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Worship (2)

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A group of people from the church have expressed the desire to get together on a semi-regular basis to worship together. What form that will take (the “order of service”) will be entirely up to them. But I thought it would be good to take some time before you do anything with that to sit down together and talk about what it is exactly we do when we worship—what worship is and isn’t—so that when you begin these evenings, you may do so with the proper framework in mind.
Let me be clear: I’m going to be talking about worship in a particular setting. I’m going to lay down the framework of corporate worship—the worship of the body of Christ. For even though worship can be expressed individually (indeed, worship should be the driving motivation behind everything we do, everywhere and all the time), when the Bible talks about worship in any kind of organized way, it is almost always in the context of the church gathering together to worship.
And the fact I’ll be talking about it in that context doesn’t mean that it’s not pertinent for these worship evenings—because when you gather together to worship musically, that framework should still be in place, even if it’s not exactly the same as what we do on Sunday mornings. We must always worship God as he has told us to worship him, otherwise we’re not worshiping him at all.
So here’s where we’re going. We’re going to see essentially, three things:
Whom we worship;
What worship isn’t;
What worship is.

Whom We Worship

The obvious answer is that we worship God. But it’s not enough to say we worship God; we have to ask why we worship him. And we worship him because he is holy.
“Holy” in Hebrew = to separate, to be separated from
God is completely and totally different from us. He is beyond anything we can imagine; he is transcendent; he is wholly and completely different.
God’s holiness is such a big deal because it encompasses all of his other attributes.
Isaiah’s vision of God: something we don’t need to think through so much as feel through.
Something we don’t need to think through so much as feel through.
Isaiah 6.1-7:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
His greatness is so great that it fills his habitation.
Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The seraphim are angelic beings who, as majestic as they are, cannot come near him. They cannot look at God’s glory; they cannot stand in God’s presence.
And they say to one another, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. In English: superlatives. Big - bigger- biggest; majestic - more majestic - most majestic.
The Hebrew way of saying this is to repeat three times: “big, big, big; majestic, majestic, majestic.”
No other attribute of God is repeated three times. (No “love, love, love;” “omniscient, omniscient, omniscient.”) Only this: “holy, holy, holy.”
His holiness, his “other”-ness, is so radically huge that it reaches the peak of what we can express in language.
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
If you were to transpose such an experience to modern culture, you’d see a particular reaction to this kind of realization. Bethel Church’s “glory cloud”—they’re thrilled. They’re laughing, and excited, and saying, “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” What convinces me that this phenomenon is bogus is not that such a thing is impossible (similar things happened in the Old Testament temple; if God wanted to reveal himself this way he certainly could). What convinces me this phenomenon is bogus is that if these people were truly seeing God’s glory, they would not be reacting in this way.
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The realization of God’s holiness breaks us. The only proper reaction is, “I am undone; I am done for. This is the end of me, for I am unclean, and he is holy, and I should not be able to see his glory—even the seraphim cannot see his glory. My end is quickly coming.”
This is what we so often get wrong when we worship. And we can get it wrong in more than one way. Some people approach God like they’d approach a puppy. People love puppies. People are always happy to be playing with a puppy. There’s no reverence when you play with a puppy, because there’s nothing to be feared.
Other people approach God like they’d approach some kind of obscure work of art they don’t understand. Some people have actually managed to sell blank canvases which they’ve merely painted white to art galleries, and people come in to look at them. I don’t know about you, but I’d look for a moment and try to see the appeal…and then I’d get bored pretty quickly.
Often people approach God like that. They see all the people around them singing with their eyes closed and big smiles on their faces, mesmerized at…something. And they just get bored—there doesn’t seem to be much to look at here.
Both ways of approaching God are entirely wrong. If we were remotely aware of who it is we’re worshiping, we wouldn’t come to God lightly, and we wouldn’t come to him disinterestedly. We would come to him broken, and undone at the mere idea that we’re allowed to be in his presence and live.
Because it is only in that state of brokenness that the good news is actually good news. It is only after Isaiah proclaims his “Woe is me!” that his is made pure:
Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
This is a symbolic picture of the gospel: although we should not be able to stand in his presence and live, not only does God not destroy us; he gives us what we need to know him—he makes us pure. He atones for our sins in the person and work of Jesus.
Now, after all of that, you would think that if the only thing Isaiah would want to do is to get out of there. No matter how good God is, he does not seem safe. Even if Isaiah’s sin is atoned for, he is still an imperfect human being. So you would think that his one desire would be to say, “Thanks!” and then high-tail it out of there as fast as he can.
But that’s not what he does. V. 8:
And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Anon, 2016. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Isaiah was humbled by his vision of the presence of God; he was fearful in God’s presence, and that fear and humility are right. But he was also the recipient of God’s grace. And to receive such a grace from such an unlikely source births in Isaiah the desire to serve this God. To do for God whatever God wants done, even if God could do it better himself.
It is only after we have been undone by God’s holiness, and put back together by his grace, and driven to live our lives for this awesome and good and holy God, that we are ready to worship him as he calls us to worship him. Worship isn’t just our duty before God, though it is that. Worship is what we want. We are fearful; we are humble; and we are thankful. And if we come to God in worship, or in prayer, or in our reading of the Word, without fear, humility and thankfulness, we are not coming to God at all, but merely to an idea of God we’ve invented for ourselves.
We’re going to take some time now to think about what worship is and what it isn’t. But we needed to see this first, because even if we get the “what” of worship totally right, if we aren’t clear on the “who” of worship, it’s all for naught.
So that being said, let’s take some time to think about what worship is and what it isn’t.
So that being said, let’s take some time to think about what worship is and what it isn’t.

What Worship Isn’t

Worship isn’t music.
Worship in church is a whole—everything we do together when we assemble is worship.
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Worship isn’t performance.
Worship = inherently God-centered. Anything that takes the focus off of God and puts it on us is a perversion of what worship is.
Worship isn’t using your talents.
If that was the case, only musicians or artists could worship God.
Worship isn’t (mainly) to make us feel good.
In worship, we are giving God what he deserves…even when we don’t feel like it.
Worship isn’t for unbelievers.
Worship is a conscious act in response to God’s grace…impossible if we have no awareness or gratitude for God or his grace.

What Worship Is

Worship is telling the truth.
:
23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.
Worship is reforming our hearts.
:
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Worship is giving.
Psaume 29.1-2:
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
Worship is receiving.
(the misunderstood “We are singing for you”):
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
C.S. Lewis/Brad Pitt
Worship is always intrinsically linked to the Bible.
God’s people are called to follow his commands and keep the laws. Jesus exhorted “if you love me, you will keep my commandments (; cf. ). We cannot love unless we are obedient and we cannot obey unless we are instructed in the law of the Lord. That is why the Psalmist not only rejoices in the person of God, but delights in his decrees and statutes (, ).
Worship is a reflection of our hearts.
:
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:8–9 ESV
“ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Worship is serving others.
Hebrews 13:15–16 ESV
Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Worship is daily life.
:
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Romans 12:1 ESV
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
:
15 Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.
Worship is for the church, not merely for individuals.
Often, worship is
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