Welcome to week 4 of our series called Worshiper. We’ve been looking at clips from the movie Hillsong: Let Hope Rise and looking at what it means to be a true worshiper of God. You know, really how to worship with your whole life and we’ve been focusing on a passage of Scripture out of Mark 12:30 where Jesus answers the question, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” And Jesus replies, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Now as we consider this verse we’ve got to ask how other rabbis and teachers in Jesus’ day might’ve answered this question. And I would think some of those might’ve thought circumcision was most important, because that’s the mark of their covenant relationship with God. Others might’ve thought that keeping the Sabbath was the most important because it draws our focus each week to God’s presence in our lives. Others might’ve thought that tithing was most important because it’s a way we can honor God with our wealth. And so I’m sure that in Jesus day there existed a wide variety of opinions over which commandment was the most important.
I think even in our day, we would get a wide variety of answers if you were to ask people which is the most important commandment. Some might say the most important commandment is to vote Republican. Others might say to read your Bible or go to church. And still others might say the most important commandment is to love others. Because, you see, in religious circles we’re always fighting a battle between religion and relationship. Where religion is all about the rules; you know, do this and that and God will like you. But Jesus didn’t come to teach religion, he came to offer a relationship with the Living God, he came to tell us that God is our Father, that he loves us, and that he desires more than anything that we would walk with him and talk with him.
As a matter of fact, God addressed the issue of religion versus relationship in the Old Testament when he said through the prophet Isaiah in chapter 29:13 "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men." And so what we’ve discovered is that God isn’t looking for people to perform religious rituals, but he’s looking for people who would love him with their whole heart.
And so in part 1, we talked about worshiping with all your heart, since worship is love expressed. In part 2 we talked about worshiping God with all of your soul; meaning with all you are. And then last week in part 3, we talked about worshiping God with all of your mind. You know, it’s really making the choice to worship, even when circumstances are difficult. And each of these 3 directives for worshiping God all deal with the inner being, they’re all parts of us that no one can see, but God and only God can change. And that’s really the point that loving God with your whole life is all that matters, because it’s all about God. You’ll never find fulfillment in religion, you’ll never keep the rules well enough to satisfy yourself, but if you dare to love God and have a personal one-on-one relationship with him you’ll find greater fulfillment than you ever imagined.
And I know that’s kind of mixed up from the way we’re used to thinking, but the reality is that Jesus always work from the inside out. The kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom as it relates to this world and its culture. Jesus said, if you want to be first you have to be last, if you want to be great you have to be the least, if you want to save your life you have to lose your life, and that’s how God wants us to be. It’s about following Jesus, and following the culture of his kingdom, rather than following the ways of this world. The reason Jesus dealt with the heart, soul, and mind first, was that he knew he had to deal with the heart before he could deal with the external actions. He knew that inward transformation always precedes the outward manifestation, because if you don’t have the inward things right, the outward things will never follow. And so Jesus always works from the inside out and the end result is never about behavior, the end result is about inner transformation because that’s what leads to life change.
This morning in part 4 of Worshiper we’re looking at what it means to love God with all of your strength. And this is incredibly important, because some of us are really strong, some of us have tremendous spiritual potential, but at the same time many of us have a dangerously weak will. And so as we begin to look at what it means to worship God with all our strength, I think it’s important to note that number 1, anything we have, strength or otherwise comes from God.
Psalms 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it” (NIV). But with this understanding, we also have to remember that the culture of God’s kingdom is totally different from the culture of the world.
The Apostle Paul cried out to the Lord frustrated, broken, and exhausted in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, and the Lord said to him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (And then Paul says,) Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (NIV).
The Apostle says, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” And that seems to say something opposite from worshiping God with all of our strength, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard and give our everything to the call of God. On the contrary, if we understand that our true strength comes from God once we’ve expended our strength, our ability, and our resources, then and only then do we find that God works in our weakness, supplies for our lack, and accomplishes all of his purposes according to his power and strength within us. And so it’s a good reminder that is not about us, but it’s all about him.
Let’s take a look at this video clip from the Hillsong Movie.
This video illustrates what it means to worship God with all your strength. It’s giving yourself fully and completely to the goal or vision that God has put before you. It’s living out the God-given desires you feel on the inside in order to accomplish something beyond yourself.
When Bobbie Houston talks about the Hillsong mission statement, “Our City and Beyond,” she talks about how they had no idea what beyond meant, but that “beyond” grew as they were faithful to the vision that God had given them for their city. And so as they invested themselves and everything that was available to them to their city, to the vision, and to the calling that God had given them, they used what they had and God multiplied it.
This morning, you may be wondering what God has for you, you may be waiting on God to fulfill a promise that he’s given you, and so let me encourage you, part of fulfilling the vision that God has for your life is doing that and being faithful to that which is right before you, that which you see, and that which is in your hands right now.
I’m reminded of Jesus words in Luke 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (NIV).
In the video, Pastor Brian Houston talks about the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who after discovering New Zealand and Tasmania, could’ve stopped exploring, but even after such amazing success he ventured out again illustrating for us this idea of using what’s in your hands right now, being faithful with what you have, and continuing to press forward.
When Dictionary.com describes the word strength it says it is “the quality or state of being strong” and then gives us synonyms to describe and help us to understand such as; mental power, force, or vigor. So as we’re talking about worshiping with all of your strength, it’s the moral power, firmness, or courage. It’s power by reason of influence, authority, or resources. To worship with all your strength is the effective force, potency, or power; suggesting the capacity, the stored up energy, and the potential to do something.
