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Changed Forever

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Close Encounters Of The God Kind

Changed Forever

        On Tuesday of this week (2/10/1998), I believe that God used the television to confirm His direction to me in this present series.  Since, I have been incapacitated, I have been watching some more TV, while I work—because I am working longer.  I work from about 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in complete silence.  I work the rest of the day with the TV on.  On Tuesday, the Olympics were on, which interrupted my normal line up of “In The Heat Of The Night,” “Kung Fu The Legend Continues,” “Lois And Clark,” And, “Babylon Five.”  So, I decided to watch the movie, “Contact,” since I am doing this series.  I remember seeing it at the movies, knew that it was a good Sci-Fi thriller with little sex, cussing, or violence, but didn’t remember much more about it.

        As I watched it, I remembered why I enjoyed it the first time.  Contact is a brilliant movie directed and produced by Robert Zemeckis, and based on the novel,  Contact, by the late Carl Sagan.  It is one of the most realistic and plausible movies of this genre.

Dr. Eleanor Arroway (Jodi Foster) is a radio Astronomer listening for extra-terrestrial life in other galaxies.  Her search for extra-terrestrial life is fueled by her search for the meaning of life, i.e. a reason for being.  She meets up with theologian, Palmer Joss (Mathew McConaughey) and after having a one night stand, help each other find their way to what they concede as the truth. Their relationship becomes the spark to the brilliant effect played throughout the movie, which is the idea that faith versus science reflects human concerns in our time.  As a matter of fact, the movie really shows how faith in the existence of extra-terrestrial life and faith in God are alike.

        Dr. Arroway eventually begins to receive signals from the star system, Vega, and embedded in a message sent out 26 years ago are plans to build a machine capable of transporting one person through space.

        To make a long story short, the machine is built, Dr. Arroway takes the trip, has a spectacular experience, which includes a voyage to Vega and contact with an alien.  Unfortunately, none of this is recorded, because of jamming by the alien.

        Although there is no proof, Dr. Arroway contends that she really did travel to Vega, and although only a couple of seconds passed on earth her journey took eighteen (18) hours.  Because of her contention, Dr. Arroway faces an investigative inquiry before leaders of the world.  In this inquiry she is belittled and asked if she wants the world to simply have faith in her word that she took this fantastic journey and had this fantastic experience.  I didn’t remember any of the end of the movie, but her words line up precisely with the thesis of this sermon series.  She said something to the effect of, “I have had a fantastic experience.  I cannot explain it, but I know that I have had it, and it has changed my life forever!  I only wish that I could share it with every person on this planet.”  Isn’t that the reality and desire of every believer in Jesus Christ?

        We are presently involved in a series of messages entitled:  “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”  This title is taken from one of the most spectacular UFO science fiction films of all times.  It was entitled:  “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”  Released in 1977, it was directed by famous film director Stephen Spielberg.

        In this series, we are studying close encounters with God, by likening them to close encounters with UFO’s.

        When a person has a close encounter with a UFO, it cannot be totally explained.

        When a person truly encounters God, something happens that he/she cannot totally explain or rationalize.  They cannot totally explain it, because it is a spiritual or metaphysical experience.  Therefore, he/she is required to use his/her spirit to leap beyond the natural and begin to entertain the supernatural, the miraculous, the ineffable, the transcendent, the eternal.

When a person has a close encounter with a UFO, it is an experience that changes that person’s life forever.  When a person has a close encounter with the Jehovah God, it is an experience that changes that person’s life forever.

        In the first sermon in this series, we began to define “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”  The definition we used was:

“A Close Encounter of the God Kind” is a face-to-face encounter with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a genuine response of worship, which will change people forever!

        In the last sermon, we dealt with the phrase “a genuine response of worship.”  We further defined “a genuine response of worship” as “wholehearted worship.”  We concluded that “wholehearted worship” is a way to summon God to an encounter, as well as “a genuine response” to an encounter with God.  We further concluded that “wholehearted worship” is a genuine response of worship that encompasses all of one’s body, soul, and spirit; i.e. all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength; i.e. all of ones inner life and all of one’s physical vitality and energy.

Today we want to further delineate “a genuine response of worship” and talk about how people are “changed forever.”

