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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 28, 2016
Worship That Pleases God, Part 1
Over the last couple of weeks I have presented to you marks of true worship by both the individual and the congregation. True worship by the individual should be marked by A Proper Fear of God, Confession of Sin, Faith in God, Confident Prayer, The Fruits of Righteousness, Verbal Praise to God, A Content heart, Willingness to Suffer for Righteousness without Complaint, and A Clear Witness to others of God’s mercy, grace and love. (See: The Marks of True Worship – Individual)
When the individuals in a congregation are truly worshiping God, then when then marks of true worship will also be evident within the congregation. When the whole church is truly worshiping God, then God Himself is glorified, Believers are purified, the Church itself is Edified and Unbelievers are Evangelized. (See: The Marks of True Worship – Congregational)
It is fine to talk about the marks of true worship, but what do you do if those things are not really in your life the way you know they should be? For that reason, I want to talk about what underlies true worship. I have already mentioned it in passing and alluded to it in past sermons, but today I want to concentrate on it. How can a person develop true worship of God and be characterized by the marks of it?
Making God the Priority
It begins with making sure that God is the priority in your life. You must put God first in every aspect of your life. That is simple to state and it is a simple concept to understand. It is even a simple way to live, and if we would all do it, we could live happily ever after without any problems. However, there is a major difficulty for that is directly against man’s fallen, sinful nature. All people resist this because everyone naturally desires to be the center of their universe.
This problem is aggravated in modern American culture because it feeds the selfishness innate to our fallen nature by its promotion and high esteem of individualism, independence and demand for “rights.” Our national character is so centered on this now that those who demand their “rights” to be on the government welfare dole think that in doing so they are actually gaining independence as individuals. We also have a rising disregard, if not disdain, for authority with the promotion of the idea that “No one is going to tell me what to do!”
Please do not think that we as Christians are not affected by these things. There is a reason that Paul commanded believers in Romans 12:2 to not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Paul knew that society will try to pressure you into its mold. And the simple fact is that you will be molded by society unless you are consciously working against that pressure and seeking to be transformed by having every thought taken captive to obedience to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
I am neither blaming society nor using it as an excuse. I am simply saying that our society feeds the selfishness that is naturally within us. No one needs society’s pressure to want to be the captain of their own ship and master of their own fate. People naturally want to decide on their own what is best for themselves while building up their own kingdom. Inherent within the human heart is the desire to be accepted by others while controlling everything around them.
In practical terms, it comes out this way. You want others to like you just the way you are without any changes. You do not want others to tell you what to do. You do not want others to correct your faults. You want others to overlook the warts and think you are perfect and beautiful. However, you do want to correct others and tell them what to do and change them so that you will like them better. Does that sound hypocritical? You will not believe that is hypocritical as long as you convince yourself that what you want for others is for their own good!
Proverbs 16:25 tells us the truth, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” You and I need a savior that will make a way for us to be forgiven for all our sin and selfishness. You and I need a God that will tell us what to do. You and I need the Holy Spirit to dwell within us so that we are changed to be what we are supposed to be. You and I need other believers who will “spur us on to love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24) as well as correct us and restore us when we err (Galatians 6:1). Neither you or I are the captains of our own ships. Without Jesus Christ, you and I are like galley slaves on a leaky ship rowing as hard as we can with little understanding that we are heading for destruction on a reef. With Jesus Christ, you and I can be mates following our Captain’s orders and under full sail for the port of heaven.
The Need for God
I have already pointed out in an earlier sermon that God does not need us for anything and that includes worship of Him. God is glorious by His very nature, and to worship Him is a privilege that He grants to us. He does not need us, but we desperately need Him.
The foundation for true worship starts at this very point. I need God. I don’t mean that I need God for a little assistance now and then. I mean I need God for every aspect of my life both large and small. I need to have a craving for God. You need Him just as much.
