On the Plains of Moab Blog
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August 5, 2013, 8:57 AM

Sermon Text: The Wonder of Worship: Why Bother?



Sunday, August 4, 2013.  Revelation 7:9-12

Cameron Smith

Worship.  Why bother?  This is a live question for the times we live in these days.  Recently, blogger Rachel Held Evans ignited a firestorm of debate over social networks when she wrote a blog entry entitled, “Why Millennials are Leaving the Church”.  [For a thoughtful response to Evans, see here.]  She suggested that the way we older folks do church and worship is passé and unauthentic to the Millennial generation (people born after 1980).  Blogger and author Jeremy Myers, himself a Millennial, went even further in his book, "Put Service Back into the Church Service: Making Your Church Service Look More Like Jesus."  Listen to a quote from his little tome that I forced myself to read this past week.  Jeremy advocates killing the church worship service, period.  Here’s his rationale.  (If you want to read a fuller quote, go to the sermon blog on our web page.)

"People stop attending church, not because they are rebelling against God, but because as a faithful member of the church, they are following God.  People want to love others like Jesus, and for whatever reason, sitting in a particular building at a certain time of the week hinders their ability to love and serve others in the way they feel Jesus is calling them....This is why giving people permission to leave church is so important (many will eventually leave anyway).  Since many people are thinking of leaving, why not shock the socks off them and tell them to not come!  Rather than make them sneak out the door, rather than making them feel guilty for not attending church, rather than forcing them to come up with lame excuses as to why they 'missed church,' why not show them the door by giving them permission to follow Jesus wherever He leads, even if it is away from the Sunday morning church service?" (pp.27-28).

Jeremy reasons that Sunday mornings are so hectic.  Getting out of bed; getting the kids ready for church.  Fighting with our spouses.  Missing out on a chance to spend some quality time with our families.  Missing opportunities that we could be out there showing the love of Jesus to strangers.  He compares to pastors to pharaoh and says, “Let my people go” that they might serve me outside the confines of the brick and mortar buildings we call church.  He even compares us pastors to drug pushers.  We get people addicted to church services and so we miss out on really serving Jesus.

In fairness to Jeremy, he comes out of a tradition where they purposely fill up the week with church activities and church attendance does seem to be about appearances.  But still, that’s no excuse for publishing such shoddy and myopic work on worship.

No surprises here.  I think that worshiping together on a weekly basis is worth the bother.  I do not think what we do on Sunday morning is passé.  I do not think it is unnecessary.  I will even go further and say this:  What you are doing here on Sunday mornings at 11:00 is the most important thing you will ever do in your life.  Just like your relationship with Jesus Christ, worship is the pinnacle of all earthly experience.  Nothing even comes close.

Let me give you three reasons why worship is worth the effort we pour into it.

I. We Worship For Preparation.

God is preparing us for eternal life.  Mind you, not sitting around on clouds and strumming boring harps.  Eternal life in the new heavens and new earth.  Think of back to the Garden of Eden.  A renewed and perfect earth.  Think of being in the presence of God without the baggage of personal sin and evil in the world.

The Bible opens up in Genesis 1:1with an invitation to worship.  The mood for preparation is set from the very outset in Genesis.  The first five books of the Bible (Gen-Deut.) were addressed to Israel as they were on the plains of Moab.  They were about to cross the Jordan River and enter the Promised Land.  God gave them the account of creation so they would remember Him as they came into the Land.  He described the creation week with the formula “and there was evening and there was morning” (1:5 ESV).  But when you get to the seventh day, there is no “and there was evening and there was morning.”  The seventh day goes on and on.  And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (2:2-3 ESV).

The seventh day, which became the Sabbath, was hallowed in the Fourth Commandment.  Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. (Deut. 5:12-14 ESV).

God makes this request because he is preparing his people for eternity.  Six days represents the days of our life.  Because of the Fall, we work by the sweat of our brow.  There is pain and often sorrow in the raising of children.  The world can be a cold, hard place.  But at the end of the road, we are ushered into God’s presence.  Heaven.  The seventh day.  The day that never ends.

God gave his people a pattern to honor and hallow the seventh day.  To worship and remember whose they are and to whom they belong.

