How Can We Love God above All Else?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Dave, I want to pick up where we left off last week—the last half of chapter 12 in your book. And you kind of bring an admonition there to yourself and to all of us who claim to know Christ. And the admonition has to do with knowing God and loving God and doing things that are really in the fear of the Lord.
One aspect of this had to do with the awe of God with regard to worship. And we were talking about how even in our church worship, sometimes, it really becomes the rituals and the self-serving practices of men rather than true worship and true awe of God.
Dave: Yeah, history, of course, is filled with the techniques, the methods, that men have used to try to make God “real” to them. It’s called idolatry, paganism. “If I could just have an image of God.” “If I could just visualize God.” Of course, that’s a teaching today, even among evangelicals, amazingly! “Try to visualize God. Feel that you’re in His presence.” Or, “See yourself in the presence of God.” Of course, that’s an abomination to the true God. “God dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen nor can see.”
So, to try to see God—to make a visible image of God is absolutely forbidden! Well, then what should I do? Try to “feel” like God is here? Or try to . . . No! It’s simply recognizing who God is and knowing that He is the Creator of this universe; that He has come to live in my heart (that’s amazing!) if I’m a Christian, so that we are indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit. And just by faith, recognizing and bringing to mind who God really is and the greatness of God!
Tom: Well, Dave, let’s get practical about this. We’re talking about the gathering together of believers to worship God. What can we do? What can help this through our service? You know, we have services. What would encourage the worship according to what you’re referring to?
Dave: It’s not feelings. It’s not, very often . . .
Tom: But feelings are part of it.
Dave: Well, but the feelings must come because of God’s presence; not in order to make me think God is present.
Tom: So we’re not trying to whip ourselves up into a particular state . . .
Tom: . . . but if we are seeking after the true and living God, and we’re doing these things that you’ve been alluding to here, there’s going to be an emotional side to it.
Dave: Definitely. Tom, I don’t intentionally offend people, but here we may offend some. A lot of the songs that we have in many of our churches today—and I find this in all denominations—much of it comes out of the Vineyard. We’ve talked about it, I guess, before. You could call them 7/11 songs, some of them. Seven words repeated eleven times. Shallow, repetitive choruses.
We’ve thrown out the old hymns of the faith in many places, and . . .
Tom: Well, what did the old hymns do that these don’t do?
Dave: Well, let’s quote an old hymn. Charles Wesley: “And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood? Died He for me, who caused His pain? For me, who Him to death pursued? Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?”
Tom: Okay, so we’re talking about content here—content that forces us . . . well, it doesn’t force us, but encourages us to understand God better. To know Him better because of content, not just because of something that we’re repeating that may make us feel a certain way . . .
Dave: You see, the repetition . . .
Tom: . . . almost superficially.
Dave: Right. It seems to me—and, again, I’m an old man, okay? So, you could say, “Well, you don’t understand the modern generation.” But I think I do understand some things. And as I travel around very often, and I’m not trying to be critical—I can learn as well—but it seems to me that much of the choruses we have today, it’s more the melody and the beat than the lyrics, the words. People kind of want to get into a mood, and it feels good, but it could be very much like I could be at a secular concert, or whatever, and people are getting into that mood.
What we need are the words, the doctrine, the truth! Let me give you another one . . .
Tom: What did Jesus sing?
Dave: He sang the psalms.
Tom: The psalms, right. Content.
Dave: Right. Let me give you another old hymn: “In weakness, like defeat, He won the Victor’s crown; tread all our foes beneath His feat by being trodden down. He Satan’s power laid low, made sin, He sin o’erthrew; bowed to the grave, destroyed it so, and death, by dying, slew.”
This is great stuff! This causes me to bow in wonder and worship before the Lord! Now that we would throw that out, or at least put it on the shelf, and bring in—I’m sorry—some shallow, repetitive things written by new Christians, in many cases, who don’t really know the Lord, don’t have a deep understanding, and there’s little doctrinal content, little truth—but just much repetition of shallow words, I find it a tragedy! And I don’t want to offend anyone . . .
Tom: But, Dave, what we’re pursuing here is worship. What does worship mean? How can we honor God in our gathering together? How can we grow in our understanding of Him, loving Him more, obeying Him more, because of what we know about Him—what He’s done for us?
Dave: That’s right.
Tom: Now, this isn’t putting a stamp of approval on every old hymn that ever came down the pike . . .
Dave: No, no, no no.
Tom: . . . because we know a lot of bad ideas have come through. But still, I think that ought to be our goal and our objective that everything that we do in our worship ought to be to get to know Him better, not with the emphasis on feeling or emotions, and they’re going to come.
Dave: They will come when we know Him.
