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Wholehearted Worship

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Close Encounters Of The God Kind

Wholehearted Worship

One of the first people to claim to have been abducted by Aliens, apart from the famous ‘contactees’ of the 40s and 50s, was actually a couple.  This is very unusual, because most abductions tend to be of one person.  The couple was Betty and Barney Hill.  During September 1961 they were driving back from a holiday in Canada through the White Mountains.  They noticed a light that seemed to be following them, they assumed that it was an airplane or helicopter.

After driving for a while they were forced to stop the car because the light had descended rapidly and was now much closer.  Barney got out to get a better look, with the aid of his binoculars, and described the object as ‘banana like with pointed tips and windows.’  Barney started to walk slowly towards the craft, and it was only after several desperate calls from his wife that he returned to the car. He claimed to have seen aliens through one of windows.  After this they drove back home.

However, they soon realized that more than an hour of time had been ‘lost,’ and they noticed that the car had strange blotches on it.  Betty reported it to Pease Air Force Base, who confirmed that it had indeed tracked an unknown object around that time and location.

Soon afterward Betty began having strange nightmares involving ‘aliens.’  She consulted several doctors who suggested hypnosis.  Dr. Benjamin Simon hypnotized both the Hills, who was amazed by what each person was independently describing.  They each told of being taken onboard the UFO and having ‘medical’ tests performed on them.  Betty also remembered being shown a ‘star-map’ of where the aliens came from.  Under further hypnotic sessions they were able to re-create the start map which turned out to be very close to a known start system.  The exact planet that Betty was shown circled the star Zeta Reticulli.

This case was later made into a TV movie called “The UFO Incident.”

Whether you believe stories like these or not, they are becoming far too common place to simply ignore.  Stories about Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO’s) and related phenomena are everywhere, and they can be likened to encounters with God.

        We are presently involved in a series of messages entitled:  “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”  This title is take 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, and was his first film after “Jaws,” which was released in 1975.

        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.


        Likewise, when a person truly encounters God, something happens that he/she cannot totally explain or rationalize.  One cannot totally explain it, because it is a spiritual or metaphysical experience.  Therefore, he/she is required to use his/her intuition, a faculty of one’s human 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.

Likewise, 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 thus far is:

“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 that first sermon, we also defined worship as ascribing or attributing to God the worth that He is due, and we talked about encountering God and experiencing that encounter.

        That first sermon must have been very impacting, because one of my friends gingerly asked me, “Have you been abducted by a UFO?”  I guess my definite statement to the contrary, on last Sunday, was not enough to offset the passion of my sermon.  But upon further reflection, I must honestly report that I have had a number of encounters with an extraterrestrial.  His name is Jesus!  Jesus, Himself, while here on earth, admitted that He was an extraterrestrial.  He said in

John 18:36, “...‘My kingdom is not of this world.  If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.’”

Is it any wonder that those of us who live on this terrestrial ball, called earth, have great difficulty grasping and living the life of the kingdom?

        Be that as it may, today we want to continue to expand our definition of “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”  Let’s deal with the phrase “a genuine response of worship.”

(All right?  Let’s go!)

        It takes an encounter with God, which is fully experienced, to facilitate, evoke, or bring about a genuine response of worship.  If an encounter with God is not fully experienced, with one’s entire being, it will short-circuit the genuine response of worship.


An encounter with God can be personal or in a group, private or corporate, through a dream or through a live event, through something said or done by others, or by one’s self, through living, bodily movements, preaching, singing, giving, etc., etc., etc.  We will center primarily upon preaching and then study biblical encounters.  Nevertheless, it is the encounter with God and the full experience of that encounter that brings about a genuine response of worship.

(Before we more fully explain this relationship of a genuine response of worship to an encounter with God, let’s get to know more about genuine worship by exploring a few Scriptures.  Let’s take a look at a passage of Scripture in the book of Deuteronomy.)

        The book of Deuteronomy contains the words that Moses used to address Israel prior to their entry into the Promised Land.  In the words we are about to consider, Moses prophesies and warns the children of Israel of their coming apostasy or falling away from God.  He also prophesies their return, and in this prophecy he tells them how rediscover or find God.  This is found in

Deuteronomy 4:29, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.”

·        This verse is about rediscovering God, after having walked away from Him.

·        This verse is about finding God, after you having lost Him.

·        This verse is about encountering God afresh and anew.

But there is more here.  This verse is about worship!

The Hebrew word for “seek” is

baqash, baw-kash', 1245; and means “to search out (by any method, specifically in worship or prayer).”

According to this Scripture, when we, human beings, want to have an encounter with the true and living God, we have the privilege of seeking Him out.  According to the definition of the Hebrew word for “seek,” two of the best ways of seeking Him out are worship and prayer.

Now, we only have time to talk about worship.  When we worship God, that is when we give Him the praise, glory, honor, thanksgiving, etc., that is due His great name, we are actually seeking Him out for an encounter.  Worship will summon God to come and encounter us.  Isn’t this made clear in

Psalm 22:3, “Yet Thou art holy, O Thou who art enthroned upon the praises of Israel.”

