Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (Hebrews 10:19-25).

I have been thinking a lot about the local church lately—partly because I have been teaching on it and partly because I am fascinated by what the New Testament has to say about it.  In Nicaragua, I had the privilege of teaching pastors on Biblical church discipline—the practice of caring for the souls of the congregation—the NT’s emphasis on church discipline tells us that God has designed the local church to be a testimony of God’s grace to the world and its members to exercise genuine care and watchfulness over each other’s souls.

There is absolutely nothing like the local church.  The church universal is God’s global display of his life transforming grace.  The church local is one of the most profound experiences of that grace this side of eternity.

Hebrews 10 informs us of the value of the local church–it is the training ground for the age to come.  In the local church, God’s people are to “stir one another up to love and good works  . . . all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (vv24-25).

If the local church is the believer’s training ground in which to prepare for the Lord’s return, we ought to think very carefully about how we “do life” together in the church.  A huge part of doing life together as the church local is simply showing up.  The writer of Hebrews says one of the ways we stir one another up to love and good works is by “not neglecting to meet together.”  Apparently meeting together is one of the primary ways in which we prepare for the age to come.  If that is true—we ought to make every effort to get the most out of our corporate worship as a local church and give the most to those who gather with us.

Given the value of the local church and the command to stir one another up, I have been thinking about how we can make the most of our Sunday morning gatherings.  With that in mind, I came up with four suggestions as to how we might do that:

  1. Come to Church.  Seriously—I know this sounds silly but if you are not here regularly, its very difficult to encourage and build up the body as the NT commands us to (Heb. 10:24-25; 1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 12:13-30).
  2. Sing—sing and sing loudly!  No one is going to fault you for your lack of pitch—even if you can’t sing well, when others hear you sing, they will hear you singing God’s praises and rejoice and sing along with you.  I have found when I sing loudly, other people sing louder, perhaps out of desire to drown out my poor vocals, but nonetheless our singing should have a corporate feel to it as the Bible commands us both to sing to God and to each other (Eph. 5:19)!
  3. Talk to people—its difficult to “stir each other up” when we are mere spectators at church and are not utilizing this time to build relationships.  Some of my very best friends are members of our church, but sometimes I have to make a point not to spend all my time talking to them at church.  At church, I want to make a point to talk to people who I do not know as well.  Those who I am very close to will still be my friend if I don’t spend all my time at church talking to them and there are many wonderful, mutually encouraging relationships that can be built in our church if we will just step out of our comfort zone and talk to the people we don’t know as well.  Our church is small but just big enough for folks to fall in the cracks and miss out on mutually encouraging relationships.  Be intentional in your communication with people when we gather for corporate worship.  Instead of blaming others for their lack of interaction with you—why not seek them out.  You will only get out of church what you are willing to put into it.
  4. Make a point to let your fellowship extend beyond our corporate gatherings—as valuable as it is for us to meet together on Sunday morning, it is not enough.  We are to continually be encouraging one another and building one another up—that means our relationships ought to extend beyond what the settings that the local church provides.  Sign up for a community group and make a point to eat with people in our church to do fun things with them—make plans to go to a football game or to have lunch, go run, walk, or bicycle, play games together, it doesn’t matter what it is, but build relationships!  Invite a family you don’t know over for dinner—it may be awkward asking them because you don’t know them that well, but God will bless it because he promises to bless our obedience with His grace!

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I remember several months ago talking to one of the wonderful ladies at my church who helps with our children’s ministry about what curriculum we would use for our Vacation Bible School.  I talked about how we would probably need to tweak whatever we use because in my limited experience with children’s curriculum, its rarely as gospel-centered as I would like it to be–she agreed and made a comment that I think is so true.  She said “whatever curriculum we choose, we need to make sure that God is the hero and not man.”  How true.  And how sad that so often children’s ministry curriculum champions the feats of man over the faithfulness and power of almighty God!

God is and always will be THE hero.  Everything we do in church should be a championing of Him–His righteousness, His power, His perfect love and justice.  There are no men in the Bible or in the universe worthy of worship.  The first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me,” means worship only God.  The greatest commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:4; Matthew 22:36-39).

How sad that so much of what goes on in churches has been reduced to moralism and praise of man for his faithfulness rather than praise of God for using such faithless people to accomplish such amazing things for His glory.

