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The Roar of Many Waters

The Purpose of the Church: Exalt God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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What is the Purpose of the Church?

Well good morning everyone and welcome. If you are visiting with us for the first time or viewing this online, I am Pastor ben and it is my humbled joy to bring you God’s word today. We are 4 weeks into our study on “What is the Purpose of the Church?” To this point we have discovered that there are 3 primary purposes for the church. Do you remember them? Say them with me. Exalt God, edify the saints, and evangelize the lost.
As we prepare for today’s message let us have our hearts and minds brought to attention with our focus verse.
Ephesians 4:15–16 ESV
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Well we have spent the last couple weeks looking in depth at the the first purpose of the church, to exalt God. We started by setting the foundation for why he is worthy, and that is because he is the incomparable Yahweh. There is no thing or one like him. After establishing this we then looked to the individual Christian’s response to this fact. How through the example of Isaiah’s call and commission we can see how someone who has lived a life of arrogant defiance towards God. How someone one who has become perverse in their thoughts and actions, can transform into someone who wants to rightly worship God and offer their life in service to him.
We established that for this to happen three things need to occur. First we need to see God in all his greatness. Second, we need to see how filthy we are compared to God great holiness. And finally, we need to experience God’s cleansing or atonement for our sins. And out of these three things comes a heart that shares in the concerns that God has and the offering of oneself to the service of God.
We established that for us as individual Christians we need to experience the reality of God’s greatness and our need for his cleansing and covering for true worship to begin to flow from us. We also established that this worship was not just a few songs that we sing on Sunday morning, but rather an entire way of living. We looked at how if we are only eating and drinking of God’s word once or twice a week we will become spiritual malnourished. And if we feel as though personal worship is stunted or a foreign concept we need to begin by assessing what our informational intake is like and the thoughts we tell ourselves based on that diet.
Are we feeding ourselves with the news or current events and talking points based on those events. Are we feeding ourselves with social media. I saw a thing this past week where 6-8 young women all in the twenties were asked if they had to choose between instagram and a long term relationship with a man which would they choose. They all chose instagram. And what it boiled down to was the attention that they receive from this false reality that they live in.
What are you feeding yourself with. Is keeping up with the news and current events good? Yes. Is hearing talking points on those events good? Yes. Is keeping up with family and friends from all around the globe good? Yes. But can we take it to far to where that is all we think about about and it affects the way we live and interact with those around us. Yes. So we need to assess the diet we are feeding our minds and if we find that it is not a healthy diet, a diet that causes us to keep focus on God, then we need to correct it.
So in establishing that worship as individual Christians is to be a way of life in which we gives thanks and glory to God in all that we do, it leaves us with one question? What does this look like when the group compiled of Christians comes together corporately? And it is this question that we are going to look at beginning to answer today.
But first let’s pray.
Father we lift our voices to you this morning! Worthy is the Lamb who was slain! For holy, holy, holy are you! As we approach this message that you have for us today dear Lord, we ask that you open our hearts and minds, that you draw us in deeper to you. Helping us to grow as one into Christ. We ask that you bless this message and our gathering here today oh Lord.
In Christ’s name we pray, amen.
Well the title of our message today is “The Roar of Many Waters:The Church in Corporate Worship.” We are going to be looking to two passages in the book of Revelation. First to chapter 4, the to chapter 19:1-10. If you brought your own Bible or want to follow along on your device starting with pulling up Rev 4. If you are using the blue pew Bible it is on page 1131 and the page 1141. Or you can follow along on the screen.
Let us hear the word of the Lord.
Revelation 4:1–11 ESV
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal. And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Turn to chapter 19, page 1141 in the blue pew Bible.
Revelation 19:1–10 ESV
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.” Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
May the Lord bless the reading of his word.
As we come to our message today we are going to look at three biblical truths; The Command to Worship, The Distinction of Corporate Worship, and The Elements of Corporate Worship.

