Why do you tell God that you love Him? Is it to bring a smile to His face, or is it to get something for your self?
Do you see how easy it is for us to get the cart before the horse? The result of obedience is blessing-you benefit every time. But the reason for obedience is love-we obey because we love Him, not just so we can benefit. That’s the motivation.
God wants us to obey Him, and the highest motivation for obedience is love.
ILL: Has this ever happened to you? Your child wants to surprise you, do something nice for you. So while you’re gone, he washes the car or mows the lawn or cleans out the garage. Or she bakes cookies, or does all the laundry, or cleans out the fridge. You come home, and that kid is so proud, so excited to show you what they’ve done, so eager for your approval. They didn’t do it because you threatened them, or laid down the law, or just to butter you up. They did it because they love you-they wanted to do it for you.
When you look closely, you see that he missed spots on the car, or arranged the garage differently than you would have; and she left the cookie sheets dirty in the sink or put the laundry away in the wrong places. They didn’t do it perfectly like you would have…but you don’t mention that, because it would douse the light you see dancing in their eyes. They didn’t do it perfectly, but they did it because they love you, and that’s enough.
I did something like this in the fifth grade: I got a crew-cut-got buzzed-looked like cue ball. I did it because I thought my parents wanted me to have a buzz cut. I didn’t want to do it; in fact, that night, I cried myself to sleep thinking about what my friends would say the next day at school. But I got buzzed for love-because I loved my parents.
When you got home-you didn’t see the missed spots on the car or in the lawn, you didn’t see the dirty cookie sheets in the sink or the laundry put in the wrong places. What you saw was love, love that expressed itself in action, in obedience. That’s what my parents saw; my little head was bald for love.
That’s the kind of obedience Jesus wants: obedience that is motivated by love.
We obey God because we love Him. When you love someone, you want to please him. When you love someone, you want to make her happy. When you love someone, it is demonstrated practically in the things you do for them. Love is more than just feelings. It is action.
1 John 5: 3 “This is love for God: to obey his commands.”
What is love for God? Obedience. John didn’t say, “This is love for God: to feel warm fuzzies.” John said, “This is love for God: to obey his commands.” John said just what Jesus said: “If you love me, you will obey my commands.” Love results in obedience. It is more that just feelings-it is action. I hope you feel love for God, but even more, I hope that you love Him by obeying His commands, even when you don’t feel like it.
John 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.
John 14:23 If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.
If you love me, you obey me. Our love for Jesus can be measured by our obedience. 24/7 worship is obedience. If you sing songs of love here every weekend and then disobey Him the rest of the week, that’s not worship; that’s hypocrisy. Don’t say you love Him and then ignore Him or disobey Him. Love is measured by obedience.
We obey God because we love Him. But there is something that comes before our love for God.
2. We love God because He first loved us.
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
It is my love for God that motivates my obedience; but what motivates my love for God? His love for me. He loved me first. He loved me before I loved Him, before I knew Him, before I did anything. He loved me first. He loved you first. Did you know…
He loved you before the foundations of the world-when you existed only in the mind of God, long before you were conceived by your parents…He loved you first.
He loved you when you were an itty bitty baby, with nothing to offer, nothing you could do for Him…He loved you first.
He loved you when you were a child growing up, discovering His world without discovering Him…He loved you first.
He loved you when you were a young adult, striking out on your own to make your way in the world, to win your fortune, with no reference to Him…He loved you first.
He loved you when you grew older and got hardened by the injustice and pain of life. He loved you when you married, and when you divorced. He loved you when you were kind to your neighbor, and when you cheated him. He loved you when told the truth, and when you lied. He loved you when ignored him, refused to believe in him, and disobeyed him. He loved you first.
He loved you when He came to earth in person as a defenseless baby, and He loved you when He hung on a cross, dying in your place. He loved you first.
He loved you first. And when you get just a taste of how much God loves you, that love will capture your heart and you’ll love Him back…and obedience comes easy then.
3. How to love God 24/7.
Let me finish by talking practically about how to worship 24/7 by obedience.
A. Read God’s word every day and do what it says.
You can’t do what God wants if you don’t know what He wants. So you need to read God’s word every day to know God, to know His love, to know what He wants. You can’t do what He wants if you don’t know what He wants. So read the Bible.
Even this is motivated by love. We read the Bible because we love Him and want to please Him. Don’t think of the Bible as God’s rule book; think of it as God’s love letter to us.
When I read the Bible, I read for the long haul and the short haul. For the long haul, I am allowing God to teach me His will, to build His word and way and thoughts into my life.
