James Merritt - Running Hot
Whether or not you worship God at all or if you do, how you worship God is an unfailing, infallible mark of what your spiritual temperature really is. As a matter of fact, if you want to really know how hot your heart is for God, let me just you a simple question, how did you do what we just finished doing for the last 20 minutes? And that'll tell you really all that you need to know. And if you're like me, you want to raise your spiritual temperature and you want your spiritual take to be full, the place to start is with worship. And there is a beautiful psalm, which is a song that was written many years ago.
There's a beautiful song where we're told exactly how to worship God in such a way that will keep our hearts running hot for God 24/7. It's a very familiar psalm to a lot of us. It is Psalm 100. So, if you brought a copy of God's Word or you want to look on your phone, or pad, or whatever you use, you're in the 100th Psalm. If you don't know where the Book of Psalms is, it's easy to find, front of the Bible, Old Testament. You start with the Old Testament. Go about halfway through, you'll find the Book of Psalms. Now, what I'm gonna share with you right now very brief is here's the good news, bad news, five points, good news, real short, all short, okay?
So, just hang with me. What I'm gonna share with you today applies both to our private worship and our public worship. It applies to what you do individually and it applies to what we do corporately and if our hearts are running hot, you say, "Well, hey, wait a minute, let me ask you a question, how will I know if I'm really burning hot for the Lord"? If you are, it will show up in how you worship and the way you worship. And the psalmist says there are five things we ought to be doing on a daily basis if we're going to refuel our tank and our hearts are going to run hot for God. You ready? Here we go, number one, we must gleefully worship the Lord. That's step one. We must gleefully worship the Lord. Now, the psalmist sets the tone for worship in the very first two verses. "Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him with joyful song".
Now, let me just stop, this entire psalm is all about worship. Matter of fact, the entire Book of Psalms is all about worship. By the way, if you don't think that worship's a big deal to God, you remember when God gave the Ten Commandments? You know, Moses goes up to Mount Sinai. God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and it's amazing, God basically says to the human race, "If you'll just keep Ten Commandments, not 20, not 30, not 40, just keep ten, you'll be good to go. I'll be good with you, you'll be good with me". If you go back and read those Ten Commandments, the first four all deal with worship, all four of them. So, God says right off the bat, "You want to be right with me, you want to make sure that we're all, we're together"? Yup. "Then get your worship straight. Make sure your worshiping me the way that I desire to be worshiped".
So, you've got the Book of Psalms, no book in the Bible talks more about worship than the Book of Psalms and no psalm talks more about worship than this psalm. Now, when I talk about worship, there is where I need you to engage with me a minute. When I talk about worship, don't think what you normally think when you hear the word "worship" because let me tell you what a lot of people think when they think about the word "worship". Let's just be honest. You think, boring. You think long. You think somber. You think serious. You think, you know, don't smile, don't get excited, don't be happy. And then you read where the psalmist says, "Shout for joy to the Lord". And that word "shout" really means a sound that splits the ear.
Now, I'm not saying we ought to act like a bunch of fanatics but I will tell ya, I've learned this, it is much easier to cool down a fanatic than it is to heat up a corpse. And, you know, I got to thinking why is it, why is it that many, let's just be honest, we walk into worship service and we're so reserved. And we're, you know, it's like, we just, you know, we're just afraid to be expressive. And I'm gonna be, this is my theory, I don't know what it is but I think we walk into a worship service and we start getting real conscious of what other people might think about us. "What about the person sitting behind me, and what about the person sitting beside me, and what about the person sitting in front of me? You know, what if I do raise my hands? What if I do clap? What if I do sing a little bit too loud"?
So, I just want to make a suggestion, this is just a suggestion. Why don't you try this the next time you come into a worship service with us here or somewhere else, instead of thinking about what other people are thinking about you and your worship, why don't you start thinking about what God thinks about your worship? Because ultimately, I think his is the only opinion that really matter and what I want to know is, "God, are you pleased with my worship"? And while I'm in the neighborhood, just kind of buckle your seatbelt for just a moment, okay, while we're not neighborhood, if you're worship is what it ought to be, and our worship is what it ought to be, and we really come here to worship, and I mean, we really have come here to worship our God together, take a deep breath, we ought to get here early, not drag in here late.
