28 Dec

Biblical Worship 12: Redemption-Motivated

As a guest author, we welcome to this series Dr. Jason Groe, pastor of Upper Helton Baptist Church, who will present to us five of the eleven essentials we’ll explore.  I pray he’ll be as big a blessing to you as he has been to me!

We now turn to our final essential of biblical worship, which is redemption-motivated.  Worship is to be motivated by redemption, and here are some signs worship has redemption in its ministry.

Redemptive worship do not use the Bible as weapon against the sheep.  Sadly, preachers have used the holy Scriptures to tear down men and women without ever building them back up.  This is a terrible practice.  This practice does not work in the exercise of the human body.  When a weightlifter lifts weights, he breaks down his muscles.  But if he never gives those same muscles nourishment and rest, they will not be built back up.  Likewise, preachers must use the Word for redemptive purposes.  The Bible is used medically, not militarily.

Redemptive worship accepts men as the creations of God independent of their stains.  Christ came to us “while we were yet sinners.”  Jesus was rebuked because He dined with people known as “sinners and publicans.”  He accepted us as His creation and sought to make us a new creation.   People are made to be more like Him and not more like us!

Redemptive worship speaks boldly against sin and clearly about grace.  In Jeremiah 1:11 God instructed Jeremiah to “tear down” and “build up”.  Of what benefit is it to a man to know his depravity apart from God’s grace?  None!  The common thread throughout the Scripture is God’s bringing salvation to fallen man.  If the ENTIRE Bible is the message of salvation of grace, then so must be our messages.  Love is to be the spirit behind all our actions.  As Jesus is lifted up, then men will be brought to Him.

Redemptive worship is “can” worship.  We are to stress to people the possibility of knowing God’s redemption.  We must keep it within reach without compromise to the integrity of the Gospel.  Some churches have decided to be pragmatic in their approach while others seek to soften the Bible’s message so as to not offend.  Jesus spoke words that offended (Luke 4 and Mark 6).  We are not to be offensive, but the Gospel sometimes is.  People must leave our churches knowing the possibility of doing God’s will in Christ.

Redemptive worship discovers the fruits of worship.  We Delight in God.  God delights in us. We draw near God.  God draws near to us.  God ministers to us—He meets with us, strengthening our faith, intensifying our awareness of his presence , and granting refreshment to our spirits.  The Lord’s enemies flee.  Unbelievers know they are in the presence of God.

Links to previous posts in this series:

27 Dec

Biblical Worship 11: Lifestyle-Oriented

A few years ago, the band Casting Crowns released an anthem that really gets to the heart of worship.  It was called “Lifesong” and part of the lyrics said this:

Empty hands held high,
Such small sacrifice;
If not joined with my life,
I sing in vain tonight.

May the words I say,
And the things I do,
Make my lifesong sing,
Bring a smile to You

Let my lifesong sing to You;
Let my lifesong sing to You;
I want to sign Your name to the end of this day
Knowing that my heart was true.
Let my lifesong sing to You

What I love about that song is the fact it captures so beautifully that true worship is a 24/7 thing, which leads to our next essential:  biblical worship is lifestyle-oriented.

One of the great temptations in the life of a worshipper is compartmentalizing.  We tend to think that worship is that hour we sit, sing, and soak on Sunday mornings, and we often measure the quality of our worship by how high the emotion got in the service.  You hear people say things like, “God really showed up today.  Brother Luther ran the aisles, Sister Doo fell out in the floor, and I just couldn’t quit crying.”  Is that the measure of biblical worship?  No way!  Is biblical worship confined to just that hour?  No way!  That hour should spill over into and be a continuation of the other 167 hours in the week.  Biblical worship is a lifesong!

God through Paul speaks of this very thing in Romans 12:1, Therefore I urge you, 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.  Every second of our lives reflects how worthy and valuable we think God is.  Therefore, we must live accordingly.  Worship is more than a song.  It’s a lifestyle.

The high stakes of every second of our lives being worship is why Paul is so strong here.  He “urges” us.  He’s begging, pleading, entreating, beseeching, encouraging.  He’s saying, “This is urgent!  This is serious!”  I believe Paul knew well our tendency to compartmentalize our lives:

  • When I’m with my spouse, I put on my spouse hat.
  • When I’m with my kids, I put on my parent hat.
  • When I’m at work, I put on my work hat.
  • When I’m at school, I put on my school hat.
  • When I’m with friends, I put on my friend hat.
  • When I’m at church, I put on my church hat.

