The Life of the Church Preserved through Proper Worship
June 9, 2002 Topical – Pastoral Epistles
Psalm 113, that we just read together, is a marvelous proclamation of praise to God as we open our subject of worship this morning.
Exegete: Psalm 113
Last week we talked about the life of the church in doctrinal tradition. We noted the foundation of doctrinal tradition that Paul laid out for Timothy and Titus as they sought to lead their assigned churches, but we also discussed how doctrinal tradition can – and has – become confused over the centuries. That confusion comes when man's tradition is elevated to gospel truth.
There is another subject alluded to in the Pastoral Epistles that is vital to the life of the church but also can become detrimental because it tends to become something elevated into tradition – those traditions of men that can actually hinder the Spirit. This happens when men's traditions become mindless and truth becomes secondary.
Worship is something that must be sacred, but its form must not become exclusively so. Many a church argument is based on how it should be done, when it is really more a matter of heart.
The problem comes in when tradition is elevated above the heart.
Jim Van Yperen of Metanoia Ministries says that worship is a theological issue, not a form issue. And that conflict in worship styles is not about worship. I suppose we could say it is more about control, or refusal to accept change, or refusal to accept others – humanity wanting its own way.
In other words, worship of Almighty God is mandated because of who he is and because it is mankind's recognition of a right relationship with God, and there are many ways to express love and adoration acceptable to him.
6 ¶ With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?
7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
8 He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:6-8 NIVUS)
The single most important thing in worship is attitude. And the second most important thing is how that attitude bears out in action.
1 ¶ 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.
2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— his good, pleasing and perfect will.
(Romans 12:1-2 NIVUS)
We had communion last Sunday. The only worship style that Jesus left us was the tradition of communion and baptism – which of course are matters of the heart – and he did not even prescribe how they were to be done. He left the details up to us.
But he did speak to matters of the heart in worship.
23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
(John 4:23-24 NIVUS)
And he did receive the worship of the people unto himself and mandated that it must be so.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples!"
40 "I tell you," he replied, "if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out."
(Luke 19:37-40 NIVUS)
The Epistles expand upon an attitude of worship as how we are to live and even relate to one another.
15 Be very careful, then, how you live— not as unwise but as wise,
16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.
17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,
20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
21 ¶ Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
(Ephesians 5:15-21 NIVUS)
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(Colossians 3:15-17 NIVUS)
So what do the Pastoral Epistles have to say about worship? They have nothing to say about tradition in worship – how it must be done culturally. There are only two subjects in the Pastoral Epistles about worship.
D. Preserved Through Proper Worship
1. Establishing and Maintaining the Opportunity –
Paul realizes, and instructs Timothy accordingly, that the life and work of the church is better accomplished when it is unhindered. If the church can proceed with its mission to bring all men to salvation in order that the one God and one mediator between God and man might be worshipped (according to Paul's purpose as the apostle to the Gentiles), then the life of the church according to the will of God will surely be established. Paul sees the first line of defense (or offense) in this as prayer, both for troublemakers who have left the church (1Tim. 1:19-20) as well as those who could make trouble for the church such as kings and those in authority. We should pray for peaceful lives in order to have opportunity to accomplish the Lord's work, and this will surely preserve the life of the church by bringing people into it to worship him. Paul not only mentions prayer as the means of establishing worship but also maintaining it. He mentions prayer in 1Tim. 2:8 almost as a definition of it. It is to be done in peace and is also the means by which peace is obtained.
2. Maintaining Propriety –
Our time in worship is not the place to showcase ourselves physically, but to exalt God in Christ. When Christ is diminished, the life of the church suffers. Women here are mentioned as being particularly susceptible to the distractions of outward appearance, but true worship is of the heart as seen in good deeds instead. There must also be propriety as seen in submissive actions where women maintain a godly view of created order rather than trying to showcase themselves intellectually. Women must understand their God-given place and purpose. If they are mindful of these things they will not create disturbance in worship and the life of the church will be enhanced.
So what was important for Paul to say about the subject of worship for these two churches he was laboring so hard for spiritual life for through Timothy and Titus was that worship should be maintained and done with propriety. In other words, it should be done, and it should be done with right attitude. Nothing else was said. But many have said much about right worship over the years.
Worship is the missing jewel in modern Evangelicalism. We're organized, we work, we have our agencies. We have almost everything, but there's one thing that the churches, even the gospel churches, do not have: that is the ability to worship. We are not cultivating the art of worship. It's the shining gem that is lost to the modern church, and I believe that we ought to search for this until we find it.
-- A. W. Tozer, The Missing Jewel of the Evangelical Church
Worship is the highest and noblest act that any person can do. When men worship, God is satisfied! And when you worship, you are fulfilled! Think about this: why did Jesus Christ come? He came to make worshipers out of rebels. We who were once self-centered have to be completely changed so that we can shift our attention outside of ourselves and become able to worship him.