How great should this craving for God be? David describes it well in Psalm 42:1-2, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for Thee, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” I am sure most of us have experienced times when we were like that deer. Think about some hot day when you are sweating because you have been working or playing hard. How much did you want a drink? There have been times when my mouth has gone beyond that “cotton” stage to where my throat feels like it is shriveling. My mind goes from a simple notice that I could use a drink to a focusing on one thing – water! That should be the description of our longing for God. Does your soul pant for God? Until it does your worship of Him will always be less than it should be, for it is only with thirst for God that you will truly put God at the center of everything you do, say, think and feel.
How does such a craving start? With the recognition that God is the creator and you are but His creature made by Him for His own purposes. God has put an awareness of Himself in every human according to Romans 1. There is a sense in every human that something is missing in life and that there is more to reality than what meets our physical senses. Some theologians have called this the “God shaped vacuum.” It is the reason that humans are innately religious. It drives people for a search for something beyond themselves though they are not often sure what that might be.
Chasing After the Wind
We are all aware both personally and from observation of this desire for something that we cannot quite put our finger on that will make our life meaningful and fulfilling. The book of Ecclesiastes describes the results in seeking that meaning and fulfillment in something other than God. That is ultimately “vanity, chasing after the wind,” for only God can satisfy it. Ecclesiastes 1:17 addresses the philosopher saying, “I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind.” Ecclesiastes 2 speaks to the hedonist saying, “I said to myself, ‘come now, I will test you with pleasure, So enjoy yourself’” with verse 2-11 describing Solomon’s pursuit of pleasures of all types and his conclusion in verse 11, “behold all was vanity and striving after the wind and there was no profit under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:11 addresses those who seek fame warning, “there is no remembrance of earlier things; And also of the latter things which will occur, There will be for them no remembrance Among those who will come later still.” Both the famous and infamous are soon forgotten. Ecclesiastes 5:10 warns those who desire wealth, “he who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.” And for those who want power, not only is that also fleeting as Ecclesiastes 4:15 states, but even if you achieve it, what will be come of it? Ecclesiastes 2:18-19 answers that question, 18 “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. 19 And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.”
Apart from God there is no meaning and purpose to life. As America has moved away from its rich Christian heritage, she has also shifted from a people of hope and optimism to become a nation full of cynicism, apathy, fatalism and nihilism. There are consequences when a society turns its back on God, and one of our consequences is that despite being wealthy nation, we have a high suicide rate and in particular among teens and senior citizens. The teens are ignorant of the purpose of life and have bought into erroneous philosophies that lead them to fatal decisions. The senior citizens have spent there lives looking for significant meaning and purpose to life, but still have not found it, and the decline in their bodies becomes too painful for them to bear so they seek death as a means of escape.
What significance does life have for those who believe they are just a bit of space dust that performs some very complex chemical reactions for a short time and then returns to space dust? What hope can there be for such people? Only in relationship to your creator can you find meaning beyond being a mere bit of matter in a meaningless existence, but this brings us to a second force that drives a person that craves God. A correct understanding of God’s holiness and your own personal sinfulness creates a desperate need for God and His forgiveness.
The Sinfulness of Human Nature
Last week I commented that evangelism in America is weak because it is so often man centered. An aspect of this is a superficial view of sin. Even those who still talk about sin and the need for God’s forgiveness tend to pass over it superficially. Verses such as Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” are quoted, but in doing so everyone is lumped together and we miss the personal nature of our sin. It is seen as enough if the person will admit they are sinner even if only in the generic sense. The truth is that real repentance only comes when the person understands that they have personally offended God in very specific ways by their willing sinful actions and attitudes.
Yes, all humans are sinners as a class because of the sin nature we all inherited from Adam. That is Paul’s point in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men.” The point made in Isaiah 53:6 is similar, “All of us like sheep have gone astray.” All humans are sinners, but neither the Prophet or the Apostle ended there. Paul adds at the end of Romans 5:12, “and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Isaiah adds, “Each of us has turned to his own way.” Each human as an individual has also sinned. Each of us is sinful as a class and as individuals.
