The True Nature of a Gospel Church — 16
3. BIBLICAL WORSHIP AND ORDINANCES.
As a new bride, a woman in a remote village, dreamed about the security and happiness her marriage would bring. Perhaps her expectations were too unrealistic. Maybe she was too preoccupied with her own ambitions to recognise the first signs of tension in her marriage.
But the tensions mushroomed. Eventually she and her husband agreed that they could no longer live together. The decision was agonising but from all appearances, necessary. They were divorced.
Time heals all wounds, or at least lessens the pain. After the woman had pulled herself together emotionally, she met a man who seemed to have all the qualities that her first husband lacked. This marriage will be a success, she thought.
When her second marriage showed signs of strain, the woman dared not think it would end like the first. Yet, the foundations of that relationship began to crumble. Before long the woman experienced a second divorce.
Some women would have buried their frustrations in a career. They would have relocated to another city, gone back to college, or learned a skill. But this woman could not. Her family believed not only that a woman’s place is at home but also that she is to be obedient to her husband. Furthermore, in her locality, no jobs were available to women. All she knew – all she COULD KNOW – were household tasks and the drudgery of routine.
Her decision to marry the third time was easier to make. By that time the woman was bitter at God and disgruntled with men. If her marriage didn’t work, another divorce would rescue her from the bonds of meaningless vows. Predictably she experienced a third divorce – then a fourth and then a fifth.
When she met another man she decided not to bother with the formality of another wedding. They just lived together under common law.
AND THEN SHE MET JESUS CHRIST – who offered her something – living water! He also invited her to worship the Most High God. At this she said to Jesus, 20 “Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”
Jesus replied, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”
The Lord Jesus Christ invited this woman to become a TRUE WORSHIPPER. And we are given exactly the same invitation. (Taken from E Lutzer – Pastor to Pastor chapter 13. Kregel Publications 1998)
TRUE WORSHIP IS GOD CENTRED.
This sounds obvious – but it needs to be said. There is a danger that we come to worship or go to worship for what we can get out of it – but because God is worthy of our worship. Whoever seeks to worship God as a means to an end will not find God! There are BASIC PRINCIPLES which underlie the Biblical Doctrine of Worship.
These principles correspond to the work of God in His dealing with all of His creation.
1. Worship is directed towards God. 2. Worship is mediated through Christ. 3. Worship is performed in the Power and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
We thought about these Trinitarian practical principles last time as we looked at John 4 – the account of the woman at the well. The Lord Jesus Christ explains that TRUTH IS THE TOTALITY OF THE REVELATION which He has made of Himself.
22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.
You are ignorant of the full knowledge of Almighty God – you haven’t found out what God is really like.
TRUTH – worship according to His revealed Word
And SPIRIT is the TOTALITY OF THE HEART ENERGY THAT WE CAN OFFER TO GOD. It is the energising power of the Holy Spirit in Worship in our souls; it is INTERNAL HEART worship as opposed to external “going through the motions worship.”
John 4 v 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Romans 8 v 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
Anything else is an abomination to God. How do we know that? Has God ever spoken on the subject of worship that is abominable? Yes He has –
Isaiah 1 v 11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12 When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13 Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15 And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 16 Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17 Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
What a passage? Can we say “well that was only for the Jews? They were offending the Lord and they bore the criticism of the Lord God – it cannot apply to us!”
Yet my friends the connection IS obvious. The People of Israel HAD received clear instructions about how to worship their God Jehovah. Read Leviticus 23 for example
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. 5 In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD'S passover. 6 And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7 In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 8 But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. 9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest: 11 And he shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted for you: on the morrow after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. 12 And ye shall offer that day when ye wave the sheaf an he lamb without blemish of the first year for a burnt offering unto the LORD.
There are many other clear passages like this that was the spelling out by the Lord God of the right way to worship Him. I am thankful that we are not Jews! There was so much to know and adhere to in the Jewish system. And it is even more amazing to find in the Lord Jesus’ day the many ADDITIONS that the Scribes and the Pharisees brought to bear on the Jewish people in their worship. It is little wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ said this about them – recorded in Matthew 15 v 9
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
Now let us ask a very simple question –
WHY SHOULD WE WORSHIP?
Why are we here this morning? Why are these set times for worship arranged?
The answer is in 2 parts.