ILL: It’s like going to school and taking English. How many of you ever thought, “What is the point? How am I ever going to use this?” In reality, we use what we learned in English class every day…we probably use what we learned in English more than any other class we took. Knowing how to read and comprehend, how write and speak good clear English-these are fundamental to every day living.
Reading the Bible every day is like English class in that sense. We are building His word, His truth into our lives, and then we use it every single day. So we read for the long haul.
But we also read for the short haul, for today. Often when I read in the morning, I learn things that I will need today. God knows what is coming, and is able to say just what we need to hear. Each day when I read, I ask God for one thing. I’ve discovered that when I write down several things, I forget them all, but when I look for one thing and write it down, I remember it. Also, it’s easier to do one thing a day. It’s better to know one verse and do it, than to know 100 verses and do none of them.
James 1:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does.
Notice that the benefit is not in listening or reading the word, but in doing what it says. It’s in obedience.
I urge you, stop by the resource center and buy a journal. There’s a Bible reading plan inside. Start reading each day, ask God for one thing, write it down and pray it back to Him.
Because love is obedience, read God’s word so you’ll know what He wants you to do.
B. Listen to God’s Spirit and follow His leadings.
God speaks to us through His word, and by His Spirit. The Bible gives commands that are universal, for all of us. And His Spirit leads us each day. We need to learn to listen for the Spirit’s promptings and follow them. Here’s a story someone gave me about a young man who was learning to do that.
ILL: A young man had been to a Bible Study. The pastor had shared about listening to God and obeying the Lord’s voice. The young man couldn’t help but wonder, “Does God still speak to people?”
After service he went out with some friends for coffee and pie and they discussed the message. Several different ones talked about how God had led them in different ways. It was about ten o’clock when the young man started driving home. Sitting in his car, he just began to pray, “God, if you still speak to people speak to me. I will listen. I will do my best to obey.” As he drove down the main street of his town, he had the strangest thought: “Stop and buy a gallon of milk.” He shook his head and said out loud, “God is that you?” He didn’t get a reply and started on toward home.
But again, the thought came, “buy a gallon of milk.”
“Okay, God, in case that is you, I will buy the milk.” It didn’t seem like too hard a test of obedience. He could always use the milk. He stopped and purchased the gallon of milk and started off toward home. As he passed Seventh Street, he again felt the urge, “Turn down that street.” This is crazy he thought and drove on past the intersection.
Again, he felt that he should turn down Seventh Street. At the next intersection, he turned back and headed down Seventh. Half jokingly, he said out loud, “Okay, God, I will”. He drove several blocks, when suddenly, he felt like he should stop. He pulled over to the curb and looked around.
He was in a semi-commercial area of town. The businesses were closed and most of the houses looked dark like the people were already in bed. Again, he sensed something, “Go and give the milk to the people in the house across the street.” The young man looked at the house. It was dark and it looked like the people were either gone or they were already asleep. He started to open the door and then sat back in the car seat.
“Lord, this is insane. Those people are asleep and if I wake them up, they are going to be mad and I will look stupid.” Again, he felt like he should go and give the milk. Finally, he opened the door, “Okay God, if this is you, I will go to the door and I will give them the milk. If you want me to look like a crazy person, okay. I want to be obedient. I guess that will count for something but if they don’t answer right away, I am out of here.”
He walked across the street and rang the bell. He could hear some noise inside. A man’s voice yelled out, “Who is it? What do you want?” Then the door opened before the young man could get away. The man was standing there in his jeans and T-shirt. He looked like he just gotten out of bed. He had a strange look on his face and he didn’t seem too happy. “What is it?” The young man thrust out the gallon of milk, “Here, I brought this to you.” The man took the milk and rushed down a hallway speaking loudly in Spanish. Then from down the hall came a woman carrying the milk toward the kitchen. The man was following her holding a baby. The baby was crying…so was the man.
The man said, “We were just praying. We had some big bills this month and we ran out of money. We didn’t have any milk for our baby. I was just praying and asking God to show me how to get some milk.”
His wife yelled out from the kitchen, “I asked him to send an angel with milk. Are you an angel?” The young man reached into his wallet and pulled out all the money he had on him and put in the man’s hand. He turned and walked back toward his car and now he was crying. He knew that God still speaks and leads us.
24/7 worship is obedience: obeying God’s word in the Bible, and obeying the leadings of God’s Spirit. If you love me, you will obey my commands. That’s 24/7 worship.