I was invited to “open the service” tonite at our church. Opening the service usually means a little conversation and then prayer. Below is my short message. Praise the Lord I was able to speak it in Portuguese—and I think the church even understood most of it! I have translated it into English for those of you that haven’t brushed up on your portuguese :).
Background: If you have been following us since we moved here to Southern Brazil, you will remember that earlier this year I posted about a conversation (view here) with our friendly doorman (John). He’s been a believer for about 3 years and like most of still has many questions about this path of Christianity.
Church message: The latest conversation went along these lines: “Matt, you believe that God desires everyone to be in heaven with Him. You believe that His desire is for all of us to be really close to Him. You also believe that God is all powerful and can do anything and everything that He wants (these questions were not necessarily just pointed at my beliefs, but also at what John believes in his heart). Matt, if He wants us to be close to Him and He can do everything, why doesn’t He just grab us right now and take us to heaven? Today! Why do we have to stay here on earth and pass through this place first?”
Great question and one that I think all of us have / or will ponder at some point in our lives.
It is a fact that God wants us to love Him. The Bible says that God created us so that He could receive our love and worship. BUT, you can’t have true, pure love without also having the ability to choose. If you don’t have the ability to choose, you can’t have true love. For example, I love when my children obey me (preferably the first time :)). I think this is one of life’s greatest joys as a parent. But, I can’t have happiness and joy from their obedience if they don’t first have the ability to choose to obey or to disobey.
I will try to explain with a story:
Suppose one day, I want Luke to sit in a chair. I tell him, “Luke, sit here until I return”. I leave for 10 minutes, and when I return, he is still sitting in the chair. I tell him, “Thank you, Luke”. And give him hugs and kisses of appreciation. I am very happy. I am full of joy because he obeyed me. He didn’t HAVE to sit in the chair, but he chose to do so.
Same idea, different situation: Again, I tell Luke, “Please sit here in this chair”. Then, I take some rope and I tie him to the chair. He is stuck there–can’t move. Then I say, “please stay here until I get back”. I leave and return 10 minutes later. He is still sitting in the chair! I am very excited and tell him “Wow, Luke. Thank you for obeying me! You are the best son. What do you want? I will give you whatever you ask for because I am so full of joy that you obeyed me!”
If I reacted this way, you would think I was crazy.
When God created us, He desired our worship of Him. As we know, God can do anything. If He wants worship, He could have created millions and billions of beings to worship Him….without the ability to chose otherwise. He could receive their worship forever. But…I don’t think He could bask in enjoyment of their worship. It is crazy to think that God would receive their praise and want their love and be happy and content with their love for Him, when they were doing this only because they HAD to, they didn’t have any other option. How would that bring pleasure to God? How could I be thankful that Luke obeyed me, when he didn’t have the ability to do otherwise?
So instead, what did God do? He created us. He created people. People with the capacity to make decisions. He created us, so that when we worship Him, He can enjoy our worship and love for Him. Therefore, when we worship and love God, He knows that we are doing this because we WANT to. However, we don’t HAVE to love Him, but it is our choice to love Him.
So, today, we can know that when God looks down on us and sees us worshiping Him, it will bring joy to Him. Because God knows that we are worshiping Him, not because we have to, but because we want to.
When we imagine our Great God and how awesome and powerful He is, it is incredible to think that we could possibly possess anything that He could desire. He has everything! But the Bible tells us that we DO have something that He wants….He desires our love and worship and acknowledgement that He is God and He is and always will be Worthy to receive our praise and worship. Not because He forces us to, but because when He created us, He created in us the ability to chose. And we are exercising this ability and choosing to worship Him—-and that brings Him joy!