1. God is worthy of our Worship. 2. God’s Character demands our worship.
Let us think about the first of these 2 answers –
1. God is worthy of our Worship.
The Bible says in 2 Samuel 22 v 4
I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Revelation 4 v 11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 5 v 12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
God is worth worshipping! He is worthy and deserving of our praise – and we thought about this in some detail when we discovered the meaning of the word WORSHIP 3 weeks ago.
2. God’s Character demands our worship.
The Lord God is perfect. He is glorious – glory is revealed or manifested perfection. The Lord God has taken the initiative to reveal Himself in all His glory – and this causes us to want to worship! His is what glory is about!
To a much lesser and most insignificant extent, thousands of football fans gave themselves to worship yesterday as they attended matches in large stadiums to see their glorious heroes. There was worship going on. They paid to see these glorious skilled agile men demonstrating the result of their talents and hard training. They shouted and sang – some lifted their arms in adoration of what they were seeing. They engaged whole heartedly in what they were doing. Sadly it was Man’s glory that they worshipped – and not God’s.
Man manifested his glory – what little glory it is – compared with the perfection of almighty God!
The Lord God revealed his glory to His people Israel on several occasions.
1. MOUNT SINAI.
The Children of Israel had been freed from slavery in Egypt – they had crossed the Red Sea on dry land – and they came to Sinai where the whole nation was assembled. The top of the Mountain of Sinai was covered with a cloud. It was no ordinary cloud. Turn to Exodus 24 v 15 – 18.
15 And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. 16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. 18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
The cloud mentioned here was the GLORY OF THE LORD. It is the Hebrew word KABOD – literarily meaning “heavy”. The cloud was heavy with the presence of the Lord. Jehovah was making known His glorious presence at Sinai in order that the people might glorify Him.
2. THE TABERNACLE.
The same cloud went with the tabernacle in the wilderness as they journeyed for those 40 years.
3. They saw the cloud when they reached Canaan.
4. The same cloud then came down several hundred years later at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem – on Mount Zion<.
2 Chronicles 5 v 13 It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14 So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God.
God revealed Himself – in the cloud. How did the people respond?
They bowed themselves down in praise and worship. They could not stand!
When did we last see a cloud come down here at a worship service? Never!
Does that mean that God no longer reveals His glory?
NO! The equivalent word for the Hebrew KABOD in the New Testament – glory – is found in John 1 v 14
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Glory here is DOXA. It means splendour, majesty, brightness, a most exalted position, perfection manifested! John says that the disciples SAW CHRIST’S GLORY. To what was John referring? It was the occasion of the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ – when the cloud came again – and a voice was heard “This is my beloved son – hear ye Him!”
Now God continues to reveal His glory through SPIRITAUL PRESENCE of the Lord Jesus Christ – here in our worship service. By His Holy Spirit we sense and know that the Lord Jesus is here. And His glory DEMANDS our worship – a response of true worship – today – right now – in which we give glory to the self-revealing God!
In light of this – since the Lord Jesus Christ is present here this morning – should we not be utterly serious about what we are doing?
The glory and holiness of God, the very essence of our Lord Jesus Christ demands that we should worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
Therefore dear brothers and sisters it now is our responsibility to know
3. HOW WE SHOULD WORSHIP THE LORD GOD!
Before we get into the ‘How’ of worship I would like to be practical for a moment.
I ask you – how do you prepare for worship?
Worship of the thrice holy God demands preparation. People cannot worship the Lord in church if they have not already met the Lord before arriving at the door.
And yet for some the hour before worship can be the most unholy hour of the week. Eating breakfast or tea; dressing – yourself and perhaps the children; then walking or driving to church out of sorts with each other because things are fraught – does nothing to a heart that wishes to truly worship the Lord God. What we do BEFORE the service will determine what happens WITHIN the service.
The spiritual condition of the human heart that comes to worship is most important.
John MacArthur said “If our corporate worship is not the expression of our individual worshipping lives, it is unacceptable to God. If you think that you can live any way you want and then go to church on Sunday morning and turn yourself on to worship with the saints, then you are wrong!”
King David asked God for help with worship – as do we need such help.
Psalm 86 v 10 For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Then David says this –
11 Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.
David prays for singlemindedness in his worship – unite my heart! We too need singleness of heart to worship our great God in a way that pleases Him – unity of heart and with all of the heart.
12 I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore.
How then should we worship?
Here is a hypothetical situation.
