I have a ninety-eight year old uncle who loved to coon hunt. To say that this uncle is and was an individualist is an understatement. As long as age and strength permitted, he did things his way.

I remember a family reunion at my parents' home. I was a young adult at the time. The family reunion included aunts, uncles, and their families as well as my immediate family. Everyone knew this uncle would not be there. At that time in his life, he did not attend family reunions. He loved the family; he just did not care for family reunions.

Just as we started eating, to everyone's astonishment, he and a friend came driving down the drive way. In joy and astonishment, we all greeted him. He, in stunned amazement, asked why so many of the family was there.

He wanted to buy a coon dog. He had driven over a hundred miles [before the time of interstate highways] to see if my brother might know where he could find a good coon dog.

He came to the family reunion, but it was an accident.

  1. How would you personally react if you saw God?
    1. "David, that is absolutely a ridiculous question! People don't see God!"
      1. So you did not come to worship this morning to see God?
      2. "Of course not!"
      3. Does God have anything to do with your being here?
      4. "What does God have to do with coming to church?"
        1. " It is Sunday morning."
        2. "You are supposed to come to church on Sunday morning."
        3. "All good Southerners know that you go to church on Sunday morning...when it is convenient."
    2. For some who attend church, "going to church" has nothing to do with seeing God.
      1. If in the literal sense, we knew before we came God would enable us to physically see His presence [and I know that the Bible says that it is impossible for a human to see God--Exodus 33:20; John 1:18], I would predict that we would have a small attendance.
      2. When it comes right down to it, I don't think that most of us are curious enough to see God's actual presence.
      3. The truth is simple: anytime a godly human comes into the immediate presence of God, it is a devastating experience for the godly human.
      4. Coming close to God is an awesome experience that literally takes you apart and makes you see yourself in detail as you actually are.
    3. Isaiah shared with us his initial encounter with God at the time that God commissioned him to be a prophet.
      1. Isaiah 6:2-4 says that Isaiah was allowed to see the scene and the holiness that surrounded the Lord sitting on the throne.
        1. Isaiah saw the glory.
        2. Isaiah heard the praise.
      2. How did he react to what he saw and heard?
        Isaiah 6:5 Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
        1. Note these facts.
        2. When Isaiah saw the glory and heard the praise of God, he was filled with a personal sense of ruin. "Why?" When you see God, you also see yourself in contrast to God.
        3. The second thing I want you to notice is that Isaiah immediately realized that he was completely unfit to be in God's presence--in fact he realized that no one in Judah was fit to be in God's presence. Seeing God made him realize that he was filthy, dirty, spiritually unclean.
      3. Isaiah was purified for his prophetic work when an angel took a coal from God's altar and touched his lips to destroy the evil in him.
        1. You have to realize how unfit you are to stand before God before you appreciate the goodness and grace of God.
        2. God made Isaiah fit to serve Him by purifying Isaiah, by making him clean.
        3. So the man who felt ruined in God's presence now had the courage of appreciation to speak to God.
          1. God said, "I have a job that needs to be done. To whom shall I give the job?"
          2. Without hesitation, Isaiah said, "I am here! Let me do it!"
          3. God gave Isaiah a really tough job: "Go preach to Judah and Jerusalem until they become totally indifferent and insensitive."
          4. Isaiah asked, "How long do you want me to do this?"
          5. God answered, "Until total devastation comes."

