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We Have Come to Worship Him

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True worship does not originate with plans and programs, but starts in a heart that has experienced the saving grace of God. Worship is essentially our response to God's grace.

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Text: Matthew 2:1-12
Date: 12/31/17 File name: Epiphany_Sunday.wpd ID Number: 1017
Theme: True worship does not originate with plans and programs, but starts in a heart that has experienced the saving grace of God. Worship is essentially our response to God's grace.
Some of you here this morning who grew up in a liturgical worship tradition know that today is Epiphany Sunday. According to the traditional Christian calendar, the Christmas season really wasn’t over until yesterday — January 6. It's known as Epiphany (or Three Kings Day) and, according to church tradition, is the day the Wise Men showed up in Bethlehem to pay homage to Christ Child. It signifies the manifestation of the Christ to the Gentiles.
Now, I know that as Baptists, we really don't much care for church tradition — especially ancient church tradition — and especially ancient church tradition that has anything remotely to do with Catholicism.
But, in my defense, let me quickly say, that: 1) some traditions are good in that they teach us important truth about our faith, and 2) a lot of church tradition predates the Catholic church, and the celebration of Epiphany is one of those.
According to tradition, the Magi found the new born king not on Christmas Day, but twelve days after Christmas. That's where the tradition of the Twelve Days of Christmas that we sing about comes from. It also means that all of our Nativity sets showing the shepherds and Magi at the stable at the same time are wrong.
Epiphany is a word that means to show or to reveal. In Western church culture, it celebrates the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to the Christ child. In doing so, they reveal Jesus to the world as Lord of lords, and King of kings, and teach us some important spiritual truths about our faith-walk as Christians.
The narrative of the Magi coming to find the Christ Child magnifies the importance of our worship. It's what the Magi have come to do, what the Jewish religious leaders are indifferent to, and what Herod is hostile to. The text reminds us that worship can be sincere and genuine, or it can be trivial and false. As a pastor, one of my great concerns is commercialization of worship in America. Worship is increasingly becoming consumer driven instead of Scripturally driven, and Holy Spirit led.
Sadly, "Worship" has simply become just another commodity for which many people shop around seeking the best bargain for their buck. Consumer-driven worship must be well choreographed, and dazzling. If the music is not upbeat, if the soloist is not inspiring, if the Praise Team is not uplifting, if the welcome is not warm, if the sermon is not dynamic, if the multi-media doesn’t wow, then such worship is beneath our attendance and we continue shopping around.
For many in our culture, the bottom line question concerning worship is "How did it make me feel?" as if worship was somehow all about them. Too many church leaders are asking the question, “What must we do to please the worshiper, and keep them coming back to our services?” That’s the wrong question. We need to be asking, “What must we do to please God, and keep Him coming back to our services?” The target audience of our worship is not the congregation but is God. Our worship is directed to God himself — it is for his pleasure and his glory.
True worship starts in a heart that has experienced the saving grace of God. It is our heartfelt response to a Heavenly Father who emptied Himself of divine glory and became a man who took upon Himself the sins of the world.
I believe that the response of the wise men to the presence of our Lord gives us a clue as to what real worship is all about.

I. REAL WORSHIP IS SEEKING HIS PRESENCE

1. the Wise Men's identity is uncertain
a. tradition says that they were kings and that there were three
b. the expression Wise Men is derived from the Greek word magoi and bears some relationship to our English word magician
c. the phrase from the east indicates their place of origin
2. the weight of evidence supports the conclusion that these men were probably from ancient Persia and were experts in astronomy and the physical sciences
a. this is all we fundamentally know about these visitors
3. why do the Scriptures protect their anonymity?
a. because the focus is on the Son of God, not the magi from the east