Raymond C. Ortlund
God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. . . . The very stones would praise him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do his will.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
If we haven't learned to be worshipers, it doesn't really matter how well we do anything else.
Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )
John R. W. Stott once admitted the truth that many of us have felt but failed to confess: "The thing I know will give me the deepest joy -- namely, to be alone and unhurried in the presence of God, aware of His presence, my heart open to worship Him -- is often the thing I least want to do."
If worship does not change us, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Worship begins in holy expectancy; it ends in holy obedience.
Richard J. Foster (1942– )
In worship we meet the power of God and stand in its strengthening.
Nels F. S. Ferré (1769–1821)
More spiritual progress can be made in one short moment of speechless silence in the awesome presence of God than in years of mere study.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
If you can leave your church on Sunday morning with no feeling of discomfort, of conviction, of brokenness, of challenge, then for you the hour of worship has not been as dangerous as it should have been. The ease with which we go on being Christian sentimentalists is one of our worst faults.
Paul Stromberg Rees (1900– )
The worship of God is not a rule of safety—it is an adventure of the spirit.
Alfred North Whitehead (1861–1947)
The philosopher aspires to explain away all mysteries, to dissolve them into light. Mystery on the other hand is demanded and pursued by the religious instinct; mystery constitutes the essence of worship.
Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
There are delights that the heart may enjoy in the awesome presence of God that cannot find expression in language; they belong to the unutterable element in Christian experience. Not many enjoy them because not many know that they can. The whole concept of ineffable worship has been lost.
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
Worship isn't listening to a sermon, appreciating the harmony of the choir, and joining in singing hymns! It isn't even prayer, for prayer can be the selfish expression of an unbroken spirit. Worship goes deeper. Since God is spirit, we fellowship with him with our spirit; that is, the immortal and invisible part of us meets with God, who is immortal and invisible.
Erwin W. Lutzer (1941– )
Worship is transcendent wonder.
Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881)
Worship means "to feel in the heart."
A. W. Tozer (1897–1963)
Worship renews the spirit as sleep renews the body.
Richard Clarke Cabot (1868–1939)
To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.
Archbishop William Temple (1881–1944)
Worship is a way of living, a way of seeing the world in the light of God . . . to rise to a higher level of existence, to see the world from the point of view of God.
Abraham J. Heschel (1907–1972)
We pay God honor and reverence, not for his sake (because he is of himself full of glory to which no creature can add anything), but for our own sake.
Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
Worship is not a part of the Christian life; it is the Christian life.
Gerald Vann (1906–1963)
A. W. Tozer said, "We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God."
Francis Schaeffer said, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
D. A. Carson in his article "Worship the Lord Your God: the Perennial Challenge" in his book entitled Worship: Adoration and Action, published on behalf of the World Evangelical Fellowship in 1993, comments ---
According to Matthew and Luke, the devil took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him ‘all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.’ The gauntlet he threw down before Jesus invited apostasy as it promised glory: ‘All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.’ Jesus’ answer was unequivocal: ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” ’ (Matt. 4:8–10; cf. Luke 4:5–8).
This was not an invitation to change styles of ‘worship’ — to move, say, from pipe organ to guitars. In fact, it was not properly an ecclesiastical or corporate matter at all. It was private and personal; more importantly, it dealt with the fundamental question, the question of ultimate allegiance: Whom do you serve?
This, surely, is where all questions about worship must properly begin. The critical issue is not the techniques of worship, or the traditions of worship, still less the experience of worship, but who is being worshipped, and who is worshipping. The Puritans understood the point, connecting worship with true godliness:
Worship comprehends all that respect which man owes and gives to his Maker. … It is the tribute that we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him. … All that inward reverence and respect, and all that outward obedience and service to God, which the word [viz. ‘godliness’] enjoins, is included in this one word – worship).
If the heart of sinfulness is self-centeredness, the heart of all biblical religion is God-centeredness: in short, it is worship. In our fallenness we constrict all there is to our petty horizons. I think of all relationships in terms of their impact on me; my daydreams circle around my own life and circumstances; my goals and hopes invariably turn on my place in the universe. Such profound self-centeredness may result in wild cruelty that the world thinks of as social pathology, or it may result in religious cant; it may issue in war and racism as masses of little people who want to be first exploit and harm others who want the same thing but may lack the means, and it may issue in piety and discipline full of self-satisfaction and ferver. Still the demon SELF marches on.
The sign that self is broken is true worship: God becomes the center, the focus of delight, the joyfully acknowledged King, the Creator, the Redeemer. In this sense, none but the transformed can truly worship — and they too discover how much more transformation is still needed. Thus all worship becomes an eschatological sign, a marker of what will be in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness, when the children of God have been ‘glorified’ (Rom. 8:30), and God is all in all. In anticipation of that day, and ‘in view of God’s mercy’, we offer our bodies ‘as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God’, for this is our ‘spiritual worship’ (Rom. 12:1). AAA Worship
Attitude + Action = Access (to God who is the Life of the Church)