Now, if that makes you mad, apologize and I'll forgive you. I'm just being honest. It says something about your worship when you drag in 15 or 20 minutes late. You want to go to your doctor late, go to your doctor late. You want to go to your dentist late, go to dentist late. We've come here to worship the God of this universe. He deserves us to get here on time. Now, gleefully worship the Lord, all right? Number two, gladly serve the Lord. Gladly serve the Lord. Now, let me just stop. What I'm about to read to you is gonna kind of be, you know, a little bit wait a minute, I think we're off track here 'cause this is what he says. He says, "Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him with joyful songs". Now, the Hebrew word there for worship literally means to work or it means to serve. What he literally said was, "Work for the Lord with gladness. Serve the Lord with gladness".
Now, you're sitting there saying, "Whoa, time out, I thought we were talking about worship, now, you're talking about service". All right, I got a newsflash. Service is an act of worship. As a matter of fact, when you're running hot in your worship, it will always lead to service. You think about it, we're in here right now worshiping God in this service because of the people outside worshiping God by their service, and that should mean you gladly serve the Lord. I told you these were quick. This is the third thing, you genuinely experience the Lord. You genuinely experience the Lord. Now, what the psalmist does for us, does us a big favor. Now he says, "Let me tell you why you ought to worship. Let me tell you what the real purpose of worship is. Let me tell you the bottom line. Let me tell you the end goal of worshiping God".
Now, before I tell you what it is, let's just ask ourselves a question right now. Let's just be honest. So, why did you really come today? Let's just be honest. Why did you really come today? Was it just another check off on your to-do list? Was it because, "Well, if I didn't come, I would have felt guilty"? Well, the psalmist says, here's the real purpose of worship, this is why it's so important. He said, "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who has made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture". In other words, here's what the psalmist says. "You know why you ought to worship God? You know why you ought to serve God? The whole purpose of that is to know God and to know God better". That Hebrew word there for know, it doesn't mean to know intellectually. It means to know experientially. It's not a head worship. It is a heart worship.
So, what he's saying is this, the way to worship God correctly is to know God personally and the better you know God personally, the more you'll worship God correctly. And the way you know this God is this, you don't know this God when you say, "Okay, I know you, God, are the Lord and you, Lord, are the God". Now, let me just stop right there. You may say, "That sounds redundant. It sounds like he's repeating himself". Oh no, he's not doing that at all. Here's what he's really saying, he's saying in order to worship God correctly, you've gotta worship the right God. And there's only one God that is the Lord, and there's only one Lord that is the God. Now, this is not politically correct and I understand that but contrary to a lot of popular opinion out there, worship is not a buffet line where you get to choose which god you worship.
So, you know, some people say, "Well, you kind of worship God your way, and this person worships God his way, and this person worships God in his faith, and this worships God in their faith". And the psalmist say, no, there's only one God. There's not two, three, four, five. You don't get to choose. You don't get to choose the God that you worship or which god's the right God. There's only one true God and that only leads to one true worship. So, I want to give you this thought, you are much better off worshiping the right God even if you do it poorly than you are worshiping the wrong god even if you do it magnificently. The closer we get to God, the more we experience God. The more we experience God, the better we know God. The better we know God, the greater we love God. The greater we love God, the quicker we obey God. The quicker we obey God, the happier we are in God. And the happier we are in God, the hotter we will be for God. There is no other way, and there is no greater way, and there is no better way to keep refueled, and reenergized, and recharged, and revitalized, and to run hot than no genuinely experience the Lord.
Let me tell you something, I'm at my best in doing what I do right now, not when I do it in public, but when I do it in private. That's when I'm at my best. I mean, this morning, I begin every day with a...I want to talk about this in a minute. I begin every day with just having time with the Lord. And I want to tell you there is nothing, I was telling the Lord this morning, there is nothing like knowing that I just speak and immediately I'm in the presence of the Creator of the universe and he is all ears. I have his undivided attention. We worship, we gleefully worship the Lord so that we will gladly serve the Lord so that we will genuinely experience the Lord.