A. SEEKING HIS PRESENCE MEANS OUR WORSHIP MUST FOCUS EXCLUSIVELY ON THE KING

ILLUS. We have witnessed a phenomenon in our society that is utterly amazing. In our quest for "feel good religion" there are many Christians who worship praise and praise worship. They have substituted the worship our Christ, with the worship of worship. The songs, the dance, the banners, the hymns, and even the preaching have been accepted as worship instead of being seen as a means of expressing worship and bringing us into the presence of God.
1. seeking the Lord’s presence means our worship must exclusively focus on God
a. now that seems like a silly statement
1) of course our worship focuses on God; doesn't it?
b. not necessarily — think about the Magi for a moment
2. one night, during their observations of the heavens, they notice an astrological phenomenon they’ve not seen before
a. the star they see is different than all the rest — it's luminosity is brighter, and appears to travel across the sky
1) like so many pagans of their day, they could have chosen to worship this star and assumed it was a new god passing through the heavens as did Mars, and Mercury, Venus, and Jupiter
3. but they don't worship the star — they perceive it as an announcement that heralds a momentous occasion
a. they begin to pour over the known literature of their day seeking a clue as to the star's meaning
b. they find their answer in the Hebrew Scriptures
"I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel..." (Numbers 24:17, NIV)
4. upon their arrival in King Herod's capitol their focus is not on the star, but on the One whom the star has revealed to them
a. their question is "Where is he who is bom King of the Jews ... for we have come to worship him!"
b. in an era of history when worship of the stars was common, these men have come to worship the one who made the stars

B. SEEKING HIS PRESENCE MEANS OUR WORSHIP BRAVES ALL OBSTACLES TO WORSHIP IN GOD'S PRESENCE

1. the wise men's journey meandered across rocky slopes and parched desert
a. it would have covered a distance of a 1,000 miles
b. their arrival in Jerusalem causes no slight stir
2. their determination to worship the King of the Jews makes our efforts at worship seem small by comparison
a. they have come a thousand miles to worship the king
b. many church members today won't even travel across town to worship if they don't feel up to it, or have something better to do
1) and if the weather is bad, forget it; that's the most convenient excuse not to come — whereas neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays the same person from missing work
2) our rationalizations for missing worship are usually pretty pathetic when we consider what fellow Christians around the world are experiencing
ILLUS. The Sunday before Christmas in Pakistan, a Church full of worshipers was targeted by a pair of suicide-bombers. Nine Christians died, and fifty more were injured when they detonated their bombs. In India, Hindu radicals launched 23 attacks against Christians during this Christmas season. On Christmas day in Egypt, Muslim extremists attacked a Catholic congregation as the worshipers were leaving church. The same day, ten Christians were killed when unidentified gunmen opened fire on a Coptic Christian church in a Cairo suburb.
c. how many of us would regularly show up for worship if we knew it could be the last thing we ever did?
1) OK, I’m not saying there are no valid reasons for missing church from time-to-time
2) if you’re sick as a dog – stay home! if there’s four inches of snow on the ground – stay home!
3) the point is that too many professing Christians simply have not made worship a priority over other priorities
3. the wise men teach us that worship flows from an intense desire to be in the presence of the King ... at all costs, and despite the obstacles
a. the Psalmist wrote: "seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face continually" (Psalm 105:4)
4. Real Worship Is Seeking His Presence

II. REAL WORSHIP IS BOWING BEFORE THE KING

1. the wise men stand in marked contrast to the religious and political leaders of Jerusalem
a. the priests and scribes knew where the Messiah would be born, yet none of them joined the wise men in their journey to Bethlehem
2. pride and apathy have a strong grip that can choke the spiritual life out of religious people
a. the priests and scribes could talk about their love for God and His law, but they would not venture the few miles to Bethlehem by faith to verify that love
3. the wise men, however, put their faith to work and discovered the Savior

