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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
September 19, 1999
The Work of Worship
This morning I want to continue on the topic of worship. This topic came up a few weeks ago in our series on the Purpose of Grace Bible Church. We use the statement, Glorifying God by Making Disciples of Jesus Christ, as a simple definition of our purpose, but we also expand that into four statements that express the essential aspects of how we fulfill our purpose. 1) We Communicate New Life in Christ through Evangelism. 2) We Cultivate New Life in Christ through Edification. 3) We Care for New Life in Christ through Fellowship and 4) We Celebrate New Life in Christ through Worship.
A simple definition of the worship is "reverence offered to a divine being or supernatural power" (Webster). There is a lot of false worship that occurs because things that are not the true God are offered reverence. In addition, a lot of people go through the outward motions of religious exercises, but their hearts are far from God. We saw a few weeks ago that Jesus said in John 4:23,24 "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."
True Worship then is reverence offered from out of the heart to the individual to the Creator God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures. True worship must be given to the true God and it must be offered from the right motive. This was explained in more detail in the sermon a few weeks ago. In that sermon I also explained that True worship is Regenerated in the Spirit & Regained in Truth. We also saw in that sermon that true worship is Reverent in hear, Respectful in Action, Rendered in Service, Radiated in Proclamation, Resounded in Praise, Responds in Prayer, Reflected both as Individuals and as a congregation and that it is Rigorous work. Please pick up a copy of the tape if you missed that sermon.
Worship Must be According to God
In last week’s sermon I sought to bring out the point that true worship must have the right focus. It is bad enough that there is so much false worship that occurs because people give honor and praise to things that are not God, but on top of this tragedy is the false worship given to the true God. This occurs for two reasons.
1) People worship the true God, but their spirit it not in it. They are only going through the out motions of religious exercise. This was a problem in both the times of the Old and New Testament and it is a problem today. In Isaiah 29:13 the Prophet warns the people, Then the Lord said, "Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned [by rote,]. Jesus quoted this verse in Mark 7:7 in His denunciation of the Pharisees and scribes. The same occurs today.
About all that is left in many of the traditional liturgical churches is the rituals. They abandoned the worship of the true God long ago when they no longer believed the Bible to be His word. Yet, week in and week out, people go to these churches to practice the same religious rituals that have been passed down for generations. But they are not the only ones with this problem. It exists in evangelical and fundamental churches too. The rituals are not centuries old in churches like this one, but rituals develop quickly and are soon practiced with the same mindlessness. I have met plenty of folks over the years that come to church because they feel some sort of obligation to do so because of how they were raised.
This happens much too often. We must be careful in the training of our children. A person is saved from out the world and is excited about Jesus Christ. He knows what he has been saved from and responds with true worship. He teaches his children, but because they have only known a Christian home they are often not as fervent. The reality of what they have been saved from is not as vivid. This can easily lead to worship being more of a family commitment than a personal one. In the next generation the supposed worship of God is really just a family ritual. If family ties are strong, the rituals continue. If they are weak, the children reject the religion along with other family identity ties. We need to make sure we train our children in the reality of Jesus Christ. We must reach their hearts, not just control and direct their actions. True worship rises from the heart.
2) Another reason that people can give false worship to the true God is because they do not worship Him according to His commands. They seek to worship God in whatever way seems best to them. I mentioned this last week, but I want to emphasize it again because this is such a problem in our own day. We live in an age and a country when individual freedom is stressed to such a degree that people think they are autonomous. They can do what they want when they want where they want. All opinions are of equal value, so they make the final decision even about what is right and wrong. I could give example after example of this in our society, but my point this morning is worship so I will keep my focus on that.
Last week I mentioned several examples of God’s reaction to improper worship. In Leviticus 10 we find that God strikes down Nadab and Abihu when they offered strange fire before the Lord. God had gone into great detail in Exodus 25-40 and Leviticus 1-9 describing how He was to be worshiped. Nadab and Abihu failed to follow the directions and God struck them dead because they did not treat Him as holy.
I pointed out from 1 Corinthians 11 that there were those that were not taking the Lord’s Supper in a proper way and that as a result some of them were sick and some had died. God is serious about how He is to be worshiped.
In both of these examples a person might argue that these people may not have been very serious about the worship of God and that is why they failed. Nadab and Abihu may have been drunk. The selfishness of the Corinthians is obvious in the text. I also pointed out another example I want to examine again this week. Turn again to 2 Samuel 6. Last week, after I had described the details of what happened in the passage I had summarized it by saying they "tossed" the Ark of God on the cart. Roy Stroud was a good Berean and pointed out to me that they had "placed" the Ark on the cart and that the picture of what occurred was changed because of that. I want to make sure you have the correct picture of what happened and why.