Now we really get into worship because the fourth thing that we do is we gratefully thank the Lord. Now, let me just kind of set you up for something. You wouldn't know this, everything I've just done is the introduction. I haven't got to the sermon yet. I'm about to get to the sermon now. I just got introduced to everything. Again, it's real brief so hang tough 'cause now we're gonna get into the nuts and bolts of how to really get into the presence of God because all I've talked about at this point, we're just getting to the entrance. We haven't gotten in yet. Now we're really gonna get in. Now we're gonna get to the place where we know "Man, I'm literally in the presence of God," because before you can get into the presence of God, you gotta do two things, number one, you gotta go through the gate. And number two, you've gotta get into the court.
So, here's what the psalmist says, "Enter into his gates with," say that word, "thanksgiving and into his courts with praise". All right, so here's what the psalmist says, psalmist says, look, by the way, let me just go back. Reading that doesn't make a lot of sense. We don't think about gates and courts today but if you've been living in Bible days say, "Oh, I know what he's talking about. He's talking about a king, and he's talking about a palace". Because if you ever wanted to have an audience with a king, number one, you had to go through the gate. They had gates that were locked. You couldn't just walk through. You had to go into the gate and then you had to go into the court. So, what the psalmist says is, he says, look, just to get into the gate to get ready to meet God, there's a key and that key is thanksgiving, just being grateful.
Now, I'm gonna be honest, if there's anything, all of us living in this great country of ours ought to do every day, it ought to be thankful. If there's any day, if there's any country in the world where we should say, "You know what? Every day's thanksgiving day," it ought to be us living here in America. Let me tell you why, we will eat more food today than most of the world will eat in a week. Now, think about that. We will eat more food in a day than most of the world will eat in a week. We will get into in the summer, air-condition, in the winter, heated cars and drive where we want to drive, and we forget that there are billions of people in the world that will never even own a car. We will sleep in rooms that are heated in the winter and cooled in the summer while much of the world is either sweating it out or shivering it out.
If you woke up this morning with more health than you did sickness, you're more blessed than the one million people that won't live to see the end of this week. If you've never experienced the dangers of battle, or the loneliness of imprisonment, or the suffering of torture, or the hunger pains of starvation, you're better off right now than 500 million people on this planet. If you came to this worship service today and you are not afraid of being harassed, arrested, tortured, or killed, you're better off than three billion people in the world right now. If you've got food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world.
If you've got any money in the bank, if you've got even some spare change in your pocket, you are in the top 8% of the richest people in the world. If you can read a paragraph in a book, if you can sign your name, you are better off than 775 million people who can't read or write. We ought to be thankful every day for how God has blessed us. How can you even think, how can you even think about entering into God's presence and not giving thanks in his presence? Thanksgiving is the music that brightens the face of God. Thanksgiving is the spark that warms the heart of God. Thanksgiving is the love that kisses the hand of God. Listen, we ought to be thankful we can get here early. We ought to be thankful we can get here at all. Gratefully thank the Lord.
And then here's the last thing, we should greatly praise the Lord. Now, with thanksgiving, you get into the gates, but with praise, you get into the court. Listen to it again, he says, "Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name". Now, let me stop and tell you why this is so important to God. Any of you know somebody and the only time you ever hear from them is when they want something? I got a text from a guy yesterday. I got a text. I hadn't seen this guy, hadn't talked to this guy in five years, five years. Did he text me to see how I was doing? Nope. Did he text me to tell me what a good friend I am? Nope. He wanted something.
Do you know how irritating it is? Do you know how irritating it is to know if you get a letter from that person, he wants something, if you get an email from this person, they want something, if you get a phone call from someone, they want something? Now hear me, hear me clearly, God's a big God and God does want us to bring our needs to him. Okay, that's not what I'm saying, but what I'm saying is we ought to get in a habit of every time we come to God, before we ask for anything, why don't we just thank him for what he's already done for us? And why don't we spend time praising him for who he is to us. By the way, the word there for praise is the word "halal", gives us the word "Hallelujah" and it means to be excited with great, great joy. Now, in the last couple of minutes, I'm about to turn worship on its ear so I want you to hang with me just for a minute here. I'm about to really kind of turn everything you thought about worship, I want to kind of turn it around. The last part of that verse literally says, "Give thanks to him," and it doesn't really say praise his name, what it really says is bless his name.
Now, I'm gonna say something right now and if you haven't heard anything else I have said, I want you to hear what I'm about to tell you because the reason I'm saying that is I said this in the first service and son of a gun, a lady came out and said something to me and I wanted to say, "Did you not hear what I just said"? So, let me just make sure you hear this, okay, you ready? The primary purpose of our worship is not so God will bless us, bit that we will bless him. The primary purpose of worship, now listen, I want you to be blessed when you come in here, but the number-one reason why we come here is not to be blessed but to be a blessing and to be blessing to him. Worship's not for you, worship's for him that's why style doesn't matter. It is irrelevant. It literally is irrelevant. You can have your preferences. You can like classical worship. You can like high worship. You can like low worship. You can like middle-of-the-road worship. You can like southern gospel. It's okay, but it's not for you. It is for him. It is to bless him. Why are we to worship God? Why are we to praise God? Why are we to thank God? And why are we to do it with enthusiasm and excitement? Why should we make sure we do it privately as well as publicly?
Here's why, "For the Lord is good and his love endures forever. His faithfulness continues throughout all generations". God is good all the time and all the time God is good. And God loves us with an everlasting love that will never quit. His love is unending. His love is universal. He is faithful at all times and in all places, and he never fail fails to keep his promises, never. What an awesome God we worship. So, I want to take that, let me tell you what your next step needs to be, here's why I want to help you. Too many of you, and we're gonna talk about this in a second, too many of you think you worship God once a week when you come here. You think you do that. If that's all you do, I can tell you you don't really worship God when you come here. You may think you do but you really don't.
Here's my practical suggestion. I'm gonna make this so easy. If you want to refuel your tank, you need to do it every day. By the way, once a week won't cut it. I can tell you right now, I don't care what kind of car you drive, if you drive anywhere at all during the week, if you only fill up your car once a week, you're gonna run out of gas. What's true about your car is true about you, especially your heart. You gotta fill your tank every day. So, here's what you do, it's really easy. All you need is three things. You need a certain place, a certain period, that is a certain time and a certain process, that's all you need, okay, it's really, this is what I do. I get up in the morning, first thing I do when I get up every morning, I do it. I thank God and I praise God. You know, I'll get out, I'm an early riser. I'll get up, I go into the kitchen. I'm fixing something to drink and I'm already thanking God.
I want to kind of summarize everything that I've said and I want to make three statements. You might want to write these down because I'm gonna make a promise to you, if you will take to heart these three statements, if you will believe them and you will apply them, I guarantee this, you will never walk into worship service the same way you walked in today, never again will you do it, okay, never again. Number one, you do not come to church to worship, you bring your worship to church. I worship God a long time before I get here, and I don't have to come here to worship God. And by the way, I worship God just as much on Monday as I do on Sunday. So, you don't come to church. That's one...no, you bring your worship to church. First it's private, which I'm gonna get to next. Number two, you don't leave your worship at church, you leave the church to worship. Too many people think, "Well, check that off my list. That's my worship for the week". No, your worship doesn't end. You're just getting started. And then number three, private worship always proceeds public worship and private worship leads to public worship.
See, here's the way it works, when you have this time it's just you and the Lord and you enter his gates with thanksgiving, and you introduce courts with praise, and you open God's Word and you hear from God, and then you just spend time and you talk to God, you know what will happen? You ready for this? What you did privately should be so invigorating, so tank filling, so exciting, so life changing, you can't wait to get to church to do it with everybody else.
So, a little boy went to kindergarten, first day, never been to school in his life and he goes to kindergarten. His mother's real nervous, she wants to know, you know, how's he gonna like it so she's waiting on him when he gets off the bus. He gets off the bus he comes running into her arms, and she hugs him and loves on him. And she couldn't wait. She said, "Well, honey, so, how did you like school"? The little boy gave a classic answer. He said, "Well, mama, it was fine, but it's not something you'd want to do every day". You know what? If you want to stay refueled, and recharged, and revitalized, and reenergized, you want to run hot for God, you must worship, you should worship, and you will want to worship every single day. And the God who sent his Son to die for you and raised him from the dead so that we could worship him deserves nothing less.