It was June 23, 1991. It was a Sunday morning in Hurst, TX. I was at church. That was the day I met the woman I would marry.
Deborah knew she wanted to marry me the first day we met. I was slower to this conclusion. In part I had a girlfriend the day we first met, but I also think there were some things God needed to do in me before I was ready.
Dating long distance. Wrote letters. Called rarely because it costs extra money to call long distance. Dates once every few months at first. “Dating other people.”
I wasn’t. I found out later she was.
Rules to stay accountable, move slowly, honor her and honor God.
“I’m not going to say ‘I love you’ until I know I am going to marry you.”
“I’m not going to kiss you until I know I love you.”
I didn’t do the math.
Kiss = Love = Marriage
We had been dating 3 months when she knew I wanted to marry her when in reality I was still trying to go slowly and figure things out.
What if I proposed to you one day?
“I’m comfortable with that idea.”
That’s how you would describe a couch not an engagement ring!
She was the queen of playing hard to get!
One of the things I needed to learn from God before He made clear to me that she was the one for me was the idea of worship.
Was God going to part of my life or the center of my life?
And honestly that was one of the things about Deborah that intrigued me most about her.
- She loved Jesus more than me.
- He was her number one priority.
- He was at the center of her life.
It was her relationship with God that gave her the patience for me to figure things out and to be ok if I never did.
Now, I know that to many of you… that probably sounds like the least romantic thing you’ve ever heard. That idea has never been included in a romantic comedy.
But this girl demonstrated to me that she would never need me to be her savior… or give her purpose… or make her whole.
She just wanted to me to be her husband. And I am so glad she did!
As we conclude our Reframing God series, we are going to answer the question: “Why Worship?”
There can be a lot of confusion about God, God’s heart, motives, character… and how we relate to him.
We may need to reframe how we see God. Because we can’t really learn to love God if we don’t really know Him.
Today, we’re talking about something that I believe can bring about radical, mind-blowing transformation in each of our lives.
- not just intellectually
- not just through a religious or emotionally charged experience
- than it’s not enough to just hear a great message or listen to great music…
- it’s about really practicing in community together…
- it’s about communion…
- getting to know God through His Word through prayer (like Carlos talked about last week) and through a life of worship.
We Were Made for Worship
This conversation couldn’t be more relevant for all of us… because we were made for worship.
In Genesis 1, the author offers us this amazing Hebrew poetry that we know as the creation narrative…
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
Image – To be an image bearer (very significant) – often used in the ancient near-east where a ruler would often create statues (images) in his own image and then place those images all around the territory as evidence of his rule or authority of that area.
So when the author of Genesis uses that word (image) to describe humans in God’s created order and then places human beings there as image bearers… not as inanimate statues, but as flesh & blood representatives of God, invited to co-rule over the creation… to bear His image in Love and to glorify the creator.
That’s the picture we’re given of the Garden of Eden.
Sounds pretty good, right?
So, why do we struggle to in our relationship with our Creator?
Back to Genesis…
God gives direction toAdam and Eve:
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” – Genesis 2:17
Did you catch that?! God’s first command was “You are free!”
When have you experienced a time when you knew that you were so loved that you actually felt alive and free?
The story continues, God gave Adam and Eve so many options – an amazing number of options and only one limitation.
The Creator of the Universe created us with the freedom to choose – an incredible act of love. God created us for relationship with Him.
- He could have created us in such a way that we were forced to love Him.
- He could have created us and tricked us into choosing Him.
- He could have even started over once humanity chose to rebel against Him.
Notice instead what happens…
Adam and Eve walk over to the one tree they were to avoid. It was then they encountered a tempter in the form of a serpent (or “shining one” – a reference to seraphim – a spiritual creature gone rogue):
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” Genesis 3:1
Friends, I know there are some of you who are like… “talking snake, Eric? …really?”
Look, I get it… but that’s not what we’re talking about today.
If you have any questions about talking snakes, just email firstname.lastname@example.org.
But I do want you to notice an important point from the story…
The serpent (part of the created order) comes and tempts the first humans away from obedience and trusting God.
Remember, they were given authority over the creation (over birds, fish, animals & creatures that move along the ground), but instead, now creation (the serpent) tempts them away from trusting the Creator.
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6
Maybe you’ve heard this story. Both Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God’s desire for communion. In their freedom, they walked away from God.
As a result, sin entered our world. Our genetics were altered. Humanity was broken and that brokenness has passed down from generation to generation.
We think of Adam and Eve as idiots for ruining everything! I mean we could have lived naked in paradise but they had to eat from the one tree they were not allowed to eat! They had complete freedom to eat whatever they wanted and there were a lot of other trees! But no, they ate from the one tree they were not allowed to touch!
But you see we are just like them!
- We have everything we need, but we still want more!
- We have everything we need, but we want what someone else has!
- We have everything we need, but we want what we should not want.
All of us have had moments when we have fallen to temptation – wanting what we know we shouldn’t. We have believed lies that led to choices that eventually inhibited our ability to feel free.
My parents were so cheap they wouldn’t let me eat cashews. They told me that “Cashews were for adults.” In high school, while other kids were sneaking out of the house to party, I would sneak out of the house: “Hey whassup bro, do you got some cashews?” As soon as a I turned 18, I went on a two week cashew binge. After awhile I started hallucinating that I was a pecan pie! I’m doing better now. I went through rehab with Mr. Peanut.
We Worship The Created Rather than the Creator
Like Adam and Eve we tend to worship what has been created instead of the Creator.
That has set up a propensity for all of us to do the same in all areas of our life too.
Paul hints at the significance of this in the book of Romans.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator- Romans 1:20-25
See, it’s not just about Adam & Eve…
We’re looking in all the wrong places for love, belonging, identity, and purpose.
The assumption of the biblical writers is that every single human being is a worshiper.
This is not just for religious people. Worship is a human activity, not a religious activity.
Worship is ascribing worth to something. It’s declaring that something is valuable.
It’s prioritizing your life around something.
Doesn’t everyone do that?
I have dear friends who are atheists… but they’re worshipers.
We have all spent all week worshiping something or someone.
- Our spouse, Our kids, Our jobs
- Our food, Our TV, Our glass of wine at the end of the day
- Our hobbies, our video games, our smart phones, our mountain bike riding
- Nature, The news
It doesn’t mean those things cannot be good. In fact often times we worship things that are actually good gifts from God, but they are not meant to be our gods.
God invites us to surrender our lives and let Him guide us in all things.
He offers to be our rescuer, our leader, our guide, our source of comfort, and so much more!
When we have our deepest needs met by our relationship with God then we can enjoy these things in their proper place and even be a better spouse, parent, employee, business owner, hobbyist, and so on.
We can see God revealing Himself in the news and in the shows we watch and at work and at home and in our neighborhood.
So again, that’s why this conversation is so important.
Because the question isn’t whether or not we worship, but who/what is the object of our devotion?
Who or to what do we go to to meet our deepest needs?
“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8
Idols- Important to note that, idols in the Bible, are rarely things that are inherently evil.
Their usually misplaced parts of God’s good world that have been elevated to the status that only God should have.
Let me give you an example
In the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, God delivers His people out of slavery, and he takes them to this mountain.
And one of the commands God gives His people not to worship any idols – anything in the created order – only to worship Him.
And we aren’t to create any idols even to represent Him.
· Genesis 1 – we’re created as image bearers, given authority over the creation
· Genesis 3 – we put our trust in the creation instead of our Creator
· Romans 1 – we exchange the truth of God for a lie, worshipping and serving created things… the implication being that we’re all worshippers, and the temptation of our hearts is to find some part of the creation to orient our lives around, in order to significance and value.
· Ex & Deut – God appears without form and warns us not to create any idols to represent him…
So, how do the people of God respond?
When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.” Exodus 32: 1
So Aaron, Moses brother, the guy who was in charge of helping them stay connected with God as their priest took up all their gold and made an idol in the shape of a golden calf. I always thought this meant they were going to make “other gods” and abandon the worship of Yahweh… but look,
Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord. Exodus 32:4-5
In the same way that people so often prefer creation over creator…
we also seem to prefer a God that we can see and control.
They add other gods and still try to include the one true Creator God
People seem to prefer worshipping gods that they can manipulate…
“If I just do this… and this… and this… then God will do this for me.”
For us it’s probably not a golden calf (I get that)… but it’s probably something more subtle.
- A certain amount of success or achievement
- Maybe it’s having a certain reputation with everybody
- Physical fitness and our appearance
- A Relationship
- Whatever you go to for comfort
In every human life, there is a throne… and on that throne is seated something or someone.
We resemble whatever it is that we worship.
This is similar to the ideas you might have heard before:
“You become the average of the 5 people with whom you spend your time”– Jim Rohn
“Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.”– Dan Pena
You become like whatever you orient your life around.
- Worship money – you become greedy
- Worship sex – you become lustful
- Worship approval – you become a people pleaser
- Worship power/status – you become controlling & manipulative
- Worship success – you become a workaholic
Every idol demands a sacrifice
Think of all that addicts & alcoholics will sacrifice for their drug of choice
Think of workaholics and all they will sacrifice for their careers
That happened to me. It was 2007. We lived in Los Angeles.
I was an executive pastor working on my doctorate and promoting my first book. Deborah and I had two little kids, and she was struggling without me.