        First let’s further delineate “a genuine response of worship.”  I have quoted several times from Frank Thomas’ book, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God.  This book, written about the role of celebration in African-American preaching, is probably the best book I have ever read on the subject of celebration and preaching.  I would like to quote from it again, as it relates to “a genuine response of worship.”  Keep mind, before we read this quote, that in Thomas’ writings, and in my theology, celebration and worship are roughly equivalent, and Thomas’ is specifically discussing celebration in a sermon.


Thomas says

“Celebration is the culmination of the sermonic design where a moment is created in which the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future transforms the events immediately experienced.”[1]

Thomas’ “remembrance of a redemptive past and/or conviction of a liberated future” correlate to my “genuine response of worship.”  “The remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future” not only facilitate “a genuine response of worship” or celebration, they are “a genuine response of worship” or celebration.

        Those who have a history of listening to good African-American preaching should be able to relate to this immediately.  We know that at some time in almost every sermon, we are going to look back and

·        remember where God has brought us from,

·        remember what He delivered us from,

·        remember how He brought us out,

·        remember how He made a way out of no way,

·        remember how He redeemed us from the slave market of sin or some condition of bondage.

This remembrance of a redemptive past is “a genuine response of worship” that transforms the events immediately experienced or changes the person forever.  From this “genuine response of worship,” people receive the courage to do or face what they could not do or face just a few moments before.

        When the Children of Israel were standing safely on the other side of the Red Sea and Egyptian army was drowned in the Red Sea, Miriam took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her with tambourines and dancing, and she began to worship God through remembrance of that redemptive event saying in

Exodus 15:21, “And Miriam answered them, ‘Sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and his rider He has hurled into the sea.’”


        Likewise, the conviction of a liberated future is also “a genuine response of worship.”  That’s why, every now and then, the African-American preacher is going to take you to

·        heaven, where the streets are paved with pure gold like clear glass;

·        heaven, where there is a river of the water of life that flows from the throne of God;

·        heaven, on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations;

·        heaven, which has twelve foundations, each of a precious stone;

·        heaven, where there is a wall of jasper and each gate is a pearl;

·        heaven, where there shall be no night and there shall be no need of the sun, moon, or stars to lighten it, because the glory of God shall lighten it;

·        heaven, where we shall be liberated and set free.

So, let’s add these two phrases to our expanding definition:

A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever.

(All right, let’s move on and expand the phrase “changes people forever.”)

        Exactly how does “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind” change people forever?  Once again let me turn to Thomas.  Before I read this quote let me give you a disclaimer.  Thomas’ thoughts sparked some deep thinking in me, but most of the interpretation and application of his quotes are mine.  All right?  All right!

        Thomas talks about the concept of overwriting the intuitive tapes of one’s core belief.[2]  This concept actually describes how people are changed forever!

        This phrase is also related to another very important question, “How can people belong to strong Bible-believing, Bible teaching ministries and sit under powerful teaching, preaching, and worship and see very little movement and growth in their lives?”  The answer is they are not having close encounters with God.  If they were having genuine close encounters with God, those encounters would engender genuine experiences with God, which would bring about a genuine response of worship, which would cause real change, movement, or spiritual growth, or the overwriting of the intuitive tapes of their core beliefs.  Consequently, it is possible to interact with teaching and preaching in such a way that your knowledge increases, but the intuitive tapes of your core beliefs remain the same.

(Let me explain.)

        Although I have studied, contemplated, and taught about intuitive tapes and core beliefs from a number of different perspectives, let’s use Thomas’ perspective for our teaching today.

        Thomas believes that “human awareness involves three aspects of self:  the cognitive, the emotive, and the intuitive.

·        The cognitive is the faculty for reason and rational thought.”[3]

This faculty seems to be the most developed and most important faculty to people in the western world, particularly the United States.  I have stated this and talked about it many times, in many ways.

The second aspect of self, with respect to human awareness, is the emotive.

·        “The emotive is the base for the arousal of feelings and affections.”[4]

This seems to be one of the least developed faculties of people of the western world, particularly the United States.  It seems that most Americans are afraid of their emotions and don’t want to deal with them.  This is totally opposite of the Near East mind-set, which is the mind-set of the Bible.  The Bible is written from a Hebrew mind-set, not an intellectual or Greek mind-set.  The Hebrew mind-set deals with people from the perspective of the heart and experience, which is a much more holistic mind-set.

The third aspect of self, with respect to human awareness, is the intuitive.

