What are we Worshiping, Christmas or the Creator?
Names are significant. They mean a lot and communicate a lot to us. I’ve mentioned before that I am a missionary kid and that I grew up in Ecuador, South America. When we first moved there the transition was tough. Everything was different. We couldn’t find any of our favorites – our favorite candy or candy-bar, our favorite T.V. shows, or our favorite restaurants. I remember the first time we went to the mall. We wandered around aimlessly looking at the stores, trying to figure out what all the stores were and what they sold. But after walking for a while and not seeing anything familiar or even appealing to us, we rounded this corner our eyes were greeted by the sweet, sweet colors of red and gold – golden arches to be exact. I was only about 6 or 7 at the time, but I distinctly remember getting choked up at the sight of those golden arches. It was beautiful. Anyway, we ran in to the McDonalds and just started to order anything and everything on the menu. We weren’t even hungry – but we didn’t care because we were just so excited to see something familiar, something from home. But that feeling of excitement didn’t last long. Just about the time the food was coming we began to notice that this McDonalds wasn’t like all the other McDonalds we’d been to. And getting the food only confirmed it. The burgers were barely burgers. The fries were these thick, fat, undercooked, undersalted, and soggy potato sticks. Even the ketchup was weird. Why? Because as it turns out it wasn’t a real McDonalds. It was a knock off! In fact, it took the real McDonalds years to ever get in the country and get established because this guy had for years been running a sloppy, copy-cat chain of restaurants by the same name.
You see, names are significant. Names are a big deal. They represent something significant – something beyond the product alone. They represent a status or identity. For me, living in a foreign country, McDonalds wasn’t just a name or a fast food joint, it represented home. It represented a part of who I was as a North American. You see, names convey a meaning beyond the product or person itself and because of that we attach ourselves to names.
To prove my point, let’s try a little bit of an experiment. We’re going to flash a few names and products up on the screen and when you see them I want you to tell me which one is better – which name is better or more significant to you. Okay? So here we go, first set of names: Maxwell House vs. Starbucks. Little Debbie vs. Cinnabon. FSN vs. ESPN. Diamond Warehouse vs. DeBeers. Oldsmobile vs. Ferrari. Sam Moon vs. Louis Vuitton. Sandisk vs. iPod. You see, names are significant. Having the right name, and identifying with the right name is important to us because when we identify with a name we become passionate about it. We believe in it. And, we tell everyone about it. Because names are important.
This is exactly why we are doing this series called, “What’s in a Name?” This series is designed to help us identify with God and who He is. You see, each name for God in the Old Testament reveals something about God – they teach us something about God’s character and work. So by learning what these names mean we begin to identify more and more with God. We understand Him better. Our faith in Him is strengthened. And as a result, we speak of Him more passionately to everyone around us. But we’re also doing this series now, at Christmas, because God uses a name to reveal to us how He is going to change history. God uses a name to reveal how He is going to save the world – and we will talk about that as we approach Christmas.
So in the first week of the series we saw that God sometimes refers to Himself as Jehovah-Jireh which means what? God will provide. And last week Jeff talked to us about El-Elyon which means what? God Most High, or Most High God. So this week we come to our next name in the series. In Hebrew, which is what the Old Testament was written in, the name is pronounced Elohim. Elohim is used over 2500 times in the Old Testament alone as one of the names of God. Over 2500 times! So a name used 2500 times must be a significant name, right? So, because it’s so significant I really want you to grasp the power and meaning of this name so we’re going to put the definition of the name up on the screen so that nobody misses it. Alright? This is huge, now, so get ready. The name Elohim literally means: G O D.
Wow. Isn’t that profound? I can tell right now, just by the looks on some of your faces that you are completely blown away. Some of you are thinking, “I came to church to hear this?” Well, hear me out on this. Why is it that we have a much greater response to names like ESPN or Louis Vuitton than we do to “God.” Why is that? Why is it that we get far more excited about a product or a ‘name brand’ than we do about God? Why is it that the material excites us more than the spiritual? Here’s what I think: I think that our lack of response to the name “God” means that we really don’t understand how huge that name is. I don’t think that we really understand what the name “God” means! Somehow, even we as Christians, have missed something really big about God because by and large the name “God” just doesn’t do much for us. For whatever reason we think that the name “God” is kind of generic. That there’s nothing special about it, that it doesn’t have any pop or appeal – it’s just generic. But let me tell you something, there is nothing generic about God. There is nothing generic about God. And the more I studied this name the more I began to realize that we are missing something big about who God is because we don’t fully understand what His name represents.