According to this Scripture, when Israel praised or worshipped God, she created a throne for God to come and enthrone Himself upon—in her midst.  This was truly “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”


Well, the same is true for us, who are spiritual Israel.  When we praise and worship God, we create a throne for God to come and enthrone Himself.  We are, in a sense, inviting God to come and sit on His throne right in the midst of us!  The point is:  “Worship is a means of seeking God!”

(But that is not all.  Moses told the Children of Israel the kind of searching or seeking that must be done to insure God coming to encounter them.)

        Moses said to the children of Israel:

“You will find Jehovah God if you search for Him with all of your heart and soul.”

        This is also signified in the word “search.”  The word “search” is another Hebrew word (darash, daw-rash', 1875) that means to pursue or follow after God, specifically in worship.  The prerequisite for finding or inviting an encounter with God, in worship, is that your worship must be with all your heart and soul!

(But what exactly does this mean?)

The word “heart” is lebab (3824) and stands for the inner man, mind, will, heart.  This corresponds to the NT. Greek word kardia, which we delineate as thoughts, feelings, and choices.

The word “soul” is nephesh (5315) and designates the physical life, i.e. vitality in all of its breadth and width.

Moses is saying to the Israelites, “You will only find God when you worship Him with all of your inner life and all of your vitality, enthusiasm, and energy!”  No wonder David danced before the Lord with all of His might, when they brought the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem!

        Did you get that, because the same is true to day?  We will only find God, i.e. invoke or invite an encounter with God, by worshipping Him with all of our inner life and all of our physical vitality, enthusiasm, and energy!”

        Let’s call this kind of worship “wholehearted worship!”  Now I can hear some of you saying, “Why are you calling it “wholehearted worship,” when Moses said that it is with all of your heart and soul?  That is an excellent question.  I called this “wholehearted worship,” because the expanded definition of the word “wholehearted” encompasses what Moses signified by the word “soul.”

        When one offers anything “wholeheartedly,” one is offering all of one’s inner life.  Now, no one can offer all of one’s inner life and not also offer one’s body.  If a person throws his/her “whole heart” into anything, must not the body automatically follow?  That which registers in our spirits is carried out in our hearts or personalities, and that which registers in our personalities is carried out in our bodies.  That is the biblical pattern.  God wants to fill us in our human spirits, with His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit will then control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, which will—in turn—control our bodies.

        Hearts that have been wholly given to God will affect hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, etc.  Hearts that have been wholly given to God will bring about bodies that respond accordingly!

        So, “wholehearted worship” entails all of one’s inner life and all of one’s physical vitality and energy, or as Moses called it:  heart and soul!

(Now we can begin to see how “wholehearted worship” and a “genuine response to worship are related!)

·        “Wholehearted worship” is both a way to encounter God and, at the same time, the genuine response to an encounter with God!

·        Through “wholehearted worship” we invite God to a face-to-face meeting and “wholehearted worship” is the genuine response to that face-to-face meeting.

·        “Wholehearted worship” engenders more “wholehearted worship.”

        This is what God is calling for from us and this is what God wants to facilitate in our corporate services and private lives:  “Wholehearted worship” facilitating more “wholehearted worship.”  Is this not what Jesus is talking about in

John 4:23-24, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Worship God in spirit and in truth, i.e. in the Holy Spirit and in truth, i.e. with our human spirits and in truth, i.e. with inspiration and enthusiasm and truth, i.e. with our emotions and our thoughts, i.e. with passion and vitality and with our heads.

        God is interested in encountering us, through the preaching of the Word of God, which will engender or bring about “wholehearted worship.”  When we come to service, we must come with all that we are, i.e. with all of our inner lives and our bodies.  We must give all of our inner lives and bodies to God in worship.  We must focus all of our thoughts, feelings, choices, and energy on worshipping God, and God will encounter us in a way that we have never been encountered before!

        Let us let nothing distract us from “wholehearted worship.”  Let us:

·        Shed troublesome thoughts, before we come in the door.

·        Refuse to entertain negative feelings, as we approach the hour of worship.

·        Choose only those things, which will prepare us to give God the glory that is due His holy name.

·        Reserve all of our physical vitality and energy to be released in singing, praying, thanksgiving, clapping, bowing, raising of hands, shouting, etc.


(I know that many of us, i.e. Americans, are going to have a hard time understanding “wholeheartedness,” unless, of course, we relate it to sports.  So, let’s do that!)

The sports metaphor for this kind of “wholeheartedness” is leaving it all on the field or on the floor!  Sports commentators like to say that someone or some team left it all on the floor.

Likewise, we want to leave it all in worship!  When we walk away from any worship experience, we want to have totally engaged and expended our bodies, souls, and spirits!

