The Father We WorshipErwin W. Lutzer | September 17, 2006
Selected highlights from this sermon
Christians are to proclaim the excellencies of God. But do we truly know who He is?
Our God is self-existent, holy, wise, unchanging, and sovereign, and because of these truths, we should act differently, living humbly, wise, and confident, knowing that He has everything in hand.
The more we know about God, the more able we will be to publicly demonstrate our belief in His incredible nature. May we worship our God in spirit and in truth.
It is often said, and it is completely true, that the most important thing about you is what you believe about God. A.W. Tozer said that. But today in America to say that you believe in God is one of the most meaningless statements that anyone could possibly make. The reason is the word of God is a canvas upon which people have been able to paint whatever picture they wanted of the Almighty.
We have different gods who are all manufactured according to our image and our own liking. We have today the god of my health and wealth. He exists to make me happy. God wants you to be happy and god wants you to be rich and prosperous and healed. So there is that god that’s out there.
We have the god of my self-authentication. That’s who god is. God exists to make me feel better about myself and to show me how valuable I really am.
We also have the god of my gender, female goddesses that people write about and talk about. We have the god of my inner child. If you want to find god what you need to do is to go deep within. I don’t know about you, but when I go deep within I find sin, I don’t find god.
Then there is the god of my near death experience, the god of light who doesn’t judge anybody and allows everybody to go into heaven. There’s that god and there are dozens of others.
To quote again the words of Don McCullough, “The sin of the church has been the trivialization of God. We prefer the illusion of a safer Deity. We have pared God down to manageable proportions.” Somebody said, “We have cows for milk, sheep for wool and we have God to come along and to affirm our every craving.” Is this the God that we worship? I think not.
Who is the Father whom we worship? Who is this Father and who is this God? Before I tell you about Him I have another question that I have to ask you. What is the purpose of your life anyway? Is it to become wealthy and become relatively well-known? Is it to have a really great retirement account and then die of cancer, which is what everybody seems to be doing? Is that really the purpose of life or is it somewhat higher than that?
The Bible says this about us: “We are a peculiar people.” That is the King James Version, and I kind of like it. Don’t you think we are a little peculiar? Those of you who are visiting may think that about us. It does mean “special people.” Then it says, “You should show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Those of you in the balcony who know Jesus as Savior, did you know that is your calling? And those of you on the lower floor and those of you who are watching by means of the internet or listening on the radio, did you know that as a Christian your purpose is to show forth the excellencies of God and make God look good in the presence of a very, very skeptical world?
What I am going to do in the next few moments is to show you how our response to every attribute of God enables us to show forth the excellency of God. Everything that you learn about God is transforming. Sometimes a series like this is thought to belong to the theologians. Could I speak candidly? Theology is too important to leave with the theologians. In theology God is completely transforming! So let’s just dig right in now without anymore adieu.
The first attribute I would like to introduce to you of this Father whom we worship is self existence. In Exodus chapter three, verse fourteen it says, “God says to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’” God says, “I exist because I exist and I am who I am and not who you want me to be.” Psalm ninety, verse two says, “Even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” His eternality and self existence, wow!
Did you know that God always existed? God is the uncaused cause. Nobody created God. He was always there. Now you can’t get your mind around that. There have been moments when I’ve meditated on it and it seems as if your mind just goes to the edge and you pull back and say, “Lord I can’t go any further because everything that I know had a beginning.” To think that God always was, well that’s the answer.
I can prove to you logically that it is so. Follow this carefully now. If you’ve just been half tuned in, give it the whole blast now. All of us know that out of nothing, nothing comes. If there was nothing in eternity past there would be nothing today because out of nothing, nothing comes. The fact that you are in existence or something exists means that there was something that always existed and was not created because you cannot create something out of nothing. So God has always existed.
You know the scientists who say, “The stars were formed so many billions of years ago.” Time magazine had an article about this not too long ago. Thank you very much, but where did all that stuff come from in the first place? Did nothing create nothing? No, something created. That something has to be of necessity uncreated. It is the self existence of God.
You say, “Well how do we show forth that excellecy? We do my friend because once we understand this we realize that God is the only independent being in the universe. All of us are dependent. Anything that we have is derived; it is not intrinsic to us. God is the independent being. Since the fall man has always wanted to be independent. That is our big struggle, to submit to God because sin says, “I am my own god.”
Do you know those beautiful babies we just dedicated a few moments ago? Sweet as all those boys were, you could give them little T-shirts the moment they were born and the T-shirt would say, “Worship me and we will get along just fine.” There are some adults who don’t outgrow that T-shirt.