·        “The intuitive is the capacity for direct knowing or learning beyond the conscious use of reason.”[5]

This is a human faculty that people from the western world, particularly the United States, hardly seem to be aware of.  Those of us who have studied the nature of God, know that God’s knowledge is intuitive, i.e. God knows all things without the use of conscious reasoning.  But we seem to be unaware of or negligent of the fact that God can speak directly to our intuition, which is a faculty of our spirits or the heart of our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, Who indwells us.  A large portion of Bible and spiritual knowledge is revealed directly to our intuition through the Holy Spirit.

    Paul says in

1 Corinthians 2:14, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”

The things of the Spirit of God are discerned through one’s spirit and the Holy Spirit.

(This information is much too deep for this message, so lets move on to what we want to deal with.  What are intuitive tapes and core beliefs?  Well, first let’s deal with core beliefs.)

        Frank Thomas further believes that “Contained within the intuitive is the collection of core belief, i.e. broad principles for living shaped by cognitive, emotive, and intuitive evaluation of life and experience.”[6]

(Please try to hang with me.  I’m working towards something.)

        A person’s core belief entail principles for living like hope, trust, love, forgiveness, fear, hatred, prejudice, unforgiveness, etc.  Principles of one’s core belief are much more than intellectual constructs.  To further understand this, let’s deal with the principle of faith.  “Faith, for example, does not reside in the cognitive, or emotive, but in the intuitive aspects of human personality.”[7]  Thomas says that

“Faith is born in a ‘reasonable encounter,’ within an emotive context, then moves to reside as a principle in the intuitive, informing core belief.”[8]

        For example:  If when we grow up, we have parents who are faithful or trustworthy, then we will have hundreds of wonderful encounters, both before we are able to reason and after we have developed the capacity to reason.  The encounters that we experience, before we are able to reason, will develop affective or emotion based values for trust.  We are not discussing those.  We are discussing the ones that occur after we have developed the capacity to reason.  We will have hundreds of reasonable encounters, in an emotive or emotional context, which will eventually become a principle in our intuitions.  We will intuitively believe that people can be trusted.

        The opposite is also often true.  Those who experience reasonable encounters, in an emotive context, where they are repeatedly or significantly let down, will intuitively believe that people cannot be trusted.

(All right, we are ready to see this in action in the Bible.)

        Abraham is a wonderful example of the principle of faith being developed in one’ core belief.  We shall take two messages to explore two of Abraham’s encounters with God, but for now let’s just touch on the subject before us.

        One of the principles of Abraham’s core belief was faith in God.  Abraham came to be known as “The Father of Faith.”  This was certainly not Abraham’s name when he left his father’s country and home, nor was faith in God originally one of principles of living that resided in Abraham’s core belief.  So, what happened?

Abraham developed faith as a core belief through a number of reasonable encounters, in emotive contexts, which resulted in an intuitive evaluation of life and the experience.  One of those encounters was the test of offering up his only son to Jehovah God.  The Bible says in

James 2:21-23, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar?  You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘and Abraham believed god, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God.”

Abraham learned to believe, trust in, or have faith in God through the encounter of taking his son up on Mount Moriah to offer him up to Jehovah God.  On Mount Moriah God met him, in a very emotional context, and provided a ram tied in the bush for Him.  This intuitively taught Abraham something about the nature of God and His trustworthiness.  Abraham named the place, Yahweh-yireh, Jehovah-jireh, the Lord will provide.

        So, faith, for Abraham, was much more than an intellectual concept or a feeling, it was a deeply held principle of his core belief that could not be shaken by any other experience.  Abraham came to a place, where whenever he faced any difficult situation, he could intuitively respond with faith in Jehovah God.  He knew beyond the shadow of a doubt, because of the remembrance of a redemptive past, that God would provide and that remembrance would transform any immediate events into something altogether different.  In short, Abraham was changed forever!!!

(All right!  We now understand more about the intuitive principles of one’s core belief, but what are “intuitive tapes” of one’s core belief?)

        These intuitive principles of one’s core belief act as tapes that play automatically in difficult situations.  Henry H. Mitchell, author of Black Preaching:  The Recovery of a Powerful Art, vizualizes these intuitive principles and responses as ‘tapes’ that record life and experience:

 “Our intuitive responses to various experiences are like tapes played deep down in consciousness.  If in early life we formed a habit of believing that the planet was safe, and God was caring for us, that amounts to a tape.  In a crisis, we tend to ‘play’ it again and live by that same habit of trust.  If a child was mistreated or poorly cared for, that child will have emotional habits or tapes of fear and distrust.”[9]

(So, how does this work in the case of Abraham?)

