The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 14
Having completed the first 2 of four of the essential features of the True Gospel Church that we can identify from the Scriptures which are
1. BIBLICAL PREACHING. 2. BIBLICAL CHURCH GOVERNMENT.
We come this morning to the third –
3. BIBLICAL WORSHIP AND ORDINANCES.
A. W. Tozer said this – “There is more healing joy in 5 minutes of worship, than there is in 5 nights of revelry.”
In another book Tozer asked –
“What is worship? Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner, a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe, and astonished wonder, and overpowering love, in the presence of that most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven.”
There are many views and opinions about worship not only amongst Christian people, but also amongst people with no faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Worship is a human thing. Human beings have the capacity to worship.
Herbert Carson once said, “To worship God is to realise the purpose for which God created us.”
And when true worship is going on there God is glorified – the Lord Jesus Christ is lifted up, his Holy Spirit directs and God the Father is pleased.
Sadly much of what goes on today in groups of Christian people called Churches bears little resemblance to the true worship of God according to the Biblical Pattern. What then is the true nature of acceptable worship to the Living God? Can we know what God requires? Are there guidelines, principles and commands, which direct us as true believers in the Lord Jesus to worship in a way that pleases the Lord God? Are there pitfalls to be avoided? Errors to be shunned? Do we have a clear direction from the Lord on how to worship Him?
Or are we left to do our own thing? Are we to look around at what others are doing in their churches and decide that what they engage in is suitable for us – so let us adopt their methods? After all if they are Christians and they are worshipping the same God in sincerity then surely it is automatic that what they are doing is acceptable to God – that He is bound to accept their worship. Is this true my friends?
We surely as Evangelical Christians who believe in the authority, sufficiency and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, can look with confidence to them for our guidance! We do not have to look around, or look back perhaps to previous experiences or even previous churches, or even look within ourselves and our own appetites, to discover what pleases God. The infallible scriptures are our guiding principle. We have a beautiful manual for Worship in the book that is on our laps this morning. The word of God abides as our authority for doing what we do – and I believe that the Bible is the standard for all our behaviour – in life as well as in worship within the courts of the Church.
So let us turn to that Precious Word of God and return to the Psalm that we read this morning – Psalm 84.
There are 3 stanzas in this Psalm and each stanza teaches us something about Worship.
1. V 1 – 4.
How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! 2 My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God. 3 Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. 4 Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee.
Here we find the believer, the saint longing for the sanctuary – why? Because Christ his God is there. The believer is desperate to get to the assembly of saints in order to worship God and to feel and know His presence.
God Himself is the only object of our worship. He is the true goal of our godly souls. And when His people gather together to worship Him in His way then he presences Himself with them.
Do we come to the Lord’s House expecting this? Or do we drag ourselves to worship?
Is this why awe and reverence has disappeared from so many assemblies of God’s people – simply because they do not expect the Lord to be there! Their objective seems to be to desire a good time, a good sing, even a good message – but not the Holy presence of the Sovereign Lord God.
The first thing that Psalm 84 teaches is this
TRUE SAINTS LONG FOR GOD’S PRESENCE.
2. V 5 – 8.
5 Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. 6 Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God. 8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.
If the first stanza found the saint LONGING for the sanctuary, we find next the saint LOOKING for strength.
Three times the word strength appears in this stanza. Hear my prayer for strength to worship the Lord! I cry to Thee my saviour for strength. The true worshipper realises his unworthiness to come in his own merit. He needs a mediator – so he cries to the Lord Jesus Christ – because his strength is only in Christ – as he approaches the Lord God Almighty.
Do you remember how it was when you were young and you wanted to ask a favour from a parent or a teacher? You were timid, shy and reluctant to go alone. There was fearful respect – sometimes even awe – of the teacher – and when you go it was good to have a friend to go with you – It gave you confidence.
Similarly the believer longs to have strength to approach the Lord God – the Holy God – and the Lord Jesus is near. The sorrows of fear bring the tearful Christian to cry out for access to God. And why is there fear? Because when we come in the correct way to worship we will come conscious of our own unworthiness – and we need someone who is worthy to help us to gain access. Christ is our strength when we feel weak.
