Heavenly Worship in an Earthly Life
Illustration with Guitar tuning
Note how life often gets our hearts out of tune.
With a guitar, it’s an easy fix - grab a tuner, get the strings stretched out right - BAM! Back in tune
Is it that easy for our hearts?
There’s a scientific method involved in the tuning of a guitar’s strings
The tuner measures the vibrations sound waves make as they travel through the air
If only there was an objective ‘tuner’ for our hearts
There is! There are actually many ‘tuners’ God gives us:
How does God tune our hearts?
Godly friends - the Community of the Church!
Regular worship with the church
The list goes on!
The purpose behind this tuning is to enable our lives to join in with the grand Divine Song that echoes throughout eternity
Let’s consider Revelation 4
After this I looked, and there in heaven was an open door. The first voice that I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.”
John is called up into heaven
Something like a sea of glass, similar to crystal, was also before the throne. Four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back were in the middle and around the throne. The first living creature was like a lion; the second living creature was like a calf; the third living creature had a face like a man; and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.
Can you image what this would have looked like? I looked up pictures what some people had drawn and it was pretty crazy. As in...I’m not sure what to make of them, but they were so cheesey or psychedelic as to be distracting. So no pictures for you - you’ll have to just use your imaginations.
Each of the four living creatures had six wings; they were covered with eyes around and inside. Day and night they never stop, saying: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God, the Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming.
And this is what they were singing:
And their song goes on!
Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.
What an amazing song:
Rev 4:11 - This could be said to be the “theme song” of heaven!
Before we get to the fifth chapter in Revelation, we need to step into time, into reality - into creation itself. Because what John reveals in Revelation 4-5, the significance of the vision there, lies in the purpose of what God is doing. Hebrews 11 is going to help us make sense of that and connect it to our life.
Some call Hebrews 11 a “Hall of Faith,” a sort of biblical list of heroes of the faith.
Now many have understood this as the “Hall of Faith”, a sort of biblical list of heroes of the faith. Our approach is going to be less “stiff” and more of considering these men and women as examples of those who lived their faith out in their lives. The worship of their heart has been shown and testified to by Scripture as being in ‘tune’ with God.
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.
What is faith? The writer of Hebrews defines it for us and then he notes that it was through faith that our elders or ancestors won God’s approval. How does that work for us?
I want us to understand this:
Faith is a key element in the correct tuning of our hearts in relation to God.
One way to understand faith, in this way, is that instant where you accept God’s tuning (specifically the Bible) as the standard for how your heart should be tuned.
By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible.
Note here that the author of Hebrews wants to start at the beginning.
The VERY beginning! But this is key, because it puts God at the origin of everything. If you’re not willing to understand, to confess, that God created everything and that he’s ultimately in control, Christianity begins to make less and less sense. This understanding sets up what is good and right and praise-worthy about everything that is to follow.
By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was approved as a righteous man, because God approved his gifts, and even though he is dead, he still speaks through his faith.
Heb 11:4 - This is the first intentional act of worship of God recorded in the Bible, and the result is murder….let’s look a little closer.
In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Yikes - murder! That Cain was a punk, wasn’t he? Let’s zoom in a bit more…
And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent.
This is much more significant and pointed. What is wrong here? Why the rejection?
Gen 4:4-5 - Note the word order: “The LORD had regard for Able and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering.”
Significantly, this Hebrew verb works in the text in the sense of acceptance: God was reacting favorably or unfavorably to them. Fascinatingly, the Hebrew points to the men and then notes the offering. God accepted Abel and his offering, God rejected Cain and then his offering.
And you can see this more explicitly in verse 6 & 7
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why do you look despondent? If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
The warning God gives has less to do with the actual material of the offering brought and so much more to do with the state of Abel’s heart.
Gen 4:6-7 - God is pointing out that Abel’s heart was wrong, and that it will lead him to do what is wrong, rather than right.
But Abel decided to reject God’s tuning of his heart. That was bad, but it got worse. Instead of joining in God’s song, he decided to compose his own, and it ended in murder.
For this is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another, unlike Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.
John here is considering the same part of the Genesis story that Heb 11:4 is, and he names Cain a murderer. Cain’s worship was wrong, but it had so much less to do with the offering he brought and so much more to do with the condition of his heart.
1 John 3:11-15 - John (who is also the writer of Revelation!) notes that Cain’s works were evil, but his brother’s were righteous.
Having jumped in and dived a little deep with this story, we can begin to understand how and why the writer of Hebrews is developing this list. He wants to challenge believers to live out their lives, to live out their faith, in specific ways. So now, let’s just ride along a little and see the other stories he draws out.
By faith Enoch was taken away so he did not experience death, and he was not to be found because God took him away. For prior to his removal he was approved, since he had pleased God. Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
This is a much less discouraging example than the first - Enoch didn’t even have to die! God just whirled away with him. How cool is that?! That’s kinda how I’d like to go.
Heb 11:5-6 - Enoch’s worship was so heavenly God wanted him in the choir!
This makes me wonder if Enoch’s life was marked by a worship which so closely resembled Heaven—that worship we started with in Revelation 4—that God just decided he wanted to get Enoch into the Heavenly orchestra early - before Enoch had even died. That’s pretty awesome!