The Command to Worship

In his book “Worship by the Book” D.A. Carson in his opening statements remarks that the word worship is similar to the word love. They are similar in the fact that when we hear this word we know what it means, we have an innate understanding, but if we were to try and unpack the meaning of the word it would prove rather difficult. In fact in trying to create a working definition for his book Carson admits that what he comes up with is too long and complex. Yet, as Christians we cannot ignore the fact that we are commanded to worship. Let’s look back tot he very last verse of our readings from today.
Revelation 19:10 ESV
Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.
John is his revelation had seen many great and wonderful things. Some he was not allowed to record or convey to others. As a guide through this revelation an angel showed John what he was to see. As part of this revelation John saw the moment when the entire church is untied to Christ. Hearing the thundering sound of the voices, witnessing this thing that he had longed hope for, the thing that he was persecuted for, almost martyred for, the thing he was put into exile for, witnessing this caused so much emotion within John that he fell at the feet of the angel and worshipped him.
Yet the angel quickly rebuked John. The angel understood that worship alone belongs to God. That even though he was a supernatural spiritual being, he was a servant no different than John and all those that hold to the testimony of Jesus. Within this rebuke we see a dual command, a negative command, or something to stop doing, and a positive command, or something to be doing.
The ESV translates the negative command as “You must not do that.” The Greek would render the phrase “See not!” The NKJV capture this.
Revelation 19:10 NKJV
And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
The positive command is to worship God. The word here for worship is the one we discussed last week of bowing down or prostrating oneself before God. The form that each of these commands are in is the 2nd person imperative. How these are typically used is for someone in an authority position giving instruction to someone else. Much like a parent telling their child to clean their room. It is not a suggestion, it is a direction. This is the force of the 2nd person imperative.
The angel is not simply suggesting to John to stop bowing before him and that maybe he should bow only to God. No it is a command. This is a command that continues to stretch to the church today. Worship God.
We have been working through the series Gospel Treason in our small groups. Pastor Bigney keeps bringing us back to the point that this study is to show us what idols are in our hearts that are robbing the worship that is rightly due to God. He has mentioned many times that no, many of us are not bowing down physically before our jobs, or our kids, or our looks, or the accolades that come from others. But if you trace where your time, money, and affections go you will find what sits on the throne of your heart. When our eyes become open to these and we repent of them it impacts our individual worship. It brings us closer to God and causes us to rejoice more.
Now I want us to consider for a moment when we are still blind to this aspect of ourselves and then we come together corporately. I want you to think a minute about what happens when a whole bunch of miniature idol making factories come together into one place. All of us worshipping different things in our hearts, but now we have all gathered together intentionally to spend time together? What do you think is going to happen? Do you think we are going to come together hold hands and sing kum-by-ya?
First thing we are going to do is put a time limit on how long we spend together. Why do we do this? Frankly it is because we do not really want to be together. And why do we not want to be together? Because it means that we have to sacrifice something that we want for the benefit of the others. Yet our idols are selfish. They do not like it when they have to go without. So we limit the time we meet. But that is not where it ends.
Since we feel obligate to meet together, because we know as the church we are suppose to, we try to do it with as much peace as we can muster by playing face. For those who have idols that desire the accolades of others, they will double down of this aspect because it feeds their idol of looking like they have it all figured out.
For those that have an idol of peace, if even a whisper of tension arises within the church, you start to skip Sunday mornings. You feel there is too much drama, it takes away from your worship of God. You begin to bounce from one church to the next never fully vesting in one because you are there out of a guilty conscience rather than to truly worship God. Eventually you just quit going handing victory over to your idol.
For those that desire control if things change, whether its the carpet, the pews, the music, the type of people that are coming through the doors. If any of those drastically change for the long run and you find yourself pushed out of your comfort zone, you will sense a loss of control and will leave stating that this is not the place it used to be. Believing that it has fallen from its once held glory.
Christ came for the hurt, the broken, the lost. Yet when the hurt, broken, and lost so up looking for Christ and instead they find a convention of idol factories, we will run them off. Instead of giving them hope, we will leave them with even more hopelessness. And this has been the reality of the American Church for the better part of the last 70 years. We raised our kids with the Bible stories teaching that Jesus loves them and came for the hurt, the broken, and the lost. We taught them that the church was one big family where loved reigned. We taught them that regardless of what they had ever done, Jesus was there and they could find forgiveness.
Yet, the reality was that when life hit, when temptation gave over to sin, when the hurt, broken, and lost showed up in the midst of all their mess, the church was unable to handle it and caused more harm then good. Leaving nearly an entire generation missing from the church. And why did this happen, because we showed up out of obligation clinging firmly to our idols, rather then coming to joyfully worship the one true God.
This brings us to our next point.

