Wired for Worship
November 7, 1999
This morning we embark on a series which will feature one of the most important topics we have ever tackled here at Fellowship, a series on worship we are calling “God On-line.” Of all the topics mentioned in scripture, I think that today’s topic carries with it as much information and as many misinterpretations as anything you choose to discuss from the Bible. Worship is huge. It has towering importance because it affects us in this life and the life beyond.
I am sure that about now in a crowd this size, some people are saying to themselves, “A series on worship? Man, why do I need a series on worship? I am a businessperson. I swim with the sharks every day. Worship doesn’t really resonate with me. I’ll tell you what, Ed. I will kind of bow out after this weekend and pick you back up maybe in December when you are talking about a topic that is more relevant to my life.” Listen very carefully, because I am convinced to my core that this series can be the most important series you have ever heard. In a real way, I think this matter can blow the hinges off your doors and open up a whole new world—the wonderful world of worship.
The motivation for this series occurred about two years ago on the floor of the Houston Astrodome, of all places. My youngest brother, who is a musician, invited three of us to attend a U2 concert with him. We entered the Astrodome and made our way through thousands and thousands of screaming fans all the way to the fourth row. While walking down the aisle, I noticed a number of Fellowship Church members in attendance. Most gave me a puzzled, “Is that our pastor at a rock concert” type look. We were so close to the stage, we could practically touch Bono and The Edge, two of the famous band members of U2.
While the concert was in progress, I looked around and saw some people standing, others lifting their hands. Others were chanting and swaying to the music. I nudged my brother and said, “Check this out. Look. These people are worshipping.” And then I thought, “Great worship, wrong object.” Great, wonderful, engaging expressions of worship, but to the wrong person, at the wrong place, and at the wrong time.
Today’s message is an introductory message regarding worship. And since it is an opening session, I want us to sort of scroll back and come up with a working definition of worship. We have to start here. Worship can be defined as “having an intense passion or esteem for a person, place, or thing.” Having an intense passion or esteem for a person, place, or thing. I want to introduce several concepts that we need to download into our database, to process. Over the ensuing weeks we are going to build on each of these statements. But for us to understand and get a grasp on this topic, not only do we have to understand what worship is, we also have to understand what worship is not.
Let’s consider this first statement. Worship is not manufactured; it is intrinsic. Worship is not something that is fashioned or made up or orchestrated. A lot of people think that worship is just for those religious zealots, those people who bow their hearts and their heads in a stained glass cathedral or those who sit in a lotus position humming their mantra. “That’s worship,” people say. Wrong. Worship is not a manufactured deal. It is not just reserved for a select group. All of us are worshippers. We are wired for worship. And because of our wiring we must know what it is and how to do it.
I have noticed a lot of people these days worshipping. I have noticed a lot of people these days being intentionally passionate about a person, place, or thing. I have seen people worshipping an automobile, not literally bowing down, but I have seen them passionate about it. I have seen people worshipping a dream home. I have seen people worshipping a certain look or a certain area or a certain position or a certain amount of money. There is a lot of worshipping going on. You cannot divorce humanity from worship. We are going to worship.
Sadly, though, too many of us are wasting our worship. All I would need to do is look at your calendar, peruse your Daytimer, or talk to your friends, associates, or neighbors, and I could tell, just like that, what you worship. You might say, “Oh, I worship God. I worship Jesus Christ. I worship at the Fellowship Church.” But talk is cheap. Worship is intrinsic. It is an all-encompassing activity. Also, worship is played out on a competitive court. Psalm 100:4, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and courts with praise.”
One of the first messages I ever preached as a new pastor was out of the New Testament book of Acts, Chapter 17. This text really shows us the competitive nature of worship. The Apostle Paul found himself in Athens, a city that was literally littered with idols. As Paul began to talk about Jesus and the resurrection, the Epicureans, who were into pleasure, and the Stoic philosophers, who were into self-discipline, were rattled by his words. They invited this great man of God to a place called Mars Hill. Mars Hill means “battleground of the gods” or “a place of competition”. The Apostle Paul walked around the area and looked at all the different idols. One idol in particular caught his eye. The inscription read, “To An Unknown God.” These Athenian men and women tried to cover every single base. They had many, many idols but figured, if they had missed any, they could cover themselves with one dedicated to an unknown god.
Paul took this opportunity to capture their attention for the Kingdom of God. He gave these men and women a microwave message. Let’s just peer over the Apostle’s shoulder and pick up his message in mid-sentence. Acts 17:24-27, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth…” Now picture him against the backdrop of all of these idols. “…and God does not live in temples built by hands and he is not served by human hands as if He needed anything…” These people were duped into thinking that there was a god here and a god there, that god was part of this statute or that little building. “…because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
In other words, there is a search engine in our spirit and we are going to grope and seek and try to find that person, place, or thing to worship. We are trying to get this desire quenched. We move from that thing, to that place, to that person, from that person, to that place, to that thing, and we end up wasting our worship. I am here to tell you the only way you can truly find the answer to your worship need is when you bow the knee before God. If you are intensely passionate about anything else, you are wasting your worship.
