2006-08-23 / Religion

The Gospel Truth

Don't deny your call to worship
Dr. Charles F. DeVane Jr. First Baptist Church

Steven Spielberg made a name for himself in the 1970's when he directed his second movie, "Jaws." However, it was his third movie that earned him his first Oscar nomination. In 1977 Spielberg directed "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It was a big budget, well made movie that drew us into theaters and drew our attention into outer space.

According to the plot line of the movie, a close encounter of the first kind would be spotting some leftbehind evidence of an alien landing. A close encounter of the second kind would be a distant but actual sighting of an alien or the UFO in which it is traveling. A close encounter of the third kind, which the movie dramatized in its climactic ending, is to experience an alien from outer space face to face.

I liked the movie. But I'm a real skeptic when it comes to UFOs. I don't believe any of these kinds of encounters have actually taken place. However, I must admit that raising teenagers made me rethink my position on aliens from time to time.

Let's turn our thoughts now to God. I wonder how many people, including church people, have had a close encounter with the Lord. Of the first kind, we all can see evidence that God exists. Of the second kind, we can see the places he visits and the vehicles he travels in - churches dedicated to his glory and Christians filled with his spirit. But how many of us have ever had a close encounter of the third kind, a time when we met with God face to face?

This might surprise you, but you may be having such an encounter right now. You see, God is spirit, so you don't have to see his face to see him face to face. But make no mistake, when you see him, you know it.

It is a real encounter with a real God that makes a real difference in your life. It is called "worship." Today I want to tell you about a man who really experienced it. His name is Isaiah, and his close encounter of the divine kind is recorded in Isaiah 6:1-8.

Read Isaiah 6:1-8. This text is not primarily about evangelism and missions, although it may be a conversion story of sorts. This text is about what happens when we meet God. This text is about "worship."

What causes us to

worship God?

God is king, and he summons us to worship. He calls us to worship dramatically and he calls us to worship regularly. Nothing is taken more seriously by God, and nothing should be taken more seriously by us, than the call to worship.

For many people, the call comes in a crisis. Isaiah is found worshiping here "in the year of King Uzziah's death." It was a time of crisis for Judah. The longest righteous reign of any Jewish king in history had come to an end. It was a tragic end at that, ending in death by leprosy. If God had done this to Uzziah, what would he do to the every day Jew? Now that Uzziah was gone, what would the next king be like? Few people in history have put as much stock in God and government as the ancient Israelites. It was a time of uncertainty, fear, crisis. So Isaiah did the spiritually smart thing. He responded to God's call to worship.

Your call to worship might be death or disease. It might be family problems or financial problems. Crises come in big and bigger packages, never small. But the call is as big or bigger than the problem. It is a call to turn your attention to the Lord and seek his face in private and public worship.

For all people, the call should be heard as a commandment. All people - at least all people who know the Lord or want to know the Lord - are called to worship on a regular basis. It is like clockwork or calendar work, coming around every week. Isaiah came to the temple on the Sabbath/Saturday (the prominent mention of the temple probably indicates Isaiah was in a Jewish worship service). We come together as the church on the first day of the week/Sunday. It is the day commanded by God that we come together and worship.

The point here is we are called to worship on God's terms, not our own. We don't order a crisis. But God can. We may choose the time of day, but we do not chose the day we regularly worship God. God has. He has decreed a time for his glory and our good. He does not need us but he knows we need him. We often find him, not necessarily in spectacular visions like Isaiah's, but in the simple prayers, scripture readings, songs, and sermon we encounter in worship.

But just coming to a place of worship doesn't make worship happen. So how do we know when we are encountering the Lord, how do we know true worship is taking place? What do we see when

we worship God?

Worship can happen with or without hymn books, with or without ministers or choir members in robes, with or without padded pews and stained glass windows. I like what we see when we worship here, but worship is made or broken by what Isaiah saw.

In real worship we see the holiness of God. Three times they said it. Three times or more Isaiah saw it. God is holy. God is absolutely pure and perfect. God is utterly unlike us. God, and God alone, is worthy to be worshiped.

If all we get in a service is a sense of the love of God, we have not worshiped. If all we hear is hell, fire, and brimstone, we have not worshiped. But when we hear that the transcendent God has condescended to meet with man, that his holy hatred of sin has intersected with his righteous love of the elect, then we see the Lord and worship him.

In real worship we see the sinfulness of man. God's great holiness highlights our great need. I'm not talking about so-called felt needs addressed by practical church services. I am talking about true and great spiritual needs. We need forgiveness. We need to be reconciled to God. Often we need to be reconciled to one another. We need to love God and love one another. But how can sinful people find the grace for such spiritual things? We find these things and more when we see God's face in worship.

What happens when

we worship God?

Look at what happened to Isaiah in worship. He saw the Lord. He was awestruck by his holiness. He confessed his sin. Then, see what happened when Isaiah saw the Lord in worship.

In worship we are cleansed of sin. I hope you bathe before you come to worship. But I know if you worship, you are bathed in the word, in the spirit, in the blood of the Lamb of God. You may, but you do not have to speak out like the prophet. It may be during a song, or a reading of scripture, or during the sermon, but you know when it happens. You meet God, you are overwhelmed with his goodness and grace, you confess, and you are forgiven and free.

In worship we are commissioned for service. And you usually tell God that you are ready and willing to do anything he asks you to do. Worship without service cannot serve as true worship. Whether we cross the continents or cross the street, worship somehow works its way to our feet, doesn't it? Maybe you're not serving God these days. Why don't to start by worshiping him?

Worship is a real experience with a real God that makes a real difference in your life. It is a close encounter of the divine kind that changes your life dramatically. Worship is all we will do in heaven, and we must not miss it on earth.

Worship does not require a great preacher or singer. They are not always available. It requires a great God and a great response. He is here. What are you going to do?

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