By faith Noah, after he was warned about what was not yet seen and motivated by godly fear, built an ark to deliver his family. By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.
Noah! My man! I think it’s interesting that the writer of Hebrews says that “By faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Heb 11:7 - In a sense, we could say that the song of his life showed the dissonance or disharmony of the world around him with that of God.
The life of the world no longer worshiped God, and its song was so out of tune that it had to be wiped out.
By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed and went out to a place he was going to receive as an inheritance. He went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed as a foreigner in the land of promise, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, coheirs of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.
It’s very interesting. The writer of Hebrews actually spends nearly 14 verses out of the entire chapter to talk about Abraham. Notice the “forward looking” that Abraham is credited with. Abraham was tying the song of his life to his hope in heaven. It was God’s divine song and the hope that Abraham had to join it that drove him forward. There is a longing evident here.
Heb 11:8-10 - The song of Abraham’s life is moving us towards something.
The song of our life is moving us towards something.
And each person will not teach his fellow citizen, and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their wrongdoing, and I will never again remember their sins.
This connection of Sarah’s faith with the gift of her children is incredible. God is enabling his promise to come to fruition. That future hope that Abraham was so captivated by is being realized by the power of God through his people.
Heb 8:11-12 - God is enabling the lives of his followers to sing out his praise and declare his power.
These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth. Now those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they were thinking about where they came from, they would have had an opportunity to return. But they now desire a better place—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.
And now this theme of future longing comes to the fore. It comes out and grabs our hearts.
Heb 11:13-16 - God is calling us - beckoning us - to something greater, something more than this world has to offer.
His is a Divine symphony he longs for us--each of us!--to join in. And it was the faith of these men and women which enabled them to walk out and live out their faith. They were able to endure the tragedies and chaos of life and to even resist the world because of the promise to which they had fixed their hope. Their hearts were tuned by their faith, and the song of their lives rose as beautiful melodies to God.
Now let’s jump to the very beginning of the next chapter, because I don’t want us to miss the reason the writer of Hebrews has been working through this history of the faith.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,
As we finish up here, I want us to note what the writer is getting at here.
Heb 12:1 - This term “witness” is where we get the modern word “martyr”.
The sense of the translation is still “someone who sees an event and reports what happened.” But we have a tendency of loading this statement with a modern “vision” of being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses because we like to think of this as being about us. We like to be the center of attention.
But what is this ‘cloud of witnesses/martyrs’ the writer is getting at? It’s from the previous chapter, all the ones we just discussed and many others. The imagery is not of a stadium, like in the Olympics, where everyone sits around and watches just a few run. No! The idea here is like the crazy marathon our Run for God group is going to do next Saturday. The “crowd of martyrs” I will be amongst when I run that race is not the people lining the streets. No, the “crowd of martyrs and witnesses” are those people who are running with me. We have worked together, encouraged one another, sacrificed together. We are witnesses one for another, we can testify that it is hard work, but that the end result, the goal is worth the sacrifice.
And that’s what the writer of Hebrews is getting at. Abel and Abraham, Noah and Moses - they’re not sitting in the stands watching us, rooting us on. No, they’re just a little ahead of us on the path. We’re running amongst a glorious crowd — look around you! This is your crowd of witnesses! We are all testifying to greatness and goodness of God in our lives.
So now we turn to Rev 5 and look at the finish line. Let’s just read the entire chapter. Let the vision fill your imagination and pierce your heart.
Then I saw in the right hand of the One seated on the throne a scroll with writing on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. I also saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or even to look in it. And I cried and cried because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or even to look in it.
Then one of the elders said to me, “Stop crying. Look! The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has been victorious so that He may open the scroll and its seven seals.” Then I saw One like a slaughtered lamb standing between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent into all the earth. He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of the One seated on the throne.
When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever! The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
So now, having considered the lives of those who have gone before us, let’s look a little closer to this final song. This culmination of the worship of all the ages and ask ourselves how the worship of our lives matches up to this.
And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth.
Heb 5:9-10 - This exalts the worthiness of God.
It celebrates God’s goodness and redemption and the people that God has set apart for himself. Does your life do this? Does it celebrate his goodness and redemption? Does your life ‘sing’ with the glory of God?
What about how you think about the church, how you live in regards to the church? Does your life hold the church and God’s people in as high a regard as scripture does? Or is your tuning off? Are you falling flat in the way you live towards other believers?
They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing!
Rev 5:12 - Does our life glory in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross like heaven does? Can we sing this song with them?
Our response time is going to focus on us examining our hearts and responding to what God is speaking to us. Travis is going to lead us in this song, not necessarily for us to sing, though that is an appropriate response - make it a prayer for your life and your heart. More important, though, is you doing business with God. Let us take time, a precious commodity in our day, and spend it on God. Have a moment with God. Ask Him to put his finger on your heart, to help you find the ‘strings’ that are out of tune. This upcoming holiday season is going to threaten to tune our hearts to commercialism, to materialism. But our salvation and our hope lies not in material things we can gain, but in a risen Lord and Savior. Let’s tune our hearts, let’s focus our hope upon Christ. Just as the father of our faith have done through the ages, let us look to our hope.
As we close the sermon out and we take a few minutes to reflect and respond, let’s say this final verse of the heavenly hymn together.
I heard every creature in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!