The Pastor of a church is faced with a decision. One of the church members has asked if she could take part in the Sunday morning worship service. She is a professional choreographer and she would like to use her talent to the glory of God. She has created what she calls an “interpretative dance of the Lord’s prayer”. So she is seeking permission to present this artistic expression as an act of worship next Sunday morning.
Now a question – has God given the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ any guidelines to help this Pastor with this decision?
Some Christians today, and in history, would say, “No problem – the Bible does not forbid sacred dance expressly. Therefore the person who is sincerely seeking to glorify God should not be prevented.
But is it as easy as this? Why did we not have something of this nature in our worship service this morning?
I believe that God alone has the right to regulate the worship offered to Him by His creatures. I also believe that worship may ONLY INCLUDE THOSE ITEMS THAT ARE DERIVED FROM SCRIPTURE.
Isaiah 8 v 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
So let us bring this down to the nuts and bolts of what we do when we worship according to God’s word.
When we gather for corporate church worship, 2 basic things are happening.
1. GOD ADDRESSES HIS PEOPLE.
He does this during the
* Public reading of scripture – hear the word of God * Preaching the sermon – “Thus saith the Lord.” * Announcing the Benediction – the prayer of dismissal.
We, God’s people worship by:
1. Reverently LISTENING to the word of God as it is read publicly – which is aided greatly when we follow the reading in our own Bibles. We are not checking up on the reader – but we are valuing God’s word as we read and listen; 2. Patiently, attentively and intelligently HEARING the preached word; 3. Echoing with a loud Amen once we have listened to the final prayer of parting – the Benediction.
In all three of these God is addressing us His people.
2. GOD’S PEOPLE RESPOND WHEN GOD HAS SPOKEN.
How do we respond to the Word of God?
When we PRAY – to the Father, through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit;
When we SING – When we offer our gifts;
This response of believers is in holy, reverent awe and respect – in other words – Godly fear of the One to whom worship is due.
So in every part of worship God’s people either LISTEN to God or REPLY to God.
God condescends to commune with His church – and the church is privileged to commune with Him in response. Since these things are happening in worship how can we dare to come lightly to worship? How dare we trip into God’s presence without due preparation?
If Her Majesty the Queen wrote to you and commanded you to come to her palace because she had something serious to say to you – and that she wanted to say it HERSELF –
Would you not –
Make sure that you are on time? Make sure that you are properly dressed? Make sure that you are ready to listen to what the Sovereign has to say to you?
Would you not be ready to hang on her every word? Would you not make sure that you have rested well the night before so that you can ensure that you will be at your best to meet her?
Could it not be that you would be saying to yourself, “It is a big day tomorrow – I am going to met the Queen – she has a message for me and she wants to tell me herself!” In like manner – how much more should we be careful about our approach to the king of Kings when we come to His house for an audience? It is a privilege to come into God’s presence. It is awesome and awe inspiring. We should be thoroughly prepared.
Perhaps we need a reminder of a Notice on the Church notice board concerning worship – which says –
O WORSHIP THE LORD in the beauty of holiness Recognising that the Lord’s Day Worship in God’s House is a joyous foretaste of our eternal rest in heaven I hereby covenant before God To keep the Lord’s Day for Holy Service; To treat God’s House with utmost reverence; and To regard the Worship Service as sacred. For this cause, I shall endeavour my utmost To keep early night on Saturday; To abstain from needless work on Sunday; To prepare early on Sunday for worship; To arrive 15 minutes before time; To be seated 10 minutes before time for QUIET MEDITATION in the Sanctuary; To subdue all conversation and noise; To discipline my children to do likewise. So help me God! … but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24 v 15
Are we serious about our preparation for worship? If we watch certain things on a Saturday night our minds are likely to be full of them as we go to sleep and they may well be there on the Sunday morning – preparation then should start early!
We should refrain from conversations before worship of a business nature, even church business – and leave it till later in the day – so that our minds can concentrate on the Lord Jesus Christ!
Let us cultivate sincere preparation for true Biblical worship for the glory of our saviour.
Next we will look at how we may know what truly is acceptable worship of Almighty God.
Let us be aware of the great principle that God has put into place to govern and direct our corporate worship – which principle is this –
Only those things which have the positive sanction of Holy Scripture are permitted in Public Worship of God.
When our worship is in accordance with God’s Word alone, then we please Him, glorify Him and ascribe to Him the honour of which he alone is worthy.