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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 7, 2016
The Centrality of Worship
Last week I spoke about the topic of worship as the conclusion to a short series of sermons on the purpose of the church. Worship of our God is the ultimate purpose in our quest to make disciples of Jesus Christ for that is how we glorify Him. (See: The Identity and Commission of the Church) We Communicate New Life in Christ because evangelism is the means by which we expand the number of people that repent and turn in faith to Jesus Christ to be forgiven of their sins, follow Him and worship Him. (See: Evangelism: The Church Goes Out) We Cultivate New Life in Christ because edification is how we build one another up in our understanding of God and His commands so that we obey Him and worship Him properly with our lives. (See: Edification: The Building Up of the Church) We Care for New Life in Christ because fellowship is the means by which we put the spiritual gifts God has given to each believer into action to become the hands of God in comforting, encouraging, admonishing, and helping one another in walking with Christ. That brings honor to God and so is also part of worship. (See: Fellowship: Life Within the Church) We Celebrate New Life in Christ because worship is the central purpose of our existence and one activity that we will continue to do throughout eternity. Worship is to be the crowning jewel in the purposes of the church.
Last week I gave a brief overview of worship and pointed out that true worship is: Regenerated in the Spirit, Regained in Truth, Reverent in heart. Respectful in Action, Rendered in Service, Radiated in Proclamation, Resounded in Praise, Responds in Prayer, Reflected both as Individuals and as a congregation, Rigorous work. (See Worship: The Purpose of the Church)
Starting this week, I want to expand on this topic. It has been over a decade since I last did this and several factors have prompted me to address it again with more depth and detail. My goal will be: 1) Challenge those who do not worship God to do so. 2) Challenge those who worship a false god or concept of God to turn and worship the true God. 3) Challenge true Christians to understand and practice true worship so that it can shine as the bright jewel it should be.
It is my contention that every problem that we have is directly related to what we believe about God and the false worship that arises from that. That is true personally, within a community and even on a national and international level. The paramount issues are not politics, economics, income equality, racial animosity, crime rates, immigration, terrorism and certainly not climate change. The primary problem is wrong beliefs about God and false worship for every other problem exists because of that. True worship of the true God will bring about solutions to all of these problems. Any solution proposed that is not grounded in truth which arises from a correct understanding of God and obedience to Him is at best a band-aid that slows the bleeding down, but are more often just additional knives that increase the hemorrhaging.
Created to Worship
I begin by pointing out that the reason God created you was for His glory and purposes and not your own. You are not the center of the universe. God is. From Genesis to Revelation, the focus of Scripture is God, not man. All this is contrary to how man sees himself. Every person struggles with the ego-centric perspective. We view the world through our own eyes and small point of view and then respond to everything based on that. Even when we gather together to worship God there is a struggle to keep the mind focused on God instead of self. For example, I know that during the pastoral prayer it takes work to focus to pray with me and keep your mind from wandering to other things. I know the same things is true when I am preaching. You are constantly analyzing all sorts of things, and a word or phrase I say here or there prods your mind to run off somewhere else. I also know there are also times when your mind is not engaged at all, for the physical weaknesses we all battle leave you drowsy or sleeping. I also know that whatever song we sing or whatever special music is presented it is easy to fall into the trap of evaluating the quality of the music and whether you liked it or not and whether you felt like you were worshiping because of it instead of actually worshiping God. How do I know there is a struggle with those things? First, because I stand up here and I can see your faces. Second, I also struggle with all these things. It is one of the reasons I long for heaven, where the cares of this world will be past and my body and mind will be perfected so that I will no longer be distracted by own weaknesses and selfishness. I will be able to give myself fully to the worship of God without hindrance. I hope that is a longing in your heart too.
I will start with a few passages that show the centrality of the worship of God.
First, turn to Isaiah 6 where the prophet is given a glimpse of the activity in heaven. 6:1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 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.”
What is the activity of heaven? The worship of God, and when Isaiah got a glimpse of it, he understood his own sinfulness.
Turn to Revelation 4 where the apostle John describes a similar scene in his vision of heaven.