The Distinction of Corporate Worship

We discussed last week that as individual Christian all that we do is to be to the glory of God and so therefore there is a freedom within our worship. Under the old covenant, worship happened at a particular time, in a particular, place, by a particular people group. That changed under the new covenant. Carson states,
“In other words, worship becomes the category under which we order everything in our lives. Whatever we do, even if we are simply eating or drinking, whatever we say, in business or in the home or in church assemblies, we are to do all to the glory of God. That is worship. And when we come together, we engage in worship in a corporate fashion.”
The distinction between the corporate fashion of worship and the individual fashion of worship is the fact that while there is an immense amount of freedom within our individual worship, corporate worship serves to draw a church together in a oneness. That was what we looked at last fall with our study through Philippians, growing together in oneness. Remember our focus verse?
Philippians 2:4–5 ESV
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Look not to only your own, but others have this mind among you. We came to understand this is is rooted in humility. This aspect carries over to corporate worship. We looked to 1 Cor 10:31 for a proof text to all things being done to the glory of God as individual worship. Let’s look at some of what lead up to that.
1 Corinthians 10:25–29 ESV
Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else’s conscience?
We are granted much freedom within our individual Christian lives. If our conscience is not binding us from doing something then do it to the glory of God. But in the corporate life of the church, this aspect looks different. Paul tells us here that if something we have the liberty to do is going to affect someone else who is present, then we should refrain from it. And it is not an abstaining from to where you never do it again, it is a temporary refrain for the sake of the other person. So what does this look like today? I will tell you a story about a mentor of mind that I heard at his funeral.
At the first church he oversaw in the Traverse City area many years ago, a gentleman who went on to become an elder, wore a pair of shorts to church one hot summer day. If I remember right this would have been the early 90’s when those mid-thigh men’s shorts were still a thing. This particular church was part of the Southern Baptist Convention. Well on this particular Sunday an elderly woman approach the pastor after service and made a big to do about this man’s shorts being inappropriate for service. Well after a conversation with the woman, my mentor went and talked with the gentleman and told him that there was nothing wrong with the shorts he had the freedom to wear them, but not to wear them again. The basis for this was that it was an issue affecting her conscience. It affected corporate worship.
Corporate worship is to draw a church family into oneness and it is on the shoulders of the mature Christians to see that that happens. Now what do I mean by that. Let’s take the example of church attire. Say someone walks in here for the first time, we can tell it has either been a long time since they have been in church if ever. And they are dressed provocatively. Either their clothes are too revealing, or the message of the clothing may not be entirely appropriate. Should the mature Christians run to them and demand that they cover up or change? No.
What the Scriptures teach is that the mature ones are to be the refraining ones. The ones who have the freedom to dress how they want but do not for the sake of others. The mature saints are to humble themselves for the sake of the immature saints until they have assimilated and grown.
If you are thinking that that sounds messy, you’re right it is. But as we get more into the revitalization process you will come to find that for a healthy growing church, a level of mess it to be expected as people are coming to know Jesus and see their lives transformed causing them to reflect more of the image of Christ.
Now that we understand that we are commanded to be worshipping God and need to be working towards that, and we see that the church is to be growing in oneness. Let’s look at our final point.