There is something within us that says what we want to do is to be our own god. But, we are dependent. How does that work itself out in our lives? First of all, we are a humble people. A proud Christian is a contradiction in terms, it is a square circle. How could you possibly be proud of anything? The Bible says, “Who maketh thee to differ from another, or what hast thou that thou hast received it, and if thou hast received it why dost thou glory as if thou hast received it not?”
We don’t take any credit for what God does through us because we know who we are. We are very dependent. We are a thankful people, thankful for the least of God’s mercies. We know that we are undeserving. We bring nothing to the table except our great need. We come to God, who is the only independent being in the universe. We come with helpless, broken dependency and we make God look good and show His excellencies to a skeptical world.
Let’s look at a second attribute which is holiness. In the opening chapters of Isaiah He pronounces six woes. Woe to the drunkards, woe to the people who cheat widows, woe to the people who are dishonest in their gains and in their dealings, woe, woe, woe! You think, “Isaiah you have six woes, but seven is the perfect number.” Where is the seventh woe? That’s in chapter six where he sees God and he says, “Woe is me,” because he’s seen the holiness of God.
When we understand the holiness of God we are not now quick to judge others. When we see other people’s sin we know that we are capable of doing the very same things. When we do judge, and sometimes it’s necessary, we do it with a heavy heart because we know that in the presence of God we are all sinners and we all say, “Woe is me.” So we are very careful in what we say.
Also, because we know God is holy we actually hate sin and love righteousness. When we love sin, as sometimes we as Christians do, God rebukes us and God begins to work in our lives in such a way that we begin to hate iniquity and love righteousness because God is righteous. His holiness reminds us of what the standard is and God births in us a love of holiness that we didn’t have before. It has to come from God because that is not something you and I generate just by going to church.
Third, you have the wisdom of God. Romans chapter eleven, verse thirty-three is a passage that I hope to preach a series of messages on someday. It says, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”
Does God ever get His angels together and say, “Michael, teach me a little bit of philosophy because I am weak in that area.” Does God ever ask anybody for counsel? His knowledge is innate, immediate, and exhaustive. He’s got it all and He is a very wise God. He can see around corners like you and I can’t. As a result of that we trust him. We are a trusting people. We don’t trust many human beings because we have been disappointed too often, but we trust God.
A couple of months ago I was walking in the forest preserve with my five year old grandson Samuel. We decided to go off the beaten track and take a different trail that led beside the river. I had an idea as to where the trail would come out. We came out, and now we were on the beaten track on the way home and we got to the point where we had turned at the fork in the road.
Samuel said, “Papa we go this way.” I said, “No, honey. You don’t go that way.” He said, “Papa, this is the way.” “No Samuel, we don’t go that way.” “I think you are wrong papa.” “No, I’m sorry. You follow me and you trust me.” And this little boy said, “Yeah, but it’s so hard to trust papa.”
Now I was in the forest preserve where I walk regularly. I was in a place that I had been probably a hundred times. I knew exactly where we were but little Samuel was saying, “It’s so hard to trust, papa.” I thought to myself, “God’s been down the road that you and I are concerned about.” God has been down that road, as we shall see in a moment. Because He is a wise God we are a trusting people. We actually believe that God’s way is best and so we entrust our way to God and we live with that sense of anticipation and dependence on His wisdom.
We are also a praying people because we don’t know that we have enough wisdom to live in this world. We know that and so we cry up to God and say, “What shall we do?” We expect Him to answer because He alone has the answers.
Also, we are a wise people. We are not caught up with all of the trappings of the world. Could I be forgiven if I were to tell you that I don’t really know who in the world Jessica and Nick are? Would it be okay if I were to tell you I don’t really care whether they are dating, divorced, how many times they’ve been married or whatever they are doing? They are not nearly as important as other couples I know in my life. I have no idea why they are on all of the newspaper covers and magazines. What have Jessica and Nick done for society? I have no clue! Maybe they have done wonderful things.
Is it okay if I were to say I don’t get the publicity about the baby that Tom Cruise had? Is that baby that he and his girlfriend had more important than any other baby that was born in Cook County this week to unmarried parents? Is it any more important? I don’t think so. Is it okay if I tell you that I don’t know the name of his girlfriend? Now after that I expect to be arrested and hauled into politically correct court and charged with cultural insensitivity!
Christians know the difference between food and trash, alright? They are not seduced by the values of this world! Why? Because we know that God is wisdom and we are a wise people. We know the difference between time and eternity and we know that eternity is longer than time and we live that out in our values and our lifestyle. God is wise.