David wanted to move the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David did not do this haphazardly. David had over 30,000 men for the event (vs. 1). They placed the Ark on a new cart (vs. 2). The word is "rakab" and its primary meaning is to "mount and ride." That does not tell us a whole lot about the manner in which they handled the ark, but the context does, so let’s continue examining that. In verse 5 we find David and the all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord with all kinds of musical instruments (vs. 5). This is quite a procession. There was a lot of thought and care given to what they were doing. They had prepared and were careful in what they were doing, but tragedy strikes in verse 6 & 7. But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset [it.] You would think, "wow, that was close, but Uzzah saved the day by keeping the Ark from being upset. But No! – vs. 7.
7 And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. We think, Oh Lord God! How could you do such a thing to a man trying to help. The answer is that he was irreverent.
David had quite a procession and even had a new ox cart to carry the Ark, but the Ark was supposed to be moved only by the Priests carrying it on their shoulders (Ex. 25:14; Deut. 10:8). God’s mercy was shown in that He only struck down Uzzah and not all of them. David learned the lesson and brought the Ark up in the correct manner three months later (2 Sam. 6:12f).
False worship occurs when we ignore what God has said about how He is to be worshiped and we do what seems good to us. God does not fit into a box so that we can do with Him what we desire or treat Him according to our own fancy. God is holy and He must be treated as holy and honored (Lev. 10:3). God is majestic and should be treated with such reverence due Him. God is merciful, and we Praise Him for that, otherwise none of us would have lived to see this day. True worship is about God, not us. It is about us giving praise, honor and reverence to Him. And while we seek to worship God with our emotions as well as our minds and our actions, how we feel about worship does not matter. God is worthy of our worship regardless of how you feel about giving it to Him. God is deserving of our honor and praise regardless of what you feel you are getting.
Worship takes work because it goes against our bent to sin and selfishness. We must give of ourselves in order to truly worship God, and our natural inclination is to get something for ourselves. That innate desire perverts worship into a means to try to manipulate God. We may or may not be aware of this but it is common. Like Jacob (Gen. 28:2), we bargain with God, "I will worship you if you do this for me." Or, like Hezekiah, we think we deserve certain blessings if we worship God and get depressed when things don’t go our way (2 King 20:1-4). Or we complain against God when things are hard and we don’t know why God has not intervened on our behalf. Even Job eventually did this (Job 33:13).
True worship must be done according to God’s desire, not our own. We must take His commands to us as seriously as He does. We had best be careful not to presume upon His longsuffering and mercy for we do not know when He will judge for disobedience.
True worship is not something we will do naturally. True worship is not something that will just happen as we leave ourselves to "be moved by the spirit" for there are other spirits that would lead us astray from God. True worship takes work.
Worship Takes Time
One of the first areas we find that it takes work to worship God is the area of time. I mentioned this last week, so I will not go over it again except to point out that the Scriptural examples in both the Old and New Testament is that people who were serious about the worship of God devoted time to it.
Even from the practical standpoint you will have to give of your time in order to properly worship God. I am not talking about just a few hours on a Sunday morning. I am referring to carrying out the many commands our Lord has given us that take time to do. Praying takes time. We are commanded over to devote ourselves to prayer (Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2), to pray with all perseverance and petition for all the saints (Eph. 6:18), to be of sound judgment and sober [spirit] for the purpose of prayer (1 Pet. 4:7) and to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17). That is going to require some time.
We are to know the Scriptures and that takes time. It takes time to read, study, memorize and meditate on God’s Word. We are commended to be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who checked out the Scriptures for themselves. We should strive to be like Timothy being able to "handle accurately the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) so that we will mature and not be "carried about by every wind of doctrine" (Eph. 4:14). The godly will meditate on God’s word (Ps. 1:2) and hide it in their hearts that they might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). That is going to take time.
We are to be busy serving the Lord with the various gifts He has entrusted to us. That will also take time for no matter what gift it is – teaching, mercy, giving, administration, helps, etc., – it will take time to use it. There is also the whole context of Christian fellowship in which the one another verses take place and these gifts are used.
With all that in mind it is no wonder that Paul warned in Eph. 5:16 to be making the most of your time, because the days are evil. Are you making the most of your time? True worship takes hard work in making sure that the proper time is given to the activities that God has commanded. It is very easy for us to follow the spirit of our society and have our time consumed by things of no eternal value.