The Elements of Corporate Worship

When we talk about the elements of corporate worship a great book from the Bible to read is first Corinthians. Paul has much to say about a church that is in chaos and disarray. AS we get into our next point about the edification of the saints we are going to look at an extended section of this book for how a group of believers are to operate with each other. In the midst of one of the final passages we will look at in that section comes a verse that many of us are probably familiar with.
1 Corinthians 14:33 (ESV)
For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.
I think what we often fail to see with this verse is that it is tied in the context of orderly worship for a church. Ultimately what this means is that when we come together things are not to be chaotic. There should not be distinct separation of groups of people within a church. Events and service elements should not prioritize or elevate any one person outside of Christ. We are to be gathered together growing in oneness in an orderly fashion that honors God. Within that what should a church meeting look like?
What we need to understand is that while there are certain things that should be evident within a Christian service, there is not one ordained order. Within the corporate meeting there should be significant evidence of the first two purposes of the church present. Primarily, God should be exalted, and secondly the saints should be edified. Now both of these can be accomplished through the preaching of the word, prayer, and corporate singing. Other things that should also be present is the regular partaking of the Lord’s Super. The baptism of new saints. And the gathering of funds to support the church and it ministries, which includes the care of the needy.
When we look at this we need to see that when we consider corporate worship, the scope of it is much more narrow than the scope of individual worship. To a degree this is true. Again this comes back to corporate worship is not about us as individuals being able to express how we want, but rather a growing in oneness as we seek our Lord together. So what does this growing in oneness look like here at Burr Oak?
I am sure that you have notice over the last several months there have been some changes occuring within service. Somethings were new. Others were things we had done in the past but for whatever reason we discontinued doing them. First I want to address the reason for the change. These changes do not comes because of personal preference. They come because of a deep desire to honor God in all we do and continue to grow our church family in Christian maturity.
So where do the ideas for the changes come? The elders of this church, which are currently myself, Dick Rensner, and Steve Conrad, meet on a bi-weekly basis, where we pray for and with each other, this church, and God’s direction to be clear for his will to be done here. As your pastor this is a time I use to make sure that I am properly feeding this church family and get fed back to make sure I am not missing anything. As more men are seen to have the gifting and character to be an elder, they will be asked to join this meeting time as well, for our own edification as well as the health of our church. It is here that all changes are initially talked about. Depending on the extent of the change it will go from there to the full board next if need be.
So lets talk about a few of the changes. First you have noticed that we have implemented a Call to Worship along with our opening prayer. The purpose of this is to as a family draw our eyes off of things of this world and place them on God to prepare our hearts with for our time together.
Another change you might have notice or will notice is the songs we are choosing to sing. Many of you have reached out to me with songs that have impacted you that you would like to see incorporated. Sometimes I have responded and sometimes I have not. Beginning last fall several new songs were introduced. This came from the fact that it had been laid on my heart that our music here have purpose to it. And the purpose is not for just a few to be able to preform but rather we join together in our singing. There is purpose in our corporate worship. As we look to the weapons we have been given, the corporate singing of songs, whether hymns or praise songs, serves as a weapon. This brought to approaching the worship team to sit and look through what we were doing and try to define our purpose here at Burr Oak with the singing element of our service.
Steve sent me a worship policy that was developed several years back before my family even moved here. I read through it and liked it, then Corey, Kathy, Steve and I sat and went through it to make sure it reflected what we are about and trying to do here. In that two clarifications came out. Those were that the songs we used are going to be theologically sound. Meaning they exalt God and edify the saints.
And secondly they would be designed for congregational singing. We want to move away from praise songs that are design for just certain individuals to sing. That meant that many of the songs we had been using needed to be dropped. The command to lift a joyful noise is not just to the talented singer or musician. It is to the congregation. You do not have to sing in tune or on time, you just need to sing. You holding back because of self doubt is taking away from the voice of the family being lifted up. A day is coming when we will all sing perfectly, but for right now all we have to do is lift it joyfully. As far as the songs you send me. Don’t stop. I enjoy seeing the songs that are impacting your life, helping you to walk closer with Jesus. Who knows maybe they will fit the criteria we are using and at some point we will look at adding them.
Another change that is in the works is the creation of a preaching team. While I am the senior pastor and the preaching and teaching is primarily my responsibility, this is not to be the Ben show. Pastor Dick has been giving our communion messages and preaching typically the first Sunday of the month. There have been some other men that I have asked to join this team and over the course of this next year you will begin to see them more teaching from the pulpit. While my thoughts and ideas may be edifying to some, it is healthy for a church to hear from different men on a regular basis.
Along with this comes a similar change. At the board level we are currently working through our matrix sheet that lists out our overall objectives and goal. One of the things we are working towards is finding natural owners for the different aspects. While all things fall under my umbrella of senior pastor, again for the health of the church it is best to have these divided up. We hope by the annual meeting to have this divided down enough that any new man voted to the board can see the areas we have covered and what might be open so they can begin to see how they could serve the church family beyond just being a representative.
Finally, the last aspect of change that has occured recently is the addition of a formal pastoral prayer. The reason for this is to model for our people how to pray. I would hope that through these you would see that it is not me just up here rambling but praying with intentionality. I would hope at some point that there are some principles that guide these prayers and you could use them to to guide your own. This pastoral prayer is guided by an acronym that I made up.
P - Praise God for Who He Is
R - Repent of Sins
A - Ask on Behalf of Others
Y - Yield Your Life to God’s Will
E - Examine Your Heart
R - Rejoice Over What God has Done
Now this is also not an exhaustive list. There are many others things that we have talked about wanting to do and have goals set for this coming year, but this gets us started. This gets us on the same page moving in a cohesive direction. As we continue to move forward let us continue to seek to grow in oneness as a family. Let us seek to honor and glorify our God as we are not just people of the word, or just people of prayer, or just people of song. But through all of these we come together as one to exalt God and edify each other.
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