Number four is immutability, which means that God is unchanging. “Thou oh Lord in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of thy hands; they shall perish, but thou remainest; they shall wax old, as doth a garment and as a vesture, and thou shalt roll them up and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail,” it says in Hebrews chapter one, verse ten and following. “Jesus Christ the same, yesterday, today and forever,” which is the motto here at the Moody Church. “I am the Lord and I change not.”
What is the first thing you say to your mate after you’ve been gone all day? You say something like this, “How are you doing?” Please don’t ever ask God that. I know someone who used to say, “God, how are you doing this morning?” That is just plain silly. How is God doing? He’s doing just as well as He was doing yesterday morning. He hasn’t learned anything since yesterday and He hasn’t forgotten anything. He is no less in control today than He was yesterday. He is the Lord and He changes not - immutability.
God exists outside of time but He also recognizes time. Prophets prophesied He recognizes days and months and years in our existence. But He sees everything as having already been completed because He is immutable. He learns nothing. If He were to change would it be for the better? That is unthinkable because He is already absolute perfection. Would He change for the worse? It is unthinkable that God would do that. So God is the same even though you and I aren’t. As a result of that, time goes by and our lives go by and God gives consistency to history because He is always here and He is always immutable.
So how do we live out that excellency before a skeptical world? We are now a people who live with less stress because we recognize that God is immutable. You know that relationship that you are worried about that you have to give to God so you don’t become more worried about it?
You realize of course that God has already lived your tomorrow? He has already lived last week.
He already knows what is going to be said at your funeral. You know all those nice things that we say at people’s funerals. I am sure all of it is true, but everybody gets something nice said about them at a time like that. God knows all that already so why should you and I be so anxious about tomorrow? “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing and yet your Father feeds them? Are you not of much more value then they?” God is immutable; He doesn’t change.
We sang moments ago the song, Great is Thy Faithfulness.” He’ll be here after we leave and after other people take over the leadership of this church and after other people use our new Christian Life Center and we’ve passed off the scene. God will be there converting and changing people’s hearts and doing His work. It is the immutability of God. The weight of the world is on His shoulders. He can handle your particular need.
Next is the sovereignty of God. We could talk about the fact that we are loved so we are a loving people. Because we have been forgiven we are a forgiving people. However, let me hurry on to God’s sovereignty. God is sovereign. I love Psalm 115, verse three, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever he pleases.” Nobody tells God what to do. Nobody has suggestions to make to Him. He is God and He is sovereign.
He proved that when He decided to create. The moment He created He knew about sin and all of the dominos that were being set up that would take place throughout history. He knew about you and me and about our failures and sins. There is nothing that you or I have done or could do in the future that would catch Him off guard and He’d say, “On second thought, I don’t know why I saved them because just look at this.” There is none of that with God. He is sovereign and He created.
He also redeemed. Isn’t that big? It is huge! Tonight when I lecture on the Trinity I am going to explain why you have to believe in the Trinity if you believe in a redeeming God. God sovereignly redeemed working out the details of Jesus Christ’s death, choosing us to belong to Him. All of that is under His control. If God doesn’t approve a fly doesn’t move.
The very hair on your head is numbered. As I look out across the auditorium I see that God has less and less to worry about as He counts the hair of some of you, myself included. Every time you wash your hair and you see various hairs in the sink or shower, God’s total completely changes. God’s computer goes completely berserk for a moment and then there is a brand new total.
Have you ever thought about the absolute detail of God’s sovereignty? Somebody said, “Well is God big or is God small?” It depends on how you want to calculate it. He is big and He inhabits the heavens and how much less this house that I have built? And yet the Bible says in Isaiah, and it is confirmed many times in the New Testament, that God in His greatness has chosen to dwell in the hearts of those who believe in His Son. What a God we worship and what a God we believe in and trust.
All of that leads us to the question of worship. I want you to come with me to a remote village and I want to introduce you to a woman. She was a woman who had a series of bad marriages, five to be exact. When she was living with the sixth man she decided to only live with him because to be married again would just be a charade. Why even go through the act when they could just live together with the common law? So that’s what she did.
Most of the women in her village would go to fetch water at the local well. They would usually do it early in the morning before it got too hot. They probably didn’t want her along because she had a really bad reputation, and there are some people who can’t handle people who have bad reputations.
So she came alone at noon and she met a stranger at the well. He said to her, “Give me something to drink.” She said to him, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask of me a drink, being a woman of Samaria?” He said, “If you were to ask I could give you living water.” She said, “Oh, give that to me so that I don’t have to come here and draw water day after day.”
