Approach in Awe
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 (NIV)
1Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
2 Do not be quick with your mouth,
do not be hasty in your heart
to utter anything before God.
God is in heaven
and you are on earth,
so let your words be few.
3 As a dream comes when there are many cares,
so the speech of a fool when there are many words.
4When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. 5It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. 6Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? 7Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God.
Three Monkeys: Speak no evil, hear no evil, see no evil.
I. When You Come To God's House, Be Careful What You Say.
A. Over Expression (v. 2)
Quote: "Blessed are they who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it."
- James Russell Lowell
Quote: It is better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.
Illust.: On a Television program called Blossom, there was a girl named Syx who talked so incessantly and so fast that no one could get in a word edgewise.
Illust. When Jean and I were dating, we would sometimes get sort of nervous and start talking, without any real sense or importance being conveyed. We agreed that when either of us noticed the other doing it we would say one word. We would look at the other person and say "babbling." We got it from a picture we had gone to see together, but it is also a good way to understand our tendancy to come to God's house, mouth full of words that are meaningless, and carry little weight when put beside His Word.
B. Over Profession (v. 4-6)
Luke 14:28-33 (NIV)
28“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’
31“Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. 33In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
II. When You Come To God's House, Be Careful What You Hear.
A. Approach Hearing (v. 1)
Illust.: Our anatomy is put together in divine wisdom to support only one mouth and two ears. It should suggest to us that we should be twice as willing to listen as to speak.
Romans 10:17 (NIV)
17Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
Illust.: President Franklin D. Roosevelt got tired of smiling that big smile and saying the usual things at all those White House receptions. So, one evening he decided to find out whether anybody was paying attention to what he was saying. As each person came up to him with extended hand, he flashed that big smile and said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning." People would automatically respond with comments such as "How lovely!" or "Just continue with your great work!" Nobody listened to what he was saying, except one foreign diplomat. When the president said, "I murdered my grandmother this morning," the diplomat responded softly, "I'm sure she had it coming to her."
Illust.: It is said that Demothenes was speaking upon a very important subject. As he spoke, his hearers became very drowsy and uninterested. He suddenly stopped and said, "My hearers, I have a very important matter to relate." Then he said, "A gentleman hired a donkey from another man. They were to make a trip from Athens to Megara on a very hot day. They both desired to rest in the shadow of the donkey. The man who hired the donkey insisted that, when he hired the donkey, this included the shadow. The Owner of the donkey insisted that he hired only the donkey and not the shadow." Then suddenly he stopped, but the crowd was so interested that they insisted that he explain further. Then Demosthenes turned upon them and said, "O ye Athenians, ye are greatly interested when I speak of the shadow of a donkey, but you go to sleep when I speak about solemn matters."
Too many church-goers don't pay attention to the Word of God when it is being preached. However, these same "Christians" will eagerly listen and pay attention to senseless and worthless matters!
---William Moses Tidwell, "Pointed Illustrations."
B. Apply Hearing
Not in one ear and out the other.
Once it is heard, there is no excuse for disobedience.
Matthew 21:28-32 (NIV)
28“What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
29“‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
30“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
31“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
“The first,” they answered.
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.
III. When You Come To God's House, Be Careful What You See.
A. A Finite View Of Self
Illust.: When Self Gets In The Way
"Some of us are so full of ourselves," says a writer in the Canadian Baptist, "and our busy servings, that we cannot see Christ in all His beauty. Some years ago, when I was away on a preaching appointment, my wife and little daughter stayed at the home of a friend. On the bedroom wall, just over the head of the bed in which they slept, there was a picture of the Lord Jesus, which was reflected in the large mirror of the dressing table standing in the bay of the bedroom window. When my little daughter woke on her first morning there, she saw the picture reflected in the mirror while she still lay in bed, and exclaimed, "Oh, Mummy, I can see Jesus through the mirror!" Then she quickly kneeled up to take a better look, but in so doing brought her own body between the picture and the mirror, so that instead of seeing the picture of Jesus reflected, she now saw herself. So she lay down again, and again she saw the picture of Jesus. She was up and down several times after that with her eyes fixed on the mirror, Then she said, "Mummy, when I can't see myself, I can see Jesus; but every time I see myself, I don't see Him." How true it is that when self fills the vision we do not see Jesus! " --Sunday School Times
B. An Infinite View Of God
Illust.: Eternity Compared To A Ring
A mother was approached by her young son, who asked, “Mommy, did God make Himself?” Realizing that such questions by children are very important and must be answered, she dropped what she was doing and sat down with her youngster for a little talk. Pointing to her wedding band, she said, “This is a ‘love ring,’ which your daddy gave me when we were married. Look at it closely and tell me where it begins and where it ends.” The youngster examined it carefully and then said, “There’s no starting place and stopping place to a ring.” The mother replied, “That’s the way it is with God. He had no beginning and has no end, yet He encircles our lives with His presence. He is too wonderful, too great, for our minds to understand. Nobody ever made God—He always was!” Somehow, the boy realized that for God to be God, He could not have been created. He had to be without beginning and without end.
Illust.: One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.
The scientist walked up to God and said, "God, we've decided that we no longer need you; We're to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don't you just go on and get lost."
God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, "Very well, how about this? Let's say we have a man-making contest." To which the scientist replied, "Okay, great!"
But, God added, "now, we're going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam."
The scientist said, "Sure, no problem" and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God looked at him and said, "No, no, no. You go get your own dirt."
Approach God with the respect that his awesomeness deserves. Be bold, but be careful. We must give to God the respect he deserves, and to do that, we must see how small we are in comparison to him. When He speaks, our place is to listen. When we speak, we cannot hear the infinitely more important things that He says. His greatness and our smallness demands that we respect Him and give him place, else we are the fools. It is foolishness to come into the place of worship and begin to speak. Much better He speak and we listen. So the lesser defers to the greater, as is the natural thing to do.
Illust.: A Wasted Church Visit
A wife remarked to her husband after the church service: "Did you see the hat Mrs. Jones was wearing?"
"No," said her husband, "I didn't."
"Did you see the new dress Mrs. Smith had on?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I didn't," said her husband.
To this his wife replied: "Well a fat lot of good it does YOU to go to church!"