Sadly, you might get a different person with every hat.  The person you are at church might be grieved by the person you are work.  The person you are with your kids might be disgusted by the person you are with your friends.

The problem isn’t the fact that you change hats because that’s just a part of life.  The problem is that in some roles people often choose to take off their robe of white.  They pull it out when it’s necessary but put it away when it’s inconvenient.  Under one hat, they have on their robe of white and are telling God He is of greatest worth and value; under another hat, they take their robe of white off and are telling God He is of little, if any, worth or value.  God doesn’t care as much which hat you put on as long as you wear the robe of white every second of the day!

That’s what Paul means when he tells us to present our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.  The picture here that Paul uses is of the Old Testament ritual offerings in the Tabernacle and Temple, the language of the Levitical priesthood. According to the Law, a Jew would bring his offering of an animal to the priest, who would then take it, slay it, and place it on the altar in behalf of the person who brought it.  You see, sacrifices to God don’t compartmentalize their lives.  They are 100% dead to the world and 100% for God.

That’s how we are to be in worship as well.  Our lives in worship should be 100% dead to the world and 100% for God.  We are to be as Paul was in Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who 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 gave Himself up for me.

Obviously, there’s one big difference between an Old Covenant sacrifice and the sacrifice that Paul is calling us to here under the New Covenant.  Paul calls us to be a “living sacrifice.”  An Old Covenant sacrifice required the death of the thing being offered.  God, however, doesn’t desire for us to die in sacrificial dedication to Him.  He wants us to live in sacrificial dedication to Him.  Of course, for one to live in such a way, there must be a spiritual death—a death to self-will (Mark 8:34).

Friend, every second of every day you live, you are worshipping something.  You are either worshipping God, or you are worshipping something else.  As some of you read this, you truly want to worship God every second.  Therefore, you are making plans to quit your job, sell your home, and join a monastery so that you can concentrate on God all day long and do those cool monk chants.  Please don’t!  Rather, expand your idea of worship.  It’s a lifestyle!

Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31, Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.  That means you can turn a wrench and worship God.  You can drive piece of machinery and worship God.  You can punch those keys and worship God.  You can teach those kids and worship God.  How?  Do it all to the glory of God in the spirit of Christ.  That’s being a living sacrifice.  That’s worship that is lifestyle-oriented!

Links to previous posts in this series:

26 Dec

How Long, O Lord? – Christ

 

This week we continue the season of Advent by lighting the 5th and final candle, the Christ candle.  Our 2011 Advent theme is “How Long, O Lord?” and each week we’ll be looking at a passage of Scripture that focuses on the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text this week comes from Revelation 22:6-7:

  • And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place. And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

This week we light the Christ candle.  What a perfect morning to talk about Jesus Christ coming again on the morning when we celebrate Jesus Christ coming the first time.  The first time there was no room in the inn.  The first time He was born a babe.  The first time He was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  In all lowliness Jesus came the first time.  But, when Jesus Christ comes again, it will not be in lowliness.  He will come in might and justice and power.  The first He came bringing peace to all who will call on the name of the Lord.  But, when Christ comes again, He will be bringing destruction to all who love their sin more than God, to all refuse to call on the name of the Lord.

Friend, this Christmas week, would you receive the gift of Jesus Christ?  He was long-awaited the first time, and He’s long-awaited now.  Just as Mary was pregnant with child until the time was full for Jesus to appear the first time, Jesus Christ is now waiting until the fullness of time to appear again.  And He tells us in Revelation 22:7, And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.  To the believer and follower of Jesus Christ, this is great news.  To the unbeliever and rejecter of Jesus Christ, this is a warning.  How long, O Lord?  “Quickly!” He says.

May all believe on Jesus so that they will be ready when Jesus comes again!  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

21 Dec

Bethlehem’s King and Bread

O little town of Bethlehem,

How still we see thee lie;

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,

The silent stars go by.

Every year the city of Bethlehem plays center-stage again to the most wonderful story ever told.  We read in Luke 2 that a census was being taken of the entire Roman Empire of which Israel was a part.  Each person in Israel was ordered to return to their family’s original city (Lk 2:1-3).  Therefore, Joseph and his fiancé the virgin Mary, who was pregnant with Jesus by the Holy Spirit, came to Bethlehem because Joseph was of the lineage of King David (Lk 2:4).  While they were there, Mary gave birth to Jesus in a cattle stall because they had nowhere else to stay and laid him in a manger, which is a feeding trough for cattle (Lk 2:6-7).

