September 24, 2023
[NOTE: Due to a technical glitch there is no livestream from this last Sunday]\
We’re going to begin with one of the best ways possible - a quote from Charles Spurgeon:
“BETWEEN HERE AND HEAVEN, EVERY MINUTE THAT THE CHRISTIAN LIVES WILL BE A MINUTE OF GRACE.”
That is why we worship. When we come in to worship, we put personal preferences aside so we can focus fully and completely on praising God. As much as humanly possible, worship is about giving God the utmost glory and honor for what He has done for us in Jesus Christ. As a starting point today, I hope that makes sense to you.
With that timeless truth firmly affirmed, let’s talk about another aspect of time. Aging. I’m getting older. I know, I know, you’re thinking to yourself, “But pastor, you’re so vital and vibrant, with nary a gray hair on your head nor wrinkle on your face.” But, truth be told, I am no longer a young man. And that’s a good thing. It’s a blessing to be young and it’s a blessing to be old. Whatever age you find yourself at is a good age.
Listen to this image of God, contrasted with the false gods of any age:
Bel bows down; Nebo stoops; their idols are on beasts and livestock; these things you carry are borne as burdens on weary beasts. They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.
“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you.
I have made, and I will bear;
I will carry and will save.
Do you get the picture? The gods of Babylon are a joke. Isaiah is mocking them. “Oh, wonderful, you carry your god on a wagon.”
When Isaiah wrote these words, Babylon was the premier nation on earth. They were overflowing with the worship of false gods and nationalistic pride.
Bel, also called Marduk, was the biggest god of the Babylonians. Nebo was second only to Bel.
Here, in Isaiah, Bel and Nebo represent Babylon’s pride. Yet they will both be humbled. Bel bows down and Nebo stoops. These gods will be defeated and carried by cattle away from Babylon. Our great and sovereign God will send Persia to conquer Babylon. Their false gods can’t save them. They will bow down and stoop. These gods will become burdens on weary beasts.
Isaiah reminds us to trust in God and God alone. He alone is worthy of our praise. Science cannot save us. Wall Street cannot save us. Medicine cannot save us. Politicians cannot save us. The military cannot save us. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only One who can save. Bel bows down and Nebo stoops…never put your trust in what is unreliable. As Jesus said, we should not store up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Unlike Bel and Nebo, our God isn’t to be served. He is to be enjoyed forever.
Here's something you might want to write down:
WE HAVE THE JOY OF WORSHIPING OUR GOD.
It is our privilege and honor to worship God.
We don’t want a god who needs us to carry him. We don’t want a god who is borne as burdens on weary beasts. No way. I’m getting old. I want a God who promises to carry me. We can’t carry God. Even for all of you younger than me, anytime, anything can happen and you’re knocked down and out and you have to decide if you’re going to mope for the rest of your life or surrender yourself to God and let Him serve you and make something of your life. Remember, at some level or another, we’re all broken. We’re the broken ones. God doesn’t need us. God doesn’t need our worship. We need God.
So, that’s the Biblically round-a-bout way of saying God is all-sufficient. He doesn’t need us. God calls us to worship Him because He knows we need worship for the fullness of our joy.
Next, God pursues worship because He loves us. To paraphrase Tina Turner, love’s got everything to do with it.
Listen to John 4:23-24:
“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. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
How wonderful is that? Remember what Jesus says earlier, “For God so loved the world , that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Jesus says, out of this love, God gives us the privilege of worshiping Him.
Here’s something else you might want to write down:
NO ONE FINDS GOD. HE ISN’T LOST, WE ARE. HE FINDS US.
That’s John four, right there.
I remember when, decades ago, there was a bumper sticker/catch phrase campaign that said, “I Found It,” or “I Found Him,” or “I Found Jesus.” It was supposed to start a conversation where people would ask you what you found or how they could find Jesus. Growing out of the 60s, it was bad Biblical theology. Neither God nor Jesus need to be found.
Here's why this point on worship is so important. When God exalts Himself and calls for worship, and when worship means being satisfied in Him and getting joy from Him, the call to worship is an act of love because you get the benefit. Are you with me on that? We get the joy…God gets the glory. God is exulted, which fills me with satisfaction because God is most glorified when I am most satisfied in Him. So as God is exalted in our worship, our happiness increases.
I have seen studies that have shown where people who worship regularly are happiest and most optimistic in their lives.
Finally, worship is the expression of our being satisfied in God. Remember. The Westminster Confession says our chief goal is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. That is our beginning and end. Here, in this life, the most important thing we do is glorify God. And as we learned from the book of Revelation, those saved by Christ fall down in worship. Worship is the goal of all things. It is our greatest and lasting joy.
Here’s how Paul captures it in Philippians 3:8-11:
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
God is of supreme worth. We are satisfied in Him and Him alone. When compared to the love He has for us, and the worship He desires from us, everything else pales in comparison. Our money and our health and our institutions and our accomplishments and yes, even our families. It is all like rubbish compared to God and what He did for us in Jesus Christ.
So we don’t misunderstand his point, Paul uses a strong word, that’s
normally translated rubbish or trash or garbage. The Greek word, “skubala,” is more earthy than that. Gritty. It might be considered offensive by the faint of heart. In ancient Greek, “skubala” is primarily used in reference to excrement, particularly human excrement. So nothing is as important as glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
In other words, when we are satisfied in God, worship becomes the goal of all things. Nothing is as important. Now, understand, a worship service, this worship service, isn’t the goal of all things. What we’re doing now is simply the way God has given us to experience Him as our supreme treasure. That is the goal of all things…to experience God as our supreme treasure.
But what do we often do? How do we treat worship? What is a common worship mindset?
We worship to raise money. We worship to attract crowds. We worship to heal human hurts. We worship to recruit workers. We worship to improve church morale. We worship to build a healthier church culture. We worship to give talented musicians an opportunity to pursue their calling. We worship to teach our children how to live God-honoring lives. We worship to help marriages stay together. We worship to evangelize the lost. We worship to motivate people to serve the needs of our community. We worship to reinforce a family atmosphere in our church.
All of these things, and many more, turn worship into a means unto a lot of other ends. Here’s the last thing you might want to write down:
WORSHIP IS AN END IN ITSELF.
Think about it this way. Think about a loved one. Someone you love. A spouse…a friend…a child…a parent. Imagine saying, “I delight in you so much, I’m going to let you mow the lawn…or make me dinner…or buy me a new piece of furniture…or put money in my bank account.” What have you’ve done? You’ve made them a stepping stone to get something you want. You haven’t honored them in the least bit.
What do we do instead? We pursue joy in God above any other motivating reason to glorify Him. There is no other reason to glorify God. Our worship is our desire to individually and corporately express that God is everything.
God is the beginning and the end of our joy. Nothing else matters. We exalt God’s name because we have the greatest joy in Him. God has poured everything into our world so we would have everlasting happiness in Him.
I’m growing old. My life is an inexorable march toward death. It’s funny
how so many fear growing old and dying. So much in our culture reveals the truth in that. That was a strong undercurrent in our response to the last pandemic. But when we are in Christ, there is nothing but joy.
Finally, if we really do experience Christ as our supreme treasure, everything changes. Lifestyles become about sacrificing for the needs of others. Our lives will be loving. We will be good and kind and decent, and it will show as it lifts others, as well. The need for security and comfort will go down because Christ is everything to us. Christ is everything. All we have is Christ.
SOLI DEO GLORIA…
To the Glory of God Alone