In the New Testament, with the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday morning, the early church recognized that God had moved the world one step closer to fulfillment – that’s why they call Sunday the eighth day.  In Jesus, the Sabbath shifts from the seventh day to the first day.  The day of New Creation.  The Christian Sabbath.  We see examples in the Book of Acts and Revelation where God’s people are gathering together for worship on the Lord’s Day.

When you come here on Sunday, you are preparing for eternity.  There is nothing more important than that!

II.  We Worship For Formation.

Worship forms us.  It shapes our soul.  It instructs the heart.  The truth about us in our fallen-ness is that we have a bent towards idolatry.  In the course of life, we gravitate quite naturally towards worshiping things that we ought not worship.  Money, things, status, relationships, other people and ourselves.

Our weekly worship is a corrective to that bent.  Worship points us to the God who made us.  To the God who sustains and provides for our every need.  Our weekly worship is structured to rehearse salvation in Jesus Christ.  We open with a call to worship from the Word of God.  We focus our worship with a prayer of praise.  We sing God’s praises.  We invite the kids forward because we want them to understand that they too are called to worship God.  We hear the Word read and are instructed by the Word in preaching.  We celebrate the sacraments.  We hear a charge and find comfort in a benediction as we leave here to go back into the world.

Worship is an intentional effort to form and shape our lives so that it is God-shaped and Christocentric.

That is our liturgy.  But, understand that all of Scripture is liturgy.  You saw how Moses used Genesis to point Israel to worship.  The rest of Scripture is no different.  Take the Psalter, for example.  I find it very purposeful and intentional that this collection of Psalms ends with the last eight (143-150) offering continual praise to God.

The end of the Bible, in the book of Revelation, ends the same way the Psalter ends.  With praise to God.  Check out this pattern.

Rev. 1:5-7 (ESV)  John: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.  Even so. Amen.

Rev. 4:8-11 (ESV) Four Living Creatures and the Twenty-Four Elders sing a new song:…They never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"  And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created."

Rev. 7:9-10 (ESV) I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!"

The Bible is, from Genesis to Revelation, a self-contained worship service.  When we read and study and meditate upon it, it is forming a habit of holiness in us – pointing us to God and His salvation in His one and only Son, in the power and conviction of the Holy Spirit.

III.  We Worship For Service.

Worship is for service.  It is here for our spiritual service.  In the Old Testament, there was a sacrificial system that was quite complex.  It pointed to the way God was to be worshiped.  How sins could be forgiven.  The sacrifices also showed what God would do for us in Jesus Christ.  However, after Jesus came, the sacrificial system was abrogated.  No need for it.  In Jesus, there is a once and for all sacrifice for sins.  The book of Hebrews makes this quite clear.  But, the writer of this New Testament book says that there is a different kind of sacrifice we offer now in Jesus.  It is spiritual sacrifice.  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Heb. 13:15 ESV).

This is the service that we offer each Lord’s Day.  We have a better sacrifice.  We have a better temple.  We have a better heavenly city that will one day descend upon us.  Let God’s people offer a continual stream of praise for their spiritual sacrifices.  Together with the people of God.  For no small reason does the reason does Hebrews exhort us that we consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb. 10:24-25 ESV).

Closing

Let me close where I began.  Worship.  Why bother?  Bother.  Listen, you may be able to serve Jesus by following the author’s advice that I quoted at the top of the sermon.  You may be able to worship in the mountains in solitude; or at the beach, or even sleeping in on Sunday morning.  But let me remind you, that the week is long.  If you figure eight hours of sleep, that leaves you with six days of 96 waking, productive hours to have your fun; look for opportunities to serve Jesus with strangers and recreate with you friends and family.  God calls you out on one day to worship Him in holiness.  There is nothing like it.

Listen, we get excited about so many lesser things in this life.  I love a good concert.  If the group is good, I never want it to end.  I feel the same way about a good movie.  I love football season.  I want it to go on and on.  I anticipate vacations.  I get excited about things that in the end really have no eternal significance.  I suspect that all of you are a lot like me.

The Christian Sabbath.  The Lord’s Day.  Sunday.  This day is for you.  It is for you to get excited about as you anticipate the Day.

You have heard the Word of God.  Please consider it well.   Amen.


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