Tom: If you quote John Wesley or Charles Wesley, my heart gets moved because of the words, of the content, because they remind me of what the Scriptures say about the true and living God.
Dave: Jesus said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Paul cried out, “O that I might know Him; to get to know God.” So, I’m not putting down new hymns or new choruses and exalting old ones. I’m saying whatever it is—whether it’s new or old—let it be something that has some real, solid, doctrinal, biblical content that exalts the Lord, that gives me insights into who He is, what He’s done, that would cause my heart to leap with joy; that would cause me to bow in wonder and worship, not just give me words about worship. I think we are in love with love, we praise praise, we worship worship—and the Lord isn’t in it, unless there is some real content about who He is.
Now, also, Tom, we have a saying—I’ve heard it so often: “I will not separate myself from anyone who names the name of the Lord. If they name Jesus, that’s good enough. Anyone who names Jesus . . . .” Well, wait a minute! There are false Christs, there’s a false Jesus. People have false ideas of Jesus. And in this chapter that you’ve referred us to, chapter 12, I give the example: I say, “Any heresy can be made to sound biblical if you use biblical words and it covers it up.”
And I give an example of an ad placed at Easter in newspapers across the country by the Mormon Church. Let me read it: “During the Easter season, we again rejoice with all of Christendom and gratefully commemorate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and at this sacred season, we solemnly testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world. We know that He lives. We know that because He lives, we, too, shall live again.”
Now, the reason I quoted that is because it sounds good. The words are certainly there. But what do the words mean? Well, “God.” God—as you know; as many of our listeners would know, and some of the would not—the Mormon god is a man. He has a physical body. He was a sinner on another planet redeemed by another Jesus. And he was not God from the beginning. He’s a man who became God. But the Bible says, “From everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” God is the eternal God. The Bible says, “The eternal God is thy refuge; underneath are the everlasting arms.”
The Mormon god cannot be God. He’s not eternal. He became God. The Bible clearly says, “God is not a man,” and so forth.
So, you can talk about God; you can use the words, and you don’t have God, the God of the Bible. So, we have to have some understanding. In other words, it brings us back to what we’re talking about, so that we’re saying, “Well, we need some doctrinal content,” and so forth. We don’t just need words about God, but we must have words that convey the truth of who God is.
Now, Christ, the Christ Jesus in Mormonism—he’s not God. He’s the spirit brother of Lucifer! Half-brother of Lucifer, half-brother to all of us in the pre-existent state—he came to this earth to get a body in order to become a god. So, again, we have a false Christ.
Then it says, “He’s the savior and redeemer of the world.” But they have a different meaning for that. Salvation, in Mormonism, is exaltation to godhood. Eternal life, the Bible says, is the gift of God. It comes through Christ paying the penalty on the cross for our sins and putting our faith and trust in Him. That’s not the Mormon savior, the Mormon redeemer. He makes it possible for us to earn our way to heaven.
In fact, in Catholicism you have a different Christ. Christ is this little wafer. The Bible says that Christ was once offered . . . . Peter, that they say was the first pope, says, “Christ was once offered for sins.” Once. ONCE! “Once in the end of the age,” the writer of Hebrews says, “he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. By ONE sacrifice he has perfected forever those that are sanctified.”
But the Catholic Church says, “No, this little wafer is Jesus,” and He’s being offered again and again and again, perpetually, on our altars.
The biblical Jesus was a mature man in His thirties, died on the cross for our sins, He’s in a resurrected, glorified body at the Father’s right hand, never to die again, the Scripture says.
But the Catholic Christ is dying perpetually. He’s not—well, I don’t know. He’s at the Father’s right hand; I’m sure they believe that, but at the same time, He’s a wafer. Not only is He a wafer . . .
Tom: He’s immolated on the altars, being sacrificed.
Tom: Immolated means “to kill,” so He’s being killed on the altar. That’s what the Catholic Church teaches. Christ is immolated on their altar. Anybody who wants to look that word up will see that it has to do with . . .
Dave: That’s Vatican II; this is the catechism. But not only is He this little wafer, but He is simultaneously millions of wafers at one time!
Tom: But, Dave, let’s turn this back to worship.
Dave: Okay. Well, I can’t worship a little wafer, that’s what I’m trying to say, Tom. And yet, the pope will bow down before this wafer. You know, as a Catholic, they put it in the Monstrance, and then it’s in a little tabernacle. It’s with a light lit, and people come and they sit “in the presence of Christ.” I remember . . .
Tom: It’s called the Eucharistic Hour. I used to do it.
Tom: Some people prostrate themselves before . . .
Dave: . . . before this wafer. I remember a prayer by Mother Teresa thanking Jesus for being willing to humble Himself to become this little wafer. That’s idolatry. This is . . . all we’re saying, Tom, is, look, if I’m going to know God, it has to be the true God. We talked last week: “You will seek for Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” Not a false god.