And so there will always be setbacks and challenges, but these things actually help us to grow stronger through God who is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20). In Christ, we have the capacity to do something, each one of us in this room has the capacity to do something, and that should give us all hope that we can worship God with all of our strength, because strength is about action, strength is the force that we exert when we do something, and so we have sufficient strength, because it’s all about who or what resources we have at our disposal. The apostle Paul says it simply, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”
Let’s look at our next video together.
They mentioned 2 Samuel 24:24, where King David replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing" (NIV). And so David was telling Araunah that his sacrifice, that his worship of God was going to be extravagant, it was going to be costly, and he wasn’t going to give anything to God that he didn’t work for or put great effort into.
And yet I think we have this natural tendency of looking for the easy way out. We don’t seek that which is difficult, that which requires much time, or that which is costly, and especially when it comes to worship and going to church. Today, many people have a consumer mindset when it comes to church, where going to church is more about what we can receive, instead of going to church preparing to give. Yet I wonder, if like David we shouldn’t come to church with the idea that our offering of time, talent, and treasure should be costly? I think this is where loving God with all of our strength comes into play.
Just think about Noah in Genesis chapter 6. He had no idea what God was up to when he asked him to build the ark, but he did it anyway. Even though he was ridiculed and mocked for building the ark, Noah put aside his own desires to do that which God asked him to do. Instead of being concerned about what other people thought, he sacrificed his reputation and went to work. He obeyed God and the Bible says he “found favor” with God (Genesis 6:8).
Consider David, a shepherd boy and worshiper who was called a man after God’s own heart. When he heard Goliath defying God in 1 Samuel chapter 17 he was compelled to action and killed Goliath with 5 smooth stones and a sling. Now I imagine he had flung thousands of stones from that sling as he was tending sheep, probably put in 10,000 hours of target practice, and so when it came time to act he was ready, because he’d invested the time and paid the price.
Even the boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish in Matthew chapter 14 recognized a need and basically gave all that he had and God multiplied it miraculously. That morning as his family packed lunch and went out to see Jesus in the desert they had no idea that they would be part of something that couldn’t be explained except by the power of God. The very thing that was going to bring this boy strength that day was given away and it became strength for him and thousands of others.
And then of course there’s Peter who we know was a bit overzealous at times and even ended up denying Christ in Matthew chapter 26. But we see that Peter responded to God’s grace and God used Peter’s strength, he used his zeal as he preached on the day of Pentecost and in Acts chapter 2 verse 41 it says over 3000 people were saved that day.
In these stories we find a common thread when it comes to loving God with all of our strength. There are 3 things that I want to share with you as we close this morning.
David used what was in his hands for the glory of God. The training for one of his most important missions in life came from his time in the wilderness while he was tending sheep. All the hours of doing what he may have thought as mundane, just passing the day, was preparation for a great victory for the people of God!
Noah put his skills to work by faith as he began to build the ark. He may or may not have been the best carpenter around, but he followed the instructions he was given, and the ark he built kept his family and all the animals safe from the greatest flood the world has ever known. And Noah goes to show that you may not be the best at something, but if you surrender to God and make yourself available, you can accomplish things you’ve never imagined.
Now we don’t know anything about the boy with the loaves of bread and fish, but that likely was his family’s only meal for the day. He may not have known where his next meal would come from and from what I know about boys and food it was probably not easy to part with, however he gave it all to Jesus and Jesus multiplied it beyond his wildest dreams!
Those are some powerful pictures from the Scripture of what it means to worship God with all of our strength. But there is one story that trumps all of these in terms of giving all that you have to God and that’s the story of Jesus. You see, our response to all that Jesus has done for us should be in line with how God wants to receive love back from us. So what does that look like in practical terms when we’re talking about worshiping God with all of our strength?
Well listen to what Isaiah 38:18-19 says,
“The grave cannot praise you, death cannot sing your praise; those who go down to the pit cannot hope for your faithfulness. The living, the living — they praise you, as I am doing today...” (NIV).
“As I’m doing today,” Isaiah says. And because we’re alive, we have the incredible opportunity, the privilege, and the responsibility to praise the God who deserves it all! The Bible, in the Old Testament, uses 7 Hebrew words for our word praise that will help teach us how to worship God with all of our strength.
The first of these words is “Halel”, which means “to rave, to boast, or celebrate.”
And we find that word used in Psalm 22:26 which says, “Those who seek the Lord will praise him.” (They will rave, boast, and celebrate God).
The second is “Yadah”, which means “to acknowledge in public or to confess.”
This word “Yadah” is used in Psalm 138:1 where the psalmist says, “I will praise you, (I will acknowledge you in public and confess you) Lord, with all my heart.”
Next is Barak, which means “to bless by kneeling or bowing” referring to a posture of worship. Barak is used in the familiar Psalm 103:1, “Praise the Lord, my soul; (or bless the Lord by kneeling or bowing) all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
The fourth is Zamar, which means “making music to God with strings” and the psalmist says in Psalm 92:1: “It is good to praise (to make music with strings to) the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High.”
The fifth word is Shabach and this Hebrew word means “to address in a loud tone or to shout.” This word is used in Psalm 63:3-4: “Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you (address you with a loud voice) as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”
The sixth word that is translated praise in the Old Testament is Towdah, it is translated in the New International Version “thank offerings” and Towdah means “to lift hands in adoration or to give thanks for.” We find this in Psalm 50:23: “He who sacrifices thank offerings (who lifts hands in adoration giving thanks) honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God."
The seventh and final is Tehilah, which means “exuberant singing.” The Bible tells us in Psalm 34:1: “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise (exuberant singing) will always be on my lips.”
This is a picture of what heaven is going to be like! It is the most passionate, most traditional, serious worship service you have ever been a part of and the Church has been worshiping like this for thousands of years! What we have seen here are the actions of worship and when we worship in these ways we are worshiping God with all of our strength.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
April 24, 2016