Romans 3:10-12, which is a quote from Psalm 14:3 and 53:1-3, is more direct on this point. “There is none righteous, not even one; 11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; 12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.” That is straightforward. There are no exceptions. But notice that this sets up a conflict within the human. On one hand there is this seeking after some meaning to life which can only be fulfilled in a relationship with God. On the other hand there is this fact of sin and that no one seeks after God. There is no enjoyment in feeling guilty, and that guilt becomes a barrier from our coming to God. We want the guilt removed, but we cannot remove it ourselves, and we know that we cannot come before our creator in such an unrighteous state. Only God can cleanse you.
Man does not seek God, but God seeks out man to save him from sin, its penalty and effects. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, and no man comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). At the same time, no one can come to Jesus Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). Salvation is the work of God by which He justifies the sinner through the death of Jesus Christ on the sinner’s behalf and then extends the righteousness of Christ.
This sets up something that may seem a bit paradoxical, but is true. When a person has a shallow view of their sin, they will also have a shallow desire for God. Because they view their sin as an issue of little importance, they will have a corresponding distorted view of God and see little need for Him except for perhaps of what “blessings” they think they can get from Him. In contrast to this, when a person has a serious view of their sin, they will have a deep longing for God. Those that understand the depth of their sinfulness will see their desperate need for God and His forgiveness.
Let me give you an analogy. Who cries out for help more? The person who is drowning a little or drowning a lot? The perception of the danger results in the urgency of the cries for help. Lets take a person that cannot swim and put them on a tidal flat in the Bay of Fundy to explore. There are places where the tidal flats there can stretch more than a mile and tides can be more than 45ft high. A person who does not pay attention to the incoming tide can be in grave danger before they realize it. If the tide is coming in and is a few inches deep, there appears to be little danger and so the person may continue to look around thinking they can still easily make it back to safety on their own. They have a shallow view of the danger and hence little or no desire to call for help. Now consider the reaction of this same person when they notice than in the span of a half hour the tide has risen from their ankles to their chest and they are still a half mile out from shore with the tide still coming in. You can be sure that their desire for help has escalated dramatically.
The same is true with your own sin. The greater your understanding of it’s true nature, its danger, and your inability to deal with it on your own, the greater your desire for someone to rescue you. When that is combined with a correct understanding of God and His nature, then there is a deep craving for God for it is also recognized that the only hope for forgiveness and cleansing from sin is in Him.
The Craving for God and Quest to Be Cleansed from Sin
David expressed this craving for God and cleansing from sin in Psalm 51. His longing for God begins with his cry out to Him for mercy, then moves through confession and to a pleading for cleansing. “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Thy compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.”
Notice the depth of confession in these next verses: 3 “For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me. 4 Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, And done what is evil in Thy sight, So that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, And blameless when Thou dost judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, Thou dost desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part Thou wilt make me know wisdom.”
Next, David requests cleansing, but note within the request the reason why. 7 “Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which Thou hast broken rejoice. 9 Hide Thy face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.” David saw that his sin was offensive to God, and he was ashamed of it. 10 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Thy presence, And do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit.” David does not want to lose his relationship with God. He longs for God, and as he came to grips with his sinfulness after Nathan confronted him, that longing for God increased.
Those who crave God understand that there is meaning in life only in relationship to Him. They also understand that only God through Jesus Christ can bring about the needed reconciliation because of our sin against Him. Add to this the fact that the closer you draw to God the closer you want to be to Him. The result of this longing, this craving for God, is a life that is centered on God and seeking His will in every aspect of life. Nothing else is more important.
How does all this figure in with worship that is truly pleasing to God? Simply this. Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:24 that “God is spirit and those that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” We have talked about this statement previously. My point here is that true worship occurs in spirit, not in ritual. It is more an aspect of who you are than what you do. It is personal in nature and comes from the heart. It is something that cannot be compartmentalized or separated out to be done only at specific designated times. True worship is something that controls the whole of your being and not just portions of it.