It had been prophesied that the Messiah-Christ would be born in Bethlehem.  We read in Micah 5:2, But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity. The Gospel of Matthew further affirms the common understanding of this prophecy.  The Magi come to King Herod of Judea in Matthew 2:2 and ask him, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  Herod calls his own wise men together, and they declare based upon Micah 5:2 that the Magi should go to Bethlehem to find the Messiah if indeed he has been born.  So, off to Bethlehem they go, and Jesus they found.

But, why Bethlehem?  Was God in Micah simply foretelling where Jesus would be born, or was He making a statement by having Jesus be born in Bethlehem?  Friends, God does nothing by chance.  Therefore, God was making a statement by having Jesus be born in Bethlehem.  In fact, He was making two statements.

Statement #1:  Jesus is the Messiah-Christ, the promised king of the lineage of David.
By the world’s standards, Bethlehem was little and insignificant, but a king was coming out of it.  To be honest, a king had already come out of it by the time Micah prophesied.  You see, Bethlehem was the city where David was born.  That’s why Joseph, who was of the house of David, had travelled there for the census with his pregnant fiancé Mary approximately 1,000 years after David’s first cry.

Bethlehem connects Jesus with David and the promises made by God to David that one of David’s descendents would be an everlasting king.  God had made a covenant with David in 2 Samuel 7:12-13, which says, When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. As the generations passed after David’s death, the people of Israel began to long for this promised king who would have an eternal throne—a king like David who was a man after God’s own heart.  Jesus was the answer to their longing.  Jesus, a descendent of David, is the greater David.  And so, Jesus, the Promised One being born in Bethlehem, is the Messiah-Christ, the Davidic king whose throne will never end.

Bethlehem most importantly ties Jesus to David and God’s covenant with him, declaring from God, “Here is the king I promised you!”

Statement #2:  Jesus is the Bread of Life from God.
Bethlehem is a compound Hebrew word made up of two smaller Hebrew words:  beth, which means house, and lechem, which means bread.  This tidbit seems inconsequential until you read John 6:35, Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Of all the cities in which God could have chosen to have David and Jesus be born, I believe it is providential that they were born in Bethlehem.  Jesus, the Bread of Life, was born in the city of the House of Bread.

Of course, Jesus is speaking metaphorically in John 6 about being bread.  Now when some read bread metaphorically used in the Bible, they think of the Bible itself, à la Matthew 4:1-4 where Jesus concludes, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on the every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the God, (Mt 4:4).  There is certainly a sense that bread refers to the Word of God.  However, in John 6 when Jesus says “I am the Bread of Life,” I don’t think He has Scripture in mind.  I think He has himself in mind.  In fact, Jesus tells us this very thing there in John 6:51, I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh. So, Jesus Himself is the metaphorical Bread of Life, and if we metaphorically eat Him, we will never hunger again.

The babe born in the House of Bread is the Bread of Life.  God, I believe, is here declaring in an esoteric way, “Here is the Savior I promised you.”

This Christmas, may you marvel at God’s promises fulfilled through His mighty providential hand in Bethlehem, and may you follow King Jesus and eat the Bread of Life!

Yet in thy dark streets shineth,

The everlasting light;

The hopes and fears of all the years

Are met in thee tonight.

20 Dec

Biblical Worship 10: God-Glorifying

As a guest author, we welcome to this series Dr. Jason Groe, pastor of Upper Helton Baptist Church, who will present to us five of the eleven essentials we’ll explore.  I pray he’ll be as big a blessing to you as he has been to me!

Worship is a multifaceted thing.  As we continue our look at the essentials of biblical worship, another essential is that it is to be God-Glorifying in all it does.  Worship is God-Glorifying when it understands its chief aim is to glorify God.   The Westminister Shorter Catechism says, “What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever!”  The “Wow-ness” of God permeates our hearts.  Even the simple things produce great awe in our spirit.  For example, my daughter when she was three, would see a leaf and say “Wooooowwwww daddy!”  After some time, I unknowingly said, “Jadyn, it is JUST a leaf!”  To which God quickly prompted me and taught me that she got it and I did not!  God give us what a renewed sense of your awe!

God-Glorifying worship elevates the transcendence of God.  God is “with us” but He is also “other” than us.  When the majesty and “omni’s” of God are elevated God is put into His proper perspective.  One of God’s greatest desires for us is that He become our greatest desire.

God is praised Him for who He is and thanked for what He has done.  Most people know God for what He does rather than who He is.