Take Moses for example. Moses is probably the most important and recognizable man in the Old Testament and before God called him, he was a rather worthless guy.  What we know about Moses before God called him is that he had a very privileged upbringing, he was aware that he was a Hebrew and he never stood up to Pharaoh for the injustice being committed against the Israelites, he murdered an Egyptian, and he fled Egypt to save his own skin instead of staying to stand up for his Israelite brothers who were suffering.

Furthermore, when God speaks to Moses from the burning bush and calls him to lead Israel out of Egypt, Moses isn’t excited and ready to do great things for God!  Even when God miraculously shows up in his life Moses is still a coward.  He makes up excuses–“people won’t follow me” and “I am not a good public speaker!”  And finally, after God continues to pursue Moses in the face of his excuses, Moses brashly tells God to “find someone else!”

This is the character of the man who God would use to lead Israel out of Egypt and establish Israel as a great nation and he is pretty much a bum.

Why does God choose such a man?  Because no one is worthy.  No one is good.  No one is in peak condition to be used by God.  God calls the weak, the feeble, and the sinful and begins to use them to do extraordinary things to prove that He is the Hero and no one else.  When we are weak He is strong.  You will never earn the right to be used mightily of God, but if you believe, if you trust Him, He will use you to display His glory and show that He alone is the hero!

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Missions exists because worship doesn’t.  Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.  When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more.  It is a temporary necessity.  But worship abides forever (John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, 11).

I will never forget reading those words by John Piper my sophomore year in college and being shaken by them.  I know what you are thinking-“Drew are you ever going to stop throwing Piper books and quotes at us!”  I probably won’t–I think I quote Piper and recommend his books because, his books and his preaching shake me so often!  This particular quote shook me with its stunning simplicity-“missions exists because worship doesn’t.”

The reason that you and I exist is to worship God (Isa. 43:7).  That is why Adam and Eve were placed in the garden-to know, enjoy, fellowship with, and worship God.  God is ultimate.  Worship of Him is what we were made for.  Of course we know the great barrier that stands in our way of living out this great purpose of worshipping God–sin.   Not just any sin, but our sin.  The fall resulted in sin being passed down from generation to generation–we are born into sin and each of us willingly choose to sin (see Romans chapters 1-5-sorry can’t give you an easy handful of verses on that one!).  So what keeps us from worship is the fact that we love sin, we love ourselves more than we love God.  The gospel, of course, is the great remedy to our fallen state, the means by which we are restored to the purpose of our existence–to worship God!  So once we come to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is then fundamental to our worship of God that we spread His gospel message.  Missions and evangelism are, at their very heart, acts of worship.  Why do we take great pains to see the gospel spread?–Because the gospel is precious to us and because it tells us how we can be restored to the very purpose of our existence!

So as I opened up a new series on Evangelism in Sunday School recently, I was reminded of the fact that “missions exists because worship doesn’t.”  The same could be said of evangelism.  The reason we are to preach the gospel to our friends, neighbors, and coworkers is because God is glorious and His gospel is the best news in the universe!  The reason that we ought to share the gospel is because our great God is worthy to be praised!  When you and I share the gospel we are setting forth the one message that can change lost, hell-bound people into Christ-treasuring worshipers of almighty God, headed for blessed eternity with Him!

Is it your desire that more people would worship and praise our great God?  That is the first step of missions and the first step of evangelism.  I will be the first to admit that I am inconsistent in evangelism, but what is the first step to see that change?  Do I just need to try harder?  Do I just need to be more disciplined?  Do I need a little more guilt to motivate me to share the gospel?  While some of those things might help, they are not the answer to my lack of evangelism.  Behind all my lack of evangelism is a lack of God-centered, Christ-exalting worship.

So what do we need to do in order to be more evangelistic?  We need to value Christ supremely.  We need to see the gospel as the best news in the universe.  We need more of Jesus and less of ourselves.  We can’t make ourselves treasure Christ supremely–we need help.  Again, we are saved by grace through faith not by works (Eph. 2:8-9).  So step 1 in evangelism is simply to cry out to God for mercy concerning our lack of worship and ask Him to fill us with joy in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Only when we love Christ supremely will be share Him fervently.  Step 1 is pretty simple isn’t it?  Just pray and ask God to give you a deep passion for Him–a desire to see Him known and worshiped in your hometown and to the ends of the earth!

