Sunday, December 24, 2006

Part 4 - Advent - LOVE

WELCOME

We welcome you to the House of Faith Ministries, if you are visiting.

This is our first ever service in our new Church building.

Praise God for His faithfulness and the Love He has shown to us in our endeavors.

And praise God for this church building.

I say Church building because as we have discussed over the years, the CHURCH is the Body of Christ, and the church building is where we, the body of Christ meet.

Too often people confuse the building with the Church.

And that can lead to our focus being on the physical, rather than the spiritual as it should.

I’ve spoke over the past few weeks on Hope, Courage, and Faith, and today I would like to talk about Love.

Normally, the last Sunday of Advent, you speak on God’s never ending, unexplainable and endlessly abundant love for us.

How He gave His only begotten Son, to die a horrific death so that we could be forgiven and exist with God for eternity.

That is God’s love.

Jesus says that there is no greater love than a man laying down his own life for his friends.

But as I prepared for the sermon today, I thought of something we often forget.

It was not Christ’s birth that showed God’s love, but His death.

And as I thought about this, no where does Jesus ever say “celebrate my birth”, rather, He says the opposite.

At the last supper, He gives the disciples instruction on communion, communion which celebrates Christ’s death.

“Do this, in remembrance of me…”

His body which was broke, and His blood that was shed.

Not a celebration of birth, but of death, because His death “made things new”.

We can praise God for the day He sent Jesus, and there is nothing wrong with choosing a day once a year to dedicate to that celebration.

But we must never lose sight of the greater celebration, and what we were instructed to do in remembrance of Him, proclaiming His kingdom until He returns.

So I thought about the last Sunday in Advent, and about God’s love.

And I thought, God doesn’t love us, just to love us.

He doesn’t just love us because He has nothing better to do.

He loves us for one reason and one reason only.

God loves us, because He wants a relationship with each one of us.

He loves us, expecting and desiring a response from us.

He loves us, and that will never change and will never be in question.

But the question does arise, at least it did for me on this the last Sunday of Advent, the Sunday we discuss love, do I love God?

Am I giving God a response to His love?

Or am I ignoring Him?

Whether you respond to God’s love or not, God still loves you…

This is what our ‘free will’ boils down to in life.

Are we going to respond to God’s love, or ignore Him?

So today we will look at Love, not God’s love for us, but our love for Him.

INTRODUCTION

In the book of Amos, the people of Israel were busy sacrificing to God but God did not accept their sacrifices.

They were busy singing their songs, but God did not accept their songs.

They used the best musical instruments of David, but God did not accept their music.

They observed all the appointed feasts but God did not accept their feasts.

In fact, these were the very things that God despised.

We can learn the following from their experiences.

BUT FIRST WE MUST OPEN IN PRAYER


1. GOOD LYRICS DO NOT MEAN GOOD WORSHIP

Amos 5:23, 24

Take away from me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

You can use the most anointed songs but this does not guarantee that the worship will be acceptable to God.

God despised their songs because there was no justice and righteousness in their lives.

God values our love for righteousness and justice more than our songs.

God values our lifestyles more than the words we offer to Him.

Actions speak louder than words!

THE LIVES WE LIVE MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH THE SONGS WE SING

2. GOOD MUSIC DOES NOT MEAN GOOD WORSHIP

Amos 6:5, 7

Who chant to the sound of stringed instruments, and invent for yourselves musical instruments like David….But are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph

Israel played with the best musical instruments of David but God rejected their music because they did not care about their brother’s suffering.

We cannot worship God on one hand and neglect the practical needs of our brothers who are suffering.

Loving God, means keeping His commandments.

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command”.

Interestingly, the Bible does not ask us to tell God we love Him in our songs although this is not necessarily wrong.

The Bible does require us to display our love for God by keeping His commandments.

True religion involves meeting the practical needs of the poor.

We need to balance between skill and character.

We cannot use a skillful musician who does not love righteousness and justice. Skill must be complemented with character.

Otherwise, we could get Michael Jackson to lead worship every Sunday.

Our worship services will be full every week.

MUSIC WITHOUT THE ANOINTING IS LIKE A BODY WITHOUT THE SOUL.

3. GOOD SERVICES DO NOT MEAN GOOD WORSHIP

Amos 5:21

I despised your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies.

Sometimes, we get out of a worship service and say “That was really a good service”. What we really meant was that the program was good.

Every thing went on smoothly. The songs were good. The flow of the service was good. The church ambience was good. The message was short, sweet and encouraging. We all left the service “happy”.

But was God “happy” with our service?

Israel was busy observing her feast days and sacred assemblies not knowing that God actually despised them.

Many celebration services today are planned to make the congregation happy rather than to please God. At the end of the service, we all say “That was a good service”. But was it really good in God’s eyes?

WE OFTEN FOCUS ON THE PRESENTATION OF THE SERVICE MORE THAN THE PRESENCE OF GOD

4. GOOD OFFERINGS DO NOT MEAN GOOD WORSHIP

Amos 5:22

Though you offer me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them. Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.

Israel presented to God the following offerings.

1) Burnt Offerings

2) Grain Offerings

3) Peace Offerings

God rejected all their offerings.

1 Samuel 15:22

"Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
and to heed is better than the fat of rams.”


As a result of Saul’s disobedience to God’s commands, he lost the Kingdom of Israel. God wanted his obedience more than his sacrifice.

GOD DELIGHTS IN OBEDIENCE MORE THAN SACRIFICE

Israel continued to worship idols while they were sacrificing to God. If you continue to have idols in your life, don’t expect God to accept your worship.

Amos 5:26

“You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god
which you made for yourselves.”



CONCLUSION

The Christian music industry in the United States is now a 3 billion dollar industry. Worship albums are now the best sellers in Christian music.

WE ARE IN DANGER OF WORSHIPPING WORSHIP.

WORSHIP MUSIC ITSELF IS CLOSE TO BECOMING AN IDOL.

In the later part of the book of Amos, God judged the worship in Israel and rejected all of it. God rejected all their songs and sacrifices. The temple was eventually destroyed.

Amos 8:2, 3

“The end has come upon my people Israel. I will not pass by them anymore. And the songs of the temple shall be wailing in that day”, says the Lord

Amos 8:10

“I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation. I will bring sackcloth on every waist, and baldness on every head. I will make it like mourning for an only son, and its end like a bitter day.”

The positive part in Amos was that God promised He will rebuild true worship in the last days.

Amos 9:11

“On that day, I will raise up the tabernacle of David which has fallen down, and repair its damages. I will raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old.”
I believe we are living in the era where God is restoring true worship in His church.

This true worship is not just about songs and music. It is about people who will live their lives according to the commandments of God and whose lifestyles are right before God.

It is about people whose character is consistent with the songs.

So I ask, as we think about Love this last Sunday of Advent, lets not just think of God’s amazing, endless and indescribable love for us, but lets think about how we respond to that love.

Are we loving God?

Are we giving Him the worship He requires of His people, who give Him all with a right heart?

CLOSING

This Christmas represents a new beginning because of the sacrifice of Christ, and our move to this church, and with the new year just around the corner, if you feel you need to do something new, now is the time.

If you feel you have never really responded to God’s love, or maybe you have lost your way or focus in life, now is the time to do something about that.

Right now, respond to God’s love.

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