God-Glorifying worship sees all that it does as unto the Lord. Paul taught we are to do everything “as unto the Lord.”  A trap to avoid is humanistic worship.  Worship which is done and man receives the glory.  Loss of the sacred awe in our churches is serious.  In our therapeutic society, emphasis on ourselves and how we feel has often replaced genuine worship for God.  Reverence and Awe have been replaced with the yawn of familiarity.  We need a revival that will bring back the awe and reverence of God.

God-Glorifying worship is not exclusive to one worship style.  A terrible mistake made by congregations is limiting their worship to “traditional” or “contemporary” only.  The focus should not be on the style but on the substance.  I have been in churches where it did not matter what was in the song, as long as it sounded traditional, it must be Biblical.  I have also been in churches where preaching was defined as “stomping, snorting, spitting, sweating and shouting”.  Style cannot be superior to substance.  God can be worshipped regardless the genre of music so long as the message is Christocentric and Biblically based.

God-Glorifying worship gathers to come near God Himself.  In Ezekiel 44:15, God invites His people to “come near to Me to minister to Me.”   One grave temptation we all face is to run around answering calls to service without ministering to the Lord.  The emphasis in Ezekiel was on the WHO of their worship and not simply the WHAT and HOW of their worship.  God desires us to come near to Him.  When we come near to Him, He draws near to us.  When we come near to Him, we desire more of Him.  When we come near to Him, this world loses its appeal.  When we come near to Him, we are most satisfied.

Links to previous posts in this series:

19 Dec

How Long, O Lord? – Love

This week we continue the season of Advent by lighting the 4th candle, the candle of love.  Our 2011 Advent theme is “How Long, O Lord?” and each week we’ll be looking at a passage of Scripture that focuses on the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text this week comes from Revelation 19:11-21:

  • 11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.
  • 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself.
  • 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.
  • 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.
  • 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
  • 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”
  • 17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God,
  • 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”
  • 19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.
  • 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.
  • 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.

This week we light the Candle of Love.  You might say, “What does that text have to do with love?  Isn’t that about judgment?”  Well, this text depicting the return of Jesus is certainly one of judgment and wrath, but when looked at from the proper perspective, it’s most-loving as well because it warns us about the real and imminent danger ahead for those who do not belong to Jesus Christ when He returns.  Warning someone of bad consequences is always most-loving.

Parents telling their children to stay away from the street because they might get run over by a car is most-loving.  Government telling its citizens to not steal because it will result in a jail sentence is most-loving.  Hairdryer manufacturers telling its customers on the safety tag to keep the hairdryer away from water because it will result in an electric shock is most-loving.  Therefore, God telling humanity that they will suffer destruction if they do not belong to Jesus when He returns is most loving.

Friends, Jesus Christ came the first time full of lowliness and sacrifice.  When He comes the second time, He will come full of almighty power and righteous judgment.  For those of you who have not yet trusted Christ, may you heed Jesus’ loving warning of the danger that looms for you and know that Jesus has made a way for you to be saved from destruction by trusting Jesus today!  And, for those who have already trusted Christ, may you thank God for the amazing love that He has shown you through Jesus Christ who has forevermore saved you from God’s wrath by grace through faith in Jesus.

15 Dec

Biblical Worship 09: Self-Humbling

As a guest author, we welcome to this series Dr. Jason Groe, pastor of Upper Helton Baptist Church, who will present to us five of the eleven essentials we’ll explore.  I pray he’ll be as big a blessing to you as he has been to me!

We’ve looked at several essentials to biblical worship so far, but one that cannot be overlooked is that biblical worship must be self-humbling.  Why is it crucial worship be filled with humility?  First of all, humility is crucial because of our propensity to stubbornness.  Humble people have a willing spirit.   Willing spirits are teachable, contagious, edifying and perpetuating.  The opposite would be a stubborn spirit.  God’s people are often called “stiffnecked”.  Meaning, they are unwilling to turn this way or that way for the Lord.

Stubbornness can lead to unrepentance.  Jeremiah says it this way, “But this people has a stubborn and rebellious heart; they have turned aside and departed” (5:23).    Stubbornness can lead to a calloused heart.  The rich young ruler was told by Jesus that he lacked only “one thing” and yet he still walked away.  In other words, he was willing to walk away from Christ in disobedience—he was okay with it.

Humility is crucial because it affects our view of God.  Humility has twin pillars—our lowliness and His greatness.  John the Baptist knew this truth when he declared, “I must decrease and He must increase.”  If our view of self is distorted so might our view of God.