Worship Takes Thought
Worship is also work because it takes active thought. It can be a lot of work to keep your mind focused on a sermon. (Some times it is very obvious to me who is working at that and who is not). But more paying attention to a sermon is thinking itself. Let’s face it, it is a lot easier to be passive and let someone else take the responsibility saying you were just repeating what you were taught or doing what you were told. That Bereans were commended so highly as being noble minded because they were diligent to search for the truth.
Many people can quote John 8:32, or at least part of it. Jesus says there, "and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." What they do not know is that this statement is predicated on verse 31 in which Jesus says to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, [then] you are truly disciples of Mine." The truth does pop into a person’s mind by some magical force. It is not acquired by osmosis. The truth is found in the Scriptures (John 17:17) and it takes work to "abide" in them. Those who are lazy in this will not know the truth and are destined to be led astray by someone who will tickle their ears with what they want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3,4).
True worship arises from faith, but Biblical faith is not a leap into the dark. It is a reasonable belief that takes into account all the information that is available and has the discernment to separate truth and error in order to make right conclusions. God calls on us to use our reason, our ability to think, in coming to Him (Isa. 1:18). We are to use reasoning in presenting the gospel to others (Acts 17:2, 18:4). Christians are to be thinking people. One of Jesus more common expressions to begin a teaching lesson was either, "what do you think" or "do not think that. . .".
Thinking takes work in itself. It also takes work to make sure you are thinking about the right things. We are to set [our] mind[s] on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Col. 3:2). We are to let our minds dwell on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy (Phi. 4:8). What do you let your mind dwell on? What do you think about? Worship takes work to control your mind to think about God and your life from His perspective.
Worship Makes Sacrifices
Worship also takes work because it requires sacrifices. The sacrifices of the Old Testament were clearly defined in terms of the sacrificial offerings and tithes. In the New Testament Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system so that it is no longer operative (Heb. 10), yet there are sacrifices that are still to be made. 1 Peter 2:5 states we are to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Such sacrifice would include doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased (Heb. 13:16), living our lives in the service of Christ (Phil. 2:17), supporting missions work (Phil. 4:18), as well as what Heb. 13:15 calls the "sacrifice of praise."
In order to praise God, to give him thanks, you will have to sacrifice complaining because you cannot do both at the same time. This in turn requires you to sacrifice your self interest and see life from God’s perspective.
Too often people think they are serving God, but they do so with a grumbling, complaining spirit. That reveals they are not serving as an expression of worship, but as a means to get something and they don’t think they are getting a good deal. Sometimes this is expressed with the idea that other people are not pulling their weight, but serving God is not about fairness, it is about His glory. We are to serve sacrificially without thought as to what other people are doing. What is it to you what other people are doing? You follow Christ (John 21:22). Worship the Lord by serving Him with gladness (Ps. 100:2). Do whatever the Lord places on your heart in using your gifts and serving Him sacrificially with praise instead of complaints.
The greatest sacrifice we are to make is found in Romans 12:1,2. Paul begins his practical application of the gospel saying, I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. It is only reasonable for you to live your life fully committed to the glory of Christ in view of what He has done for you in saving you from your sins. There is work involved in resisting the pressure of the world to make mold you into its own image, but we are to be transformed into something new.
This also is worship and brings up my next point. Too often we think of worship as certain religious activities done in church or private. But true worship is so much more than that.
Worship as a Way of Life
I believe the core issue in true worship is this one. There are those that try to worship God in bits and pieces with a little praise here and a little honor given there. This will vary in the amount and intensity, but worship for them is still primarily a religious activity. They hold a dichotomy to life. There is the secular and the sacred. Worship is part of the sacred and does not fit in with the rest of life. Worship is what happens at church, during devotional times and religious retreats. It may occur when giving thanks for a meal or praising God when you avoided some disaster. Perhaps it is also occurring when playing Christian music. Those are all good things, but the failing is that worship is not occurring while working, while driving here and there, while shopping, exercising, or relaxing.
True worship is a way of life because the entire life is to be focused on the glory of God. That is what it means to be a living sacrifice. Your life is not your own, but you were bought with a price and you are to glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:20). You were crucified with Christ and Jesus lives in you and the life you now live is by faith in the Son of God (Gal. 2:20). Everything you do is now to be done with the glory of God in view. When you eat or drink, it is to be to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). We receive our food with gratitude and it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer (1 Tim. 4:4). When you work, it is to be done heartily for the Lord rather than for men (Col. 3:23). Whatever we do in word or deed is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus (Col. 3:17).