In addition, the level and intensity of a “genuine response” in worship should match the level and intensity of the experiencing of the encounter with God!

        Now some of you are saying in your minds, “Come on Pastor Joey!  It really doesn’t take all of that!”  Oh yes, it takes all of that and more, if you want to experience “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind.”  “Wholehearted worship” is the only kind of worship that God accepts.  Doesn’t Jesus make this clear in

Mark 12:30, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

But these were not new words.  These words were taken from the Jewish Shema.  The Shema was the Jewish confession of faith, which every orthodox Jew repeated, and continues to repeat, every morning.  Part of it is found in

Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Jesus restates these words:  “Love God with

·        all of your heart, inner life, i.e. thoughts, feelings, and choices;

·        all of your soul, psuche, comes from the Greek root for breath and corresponds to the Hebrew word nephesh—it means spirit, feeling, consciousness;

·        all of your mind, i.e. all of your imagination or understanding; and

·        all of your strength, i.e. all of your bodily power or force:

in short, all of you!”

        “Wholehearted worship” is much more than a head-trip or mere emotionalism.  “Wholehearted worship” is a total-life encounter and experience.


Do you remember the quote we used in the first message?  There is a part of it that is very applicable here.

“But when one experiences something, the body, emotions, and thinking are significantly involved.  The body registers and confirms the reception of powerful stimuli and responds appropriately, for example, by sweating, feeling short of breath, or blinking away tears.  The response is often automatic, below the level of conscious instruction and choice.”[1]

Seeking God through “wholehearted worship” is going to take some conscious effort, but responding to encountering God with “wholehearted worship” will be below the level of consciousness.  You won’t have to think about or think up how you are going to respond.  Your response will be a “genuine response” of worship.

None of the people who have reported UFO experiences report trying to think through what their response should be if they encountered a UFO.  It happened and they responded.

As I suggested on last Sunday, the same thing is true of the movies.  No one sits down and tries to think through what would be the proper response to “The Titanic.”  Good movies facilitate an encounter with something that you experience.  People just go to the movie and respond naturally.  Their pulse rate rises; they begin to perspire, they jump at loud sounds, they experience and respond to the movie automatically, i.e. just below the level of consciousness.

Yet, we often sit down and think about what would be the proper response to an encounter with God.  When we have an encounter with God we should respond automatically, i.e. below the level of consciousness.  If you try to orchestrate your response, you will short-circuit it.

While I was in California, in September (1997), God began to reveal this to me at an even deeper level.  He began to talk to me more deeply about body, soul, and spirit.

·        We worship God with our bodies.

The significations of worship entail bodily movements that require the entire person:  bowing down, extending the hand, raising the hand, verbal praise, singing, giving, etc.  We sometimes refer to the emotions and passions that register in our bodies as body language.

   So, we worship God with our body language.

·        We worship God with our souls.

We worship God with all the facets of the inner life that are customarily summarized in thoughts, feelings, and choices.  One of the major manifestations of this inner life, as we have already talked about, is what comes out of our mouths, i.e. verbal worship and praise to God.

    So, we worship God with verbal language.


·        We should also worship God in our human spirits.

We worship God in the heart of our hearts, i.e. the innermost being where God is at home, the part of us that died in the Garden of Eden and is resurrected at salvation, the part of us that is indwelled by the Holy Spirit.  One of the ways that we worship God in our spirits is through Spiritual language by praying, praising, worshipping, and singing in the Spirit.

        So, we worship God with the grace of spiritual language.

I cannot explain all of that now, but I will explain it all in the years to come.  Right now I am trying to explain the biblical perspective that “wholehearted worship” invites God to a face-to-face encounter, and “wholehearted worship” is the “genuine response” of worship to an encounter with God.

        I believe the best biblical metaphor for “wholehearted worship” is human sexuality.  Unfortunately human sexuality has been so tarnished in our time, that it seems dirty or nasty.  Yet, in the Bible human sexuality is an indistinguishable part of our identities and personalities.  God gave sex as a beautiful gift to be used inside marriage.  God chose to use the euphemism “to know” for human sexuality and for personal relationship with Him.  God chose to use the term adultery for sex outside of marriage and a spiritual relationship outside of Him.  Therefore, the “wholehearted worship” that the Bible talks about can be likened to a sexual release in orgasm.  It is much more than a physical or intellectual release.  It is meant to be a release of body, soul, and spirit, between two people who are in a committed, loving relationship.  “Wholehearted worship” is the release of body, soul, and spirit of a person who is in a committed, loving relationship with Jehovah.

        So, we should better understand our definition:

“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!

My response to this morning’s encounter with God, through this sermon is

Bless the Lord,

O my soul,

And all that is within me,

Bless His holy name!

What is your response to this morning’s encounter with God?  I pray that it is “wholehearted worship!”


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

Invitation

Call to Discipleship


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[1] Frank A. Thomas, They Like To Never Quit Praisin’ God, United Church Press, Cleveland, Ohio, p. 36.

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