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Offering to God Acceptable Worship

The W's and H of Worship  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  29:56
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The only worship that is acceptable to God is worship that is regulated by the Word of God.

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As we come to the fourth message in this series on worship, let us review what we have learned so far.
The first week, we asked the investigative question: “Who do we worship?” We discovered we worship a God unlike any other. God is holy and he can only be worshiped in reverence and awe.
The second week, we asked: “Who are the true worshipers of the true God?” While many claim to worship God, only the elected assembled church of God can worship God. All other so called worship is idolatry.
Last week we asked: “What is the purpose of the assembly of the saints in worship?” What we learned is that it is the glorification of God through the making of mature disciples of Jesus Christ. While discipleship can take place in other settings, it is the corporate worship of God’s people that is his primary means of grace for the maturing of the saints.
This brings us to our next question: “How are the gathered saints to worship God?”
To answer that question I want to to go back our main text for this series. Again I want to read from Hebrews 12:28-29.
Hebrews 12:28–29 ESV
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
There are two things about this text I want you to note:
First is the word “acceptable.” This tells us that it is possible to worship God in an unacceptable way. Many people imagine worship as the same as giving your father an ugly tie for a Father’s Day gift. As long as that tie is given in love and sincerity, you father will accept that gift and might even wear that ugly tie in public!
Even though God is our Heavenly Father, he is a Father unlike any other, in the same way He is a God unlike any other. We must worship Him Only as He Has Authorized.

We Must Worship God Only as He Has Authorized

This is clearly seen in the second thing I want you to note in Hebrews 12:28-29 and this is the fact that “our God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28–29 ESV
28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
This is a clear reference to the incident recorded in Leviticus 10:1-3.
Leviticus 10:1–3 ESV
1 Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ ” And Aaron held his peace.
There is no indication in the text that Nadab and Abihu intended to offend God, nor is that any indication that they were offering an “ugly tie” to God—for all we know their incense recipe might have smelled better than God’s! Herein lays the fatal error—we can’t judge what is acceptable to God by what is acceptable to us. Paul teaches us that the things written down in the OT were written to teach us.
1 Corinthians 10:11 ESV
11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
What happened to Nadab and Abihu, may seem harsh, but it happened to them to teach future generation. God has rarely punished unauthorized worship in such a dramatic manner. We don’t see fire coming down from heaven today. But just because we don’t see it does not mean that God has grown soft on unauthorized worship. He is still a consuming fire!
There are three reasons we must regulate worship according to the Word of God.

Three Reasons We Must Regulate Worship According to the Word of God

The first is this:

God Guards His Glory Jealously

Nadab and Abihu were dishonoring God’s glory by assuming they knew better than God how to worship Him. In Deuteronomy 4, Moses gives this warning to the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 4:23–24 ESV
23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the Lord your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the Lord your God has forbidden you. 24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.
Jealousy is one of those emotions that can either be good or bad. It is bad when it is envious of other people, but it is good when it wants the best for other people. For example, a husband and wife should be jealousy to protect the purity of their marriage. This is good for both of them.
God is jealous for His glory because he loves us so much. He wants to give us the very best! We might not understand why He has commanded us to worship Him the way He does, but we must trust Him that He knows what is best for us and most glorifying to Him.
The second reason we must worship God only as He has commanded is this:

We are Easily Deceived by Sin

Again we must not assume that Nadab and Abihu had the worst of motives. They very well may have been trying to “improve worship” and please God, but they were deceived by their sinful nature. Listen to what Paul says about our sinful natures:
Romans 7:18–19 ESV
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
No wonder the prophet Jeremiah wrote,
Jeremiah 17:9 ESV
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
The bottom line is that we can not trust our own motives and judgement. This leads to the third reason:

The Love of Neighbor Requires It

The “Worship Wars” are all about a lack of agreement on what is acceptable worship. When we limit ourselves to just what God has clearly told us is acceptable there is no longer any reason to fight! More importantly we all can have clean consciences. In the Corinthians church here were all kinds of debates. One of those debates was about eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul stresses the danger of tempting someone to go against their conscience. He concludes with these words:
1 Corinthians 10:31–33 ESV
31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.
When we regulate our worship according to the Word of God we can all have clean consciences because there is no question that what we are doing is acceptable worship! We can enjoy true freedom, without any doubts, without any guilt! If you want freedom in worship, worship according to God’s Word!
I realize that by the standards of Broadway, Nashville and Hollywood biblical worship might seem anything but free. To unbelievers it feels restrictive, boring and unattractive. This is why so many churches have departed from worship limited to what Scripture says and have invented all types of new forms of worship. What they don’t realize is they are offering Kool-Aid rather than fine wine!

Kool-Aid or Fine Wine

In John’s gospel we find the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana. Let me read it for you.
John 2:1–11 ESV
1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
As the church found itself in a mass media world in the mid-twentieth century, it found found them self in a situation much like occured at this Wedding Feast. To the human eye it looked like the wine of worship had run out—people whose tastes had become accustomed to the artificial sweetness of the world’s junk-food found biblical worship distasteful. But rather than following Mary’s advice and doing whatever Jesus tells us, many churches attempted to take matters into their own hands and mixed up the Kool-Aid of our culture. Of course, those who were used to the artificially flavored and colored worship of our culture loved it! But just like Kool-Aid, artificial worship is a cancer causing poison!
Jesus desires to give his church the very best. Kool-Aid may taste better to the untrained palate, but once you have trained your palate on the Word of God nothing but the fine wine of Christ will do! This training is what we talked about last week—discipleship! Biblical worship trains our spiritual palates. We first come into the church as children who drink Kool-Aid, the wine of biblical worship taste bitter, but in time we grow up and enjoy the taste of Christ’s fine wine! So let us submit ourselves to Christ’s wisdom and settle for nothing less than the best!
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