There is no dichotomy between the secular and the sacred for the Christian. Everything is sacred because everything is to be done for God’s glory. Whether mundane or extraordinary, all that the Christian does is to be a reflection of Christ. I know this may seem radical to some, but it is the very nature of what we are to be as Christians. The Christian by nature is a radically changed being. He once was dead in trespasses and sin, but now he has been made alive together with Christ. He has been saved by God’s wonderful grace (Eph. 2:1-9). He is in the process of being conformed into the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
Sadly, each of us, including myself, know that a hard look in the mirror reveals that we still lack in so many ways in so many areas, but even so, there should be changes. Does your life reflect this radical change? Is this the mindset that you live by? Is Jesus Christ becoming the central focus of your life, or are you keeping Him off in a corner of your life. Jesus is not to be a part of your life. He is to be your life.
This is the work of true worship. We are to resist the pressure of the world to conform us to its mold (Rom. 12:2). We are to consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry (Col. 3:5) and put aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, [and] abusive speech from [our] mouth[s] (Col. 3:8). We are not to lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its [evil] practices (Col. 3:9). We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2). We are, as Col. 3:11-15 states it, to put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (11). We are to put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other (12,13). And beyond all these things [put on] love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
The work of true worship is the work of having your lives transformed and changed into the image of Christ for the greatest honor, praise and reverence we can give to God is to be reflections of Jesus Christ. If this is true, then the rest is relatively easy. We will be careful to worship in accordance with God’s will. We will worship Him in the proper spirit and in truth. We will spend our time wisely in pursuit of God’s priorities for our lives. Our minds will be focused on Him and we will desire to sacrifice of ourselves for His name’s sake. The true worship of God will then be your very way of life.
Worship Affects Others for Christ
When such true worship occurs, then other people also take note of your life and your activities. They see will Christ living through you. This is letting your light so shine before men that they see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Mt. 5:16). When that happens you have caused others to also worship our God.
I hope each of us has been challenged by this today. The purpose of this church – the purpose of our very existence – is the glory of God. We were created to worship Him. All that we do and all that we say should be toward that end. That also means we are to give Him our best whatever that may be. He is worthy of our most excellent efforts. I hope this reflects the desire of your own heart.
Let me conclude this morning with this prayer written by a Puritan some 300 years ago.
I feel it is heaven to please thee, and to be what thou wouldst have me be.
O that I were holy as thou are holy, pure as Christ is pure, perfect as thy Spirit is perfect!
These, I feel, are the best commands in Thy book, and shall I break them? Must I break them? Am I under such necessity as long as I live here?
Woe, woe is me that I am a sinner, that I grieve this blessed God, who is infinite in goodness and grace!
O, if He would punish me for my sins, it would not wound me heart so deep to offend Him;
But though I sin continually, He continually repeats His kindness to me.
A times I feel I could bear any suffering, but how can I dishonour this glorious God?
What shall I do to glorify and worship this best of beings?
O that I could consecrate my soul and body to his service, without restraint, for ever!
O that I could give myself up to him, so as never more to attempt to be my own! Or have any will or affections that are not perfectly conformed to his will and his love!
But, alas, I cannot live and not sin.
O may angels glorify Him incessantly, and, if possible, prostrate themselves lower before the blessed king of heaven!
I long to bear a part with them in ceaseless praise:
But when I have done all I can to eternity I shall not be able to offer more than a small fraction of the homage that the glorious God deserves.
Give me a heart full of divine, heavenly love.
The Valley of Vision, pg. 128
Sermon Study Sheets
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 term "worship" is used in the sermon. Talk with your parents about your own attitude toward God in worship.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
What is worship? Give two reasons false worship of the true God is so common? What can you do to make sure you do not fall into either of these errors? Why is worship so hard to do? How much time per week do you give to personal Bible study? Prayer? Using your spiritual gift(s)? Entertainment? Hobbies? What should change? What thoughts occupy your mind? How much to do you think about God? His perspective of your life? Worship involves sacrifice. What do you sacrifice in the worship of God? What should you sacrifice? Worship of God should be a way of life for the believer. Does your life reflect such worship? Do you make a dichotomy between the secular and the sacred? Does God make that same distinction? What do you think God would like you to change to improve your worship of Him? What can you do to make those changes? What is the work of true worship? How does your life affect the people around you? Do people praise God because of you?
Sermon Notes – 9/19/1999 a.m.
"The Work of Worship"
"God is spirit , and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth ."
"Reverence offered to a divine being or supernatural power" – Webster
Worship Must be According to God.
1) False Worship of the True God – Improper Heart
2) False Worship of the True God – Failure to Obey
Ignoring God’s Word
Struggling Against our Bent to Sin and Selfishness
Worship Takes Time
Interaction with the Scriptures
Using our Gifts
Worship Takes Thought
Calls to Reason and Thought
Worship Makes Sacrifices
Worship as a Way of Life
Worship Affects Others for Christ
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