Whenever Abraham encountered a difficult situation, after this test, the intuitive tape of faith would automatically come on and play,

“God is trustworthy.  He was trustworthy when you left Ur of the Chaldeans.  He was trustworthy at Mount Moriah.  He was trustworthy at...  God is trustworthy.  God will provide!”

        That’s the tape that’s playing right now, in my intuition, about Vision 2000.

·        You provided at Douglas Street;

·        You provided at Thornton Street;

·        You provided at Brown Street;

·        You provided at J.C. Penney’s;

·        You provided right here with the first building;

·        You provided for the Educational Building and remodeling of the Worship Center;

·        You provided for the Office Building, Foyer expansion, and parking lot construction;

·        You provided for the Nursery Building and expansion of the Worship Center;

·        You provided for the construction of more Parking;

·        You provided for the New Foyer addition.

Surely, surely, surely, you can handle Vision 2000.

(Some of you should be thinking, “Okay, but you started this sermon by talking about moving and growing by overwriting the intuitive tapes of their core beliefs.  How does that come about?)

        Yes, that’s very astute of you.  In life, more often than not, the intuitive tapes of our core beliefs are negative.  They are the beliefs I mentioned earlier, i.e. fear, distrust, hatred, prejudice, unforgiveness, etc.  Now we are back to the earlier question, “How can people come to church, sit under the preaching of the Gospel, and still never move or grow?”  It is possible for people with these core beliefs to hear the Gospel, intellectually and verbally assent to the Gospel, and yet their core beliefs remain untouched.  “If we preach to influence the cognitive, or the emotive alone, we miss the core belief system.  This means we miss powerful principles and assumptions that shape the opinion and behavior of the hearer.

        It is possible to preach and explain to people at the cognitive level that God is worthy of faith and trust, and miss altogether the childhood tape of fear and distrust that is ‘running’ in the inner consciousness of the listener.  When this happens, people intellectually assent with the preacher that God is trustworthy, but seriously struggle to trust God because the tape of distrust has not been addressed.


The same could be said of preaching to the emotive level in people.  People will feel that God is trustworthy for the moment, but without a reasonable encounter to match the emotion, trust is not established as a principle in the intuitive, and the childhood tape of fear and distrust is never challenged.”[10]

(So, how does one preach a sermon that facilitates the overwriting of the intuitive tapes of someone’s core belief?)

        By preaching a sermon, through the power of the Holy Spirit, that facilitates a genuine response of worship.  In that moment, when people experience “a genuine response of worship,” when they experience the remembrance of a redemptive event and/or the conviction of a liberated future, this worship will transform the events immediately experienced.  People will be changed forever.  The intuitive tapes of their core belief will be over-recorded with biblical tapes.  People will grow and change for the better.  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ, celebrated through the power of the Holy Spirit, can reach the core belief of people!

This is taught in

Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.”

The word hearing here does not just denote auditory hearing, but hearing with a view to obedience.

        Let’s run through this again.  The Word of God, preached under the power of the Holy Spirit, can be an encounter and experience with God, which changes people forever, causing them to move or grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core beliefs.  Every sermon ought to be an encounter with God!

“The term over-record does not mean repression, or any form of denial of pain, suffering, and evil.  It means that within a sermon that brings ‘a genuine response of worship,’ people can honestly face the tapes of fear, hatred, and prejudice.  It means that with the help of the Holy Spirit, people can make the choice to over-record these damaging and destructive tapes with trust and hope.”[11]  In this way, people are changed forever!

(So, the definition that we going to be using for the rest of the series is:)

A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.

If you want to experience this in each message, tell God right now!

(Now is the day of Salvation.  Come to Jesus, Now!)

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


----

[1] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, p. 33.

[2] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[3] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[4] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[5] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, pp. 8-9.

[6] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, p. 9.

[7] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, p. 9.

[8] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, p. 9.

[9] Henry H. Mitchell, Black Preaching:  The Recovery of a Powerful Art (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1990), 39.

[10] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, p. 9.

[11] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, 1997, pp. 9-10.

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