Then He said to her, “Hey, go call your husband and come here.” She says, “I don’t have a husband.” He says, “You’re telling the truth in a manner of speaking. You’ve had five of them. The man that you are living with isn’t your husband, so you are being truthful.” This may mean by the way that God doesn’t accept common law marriages.
She says to him, “You must know more than most people. But when the Messiah comes He is going to tell us everything.” Jesus looks at her and says, “I who speak unto thee am He.” It is the first person in the Gospel of John to which he revealed His Messiahship. It was a fallen, despised woman who had nothing but a history of failure in her life. He says, “You’re talking to the Messiah.”
She says, “Well, our fathers worshiped on this mountain, Mt. Gerizim.” In fact, an altar was actually found there by an archeologist a number of years ago. She says, “You say that Jerusalem is the place where we ought to worship.”
Jesus responded and said, “Let’s get this straight. There are two things about worship. The first is it is not a matter of place. ‘The time is coming and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth.’” It is not a matter of place. It doesn’t happen just because you are in a temple. It doesn’t happen just because you are in a church. It doesn’t happen just because you are singing the right songs, and at Moody Church we know you are singing the right songs because we choose them.
No, it is a matter of spirit and a matter of heart. It’s a matter of bringing yourself into the presence of God. Jesus said, “Well did Isaiah speak of you and say, ‘These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.’” You can be here today and have sung the songs and listened to the sermon and have heard the prayer and your heart is far from God.
So Jesus said, “There are two clarifications. First of all, it is not a matter of location.” As a matter of fact, if you don’t worship God at home it is doubtful, perhaps impossible for you to worship when you come to church. Jesus said, “It is a matter of heart.”
Secondly Jesus said, “It is also a matter of truthfulness and honesty.” When we come before God it is not the time for hypocrisy. It is not the time when you put the right spin on it. We are coming into the presence of the sovereign, immutable, all-knowing, holy, self existent God. He knows more things about you then you know about yourself. He knows the number of grains of sand that were on your shoes when you came to Moody Church this morning. That is how exacting His knowledge is.
We come into that presence and we open our lives and we say, “God, my life is an open book to you. Walk through every room and show me what you see. Search me, oh God, and know my heart because you already know it. Finally I have the nerve to invite you in and let you look around.”
Now Jesus is talking to this woman and He throws this bombshell on her. He says, “The Father is seeking such to worship Him.” He’s saying, “Woman, in the eyes of the world you’ve been a failure. But the Father is looking for people like you to worship Him.” The Father is on a hunt. Well, why doesn’t He go to the rich? The rich often times, not always, but often are self absorbed. Do they really need God? Why doesn’t He go to the famous people? The famous people on the covers of magazines aren’t looking for a God to worship. They are looking for worshipers.
He goes instead to the lowly and contrite, the people who know that they are sinners, the people who know that they need grace, to the people who haven’t really been a success. He goes really to all of us, whether all of those descriptions belong to all of us or not. But, it is almost impossible to develop fervent worshipers in an affluent society because we have so many things that satisfy our appetites temporarily.
But the real needy, the ones who are desperate, for whom success has passed by, they often times are the best worshipers. They delight the heart of the self existent Father, the Holy Father, the all knowing, wise Father. They delight the Holy Father, yes, and they delight the sovereign Father because that is what He is looking for. Success as we generally think of it is not open to everyone but being a worshiper of God is open to all.
So when we come into the sanctuary at Moody Church on Sunday morning we know that we are leaving the profane and we are coming in to the sacred. We know that we are leaving earth for a little taste of heaven. We know that we are making God look good because we worship well in the eyes of others and hopefully most of all in the eyes of God. We proclaim His excellencies, not just by words but also by heart, and we come cleansed with our consciences silenced because of forgiveness and repentance. We come with our eye on God. I hope that is the primary reason why you come to Moody Church
Also, your worship doesn’t end when the singing is over. It continues through prayer and through our gifts. Imagine coming to God and bringing Him nothing. It also continues through the message and we leave saying, “The transforming moment of my life has just happened one more time this week. I have beheld the Almighty and He has my heart.”
Will you join me as we pray? “Father, we ask in the name of Jesus that we might understand the Father whom we worship. We pray Father that we might love Him, adore Him and give Him all that we have.” Right now we are going to have a few moments of silence. I want you to talk to God if God has talked to you. If it’s a conscience that troubles you would you confess that sin and promise that the sin will be taken care of? If it’s a divided heart, confess that. Let’s come into the presence of God and let us do business as it were with Him who is monitoring every single thought right now, looking and scanning for worshipers. “We ask these things in Jesus name, Amen.”