Humility is crucial because it elevates authenticity.  Hypocrisy is often the norm within the Body.  Men are afraid to be transparent for fear of being seen as weak.  Women fear transparency and authenticity because of reputation.  We must value humility rather than reputation.  We must value authenticity over appearance.  The sad fact is that many would rather appear holy rather than be holy.

The Samaritan woman who discovered Christ at the water fountain displays God’s desired humility for His people.  She accepted Christ’s indictment against her as true.  She also adopted a high view of who Christ was.  As a result, an awakening took place in this town where Jesus “must needs go.”

Links to previous posts in this series:

13 Dec

How Long, O Lord? – Joy

This week we continue the season of Advent by lighting the 3rd candle, the pink candle of peace.  Our 2011 Advent theme is “How Long, O Lord?” and each week we’ll be looking at a passage of Scripture that focuses on the Second Coming of our Savior Jesus Christ.

Our text this week comes from Philippians 4:4-7:

  • Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This week we light the Candle of Joy.  God through Paul calls followers of Jesus in this passage to have joy continuously—Rejoice in the Lord always.  There are so many reasons for believers to have joy and rejoice, but one of the reasons that Paul gives us here is that the Lord is near.  In one sense, this means that Jesus Christ is nearby.  But there’s another sense here that Jesus is not far from returning.  Jesus is near to coming again.

The entire thrust of the New Testament is that we are living in the last days and must stand ready for Jesus to return.  We have no clue how many days are left, but we do know that they are coming to an end and that Jesus will soon return any day now.  Jesus Himself tells us so in Revelation 22:7, “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”

You might be thinking, “Well, Lord, what are you waiting for?  Come on!”  But, Peter reminds us 2 Peter 3:8-9 why Jesus has not returned yet:

  • But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

Jesus has not forgotten about us.  He simply is patiently waiting for more people to be saved.  Our waiting is others’ salvation.

As we light the Candle of Peace, if there is one reading this meditation who has never trusted Jesus as their Savior and Lord, we pray that you see this today that the Lord is being patient and giving you another opportunity to be saved.  Be saved today because the Lord is near, knowing that His patience will run eventually run out, and then it will be everlastingly too late.

And to those who have trusted Jesus, as you wait for Jesus to come again, may rejoicing be what comes out of your heart and your mouth so that the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus until He arrives.

12 Dec

Biblical Worship 08: Heart-Felt

In my last article on “mind-provoking worship” I pointed you to Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37.  Let me point you there again, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.  Last time I focused on the mind.  This time I want to focus on the heart.  Biblical worship is heart-felt.

I’m sure that a surprising amount of pew seats are filled each Sunday around the world with believers who are coming out of duty.  Now, they won’t admit to it, but God knows it.  Maybe they come because it’s just what Christians do or maybe because they don’t want a visit from the pastor, or maybe they just like being around other Christians.  All of that is well and good, but that’s not Christianity.  That’s a religion.

Do not be deceived into thinking we can get by with outward religion.  God hates outward religion because he wants your heart.  You see it throughout the Bible.

Think about Cain and Abel.  Why did God accept Abel’s sacrifice and reject Cain’s?  Well, Hebrews 11:4 tells us that Abel not only offered a better sacrifice but that he also offered it in faith.  In other words, his heart was in it.  Cain, on the other hand, was simply being religious.

Think about certain seasons with Israel in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 1:11-15, God says:

  • “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies— I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.

So, the question in this passage is:  why did God order the people to following the sacrificial system that He had given them?  Was it because there was no need for it anymore?  Isaiah gives us a better understanding later in verses 29:13, 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.” Did you catch that?  Their hearts were far from God.  They were doing the religion, but there was no relationship; there was no love.

God is not pleased with worship that is without fullness of heart.  Men, how many of your wives would be happy if you told her you love her, “I love you?” with dispassionately and flatly.  None, I am quite sure.  Women, how many of your husbands would be pleased if you told them that the reason you gave him that really cool Christmas gift was just because that’s your duty as a wife?  He might say, “Well, don’t you love me too?”

The same is true with God.  He will have no part of worship that is done out of duty because worship is not just a physical act.  It must be an act of the heart as well.

God doesn’t want just half your heart.  He wants all of it.  If there’s anything else in your heart, and there should be many good things in your heart, they should all bow down to God in pride of place.  They should all play second fiddle to God.  God doesn’t want just half your heart; He wants it all.

CS Lewis in the book Mere Christianity says it this way, “Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.’”  Christ gave all of Himself, and the proper response is the giving of all of ourselves back to Him.