4:1 After these things I looked, and behold, a door [standing] open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like [the sound] of a trumpet speaking with me, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” 2 Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne was standing in heaven, and One sitting on the throne. 3 And He who was sitting [was] like a jasper stone and a sardius in appearance; and [there was] a rainbow around the throne, like an emerald in appearance. 4 And around the throne [were] twenty-four thrones; and upon the thrones [I saw] twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white garments, and golden crowns on their heads. 5 And from the throne proceed flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder. And [there were] seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God; 6 and before the throne [there was,] as it were, a sea of glass like crystal; and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. 7 And the first creature [was] like a lion, and the second creature like a calf, and the third creature had a face like that of a man, and the fourth creature [was] like a flying eagle. 8 And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, [is] the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come.” 9 And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11 “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.”
What is the activity described? The worship of God.
This worship continues in chapter 5:11-13 where many angels join with the living creatures and the elders saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” Then verse 13 adds, “every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea” join in saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, [be] blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” All of this is worship.
Revelation 14:6 also stresses the centrality of worship. God sends an angel flying through the mid-heaven, “having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people.” Take note of what this gospel message is: “and he said with a loud voice, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgement has come; and worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and springs of waters.” The gospel message is given so that those who hear and respond will worship the Lord God, the Creator of everything.
The next few passages I am only going to reference because they are much too long to read in one sermon. For those of you who have been reading through the Bible, did you ever ask yourself why God placed so much detail in Exodus 25-31 & 35-40 about the building and construction of the Tabernacle? Or why Leviticus 1-8 has so much repetitious detail about all the offerings and the consecration of the priests? Then there are all the laws throughout the rest of Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, some of which quite detailed, and for which the penalty of breaking them is having to cleanse yourself in a particular manner before you can come before God again. Have you considered why all the detail concerning the various temples? 1 Kings 6-8; 1 Chronicles 22-29; 2 Chronicles 2-7; Ezra; Ezekiel 40-47; Haggai & Zechariah 3 & 4. All of those books and chapters stress the point that the worship of the Lord is to be central in our lives. God goes into great detail to describe the way He wants to be approached for worship, so we better be serious about worshiping His way.
Blessings and Curses
From the positive standpoint, there is great blessing when God is worshiped properly. Even a quick overview of the history of the nation of Israel shows a direct correlation between the times they pursued true worship of God and its high points economically and politically such as David’s reign and the first part of Solomon’s rule. The nation went into decline when Solomon’s wives turned his heart away from God. The nation rose again in importance under the religious revivals that took place under Asa & Jehoshaphat, and then later under Hezekiah, and later still under Josiah. These blessing were in accordance with what God promised in Deuteronomy 28 and other passages. Obedience to God would bring them blessings.
From the negative standpoint, there are dire consequences when God is not worshiped properly. An overview of Israel’s history would prove this point too. Every evil king brought about a greater decline of the nation until finally Israel was taken into captivity by Assyria and Judah by Babylon. These were the curses for disobedience God had warned them about in Deuteronomy 27.
This is not just a truth for the nation of Israel, but general truth for all people. Paul makes this point in Romans 1. Paul begins the chapter with a salutation and greeting recounting that his own calling by God as an apostle was for Christ’s name sake (vs 5) and that his longing was to come to them to encourage them in walking with Christ and to preach the gospel which is the revelation of the righteousness of God (vs. 17). Again, our lives are for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
Paul then declares that God’s wrath is demonstrated against man because man suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (vs. 18). God has made Himself evident to man both internally and externally. All of creation declares this evidence of God’s existence, eternal power and divine nature, so that all men are without excuse (vs. 19-20). However, man willingly suppresses the truth of God resulting in three levels of descent from truth into self imposed lies.
The first level of decline is described in verse 21. They knew God but refused to honor Him as God or give thanks, so God gives them over to futile speculations and a darkened heart. An example of this is the false worship of Israel revealed in 1 & 2 Kings. Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, feared the people would return to the king of Judah because God required that they go to Jerusalem to present their sacrifices, so he set up two altars so the people could worship God without going to Jerusalem. Because they would not follow God’s law of how He wanted to be worshiped, their worship of the true God was flawed. This flawed worship of the true God quickly degenerated into false worship of false gods.
God is serious about being honored and worshiped properly. The example of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 is a case in point. God had given specific instructions on how incense was to be brought before the Lord in the Tabernacle, but these two sons of Aaron ignored those instructions and “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (Leviticus 10:1-2).