Baca in verse 6 appears to refer to a shrub that grows in the desert places. The Valley of Baca describes the hardships that inevitably face the Pilgrim, the Christian travelling through life – but worship gives refreshment – wells of water; rain filled pools to refresh us along the way.
We can see a Pilgrims Progress in verse 7 – from strength TO strength – every sincere pilgrim coming to worship can come into God’s presence in the strength of the mediator the Lord Jesus Christ. He takes us, as it were by the hand. He assures us that God will accept us when he sees Him with us. We have nothing to fear – and we look for Strength in Christ.
Is this how we come my friends? Or do we come with a sense of our own goodness and worth – that we are somehow doing God a big favour by appearing in Church? If only we could realise what a contrast we are to the awesome majesty of Almighty God we may change our manner of approach to Him.
We need to look for strength by looking to the cross –
Upon that cross of Jesus, Mine eye at times can see, The very dying form of One who suffered there for me; And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess – The wonders of His glorious love – And my own worthlessness.
TRUE SAINTS LOOK FOR STRENGTH IN CHRIST.
3. V 9 – 12.
9 Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed. 10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.
True worshippers long for the sanctuary, look for strength in Christ and thirdly LOVE the saviour. They are motivated in their worship not by any drive because they feel they have to come; or are obliged to gather with the saints – but because they Love the Lord Jesus Christ so much that they can’t wait to come to worship! Behold, Oh God our shield – we are hiding behind Him – we love Him and he has shown how much He loves us. Reverently we are asking, as it were, the Lord God to look on the face of the One whom He has sent – the Lord Jesus Christ the anointed one – and accept us through Him. The Lord gives grace, and glory when we come genuinely to Him pleading the merits of His anointed, the Lord Jesus Christ.
God is worthy of our worship – He is a sun and a shield – He provides everything that we need physically. He gives grace – He provides for us spiritually. He gives glory – He provides for us eternally.
What else do we need? Nothing!
He has provided everything – He has withheld NOTHING. Surely such a God deserves our genuine worship! We owe Him everything – so we must worship Him. And when we do, verse 12 — He blesses us! Hallelujah – what a wonderful God He is!
Are we coming like this as worshippers this morning? With a longing in our hearts for the Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ here? Are we looking for strength to worship with all of our beings? And have we come with a loving heart that loves the Lord Jesus so much that Sabbath worship is a delight to us?
Psalm 84 calls us to be such people. God’s word outlines how we should worship. Worship is heart mind and body. And this Psalm sets the scene for us as believers to find out what worship really is.
True biblical worship so satisfies our total personality that we don't have to shop around for man-made substitutes. William Temple made this clear in his masterful definition of worship:
For worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.
THE WORD WORSHIP.
It originally comes from an old Anglo Saxon word WEORTH SCIEPE – ‘weorth’ meaning worthy or honourable, and ‘sciepe’ is a word which added to another indicates that there is possession of the quality or skill.
For example – Horseman ship – a worthy horseman possessing the ability to handle and care for a horse. scholarship – a good studier – someone possessing the ability to make good use of knowledge. So worship means that the object or person worshipped is deserving of the worth it possesses.
God who deserves worship cannot be made any more deserving or worthy by our worship. God’s worth is absolute.
So the word, when it relates to God, mean “to attribute worth to – in this case – God Himself.”
When we worship God we are ascribing to Him the supreme worth to which He alone is worthy.
Let us now think of some of the Bible words that direct us to worship.
1. In the OLD TESTAMENT.
a. Genesis 22 v 3 – 5.
3 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.
Worship here is the Hebrew word SHACHAH. It means to bow down; to prostrate oneself before a superior one in homage; it means to bow down before God in worship; and it is used to describe a human bowing down before a false god or an angel.
The word occurs frequently in the Old Testament – 83 times as worship and 47 times as bowed down. An incident in Abraham’s life earlier in Genesis uses this word –
Genesis 18 v 1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
In the Old Testament the attitude of bowing down is very common – it indicates respect and reverence often with the additional phrase “with the face to the earth.” This token of respect was sometimes shown to equals; sometimes to superiors like kings, princes and chieftains – but most especially to Deity.
b. A second Hebrew word can been found in Daniel 3 v 1 – 11 and more.