So turn with me to Genesis chapter 1. Genesis chapter 1, starting at verse 1. “In the beginning, God…” [Repeat] Now, stop there with me. This is the first time we see this name in the Bible. It is the first name we ever see for God, and it appears in the first four words of the Bible. In the beginning, God. In the beginning, Elohim. The fact that it is the very first thing we see in Scripture, at the start of the story, tells us this: God is Sovereign. God is Sovereign. In the beginning, God! There was nothing else; there was no one else! God alone existed. He is sovereign, He is supreme, He is the beginning of all things because before anything else existed there was God! Elohim! I don’t care what you say, but there is nothing generic about this kind of God! There is nothing generic or ordinary about a God that existed before time itself! There is nothing ordinary or generic about God! He is sovereign, He existed before all things!
John 1:1 says this, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Now, John is talking about Christ in this passage – The Word. Christ was the Word of God because Christ came to us to speak God’s Word to us. But notice what it says, Christ and God existed in the beginning. Before anything else existed, they existed. Now, I don’t want to take you too far down the rabbit hole this, but the cool thing about about this name, Elohim, is that it is a plural name. Part of God’s Sovereignty is that He exists in Three Persons – Father, Son (Jesus Christ), and Spirit. Now, we can’t even fathom that. The whole concept boggles the mind. But Scripture tells us it’s true. Genesis 1:26, when God was creating man, it says, “Then God (Elohim) said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” There is nothing generic about this God. Our God is Sovereign. He existed before time, He exists in three persons, and the very fact that this concept is so beyond us shows us that God is bigger than life!
Why is this such a big deal? Here’s why: How many of you are anxious about Christmas? How many of you are already anxious about how much Christmas is going to cost, and how things are so expensive, and how all the kids want is stuff that you can’t afford? And how many of you are anxious about all the work that you have to do before Christmas? Whether it’s finishing out work at your job so that you can close out the year well, or whether it’s getting the house ready for family and decorating and baking and wrapping presents. And how many of you are anxious about family and relatives? Maybe you have to spend Christmas with his parents or her parents and your really not looking forward to it. Or maybe you have relatives coming and your not sure how long they’re going to stay or if its going to be awkward or if you’ll get any time alone. I mean, how many of you are already anxious about those things? Some of you are sitting there thinking, “Well, now that you mention it, yeah! I mean, I wasn’t worried about anything before I came to church but now that I’ve heard you preach I sure am freaked out about a lot of stuff! Thanks Pastor!” But here’s my point – God is Sovereign! God is bigger than all that! Why? Because God existed before any of that! That stuff is nothing to the God of the universe – nothing that He can’t handle, nothing that He can’t see you through. You see, God is not generic. And instead of putting all our focus and all our attention on the stresses of the season, maybe we should focus on sovereignty of God. And everytime we feel like things are spinning out of control and we’re ready to strangle Cousin Ed, remember that God is Sovereign. There is nothing He can’t handle and nothing He can’t walk us through because He existed before this problem ever was! God was there before you ever had this burden, and God will be there when the burden is just a distant memory. Our God is Sovereign.
But there’s more… back to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created.” “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth!” God is not just sovereign above all things, He is the creator of all things. God is Creator! This name, Elohim, appears 32 times in Genesis chapter 1 alone. 32 times it is used to describe how God is the God of Creation. Verse 3, Elohim created the light and separated it from darkness. Verse 6, Elohim created the water and separated it from sky. Verse 9, Elohim created dry ground and created vegetation and every kind of plant and fruit. And on and on it goes all through the chapter teaching us how Elohim is the God of Creation.
There is nothing generic about this God. Our God is Creator. He is not generic and He is far from ordinary. The more we learn about creation the more amazing this fact becomes. Thanks to the Hubble telescope, scientists tell us that they have found over 100 million galaxies – with each galaxy containing over 200 million stars. And do you know what? Psalm 147 verse 4 says, “He counts the number of the stars and calls them each by name.”
You know, this time of year it is so easy to loose focus of God. Do you realize that we loose a good month and a half of our lives to Christmas commercials? I mean, they start promoting Christmas before Thanksgiving, and from mid-November right through until the end of the year we get bombarded with promotions and marketing for stuff. Get the X-Box 360, get the iPod Video, if you really love your wife you’ll buy her a Lexus. And in all the excitement of the season we become fixated on the created instead of the Creator. We end up worshiping the created – all the stuff we see and we want – instead of the Creator. When Paul addressed the church in Rome he talked to them about this problem. Romans 1 says, “For although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Now to verse 25, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised.” The world worships the created. What are you worshipping?