Where do I know about the true God? How do I know who He is? I’m going to go to His Word, where He has revealed Himself, not through some church, not through some tradition, but I must go to His Word.
And then we’re talking about hymns, choruses—they must convey the truth of who this God is. And our worship must be of the true God. Not of some symbol of God, and not with an erroneous idea of God. But I must know Him. And this should be the passion of my heart, that this God will reveal Himself to me through His Word and that I will get to know Him. And as I know Him, the awesomeness of who He is should cause me to bow before Him and worship Him. There’s nothing else that could cause me to worship Him in spirit, Jesus says. “In spirit and in truth.” And very often people want sort of the spirit, the feelings, but that doesn’t work without the truth.
Tom: Right. And the things that we’re going to put together—I mean, God allows this. We have services that are . . . you can go to different churches and find different kinds of services, different kinds of emphasis on this or on that, whatever it might be. But whatever it is, it ought—it has to be, if we’re going to worship God in spirit and in truth—it has to be those things that point to the Scriptures. That point to God’s revelation of Himself, because that’s the only way that we’re going to get to know Him better, grow in the faith, grow in our relationship with Him, and everything else is of man.
Dave: And what we call the family altar, where the father, mother, with the children, gather together, read God’s Word, talk to Him in prayer—or my own private prayers on my knees before the Lord, or while I’m driving in the car talking to the Lord. There has to be the truth in my conscience, in my heart, the truth in my understanding, of who He is, and that the fear—that is the reverent, awesome sense of the greatness of this God—is the beginning of wisdom, the scripture says. Without that, there can be no true worship.
Tom: Dave, I’m quoting from your chapter 12: “Only fear of the Lord will deliver us from the fear of man, from the deceit of our own hearts, and from the snare of unbiblical alliances.” Now, this fear of the Lord has to do with being in awe of God. It is . . . I mean, there’s so many verses: “The fear of the Lord is strong confidence.” “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life.” “Better is little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble herewith.”
This is really what you’re talking about in this particular chapter.
Dave: By the fear of the Lord, I believe it means a recognition of how great God is. God is love, the Bible says. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” I revel in God’s love. At the same time, when I think—I mean, we don’t even know the vastness of this universe. We don’t know what energy is, or gravity. We don’t know what the . . . we haven’t even found all the subatomic particles of the atom. And to think that God created it all out of nothing—He knows where every subatomic particle of every atom ever was or ever will be; He knows every thought that has ever been thought or ever will be thought by every human being, whoever lived or ever will live—and He’s eternal!
That blows your mind! You can’t even . . . I often talk to the Lord about that. “God, how can I believe this? I mean, I know it’s true.” It must be true. There couldn’t have been a time when there was nothing, and out of nothing came God, and then this universe. God has to be eternal, and this is how He reveals Himself in the Scripture to Moses at the burning bush: “I AM that I AM.” Jesus said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was . . . “ he didn’t say “I was.” “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He’s the ever-existent One.
You think about that, Tom. It’s beyond me that God has no beginning!! He’s always God. He always has been. He always will be! He is so great, and we are such nothings. And yet, we become proud. We gain some little recognition on this earth: a big fish in a little pond. A little puddle. And we think we’re something.
And, as you quoted, when we have a sense of the awesomeness of God and we truly fear Him, we don’t fear men: “I will not fear what man can do unto me.” What do the opinions of men matter? They’ll praise you today and curse you tomorrow.
On the other hand, we must be sensitive to legitimate criticism. If someone can show us from the Word of God where we’ve gone astray. Or in our lives, pride or deceit or whatever it may be, then we must repent. We must be ready to accept valid criticism.
On the other hand, we neither fear the criticism of men nor love their praise when we really know God and fear Him. If God’s approval is upon us, then it doesn't matter what men say.
Tom: Dave, this fear of the Lord—I want to bring it back to worship. Because, you know, we’ve said a lot of things. I’m sure we’ve offended a lot of people. But our hearts’ desire here is that we do things in a way that’s pleasing to God, and that’s only going to be by His Word. Proverbs:9:10 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.” Now, we have to apply that to everything that we do, and especially when we gather together to worship Him. We’ve got to do it His way, in a way that glorifies Him and encourages one and all who attend our services to grow in their relationship with Him. And that has to be with His content, with the things that He desires.
Dave: And there has to be some understanding, Tom.
Tom: Of course.
Dave: I can’t just worship some higher power. But there must be understanding. If I don't understand God, I don’t know Him, how can I really worship Him? The more I understand, the more intimately I know Him, the more true will be my worship of Him.
Tom: Right. This is not going to be something just dry and stale. Our emotions are going to be caught up in truth in our awe of Him.