In Matthew 4, Satan tempted Jesus. Last weekend, Tianne talked about the strategy of the evil one. Satan came to our Lord after He had fasted forty days and forty nights and said, “Jesus, you are hungry. Turn these stones into bread.” Jesus said, “I am not going there.” Then Satan said, “Let’s fly up to the top of the temple and once there you can throw yourself down and the angels will rescue you.” Jesus said, “I am not going there either.” During the last temptation, Satan turned up the volume. He took our Lord to a mountain range and said, “Check out the world. All of this can be yours, Jesus, if you bow down and worship me.” What did Jesus say? His response in Matthew 4:10 was, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
I ask you, where is your Mars Hill? Where is your competitive court? Around the neighborhood, the office complex, the workout facility, where is it? All of us have many idols vying for our worship. The evil one wants us to burn up energy and time and wants us to waste our worship because he knows when we bow the knee to the true God, when we become intensely passionate about Him, things start to happen. Things start to turn around. Priorities get put in order and life change takes place. Worship is intrinsic; it is all encompassing. It is played out on a competitive court.
Also, the intrinsic nature of worship tells us that it is continuous. Have you ever wondered why God wants to have a personal relationship with each of us? We have dissed God. We have turned our backs on Him. God doesn’t need me. God doesn’t need you. God’s sole purpose for sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins and to rise again was to give us the opportunity to move from wanderers to worshippers. The moment we bow the knee to Christ and invite Him into our lives, that is an act of worship. And we continue this worship stuff, and therefore, fulfill John 4:24, which tells us that God is seeking true worshippers.
Ultimately, when we graduate from this life into the next—I am talking about heaven—we become quintessential worshippers. Scripture says that some of us will go to heaven, those of us who know Christ. And every glimpse of heaven we get in the Bible is a glimpse of worship. The Bible is not referring to some giant worship service where you have a pipe organ and a pastor preaching on and on and on throughout eternity. But it is worship. Every activity, thought, goal will be perfect, but it will have behind it the passion of praise and worship to our God. Yes, some will go to heaven.
The Bible also talks about another place, hell. Some will face a Christ-less eternity. God does not send anyone to hell. We make that choice. It is our call. Philippians 2:10-11 tells us that before people go to hell, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So those who are facing isolation in a Christ-less eternity in a place called “hell” will remember forever the last encounter they every had with Jesus Christ was one of worship. The Bible says that even though people don’t want to hit the knee, God will make them hit the knee and they will worship.
So at the end of our lives, God will say, “Hey, you worshipped Me, you were intensely passionate about Me in this life, you are going to do that through eternity.” “Hey, you dissed Me in this one and only life, you turned your back on Me in this one and only life when I tried to reach out to you. You said, ‘No way.’ So, you will not worship Me in eternity.” And that is hell. Worship is continuous if we know Jesus Christ.
Let’s talk about the next statement that we are going to consider and build upon over the next several weeks. Worship is not about us, it is about God. I want to stop for a second and let that one sink in. It is not about us; it is about God. As a kid, I fell in love with the game of basketball, probably because my father loved it so much. Not only was he pastoring at the time, he was also coaching a high school team.
I have fond memories of shooting baskets with Dad in the backyard, as we worked on my shot, passing, and dribbling. When I was about twelve years of age, I made an announcement to him. I said, “Dad, I want to play college basketball.” He said, “Good. You have to practice and be disciplined, but go for it, Ed.” So I went to basketball camps, and my life more or less revolved around basketball. I think my Dad saw just about every game I played from the time I was in third grade until I was a senior in high school.
Fortunately, after my senior year, I received a full basketball scholarship to Florida State University. I moved 1,000 miles away from home. I was around a lot of incredible athletes. I think my freshmen year, I played 17 minutes and 30 seconds the entire season. We made it to the mid-east regional. I had the best seat in the house, the bench. I did, though, lead the nation in scoring—warm-up scoring. I counted my points every time I would warm up, and I averaged 72.5 points a game in warm-up. That record still stands, it is an NCAA record.
During my sophomore year, I put together a pretty good string of practices for me. We were preparing for a big game against Auburn. Then one of the coaches told me that they were going to start me against Auburn. I thought, “This is it. From a benchwarmer my freshman year to a starting position.” I picked up the phone and called my parents. Dad hopped a plane and flew to Birmingham, Alabama. He was one of the 17,000 people in that arena watching the Florida State Seminoles take on the Auburn Tigers. I remember scanning the crowd before the game trying to find Dad in the crowd. I could take you to the spot where he was sitting. And when I saw him, we locked eyes for just a second. I got a little emotional because I thought of all the practicing, the time, the energy, the effort, and the money which he had paid to put me into camp and other training situations. I played in that game. But I didn’t care about the 16,999 people who were there. I only cared about pleasing and playing and performing for an audience of one. That is worship, friends. It is performing for an audience of one, the audience being God.