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This is part 2 of guest blogger Joe Blackmon’s series on Genuine Saving Faith in Philippians 3:3:

The Activity of True Saving Faith

Christianity is not a spectator sport. We, when we gather as the body of Christ for worship, are not an audience being treated to a free show. As Christians, we are called to service. Paul teaches the Philippians this when he tells them that they are the circumcision “who worship God in the Spirit”. The English word worship is used to translate several Greek words in the New Testament. Sometimes, worship is used to translate the Greek word proskuneo (4352) means to prostrate oneself or fall on your knees and touch the ground with your forehead in reverence. In other words, it means to bow. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 14:25, Paul writes “…falling down on his face, he will worship God…” Also, in Matthew chapter 2, when the wise men came from the East, they stated they had come to worship Jesus. However, the word translated worship here is the Greek word latreuo. The root word of this word is the word latris which means “a hired servant”. The word latreuo is usually translated as serve. In fact, Jesus Himself uses this word when being tempted by Satan. In Matthew 4:10, He says “Away with you Satan! For it is written ‘You shall worship (proskuneo) the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve (latreuo)’.” Certainly, worshipping our God corporately and singing praises to Him is proper and edifying. Corporate worship is important and God certainly deserves the praise of our lips. I was personally drawn into the church through children’s choir and youth choir. However, if that is the only way we worship our God, something is missing. In fact, the Bible makes it clear that true saving faith will change the way we live and give us a desire to serve our God. Romans 12:1 tells us that presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God is our “reasonable service”. The word service is the translation of the Greek word latreia (2999) which is similar to latreuo. In the NASB, this verse calls our sacrifice our “spiritual act of worship”. We do not serve in order to obtain salvation. Rather, we serve because we are so thankful for what Christ has done for us.

Our worship as service comes from a heart that is thankful. The power that enables us to serve is spiritual. In the New King James version, the text reads that we “worship God in the spirit.” Other versions read that we “worship in the Spirit of God.” In either case, our service is not just something we do but it is rather action that is the overflow of the effect of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The action of service is physical but the motivation behind it is spiritual. In fact, Jesus said in John 4:24 that the worship of God must be in “spirit and in truth”.

Paul says that true believers “rejoice in Christ Jesus”. The word that is translated rejoice is the Greek word kauchaomai (2744). The word means to boast or to glory. Therefore, Paul is saying that Christians should boast in Christ. Why? Obviously it is because we have nothing to do with our salvation. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that He foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that even the faith we have to believe was not ours but that it was the gift of God. Boasting in Christ Jesus and recognizing the miracle of salvation is a humbling activity. It is also exclusive in the sense that proclaiming salvation through Christ alone means that there is no salvation available anywhere else. In this day and time, people don’t like absolutes. Even people who call themselves Christians appear squeamish when faced with the possibility of proclaiming Jesus as the only way. Our culture of “tolerance” loves to talk about spirituality and even God. However, when you bring up Jesus people are ready to argue that point to the end.

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Well it’s the day we have all been waiting for or the day we have all been dreading-the day we get to head out the door and cast our vote for the next president of our country. This election has been reported to be the most important election in the history of our country. I suppose there is some truth to that claim, however it seems that each successive election is the most important election in our nation’s history. Things undoubtedly will change in our country, no matter who is elected president and that is in some ways a troubling thought, however, there are some things that will not change-things that no president can touch, things that ought to give us purpose and joy for all eternity.

I don’t intend to diminish the importance of this election, but no matter what transpires in the next 24 hours, there are a few constants that we can be sure will not change. First, God is still sovereign and working all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:13). Second, Christ has overcome the curse of the fall for all who would believe and as a result nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:13; 2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 8:37-39). Thirdly, Christ will return and gather all his children to himself and we will be with Him in glory (Col. 3:4; 2 Cor. 3:11; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).

Have you ever read the book of Revelation? I have, more than once, and I still am not sure exactly how things are going to end, but one thing is for sure-Christ is going to win and that means that everyone who has believed on him will win as well. We will reign with Him, we will be with Him for eternity and everything that has gone terribly wrong in this sin-filled world will be made right. And most importantly we will see our beautiful savior in all His glory unfettered by the bonds of sin and we will be filled with unspeakable joy for all eternity!