Now you may say, “I’m not worshipping the created. I’m not making idols and bowing down to them. I’m fine.” Well, you don’t have to bow down to something to worship it. Worship is more than just singing songs. If you want to know what you really worship, just answer this question: What do you spend most of your time thinking about?
Ralph Walso Emerson once said this, “A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will come out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.” The things we allow to consume our thoughts are the things we really worship. Worship is anything that we give our hearts and minds to, and if we spend all our time and energy focused on stuff than I fear that we are worshiping the created instead of the Creator. Some of us have been more consumed with getting that new toy or new gadget than we have been with God this week. Some of us are more consumed with money this time of year – just trying to figure out how to pay for Christmas – than we are with God. But God came before any of that stuff. So why are we focused on stuff? What if this year, instead of being caught up in Christmas, we got caught up in the Creator! What if, on Christmas morning, instead of just running to the tree and being so caught up in the stuff we took just a minute to stand around that tree as a family to remember the Creator in the midst of the created?
So our God is Sovereign and our God is Creator. But there’s one last thing that’s important for us to see about Elohim, “God.” What we see in Scripture of Elohim is that He is The God of His People. Elohim is the God of His People. Look at Exodus chapter 3 with me. In Exodus chapter 3 when Moses encounter’s God at the burning bush this is what God says. Verse 5, “‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.”
Over and over through the Old Testament God identifies Himself – He describes Himself – as the God of His people. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Israel. Later in the chapter God says to Moses, when you go to the king of Egypt and ask for my people to be let go, tell him that the God of the Hebrews sent you. Over 100 times in the Old Testament God identifies Himself and introduces Himself as the Elohim of His People.
Is that how you think of God? When you hear the name “God” do you think of a generic or ordinary God, or do you see Him as the God of His people? Do you see Him as your God, as having a relationship with you?! Isn’t it amazing to think that the God of the Universe would want to be known as “The God of Drew” or “The God of Michelle?” You see, God did this because He wants to be known by His people. But He also wants to be known through His people. Last week Jeff talked to us about really living into our mission and serving the people in this community better. Wouldn’t it be incredible if everyone in Plano talked about “The God of Fellowship Bible Church North” instead of just talking about our church? Wouldn’t it be incredible if they were captivated by this relational God? God wants to be known not just by you, but through you, because He is a relational God. He is the God of His people.
Relationships are kind of a difficult thing to think about for a lot of people this time of year. Christmas and the holidays can, many times, only remind us of how lonely we are. Of the fact that so and so isn’t here this year, or of the fact that we’re not going to see them this year. Or maybe your problem is that Christmas means you have to see difficult people or spend time with difficult family members. Christmas is a tough time relationally for a lot of people. But what if this year, instead of focusing on those relationships we focused instead on our relationship with God? What if in the midst of all the chaos of family relationships this year we could find joy in a God who delights Himself in His people? Wouldn’t that be amazing?
You see, that is the challenge we are up against this Christmas, to get caught up in a God who is Sovereign instead of getting stuck in the stress of the season; to worship the God of Creation instead of worshiping the created; and to focus on a God who is relational in the midst of all the relationships we have or we miss this Christmas.
I’ve got a video I want you to see because I think this is a guy who has it figured out. He’s not bothered or consumed by Christmas, but He is focused on the God of Christmas and on what Christmas is really about. Take a look at the screens…
Silence and Solitude Time…
You know, it’s great and exciting that God is Sovereign, that God is Creator, and that Our God is the God of His People. But those things mean very little unless we allow them to change who we are and how we live. This is a busy time of year and outside of those doors everything is moving 100 miles an hour, and I don’t want to see us loose sight of God in the rush and busyness of Christmas. So for the next few minutes we are going to get away from the rush, and we are going to take a moment to, “Be still and know that He is God.” For the next couple of minutes I want to give you space to be still and silent. And I just want to encourage you to seize this opportunity to get away from the created and focus on the Creator. If you want to you can pray silently and alone. If you want you can pray with the person next to you. Or just sit silently and reflect on the passages on the screens. After that time, Tyrone and the worship team are going to take us before the Creator in worship because I can think of no better way to end our time together than by worshipping the Creator.
Passages: Psalm 8:3-4; Isaiah 40:26, 28; Judges 5:3, 5;