Friend, God desires for you to be sold-out to Jesus.  Tear down the hindrance of half-heartedness and give Him all your heart in heart-felt worship!

Links to previous posts in this series:

08 Dec

Biblical Worship 07: Spirit-Driven

As a guest author, we welcome to this series Dr. Jason Groe, pastor of Upper Helton Baptist Church, who will present to us five of the eleven essentials we’ll explore.  I pray he’ll be as big a blessing to you as he has been to me!

____________________

The Thessalonian congregation was given a most prestigious commendation from the apostle, “you are an example to all those in Macedonia and Achaia.”  They had become the “pattern” to follow in church life.  What “pattern” was established by the Thessalonian church?  What traps are lurking near the foundations of the church? How can the contemporary church follow this example?  Answering this question involves taking a closer look at some of the essentials of biblical worship.

Today I want to look at the biblical worship essential of being Spirit-driven.  In Acts 1 the apostles were commanded to wait and not proceed until prompted by the Spirit of God.  The early leaders of the Church in Acts 6 were to be men “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  The written revelation of God forming the canon was written by “holy men moved by the Holy Spirit.”  Peter accuses Ananias and Saphira of “lying to the Holy Spirit” in their worship through giving.  The Biblical references continue.  From the Word to the Worship, the Spirit is to be the driving power.

What then are the signs of “Spirit-powered” or “Spirit-Driven” worship?  Several signs are worth noting.  First, Spirit-driven worship worships God in spirit.  A trend by modern worshippers is to worship God in body only. They consider themselves to have worshipped if they have been in the right place doing the right things at the right time.  In Jesus’ day that would have been considered either in Jerusalem or Gerazim.  In our day, people think they have worshipped simply because they have occupied a seat in a church on Sunday morning, sung a hymn, lit a candle, crossed themselves, or knelt in the aisle.  We must not confuse worship with the particular things we do on Sunday morning.

Also, we must not confuse worship with feeling only.   Worship does not originate with our emotions.  Emotions may be stirred in worship, but emotions do not cause worship.  It is possible for emotions to be stirred and no worship to be there.  It is possible to be moved by a song or by oratory and yet not come to a genuine awareness of God and fuller praise of His ways and nature.  True worship occurs only when that part of man, his spirit, actually meets with God and finds itself praising Him for His love, wisdom, beauty, truth, holiness, compassion, mercy, grace, power and His other attributes.  Charles Hodge expresses this point succinctly—“The true, genuine worship is when man, through his spirit, attains to friendship and intimacy with God.  True and genuine worship is not to come to a certain place, it is not to go through a certain ritual or liturgy, it is not even to bring certain gifts.  True worship is when the spirit, the immortal and invisible part of man, speaks to and meets with God, who is immortal and invisible.”

Second, worship is Spirit-driven when our separateness melts away.  Pentecost was a monumental day for many reasons, one of which was the “one accord” within the Body.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians of the “diversity of gifts but the unity of the Body”—speaking of the grace gifts imparted by the Holy Spirit.  Individuality and selfishness are burned away as dross in the presence of the Spirit of God.  One of the many responsibilities of the leadership of the church was to protect its harmony and the unity.

Worship is Spirit-driven whenever there is a deep sense of human depravity.  The Spirit of God was with Isaiah in the Temple, and Isaiah was overcome with his own sinfulness.  Job, as he is questioned by almighty God, concludes that He deserves sackcloth and ashes.  We lose confidence in our righteousness as we know the nearness of the Holy and declare His righteousness superior and more satisfying.  There is no room for pride or arrogance in this congregation.  Humility rules the day and the hearts of the worshippers.

Spirit-driven worship will develop a hunger for the Word and His righteousness.  Jesus promised the disciples that the “One” coming after Him would “teach them all things whatsoever He had said to them.”  As the Holy Spirit empowers, believers grow in their knowledge of the Word.  The Great Teachers of the Scriptures is the Holy Spirit.

Spirit-driven worship will be filled with awe of the Lord.  One of the responsibilities of the Holy Spirit is to exalt Christ.   As He leads in this manner, the awe for the majesty of Christ will accelerate.  The congregation will know the presence of the Lord is in this place.  A temptation trap is to manipulate the congregation with hyped music and false claims regarding the Spirit.  Attempting to create an ecstatic service will only deceive the congregation.

Finally, Spirit-driven worship cannot be manufactured.  As believers align their lives to the holy and pure standard of Christ, the Spirit will be enjoyed and adored.

Links to previous posts in this series: