Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. I’m so glad you’re here for week number one of our series Worshiper: How to Worship with Your Whole Life. This new series is based on the movie “Hillsong: Let the Hope Rise,” which came out last year and tells the story of the rise of the Christian worship band, Hillsong United. You may not even be aware of this, but it’s been estimated that on any given Sunday more than 50 million churchgoers around the world are singing to the music of Hillsong. And in this five-week series, we’re going to take a look at clips from the movie and explore together what it means to be a worshiper of God as well as looking at some of the ways we can encourage worship in our lives.
The theme for this series comes out of the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, verses 28-31. Let’s take a look and read that as we begin:
“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." NIV
In these four verses, Jesus gives us five words of instruction when it comes to loving God. And over the next five weeks, will take a look at each one of those phrases and see how it impacts our life of worship toward God. The first directive Jesus gives comes out of verse 30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Jesus reminds us of that which is most important, because at this time in history, the Jews had made for themselves over 600 laws and set aside the commands of God in order to observe their traditions (Mark 7:9). They had even gone as far as to categorize those traditions into those which were major and those which were minor laws. But you know, when it comes to God’s commandments you would think that they would understand that the author knows best.
For example, in Exodus 20:1-4 God spoke saying, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.” But here’s what happened, they wouldn’t worship the sun or the moon, they wouldn’t worship the animals that crawled upon the earth, but what happened was that they began to worship knowledge, and they began to worship their own understanding. And therefore they determined that in addition to God’s command that they would add to his word hundreds of more rules (what Jesus called traditions of men) and the law became to them an idol.
And so here Jesus was making an important distinction, telling them that the most important thing was not keeping all the rules and regulations, but the most important thing was their hearts. And so he tries to communicate that the most important thing was number one, their relationship with God, and number two, their relationship with others. And so in the Jews book of the law there were 613 of them to be exact and Jesus says that loving God and loving people are the greatest.
As a matter fact, Romans 13:8-10 says it this way, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” So if you follow this one, all the rest will fall into place, as James said in chapter 2:8, “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right.”
So true worship is about our relationship with God, it’s about who sits on the throne of our heart, because whatever we worship, whatever we put first, whatever trumps prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, and serving others communicates what we love the most. You see, the truth is we’re all worshipers. But the question is, “What are we worshiping?”
You see Worship Is Love Expressed. And yet time after time we find ourselves being enticed and susceptible to worshiping counterfeits. You see, any time our hearts are filled with anything but God we find our lives are full, we’re busy, we’re distracted, but we’re just empty on the inside, because all the things of this world can’t satisfy the heart created to be satisfied by God.
Therefore, A.W. Tozer said, “God is trying to call us back to that for which He created us, to worship Him and enjoy Him forever.”
We were created to worship God and yet we find ourselves obsessed and giving priorities too many things which leave us exhausted and empty, because when a creation doesn’t fulfill its intended purpose determined by his creator it becomes useless. It doesn’t matter what it is, but whenever something gets outside of its intended purpose it not only brings frustration and a sense of hopelessness, it brings a loss of identity and the lack of purpose. So many people walk around today with a false sense of identity, because they’ve loved or worshiped something other than that which was intended. Either they didn’t know or don’t care that they were created for this relationship.
Look at what the prophet Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 53:6, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way...” NIV
In other words, we all have elevated something above God. We all have left the path of God to follow our own way, when all that God wanted was our heart. Our heart is where worship comes from and so Jesus commands us to Love the Lord our God with all our heart so that we might understand the importance of our heart in worship.
So why make a movie of a church’s worship team? Well, if we were created to worship and yet there are so many things that have become so important that they’re actually dangerous to our souls and we don’t even realize it; what better way to refocus than to consider pure worship? You know, why not look at that segment of our lives, that brief period of devotion, those twenty or thirty minutes when we are doing nothing other than worshiping our Creator. And so I believe they described the challenges that we all face very well in this clip.
Reason number 1, people are disconnected.
Joel Houston said, “We do this so that people’s hearts can be connected to God.” In other words, there’s been a disconnect; sin brought about a separation between us and God that is in need of restoration. Now I don’t know what it might be for you. It could be that you have been enticed by your image, your house, your children, your hobbies, maybe how many likes you got on Facebook, it could be any number of things. And so what I want to do is ask you to consider and be really honest about what is or what you are putting ahead of God.
Number 2, people are searching.
Taya Smith talked about how she has friends who get smashed, you know people who are going out getting drunk or wasted on the weekends and she says their hearts cry is, “There’s got to be more than this.”
The Bible tells us in Matthew 17:14-18: “When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.”
You see, people are searching and wondering, but we live in a society just like it was in Jesus day, that is unbelieving and perverse. In other words, when we’re more connected to the world than we are to God it leaves us empty and searching for more.
But number 3, people don’t understand this.
I think JD Douglass describes best what we see in our culture. “Trying to make the most un-normal thing normal …that’s the adventure!” You see, people don’t understand the mystery of the love and grace of Jesus and so they push it away. But you and I are called to help people see and know that there is a God who loves them unconditionally and gave his Son so that they could have a relationship with him. That’s the great adventure, the great commission, but how do we go about helping people in this great adventure of loving and worshiping Jesus?
Remember, he said in Mark 12:30, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart.” Now to hear that or know that is entirely different from experiencing that. You know, I could tell you that I love my wife, that she’s amazing, and that she has all of these incredible qualities, but the only way for you to know that is to have an encounter with her yourself, where you would personally experience how amazing she is. And it’s the same way in our relationship with Jesus. In order for us to understand what it means to love or worship the Lord our God with all our heart there has to be an experience. And this has always been the desire of God, that he would have a personal experience with his people. He doesn’t just want us to know about him, he wants us to experience him, where we would personally encounter him and enter into a relationship with him. He’s a God to be experienced and when we experience God there’s the opportunity for significant life change, but we must seek it, and we must allow it.
That’s the inner struggle when we first experience God, because we come from a place of opposition to God because of our sinful nature, but Christ breaks down the opposition. Romans 5:8 says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” That’s what’s so amazing about the gospel; it’s good news, because when we encounter Christ he accepts us as we are and helps us in the process of changing our nature. He helps to change us from sinful desires to repentance, from ungodly desires to godly, and it’s in that process of transformation where worship takes hold. When we begin to experience God in worship from a repentant heart, we begin to communicate to God our love and our full surrender to his will and his work in our lives.
Today, in order for us to understand more of what it means to love or worship the Lord with all our heart, let’s look at three life-changing experiences recorded in the Bible. The first I want to look at is in Exodus chapter 3 where Moses had a life-changing experience as he encountered the burning bush.
Let’s read together in Exodus 3:1-2, “Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up” (NIV).
Moses curiosity led him to experiencing God in a powerful way. At this point Moses didn’t know he wasn’t fulfilling his destiny and purpose, but God called him to greater things. As Moses drew closer to see this strange sight, God called to him from within the Bush and Moses said, “Here I am.”
God said in Exodus 3:5-6, "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God” (NIV).
Moses initial experience with God led to worship. At first he struggled with what God was calling him to do, but that was the beginning of a relationship that God would eventually call a friendship. You see, Moses experienced God and the Bible says 30 chapters later in Exodus 33:11, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend…” This friendship with God didn’t happen automatically, but was birthed through many conversations throughout the book of Exodus. Moses experiences with God changed the direction of his life and led to complete surrender to the will of God.
Today we need to understand that a truly life-changing experience with God is not based on keeping rules, but it’s based on a revelation of God’s love, and we need to understand his love before we can understand his ways. This happens through relationship, it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and energy, it has to be personal, and it begins with a decision to worship God no matter what.
The second story I want to share with you is about Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Now these three young Hebrew men understood that the God they served was an active, living, breathing, speaking God. They knew him personally, they were in relationship with him, they knew his character, and therefore they refused to bow down to King Nebuchadnezzar’s idols. In fact, they knew God so well that they told the King, let’s read it together from Daniel 3:16-18: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." NIV
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were committed to their God, they were in a relationship with their God, and they show us that sometimes worship is as much about what we do as it is about what we don’t do. You see, once the love of God is understood our relationship changes and we begin to have new desires to please and serve the One we love. Instead of feeling trapped by rules and regulations, we’re freed by love and actually desire to obey. This is why we stop doing some of the things we used to do, because we want to live lives that are pleasing to God. That’s how powerful his love is!
Romans 12:1-2 tells us,
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer 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.”
To be able to worship God with all your heart means that your heart has been transformed or made new. That’s what Romans Chapter 12 tells us, a heart surrendered to God is a heart that can worship freely knowing God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. Experiencing God’s love is a place of safety that allows for true worship to take place. We find this illustrated in Luke chapter 7. The Bible tells us of a woman who had “lived a sinful life” but now had come to a place of complete surrender where she didn’t care who was watching, because she just wanted to worship Jesus with an expensive offering.
Luke 7:37-38 tells us, “When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”
Notice that there was no music, no songs were being sung, but this woman was worshiping with her actions and emotions. I think this is important for us to recognize, because worship is a posture of the heart and yet we all love music and we love to sing to God. In fact, God is the creator of music and his intended purpose is to bring honor and glory to himself. But worship doesn’t necessarily need to include music, because it is the posture of a heart that’s surrendered to his will and to his ways. Worship is the expression of our hearts communicating to God that we’re his. When God is the focus of our worship, with Christ at the center, we understand whose we are, and that is why the heart is so important.
Proverbs 4:23 drives this point home telling us, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
Our heart is the source from which all life flows physically and spiritually. As the heart pumps life-giving blood to the rest of our body giving us physical life; our heart also pumps life to our spirit keeping our heart soft toward God and keeping our heart pumping passionately for the right things in our lives.
God loves us, he longs for us, and jealously wants a relationship with us. If he wants all of your heart how should you respond? We saw through the life of Moses that God teaches us to be obedient. We saw with the three young Hebrews that we should learn to trust God. And we saw through the sinful woman how we should surrender to him in worship. As we close, we read in Romans 5:8 that, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God through Christ Jesus gave us an example of obedience, trust, and surrender. Since Jesus' love for us was acted on and put on display when he went to the cross our response of love should be acted out loving God with all our heart with obedience, trust, and surrender.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 03, 2016