  2. I challenge us all, including myself, to examine our motives for being here.
    1. Don't misunderstand me: I am glad you chose to be here.
      1. I am glad that we are together right here right now.
      2. I want God to be glad that we are here.
      3. My being glad that you are here is no big deal.
      4. God being glad that you are here is everything.
    2. Let me ask us some questions.
      1. If something biblical happens that you really do not like, will you continue to come?
        1. "No. If I really don't like it, I will not be back."
        2. Does that mean that being here has more to do with your comfort than with your God?
      2. If something biblical happens that is very different to what you have always practiced, will you continue to come?
        1. "No. If it is really different to what I have known and practiced, I will not be back."
        2. Does that mean that being here has more to do with the experiences that give you good feelings than it has to do with your God?
      3. If something biblical happens that increases heart response to God while taking emphasis away from standard procedures, will you continue to come?
        1. "No. If it really expresses emotion, I will not be back."
        2. Does that mean that being here has more to do with long established procedure than it has to do with your God?
    3. I did not ask these questions to excite anyone--I don't know of any radical differences that are planned.
      1. I asked us those questions for the purpose of illustration.
      2. Look at your answers and notice something: our "worship assemblies" have more to do with us than they have to do with God.
      3. The primary worship issues that most concern us are NOT:
        1. How do we come closer to God?
        2. How do we praise God?
        3. How do we show appreciation to God?
        4. How do we glorify God?
        5. How do we humble ourselves before God?
        6. How do we repent before God?
        7. How do we prepare our hearts and minds to live for God next week?
        8. How do we prepare our hearts and minds to represent God as His ambassadors?
      4. The primary worship issues that DO concern us are:
        1. What do I like.
        2. What do I want.
        3. What do I feel.
        4. What do I enjoy.
        5. What do I think is appropriate.
        6. What makes me feel good.
        7. What will not cause me to feel awkward.
      5. If we honestly examine our primary worship concerns, do our concerns focus primarily on us and our desires or on God and His desires?
      6. Is worship primarily about us or about God? That is the key question; that is the biblical concern.

  3. To renew ourselves spiritually in our lives, our service, and our worship we must stop practicing magic in the attempt to manipulate God.
    1. Allow me to make clear what I am saying.
      1. Your initial reaction is, "David, you have lost your mind! The Church of Christ does not and never has practiced magic!"
        1. "People cannot manipulate God!"
        2. "How dare you suggest such an outlandish, stupid, ridiculous thought!"
      2. First, by magic I am not speaking of illusions performed for entertainment.
        1. I am speaking of spiritual magic like was practiced by Simon the sorcerer in Acts 8.
        2. I am speaking of the belief that you can obligate God to do what you want done if you just do the right things in the right order and the right way.
          1. "If I follow correct procedure and do the right things God has to forgive me."
          2. "If I follow the correct procedure that includes the right things at the right moments, God has to hear my prayer and give me the answer I want."
          3. "If I follow correct procedure and do the right things at the right time, God has to take care of me."
      3. Second, by manipulating God I mean that we believe that the key to getting God to do what we want Him to do is a matter of doing right things.
        1. "I do not like to waste Sunday morning at the church building, but if I go God has to protect my family."
        2. "I do not enjoy reading the Bible, but if I will read it a little occasionally God has to help me be successful."
        3. "Praying seems so unnatural, and I feel foolish when I pray, but we pray when the family has a meal together. Then God has to keep evil away from us."
    2. We have encouraged Christians to believe that salvation and spirituality is all a matter of rational decision and correct procedure.
      1. It has very little to with God.
        1. Are you a Christian? I was baptized.
        2. Will you be saved? I will be if I live a good enough life.
        3. Will God hear your prayers? My prayers are heard if I pray in Jesus' name.
        4. Is God pleased with your worship? My worship pleases God if I am at the right place doing the right things.
      2. Do you hear what I am talking about? "I," "I," "I."
        1. What role does God have?
        2. "Well, He resurrected Jesus, sat down on His throne, and left it all up to me."
        3. If that is our view of God and of Christianity, it could not be more unbiblical.
        4. From the first chapter of Matthew to the last chapter of Revelation the emphasis is on God's active involvement in our salvation.
    3. We will never experience renewal as God's people until worship starts being about God instead of being about us.

[Prayer: God, forgive us for failing to see You and Your Son. Forgive us for thinking salvation is nothing more than our doing the right things at the right time. Forgive us for closing You out of our lives.]

When you come to the family reunion on Sunday morning, are you looking for something besides God? If you actually worship when you come, is it by accident?

Come to worship God! Come as close to God as you can get!

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 16 April 2000

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