A fellow named Ben Patterson but it this way, “. . . to worship Him as we ought is to become what we ought.” William Temple expressed it this way, “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purse the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
A God Centered Life
We are too easily caught up and led astray by a dichotomy we place between what is secular and what is sacred. We classify some things as secular and some as sacred. It is sacred to come to church, to sing hymns, to pray, to read your Bible and witness to your neighbor. It is secular to go to work, run errands, go shopping, invest your finances, read a book, watch TV, vote for a politician, take a shower or eat popcorn at the fair. Does Scripture teach a dichotomy between secular and sacred? Consider first 1 Timothy 4:4-5 concerning food, 4 “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” The term “everything” removes any dichotomy concerning food. Next consider Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” Those verses do not allow for any dichotomy concerning work. 2 Corinthians 10:5 and Philippians 4:8 preclude any dichotomy for the way a Christian thinks for we are to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” and have our minds dwell on what is true, honest, just, pure lovely, of good report, virtuous and praiseworthy. There is not to be an dichotomy between secular and sacred for the person who worships God in a way pleasing to God. Every activity of life from the mundane, like drinking a glass of water, to the extraordinary, like taking part in a worship service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem on Resurrection morning, is to be an aspect of worship. Why? Because worship is reverence, honor and glory directed to the Lord God. The activities of daily life are to be as much a part of that as special times devoted solely to that quest.
A dichotomy the Bible does make is between worldliness and godliness because they are opposite each other. 1 John 2:15-17 warns that the things of this world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life are not from the Father and are passing away. The believer is to resist the pressure of the world to conform us to itself and instead “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” (Romans 12:2). Colossians 2:8 warns us not to let anyone lead us astray or be caught up in philosophy, empty deceptions and traditions of men.
Avoid worldliness and make everything else sacred. The worship that pleases God the most is not what occurs here in this building on Sunday morning. It is you living your life throughout the week for His honor and glory. That is why God’s promise to you is to take care of the mundane matters of life for you. That is the meaning of Jesus statement in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.” The “these things” are the normal aspects of life such as what you should eat, what you should wear, how long you should live.
Worship in a God Centered Life
The worship that pleases God the most is the life that is God centered. It praises Him for Who He is and what He has done. It thanks Him for every day of life, for water to drink and food to eat. It praises Him for the beauty all around in His creation and the wonder of the human eye that allows us to see it. It marvels at His power in the wind, the storm, the pounding surf as well as even more powerful things such as volcanoes, tornadoes, and earthquakes. True worship stands in amazement at the vastness of the universe God has created as displayed in the stars. It is in awe of the intricacies and complexity of even the most simple life forms. In humble adoration we bow before Him as we consider His love to us in Jesus Christ.
But worship continues on in how life is lived. The one who craves for God will worship Him through obedience to His commands. This is obedience out of broken submission, but is driven by love and the desire to please Him. Worship occurs when you persevere in tribulation and bless those who persecute you (Romans 12:13-14); when you regard others as more important than yourself and look out for their interests (Philippians 2:3-4); when all bitterness, wrath, anger, slander and malice is put away from you and your speech is the truth spoken in love with the purpose of building others up according to the need of the moment and giving grace to those that hear you (Ephesians 4). True worship occurs when you husbands love your wives as Christ loves the church, and you wives respect your husbands and submit to their headship, and you children obey your parents, because these are the roles God has given to you (Ephesians 5 & 6). Worship takes place when you employees serve your employers with good will as slaves of Christ, and you employers treat your employees fairly and do not exploit them (Ephesians 6).