Another example is found in 2 Samuel 6 when King David tried to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, but he did not do it according to the Lord’s instructions given in Numbers 4:15; 7:9 and Deuteronomy 31:9. Instead of having the priests carry it, he had it loaded on a cart being pulled by an ox. They were having a great celebration as the ark made its way up toward Jerusalem until the cart hit a bump and Uzzah reached out his had to steady the ark. When this happened, God’s anger broke out and Uzzah was struck dead for his irreverence (vs. 7). At first glance this seems cruel of God, but in fact God showed great restraint and longsuffering because He could have justly struck down every single person involved including King David. Improper worship of God is still false worship because worship involves obedience to God’s commands, and true worship cannot take place when those commands are ignored and broken. True worship must be in both spirit and in truth.
A more contemporary example of this first step down and away from the true worship of God is a story of Maria Rubio of New Mexico who in October 1977 was rolling a burrito for her husband’s breakfast when she noticed that the skillet burns on one of tortillas resembled what she thought was the face of Jesus. She became very excited and showed it to her husband and neighbors who all agreed that there was a face etched on the tortilla which resembled Jesus. How they knew what the face of Jesus looks like no one knows, but they all assumed it must be like the image on the tortilla. The woman then took the tortilla to her priest to have it blessed. She and her husband both testified to the priest that she was a more peaceful, happy, and submissive wife since the arrival of the tortilla. The priest, who had never blessed a tortilla before, somewhat reluctantly agreed to do so after their testimony.
The woman took the tortilla home and put it in a glass case on piles of cotton which gave it the appearance of floating on clouds. Then a special altar for it was built. Now this may sound like a story of just one nutty family that was eating something much more powerful than tortillas, but when she opened the “shrine of the Jesus of the tortilla” to visitors, more than 8,000 came within a few months and they all agreed that the marks on the tortilla resembled the face of Jesus (except for one reporter who said it looked more like former heavy-weight boxing champion Leon Spinks). Within two years, over 35, 000 had seen it. A small shed was built to enshrine it. In the years that followed, other people reported seeing images of Jesus on tortillas they had cooked. Tragedy struck in 2005 when Mrs. Rubio’s granddaughter took the tortilla to school for Show and Tell where it was dropped and broke into pieces.
Such silliness began because of her flawed worship within Roman Catholicism, which much like the cult of Jeroboam, has distorted the worship of the true God. The flawed worship allowed her to easily degenerate into the false worship of a scorched tortilla.
Romans 1:24-25 describes this degeneration. The truth of God is exchanged for a lie so that the creature is worshiped and served rather than the Creator. This is most obvious in pagan idolatry. God’s response is to pull His hand away and yield them to “the lust of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” This is why sexual perversion is so often tied in with idol worship. The mind is no longer functioning properly and emotion and passion are leading the person rather than truth.
Such pagan idolatry once marked the world except for Israel, and even they were subject to it whenever they strayed away from the true God. There is still a large portion of the world that worships idols made of wood, stone or metal – or in modern times – plastic, and these practices are increasing in our own country as a consequence of immigration, and an increase in paganism, animism and eastern religions as Biblical Christianity has declined in the U.S. More relevant to us are the secular forms of idolatry such as materialism and hedonism. People bow down to the idols of material success and pleasure. These are the gods that give them meaning in life and for which they live. It is sad that they will not heed the warning of Solomon who sought such things for a time and concluded that it was all vanity, empty chasing after the wind (Ecclesiastes).
The Old Testament is a record of God’s judgment against idolatry in all its forms. He had already judged the nations that were before Israel because of their idolatry. Time after time God chastised the Jewish people for slipping into idolatry, and it was the final reason for Israel and Judah being taken into captivity. Even though there was a revival under King Josiah, God declared to him in 2 Kings 22:17, “Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods that they might provoke Me to anger with all the work of their hands, therefore My wrath burns against this place, and it shall not be quenched.“
The degeneration continues in Romans 1:26-27 when due to such false worship, God pulls his hand back and yields them to degrading passions resulting in homosexuality and other sexual perversions.
The final level of degeneration is found in verse 28 where the suppression of truth leads to even cessation of the acknowledgment of God. God’s response is to give them over to a depraved mind. A mind that can no longer discern even basic logic about issues of morality.
King Nebuchadnezzar is a classic example of this. In Daniel 4:30 the king is reflecting on Babylon and how great he was for building it for the glory of his own majesty. While these words were still in the king’s mouth God’s judgment came against him and Nebuchadnezzar lost his senses to the point that he became deranged and lived out in the fields grazing like a cow. Only when he again acknowledged that God is the Most High ruler over all the affairs of mankind did his senses return (vs. 32-34).