She thought a move to Texas would make things better. If I was going to be gone all the time at least she would have extended family around to help.
I had no interest in leaving or slowing down. Things were just taking off!
I would come home and find her on the computer. She would quickly turn it off so I couldn’t see what she was looking at. It was houses in Dripping Springs. I called it her property pornography. For a couple of years she asked me to slow down, to make changes. I would always say: “It’s just a busy season. I will slow down soon.”
Finally, she told me: “I don’t want to be a pastor’s wife anymore.”
For the first time I really heard her. I was such a workaholic my inability to stop threatened my marriage and access to my kids.
I got help. We went through counseling.
Then she was ok living in L.A.! That’s when I sensed God calling us to Texas!
You and I will become more and more like the thing you worship.
Here’s some great news.
As we worship Jesus… we become like Jesus.
A Life of Worship Connects with Our Creator
Friends, as we are reframing God in this series… it’s so important to know that
God created us to share His Life and Love with us.
We all want to know…
- I have purpose
- I am loved
- I am secure
Why? … because God made us that way.
God intended that our life and wholeness would be found in Him.
When we love Jesus first and foremost, He becomes
- Our first love
- The center of our lives from which everything else flows
- Our identity in Him and Him alone
- Joy & Peace & Freedom
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. 3 For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4 In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5 The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. 6 Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; 7 for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. 11 So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” Psalm 95:1-7
The Psalm we just heard has been known through the history of the Church, across cultures all over the world, as a bit of a guide to worship and praise.
It’s known in Latin as The Venite which simply means, Come
The invitation of the Psalmist is to Come
…and that is the invitation of Jesus, as well.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
When Jesus died on the cross, he experienced unrest.
On the cross, Jesus experiences total alienation from God.
- True worship is never something you have to toil or work for.
- In true worship, you never have to prove yourself or strive to earn something that’s elusive.
- In true worship, there’s never any restlessness or fear of disappointment.
And yet, Jesus Christ, in His death, He experienced the restlessness of toiling and anguishing… for one reason.
So that we could find our true rest for our souls.
When you understand the gospel… it makes you a worshipper the way God intended for us all.
It is unfortunate in some ways that singing in church has come to be known as worship.
To worship God means to have Him at the center of your life
and out of that relationships with God all the rest comes.
Singing to God is the easiest form of worship. If unwilling to do that, you are more than likely going to struggle with all that God is inviting you into with Him.
For years I thought singing wasn’t my thing. For some, they love to connect with God that way, but that just wasn’t my love language. I would usually work on the message or practice what I would say as the host during the music.
Several years ago here at Gateway, we brought in a guest speaker to share with us as a staff. His name is Dr. Neil Anderson, the author of the Bondage Breaker and Victory Over the Darkness. He is kind of like the ghostbuster of the Christian world. He was so kind and so insightful and so helpful.
But in one moment this sweet older man got upset with us when he found out that most of the staff was too busy to go into the Sunday inspire service. At one point, he pointed his finger at us and said: “Shame on you! If the pastors of the church aren’t taking the time to connect with God in worship, why will anyone in your church do that?”
I thought to myself: “That’s right! You tell it Dr. Anderson!”
Then it dawned on me. I was in the service only for the message. I came late into the service every single Sunday.
So that next Sunday, I stood on the front row. And I tried it. I simply prayed: “God, forgive me for not slowing down to connect to you. Help me connect with you even in the singing.”
And something happened. Starting that Sunday, it didn’t matter who was leading worship or what song we were singing, I could feel God’s presence.
All the distractions disappeared.
I knew and felt God’s love as I confessed each Sunday and connected my heart.
You see music can be the shortcut back into God’s presence. It doesn’t have to be just on Sunday mornings or even once a month at our worship night which we have tonight called Seek First. Those become just the tip of the iceberg when we learn to worship every day with singing with prayer, with our thoughts, with our actions.
Here’s a better definition of worship…
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:1-2
We are called to be a living sacrifice.
When we worship Jesus, we become more like Jesus.
We are to die to self so that we might truly live.
So we have created an experience for you to move God back to the center of your life.
We are going to sing two songs and take communion.
The bread represents His body broken for us through His death on the cross
The juice represents His blood shed on the cross for you and for me.
And if you’re here today and you have one of those cups but you’ve never decided to follow Jesus, today you can surrender your life and allow what he did on the cross to count for you. Take this cup and take this bread. This is a symbol of what he’s done for us but when we take communion it’s also a symbol that you are choosing to follow him.
But we worship Him because He is alive!
He rose from the dead!
At Gateway, we will be celebrating Easter all month in April!
In our lives, we celebrate Easter every day!
Because Jesus is alive!