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
The word is SEGEED – which again means to prostrate oneself on the ground – but with the additional qualifying phrase “fall down” and worship. Daniel and his friends were to fall down and worship the golden image. But this word ALWAYS refers to the worship of images and idols.
c. 2 Kings 10 v 18 – 23.
18 And Jehu gathered all the people together, and said unto them, Ahab served Baal a little; but Jehu shall serve him much. 19 Now therefore call unto me all the prophets of Baal, all his servants, and all his priests; let none be wanting: for I have a great sacrifice to do to Baal; whosoever shall be wanting, he shall not live. But Jehu did it in subtilty, to the intent that he might destroy the worshippers of Baal. 20 And Jehu said, Proclaim a solemn assembly for Baal. And they proclaimed it. 21 And Jehu sent through all Israel: and all the worshippers of Baal came, so that there was not a man left that came not. And they came into the house of Baal; and the house of Baal was full from one end to another. 22 And he said unto him that was over the vestry, Bring forth vestments for all the worshippers of Baal. And he brought them forth vestments. 23 And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only.
The worshippers of the pagan god Baal here are depicted as worshipping the image of Baal with the Hebrew word ABAD which means to work to serve a god – to expend energy and devotion to the idol and all that it stood for in a religious sense.
2. In the NEW TESTAMENT
Matthew 2 v 1
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
Worship here is PROSKUNEOH and it is the primary word for worship in the New Testatment. It denotes the act of bowing or prostrating oneself in submissive lowliness and deep reverence. Of the 60 times that it occurs in the New Testament 23 of them refer to worship, prostration of someone before the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first time it is used is in verse 2 of Matthew 2 – then in verse 8 and after this in verse 11. The wise men wanted to worship – to bow down to the new born King; Herod said that he wanted to as well – and then the wise men actually bowed down to the Lord Jesus. The action of bowing down is very much what we see happening in mosques. The worshipper falls to his knees and touches the ground with his forehead as an expression of profound reverence. In Matthew 8 v 2 a leper came to Jesus and prostrated himself in front of him – proskuneoh translated worshipped.
Its common use in the New Testament is the worship of a visible being – the Lord Jesus Christ was worshipped both as we find Him in the Gospels but also in the Revelation when as exalted Lord He appears – and is worshipped. Although the lack of visible presence of God restricts this use of the word for church worship – we do not have a visible sign of the Lord here – nevertheless the inward attitude of submission and humble respect remains a vital part of all true Biblical Worship. This is why we do not have a cross or any image in the meeting place; neither do we genuflect towards the table or the pulpit as if God was somehow mystically in a particular place. And neither do we need to provide special carpets or prayer mats so that we may prostrate ourselves before God.
The thought that flows from Proskuneoh for us is that we need to be so overwhelmed by the glorious unseen, but felt presence of the Lord Jesus Christ – that we fall down in our hearts! Which tells us that our worship should be passionate and personal. Adoration is an intense activity. It captures our attention – it occupies our minds as well as our hearts. It is what we GIVE rather than what we GET that indicates true worship.
We need to beware of something regarding worship, my friends – that we do not leave today or any other day saying to ourselves “Well, I got nothing out of that!” You may get only a little out of this sermon this morning – but the rest is actually up to you! We must put our own energy INTO worship! We must contribute our whole beings into this sacred act of worshipping our Mighty Lord God! Sadly the fact of the matter is this – that because of our puny attempts to worship God, because of our failure to worship properly, and because of our cold, formal, half hearted efforts at true worship, it is Almighty God Himself who is left saying at the end of worship, “Well, I didn’t get much out of them!” And surely we do not want the Lord to say that of us, do we?
True worship is the sincere expression of devotion to God. It is a sacrifice of ourselves to the Lord in spiritual service.
We do not offer animals in sacrifice – but the offering now is of ourselves.
Does this describe us, brothers and sisters? Are we truly living sacrifices? Is our worship a way of life for us?Richard Watson once said,” I know of no pleasures so rich, none so pure, none so hallowing in their influences, and constant in their supply – as those which result from the true and spiritual worship of God.”
May the Lord God teach us what true worship is; what pleases Him; and may we all have the will and desire to engage in Biblical worship ascribing to the Lord Jesus Christ the supreme worth which He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, are alone worthy.