God created us to worship and we will worship and serve something. It will either be the true God, a false god or gods, or ourselves. When we do not worship the true God, then the consequences to ourselves and others are dire, as this passage in Romans points out.
The Importance of True Worship in America
Let me briefly describe the importance of true worship of the true God as it has played out in our own nation. I love this nation. I can trace family history back to 1619 in Jamestown and the early/mid 1620’s in Plymouth. I have the names of ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War and the other wars this nation has fought to bring about the freedoms we enjoy. Several of them died in those wars. God has blessed this nation in the past in ways that are hard to imagine when we compare ourselves to other nations throughout history. I believe that those blessings are a direct result of the prominence of Christianity within the nation. Certainly there are black marks of evil in our history, but overall the nation was marked by a people striving to know, please and worship the true God.
But America is no longer the nation it once was. She has radically changed the 1960’s and I am not referring to technology. Her basic nature is no longer based in Christianity and striving to honor the true God. America is now a nation whose government entities not only try to block public acknowledgment of His existence, but also actively persecute those who strive to live godly in Christ Jesus.
By the 1960’s there was already a strong shift away from giving honor and thanksgiving to God, and God gave us over to the sexual revolution. The consequences of that is displayed all around us today as clearly as if we had been bombed and were surrounded by rubble. Consider that the average age of a first pregnancy in America is younger than a first marriage. Even among young Christians, only about a third think shaking up before marriage is wrong, and most couples now do live together before marriage. The holocaust of abortion continues. The welfare state has enslaved both those within it and the taxpayer who foots the bills.
By the 80’s the various court battles had left us as a nation that by law exchanged the truth of God for a lie. God was no longer creator, but just a “force.” Christianity was no longer upheld as the foundation of our society, but instead has been attacked as the enemy of society. Secularism reigns supreme in the public arena. You can bring nearly anything into the public school except Biblical truth. Every wacky idea of the evolutionists is presented as fact. Every perverted religion and philosophy can be freely proclaimed. But proclaim God as creator and Jesus Christ and the only way to heaven and you will be threatened with lawsuits. The result of our following the path of “diversity” has resulted in perversion so prevalent that the term “gay 90’s” for the 1990’s means something totally different from its application in the 1890’s.
We are now strongly in the third level of degeneration as more efforts are made to make God irrelevant to the affairs of our nation and society. Why is it that even when there are great national disasters of various kinds, there is no call by our political leaders for the nation to fast, pray and repent? That had been common practice throughout our history until the late twentieth century depending on who was the president.
People with minds that must be described as depraved have risen to the top echelons of positions and power in government, business, finance, media and society. Isaiah 5:20 pronounces “woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” Condoms are passed out freely in public High Schools, but distribution of Bibles is restricted. If you own a business and refuse as a business to participate in a homosexual wedding, you will be sued. Many government entities, including New York, have redefined gender to be a state of mind instead of a reality of biology and so require that government institutions, schools and business of certain types and sizes allow transvestites, transsexuals and others with gender confusion to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice according to how they identify at the time. A large portion of our national politicians and likewise in many states still promote and advocate Planned Parenthood to receive government funding even though it and its affiliates have been exposed as not only performing abortions, not only performing abortions on minors without reporting the statutory rape that would be part of it, but also selling human baby parts to research companies. Three states now allow for physician assisted suicide and it is being advocated in more states. That turns the Hippocratic oath on its head, but then the oath is no longer required by all institutions which grant medical degrees.
More disturbing is that there is little means by which to discuss and argue the issues with them. Their minds no longer function properly for their ability to reason itself is perverted. That is easy to recognize if you listen to talk shows in which political liberals present their views. If the host disagrees, he simply labels his opponent with a derogatory name without ever addressing the question or point brought up. There is little or no reasoning, just name calling. And if possible, they outlaw speech that questions their views. That is what is meant by the term “politically correct.” California is now considering making it illegal to say anything against “climate change.” These politicians know what they want to believe, so now they want to make sure they don’t have to deal with the truth of the actual facts.