Your worship of the Lord is most pleasing when people look at you and see Jesus Christ living through you. This is the meaning of what Paul said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.” Others should see your good works of deeds, words and attitude which are then a cause to give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
God is your creator and He made you for Himself. Apart from Him you have no meaning and purpose to your existence. You have sinned against Him and offended Him, yet He loved you and Jesus Christ died in your place for your sins so that you could be reconciled with the Father. Worship that pleases God understands deeply all this and results in a great longing for God and desire to please Him in every aspect of life. There is no separation between secular and sacred, for all is done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
More tender than we can imagine,
More faithful than we can conceive,
Stronger than we can envision,
Wiser than we can believe –
What loss through our blindness we suffer
When God’s boundless love we ignore;
But when we just taste of its sweetness,
‘Tis then we fall down and adore!
– Laurie H. DuBose
Sermon Notes: Worship That Pleases God, Part 1
What is necessary for a person to develop true ___________of God and be characterized by its marks?
Making God the Priority
God must be the first priority in _____________aspect of life
Man’s sin nature resists this and American ____________can aggravate the problem
People naturally want to _____________what is best for themselves while building their own kingdom
People naturally want to be accepted as they are by others while demanding others _______because it is best
Each of us ______a Savior to free us from sin, God to tell us what to do, and the Holy Spirit to empower us
The Need for God
God does not need us for anything, but we __________________need Him for everything
Our craving for God should be _______________- Psalm 41:1-2
The craving for God starts with recognizing He is the _____________and you are His creature
Chasing After the Wind
People search for meaning in life, but if it is not in God, it will be ___________of vanities – Ecclesiastes 1:2
Ecclesiastes 1:17 – answers the _______________
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 – answers the _________________
Ecclesiastes 1:11 – answers those seeking _____________
Ecclesiastes 5:10 – answers the ________________
Ecclesiastes 2:18-19; 4:15 – answers those seeking _______________
Apart from God there is ________meaning and purpose to life
What significance is there for those who believe they are a momentary chemical ___________of space dust?
The Sinfulness of Human Nature
A man centered gospel produces a superficial and _______________view of sin
______seeks out man and performs the work of redemption in Christ offering salvation through faith in Him
A shallow view of sin results in little desire for God. A serious view of sin results in a ______desire for God
A proper understanding of God and of personal sinfulness results in a deep __________for God & cleansing
The Craving for God and Quest to Be Cleansed from Sin – Psalm 51
Verses 1-2 – A plea for graciousness and _____________
Verses 3-6 – The depth of _______________
Verses 7-9 – The request for ______________
Verses 10-12 – The request for _______________
The craving for God results in a life _____________on God that seeks His will
True worship occurs in spirit as an ____________of who you are, not in ritual separated from the rest of life
“. . . to worship Him as we ought is to become what we ought ” – Ben Patterson
A God Centered Life
There is no dichotomy between secular and sacred:
_______activity of life from the mundane to the extraordinary is to be done as an aspect of worshiping God
The worship that pleases God the most is living your life at _____________for His honor and glory
Worship in a God Centered Life
A true worshiper praises and adores God being amazed, in awe and marveling at His being, work and _____
Worship is also expressed in a godly ____________of life that is obedient to Him
Your worship of the Lord is most pleasing when people look at you and see Jesus Christ living through ____
Worship that pleases God lives and ______________for His glory – 1 Corinthians 10:31
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 God is referenced. Talk with your parents about the importance making God the center of your life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. Define “worship.” What are the marks of true worship by the individual? A Congregation? What makes it difficult for you to make God first in every aspect of your life? David describes his need for God in Psalm 41. Describe your need for God in your own words. What is the message of Ecclesiastes? How have your experiences been similar to those Solomon describes. How would you describe the depth of your own sinfulness? What is your response to it? Can man seek God? Why or why not? How does God deal with man’s sinfulness? With your personal sinfulness? David describes his need for God’s cleansing in Psalm 51. Describe your own need for this in your own words. How is this a part of worship that pleases God? Is there a dichotomy between secular and sacred? Why or why not? How have you been living in such a dichotomy? What does God want our focus to be (Mt. 6:33)? Worship that pleases God responds in matters of daily life with praise to Him; submission to His will; having others see Christ living in you; and doing all things for His glory. Describe how you are doing in each of these areas. What do you need to do to change? When will you do it?
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