A. TRUE WORSHIP WILL EMPTY ITSELF OF PRIDE AND HUMBLE ITSELF BEFORE THE LORD

1. the first response of the wise men was to fall down on their knees, and worship Christ the Lord
a. they humbly knelt in Jesus' presence
b. they may even have lain prostrate before Him, stretching themselves out on the ground in an act of submission before the King of kings and Lord of lords
2. the whole scene of the wise men before our Lord is painted with emotion
a. worship involves our entire being — including our emotions
1) their emotion is not the thrill that comes from hearing a 100 voice choir singing an anthem
2) their emotion is not manufactured by the oratory skills of a religious speaker
3) the wise men's hearts do not leap with joy because the soloist is silhouetted by colored lights, and immersed in artificial fog
b. their emotional response in worship rests solely in the presence of God
1) the Psalmist tells us that "the Lord inhabits the praises of his people"
2) is it possible that the reason God seems so distant in worship at times is because we've not given Him any reason for being here?
ILLUS. A man once went to his doctor and said, "Doc, is there anything that you can do for my snoring?" The doctor asked, "Why, does it disturb your wife?" "Naw," the man said, "It doesn't disturb her, it just embarrasses her. It's the rest of the congregation it disturbs."
3. could lack of real joy in worship be the reason why so many churches work so hard at entertaining the congregation?
ILLUS. Years ago, when I first felt called to the ministry, my Pastor — Martin Brocket — once gave me some advise about preaching, "If ya ain't got anything to say, at least give 'em a good show!" I'll never forget that admonition, because I've always worked hard at ignoring it. I never, ever want worship to be merely a show.
4. something is obviously missing if service after service you are no longer moved to adore the One who paid a debt He did not owe, to free you from a debt you could not pay
a. these wise men believed in Christ when they had never seen him ...
b. they believed in Him when the scribes and Pharisees were unbelieving ...
c. they believed in Him when they saw Him only as a little infant on Mary's knees, and worshiped Him as a King
d. this was the crowning point of their faith
1) they saw no miracles to convince them
2) they heard no teaching to persuade them
3) they saw no signs of divinity and greatness to overawe them
4) they saw nothing but a newborn infant, helpless and weak, and needing a mother's care like any of us
e. and yet when they saw that infant, they believed that they saw the divine Savior of the world! "They bowed down and worshiped him" (vs. 11)
5. how can we NOT bow before the Savior in humble adoration?
a. we can erect nativity scenes on our lawns
b. we can adorn the church with decorations
c. we can bring canned goods for the needy and give sacrificially to the Lottie Moon offering
d. but if our hearts are cold and, and our spirits dry, ... if there is no joy in your worship, you need to fall down beside the wise men and learn anew the thrill of bowing before the Savior
6. Real Worship Is Bowing Before the King

III. REAL WORSHIP IS GIVING OUR TREASURES

1. for a growing number of Americans, Christmas has become little more than a cultural tradition whose celebration does not depend upon any spiritual significance attached to the day
ILLUS. A new Pew Research Center survey (Dec. 12, 2017) finds that most U.S. adults believe the religious aspects of Christmas are being emphasized less now than in the past. And relatively few Americans are bothered by this trend. Virtually all Americans celebrate the Christmas holiday, but only about 55% celebrate it as a religious holiday.
2. for many in the world Christmas is not even a cultural tradition, but a testimonial to commercialism
ILLUS. The nation of Japan celebrates Christmas even though less than 1% of the population is Christian. Lights go up, schools close, Christmas trees are bought, choirs sing Christmas carols, friends wish each other merry Christmas, and on Christmas Eve families and couples dine on fried chicken — not turkey — and exchange gifts with “Santa San” bringing presents to the children. But Christ is absent. The nation celebrates love and friendship, and gifts are given, but the Christ of Christmas goes unrecognized.
3.but to the redeemed of the Lord the Advent season marks the commemoration of the most historic, world-changing, life-changing birth civilization has ever known
4. the wise men gave Christ their worship — which is what God treasures most — but they also gave him those things which they treasured most
a. their gifts were given as evidence of their adoration
b. they were valuable, expensive treasures

A. OUR TREASURES MUST BE OFFERED FREELY

1. the Magi's gifts were not offered from compulsion but from the extravagance of devotion
2. the wise men show us that those who love Jesus whole-heartedly demonstrate it by offering their treasures
3. God is worthy of our most valuable possessions, but He desires one gift supremely: the gift of ourselves in worship
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship." (Romans 12:1, NIV)
4. an amazing paradox is involved in our giving to God
a. while He is honored by our gifts, we are blessed beyond measure by the act of giving
ILLUS. Some years ago, Dean Register, Pastor of CrossPoint Church, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, wrote these words. "While we are busy giving and receiving gifts this Christmas, we should concentrate on the greatest gift of all — the gift of God's Son. After all, when the Christmas meals have been eaten and friends have gone their separate way, Jesus will still be the Bread of life. When the lights on the Christmas tree have been removed and decorations boxed up, Jesus will be still the Light of the world. When the packages have been unwrapped and the paper discarded, Jesus will continue to be the ultimate Gift of God to the world."
Worship is an act of adoration. It is the saint responding to the grace of God experienced through Christ. Our worship — like the wise men's — can be sincere and genuine. When it is genuine and heartfelt the benefits to us are enormous.
The Magi came, they bowed, they opened their treasures and presented them to Him … but before all of that — they fell down and worshipped Him! Worship is a rare and easily lost atmosphere of devotion, adoration, sacrifice, and communion. Those Wisemen remind us what real worship is all about.
You’re present this morning, but have you come into the presence of the King?
You’re present this morning, but have you bowed before the King’s majesty?
You’re present this morning, but have you offered the gifts of love, and adoration to the King?
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