I bring all this up to state that the true problem with America is her worship of God and our only hope to return to the great nation we once were must be found in our worship of God. As Proverbs 14:34 states, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” If you are a Christian citizen of this nation, you need to be involved in the political process, but understand that political power will not solve our nation’s problems, for it is one of the heart. We must pray for God’s grace and mercy to grant revival, for Christians to boldly proclaim the gospel, and that non-Christians will repent and turn.
The degeneration described in Romans 1 starts with individuals, and when enough individuals have gone down that path, they take the community, the society and the nation with them. How we worship God or fail to do so has consequences that go way beyond ourselves. In Genesis 19 it was for the lack of 10 righteous people that Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed. True worship of the Lord God brings blessings. All forms of false worship bring dire consequences. You cannot ignore God, nor can you worship a false God, nor can you worship the true God improperly without eventually incurring His wrath. Only because of the Lord’s great patience and longsuffering has the full weight of His judgment been postponed on us both personally and nationally – 2 Peter 2:15
Next week we will look at the marks of true worship. For this week, just consider the seriousness of worship because it is central to life.
Sermon Notes: The Centrality of Worship
Challenge those who do not worship God to do so
Challenge those who worship a false God or the true God improperly to repent
Challenge true Christians to understand and practice __________worship
Every problem is related to wrong beliefs about __________and the false worship that arises from that
True worship of the true God will bring about ___________to individual and societal problems
Created to Worship
God created you was for _________glory and purposes and not your own
Every person must battle against the ego-centric _____________
Isaiah 6:1-5 _____________________________________________________________________________
Revelation 4:1-11 ________________________________________________________________________
Revelation 5:11-13 _______________________________________________________________________
Revelation 14:6-7 ________________________________________________________________________
Blessings and Curses – Deuteronomy 27-28, Historical books
Israel’s _________correlates blessings with the proper worship of God and curses with false worship of God
Romans 1:1-17 – Paul’s introduction & desire to preach the Gospel
Romans 1:18-20 – God’s __________against man because he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness
Romans 1:21-23 – The decline into ____________worship
1 & 2 Kings: The false worship instituted by ___________
Leviticus 10 – the _______________worship by Nadab and Abihu
2 Samuel 6 – David’s _______________moving of the Ark of the Covenant
The Shrine of the Jesus of the _________________
Romans 1:24-25 – The decline into ______________& being yielded to the lusts of impure hearts
Pagan idolatry still exists throughout the world, but _______________idolatry is more prevalent in the U.S.
The Old Testament is a record of God’s ________of idolatry in all its forms – culminating in 2 Kings 22:17
Romans 1:26-27 – The decline into _______________passions
Romans 1:28-32 – The decline into _______________minds
Daniel 4 – King Nebuchadnezzar was deranged for__ years until he acknowledged that God is the Most High
Importance of True Worship in America
The U.S.A. has forsaken its ______________heritage resulting in the sexual revolution of the 1960’s
Evolution replaced God as ________________, and the homosexual revolution began
God has been pushed to irrelevance in _____affairs, and those that follow Christ are mocked and persecuted
People with ________minds are now in the top echelons of positions & power – Government, media, society
Their ability to ___________becomes perverted so it become very difficult to even discuss issues with them
The true problem in America is her _______worship, and her only hope is to repent and turn to true worship
The degeneration described in Romans 1 starts with individuals and ____________to society
True worship brings ______________and false worship results in curses
Judgment is _______________because the Lord is patient and longsuffering – 2 Peter 3:15
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times the word “worship” is said. Talk with your parents about the importance of worship in your home.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What is worship? Why is it important? What does Isaiah 6 reveal about worship? Revelation 4? Revelation 5? Revelation 14:6? Why does God give so much detail about the Tabernacle, sacrificial practices, and the Temple? What does this tell you about your own efforts to approach God to worship Him? What does history demonstrate about God response to obedience to Him? Disobedience to Him? Consider Romans 1:18-20 – How is God’s wrath revealed? Who does it abide on? Why does it abide on them? Consider Romans 1:21-25 – What was their attitude toward God? What did they worship? What was God’s response and the consequences upon them? Consider Romans 1:26-27 – What does God abandon them to and why? Consider Romans 1:28-32 – What was their attitude toward God? What did they worship? What was God’s response and the consequences upon them? How was the degeneration described in Romans 1:18-32 played out in the history of the nation of Israel? How has this degeneration been playing out in the U.S.A.? What evidence is there that true worship is still valued in America? What is your own worship like? What does God think of it? Why?
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