This reality of Christ’s return to finally bring the world under his eternal reign and rule is the reality that drove Paul to conclude that, to die and be with Christ “is far better” (Phil. 1:23). When Jesus told the apostle John, “Surely I am coming soon,” John responded by saying, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

As I have kept an eye on the ongoings of this election, I have become increasingly cynical. No matter who is elected, I don’t feel that my values will be upheld. What I have found most encouraging in the midst of my cynicism is a hefty dose of Revelation! Let me explain. The first three chapters of Revelation are composed of letters to seven different churches. In fact Revelation was written in large part to encourage these churches. Many of these churches were facing severe persecution. Persecution of the type that the United States knows little of. In Revelation 1-3, John repeatedly writes to “the one who conquers” or “the one who overcomes.” Why does John do this? He wants to encourage these Christians to remain faithful to Christ in the midst of persecution. He wants to remind them that our treasure is not on this earth but in heaven.

Perhaps we need that reminder as Christians on election day. No matter what happens today, our purpose as Christians, to worship Christ and make him known, will not change. The call to go and make disciples of all nations will not change. I strongly doubt, no matter what the results of this election, that we will face the kind of persecution that the seven churches in Revelation faced, but nonetheless we can learn from John’s encouragement to them to overcome, to conquer, to trust Christ and be faithful to Him no matter what the circumstances.

So what should we do on election day? By all means pray and vote, but perhaps more importantly, I suggest we worship the Lord sitting on His throne. I suggest we make plans to have dinner with our lost neighbors-as my pastor encouraged our congregation on Sunday, invite them to “come and see” what we are all about! I suggest we take time this evening to pray with our families, not just for our nation but for each other that we would each grow in our love for Christ and be strengthened in our fight against the flesh.

If tomorrow you wake up and your candidate has lost-do not despair but as one who overcomes, pray, share the good news of Jesus Christ, and worship the King who was and is and is to come (Rev. 1:4).

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“They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’ And He took Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.’” (Mark 14:32-36)

At the moment that Jesus would be betrayed by Judas and handed over to the Jewish religious leaders, and later, to a Roman governor in order to be crucified, Jesus wanted to please his Father. “And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what you will.’” Jesus died on the cross for the glory and pleasure of his Father, above all.

Single RoseYesterday morning, we sang this: “Like a rose trampled on the ground: he took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” It is a beautiful song, here in just 5 words, marred by very bad man-centered theology. Above all other things, Christ didn’t think of me while he was dying on the cross. He thought of his Father, above all. Christ died on the cross to please the Father (and it pleased the Father that Christ would die on the cross to save sinners to the glory of God the Father). This is good news because Christ is “the bread of life; he who comes to [Him] will not hunger, and he who believes in [Him] will never thirst” (John 6:35). With that, Jesus says, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:39-40).

Jesus “came down from heaven, not do do [His] own will, but the will of Him who sent [Him]” (John 6:38). I think that helps make things plain. Christ was grieving in Gethsemane the night that he would be betrayed because he knew that redemption for God’s children would require his death on the cross. Is. 53:5 says that “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” While on the cross, the Son of God was forsaken by his Father and the cup of God’s wrath was spilled out upon him (2 Cor. 5:21). This is good news because God loved his sinless Son, and raised him three days later. Also, this is good news for us because Christ loves to do what pleases the Father, and it pleased the Father to give us Christ that his righteousness might be ours (cf. Luke 24:45-49), and that we might honor and worship Christ as his sheep, forever, to the glory of God our Father. The gospel is God-centered and that is wonderful good news.

The good news that comes along with that is: God loves his children, and therefore, he sent his Son to die on the cross for them (see John 3:16-17, 6:40; cf. Acts 3:17-19; Eph. 1:4; Col. 1:19-20; 1 John 5:12). Also, God loves his glory and he is greatly glorified by justly redeeming (see Matt. 5:17-18; Acts 13:38; Eph. 1:4-8) his children from the trappings of their sin (see John 1:12-13; Rom. 3:10-18).

In other words, God’s love for us, Christ’s love for us, is a part of God’s glorious character (e.g. Ps. 145:8; Eph. 2:4-6). He didn’t put us before himself by sending Christ to the cross. He glorified himself by saving us from our sins (see Phil. 2:6-11). The praise he is given for what he did on the cross is also our gain! Therefore, we were made righteous and given the riches of God’s grace through Jesus Christ. With that, I do also believe that Christ thought of me on the cross (cf. Matt. 18:10-14; John 10:3-4, 11, 14-15; 17:9-12, 20-24; Gal. 5:1), but he thought of pleasing the Father first (cf. Matt. 22:37-38; John 4:34; 12:27-28; 14:3; 17:4; Acts 2:23-24), above all other things (cf. Rom. 11:33-36).

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