Church should not be a time when we rate everything. “Oh, that message was a four on a scale of one to ten. The music brought a tear to my eye and a shiver up and down my spine.” That’s not what it’s about. It is not about us, it is about God. The question should be, “Is my performance both in church and in life, my activity, what I am doing and saying, pleasing to God?” So often it is easy to shift the focus of our worship from God to what God can do for us. And suddenly, we think God is here for our benefit, instead of the other way around.
Here is what happens to a lot of us. We walk into The Fellowship Church and we order a BLT. This is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich from CJs in Coppell. We sit down in our selfishness, our humanness, and we just munch on a BLT. B – God I will worship You because You bless me. Boy, don’t we serve a great God because God blesses me? I will eat the BLT because it is about me. L – God loves me. I am going to worship God because He loves me. Wow. Praise God. He loves me. It is all about me. T – God takes care of me. He protects me, enables me to be me. It is all about me. It is all about the BLT.
I confess to you that I have fallen into that trap before, and I suspect so have you. Isn’t it easy to do that? Oh, God is here for me, to benefit me, to help me. But it is all about God. Let me talk to Christians here for a second. If you are a Christian and you attend The Fellowship Church, you should not come to our church to worship. If you have come to The Fellowship Church to worship, you have missed it. You should come to The Fellowship Church worshipping.
If this is the only worship you are getting, I feel so sorry you. I have to worship God every single day individually. Yes, I am commanded to worship God corporately in Hebrews 10:25. Yes, I am to come together with brothers and sisters in Christ in the local church. But it should be an overflow of a lifestyle of worship. These services should be the whipped cream on the mocha.
If you ever hear someone say this, you should know what really is going on: “Well, I’m just not getting fed over there. I’m not getting fed.” If you ever hear that, the person who just articulated that phrase is a walking billboard advertisement saying, “I don’t know how to feed myself. I am a baby believer. My Pampers are wet. I want some Gerber food. I go to church and have people feed me. I get mashed up beets and peaches all over my face and in my hair. I cry when my diapers are wet.” I don’t know about you, but I like to eat more than once a week. I eat several times a day. Research tells us that regular meals are good. At least once a week we have a special meal. The same is true in the spiritual life.
When we come to know Christ and are born again into his family we are babies. Then we must learn how to feed ourselves. If we feed ourselves, then when we come together for corporate worship, everything begins to click. We worship because God deserves it. God deserves it. He doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need me. We are simply to be mirrors, to be reflectors of His glory, a subject I will address over the next several weeks. When God looks at me as a Christ follower, He should see reflected back His image, His grace, His majesty, His sovereignty, His power. Worship is not about us, it is about God.
Worship is not a passive thing; it is an active thing. We live in a spectator-driven society, don’t we? We rate stuff. We channel surf through stuff. If we don’t like something, we change to something else. I have been studying the Psalms during my devotional time recently. Listen to the active words of worship in Psalm 100: shout, serve, sing, know, give, bless. Worship is active. God deserves my worship. Also, I desperately need it. Every time I worship, it puts me in my right place with my priorities right. I realize that God is God and I am not. I hear tell that there is a popular god out there that all of us struggle with as far as worship goes—ourselves. We are probably God’s biggest competition. Self worship. Worship is not about us; it is about God.
Also, worship is not compartmentalized; it is a lifestyle. Our church has been housed in four different locations. We started almost ten years ago in an office complex. We moved from there to a Fine Arts Theater. From the Fine Arts Theater we moved into a high school. A year and a half ago we moved into this facility in Grapevine, Texas. We didn’t cart God from the office complex to the Fine Arts Theater, then to the high school, and finally to this location. You see, in the Old Testament a lot of people thought that God resided in the house. In the New Testament, Jesus made it clear that God is not confined to a structure. Then He added that we are the house, if we receive and know Him.
Worship is not some compartmentalized thing that you do on Saturday or Sunday or on a First Wednesday, in a home team meeting, in men’s or women’s bible study. Worship is a lifestyle. Romans 12:1, “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.” This text is saying that wherever we are, whomever we are with, any time, any place, worship should be going on.
We can come to church as thousands of us did last Wednesday and shed tears and lift our hands and kneel and sing to God. But if worship does not involve life change, transcend into your marriage or dating relationship, into your parenting skills, into your priorities, into your thoughts, into your activities, into your vocabulary, into the places you go, then it is not really worship. It is just a compartmentalized thing. Jesus said, if you love Me, you are to keep My commandments. Christianity is not some legalistic trip. I should live a holy, pleasing, and sacrifice-driven life before God. That should be my spiritual act of worship. I should be intensely passionate about the person of Christ.
We have downloaded a lot of data today. Every message in this series is going to build on these statements and this working definition of worship. We are going to tread into some barracuda-laden waters over the next several weeks. Don’t miss a session. But here is what I want you to do. I want you to declare war over your worship. I want you to ruthlessly remove those idols which reside on your Mars Hill, those things that compete and make you waste your worship. I want you to pray a high risk prayer and say, “God, I want to serve You and worship You only.” When we do that we will discover the true meaning of being on-line. On-line.