BLUE FIST - “HOW TO FIT IN”
Well, there are a few things you should not do in worship in case you’re wondering. My favorite there was the fact checking the pastor’s sermon. While I haven’t had that happen, I did have trouble remembering something one time, and someone came up to me after the service and gave me the right info between the services. They went online on their blackberry. True story!
If those are the things you should not do in church, the question may be, what should you do in church. Now the obvious answer is worship, right? I mean we’re supposed to go to church to worship God. Great answer, and its right, but what does it really mean? Does it mean a certain style of music? Does it mean a particular kind of preaching? Does it even involve preaching and singing at all? What does it really mean to worship God?
And furthermore why should you even care? You might say, “I’m here, aren’t I pastor. That’s all you should care about. I’m here to endure, I mean listen to another message so let’s get on with it. Time’s a-wasting and Western Sizzling’s a-waitin!
Well, in spite of what you might think, worship really matters. You might be here today and you’ve got this vague sense of emptiness. You may have a good job and a great family. You ought to be happy and fulfilled, but the truth is, there is a turmoil in your life. From the outside looking in, others might think you’re living a dream, but if they felt in here what you feel, they wouldn’t be so envious. You’re empty and you can’t figure out why. Would you just entertain the notion this morning that what you’re missing might just be a real experience of worship. Warren Wiersbe, in his book Real Worship, wrote that there is nothing wrong with the church today that a real experience of worship could not fix. So, just in case he’s right would you listen this morning? I want to describe for you real, fulfilling, life-changing worship.
Others of us are carrying around a load of guilt. It’s not false guilt, either. There’s some things that you have done that you wouldn’t even admit to in this crowd today. You’re here, but you wouldn’t be if we knew all that you were mixed up in. You’d be too embarrassed. But something drew you to this place today. You were hoping against hope that this terrible burden of guilt you are carrying could be relieved. You know, that’s what real worship does. It leads you to a place of forgiveness where burdens are lifted.
Others aren’t so guilty as you are apathetic. You used to have this dynamic, powerful relationship with Christ, but now everything has turned from the vibrant color of a real relationship to the dull brown of boredom. You need inspiration. That’s what real worship does. It inspires your heart and activates your apathy.
Which leads us to our text for today. Peter pictures worship for us in the second chapter of his first letter. He writes in 2:4-8:
Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.
The key phrase to which this passage points is found in verse 5 where we are told that we, “as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, (watch!) To offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Our purpose, says Peter, is to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” In this he sounds like the Apostle Paul over in Romans 12. Through the first 11 chapters of Romans Paul explains that we are saved by grace through faith and not through our works. He ends this explanation of the great grace of God in Chapter 11 by saying:
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?” For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
And then, after this explanation of all that God has done for us, he goes on to explain what the proper response of people who have been so graciously saved is. He says:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
The NIV says that we should offer our bodies as sacrifices which is our spiritual worship. Our point as believers is worship. Now if that is true, the question then becomes how? How can we truly worship God. Well, I believe Peter answers that question by giving us the answer to three other questions of worship. There are, in fact, three questions you must answer if you want to be a true worshiper. The first is this:
DIV 1 WHOM SHOULD I WORSHIP?
That used to be a “slam-dunk” kind of question. The obvious answer was “Jesus.” Not so much anymore. Our pluralistic world chooses to equate all religious figures, regardless of their worthiness. So Jesus is no better than Mohammed or Bhudda or any other person or object you deem worthy of worship. In that kind of an environment, the question, “Whom should I worship?” poses real problems for people. So what’s the answer? And, if you say, “Jesus,” what makes that statement valid. Why is He, and He alone, worthy of our worship?
Well, Peter describes this Jesus with a couple of picturesque titles. He calls Him a “living stone.” He says, in v 4: Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. . . He is the “living stone.” Now what we must realize is that the image of a stone was used in the OT as a symbol for the Messiah who was to come. Jesus quoted Psalm 118:22 in referring to himself when he said in Matthew 21:42
“Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes’ ? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. 44 And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
It is interesting that Peter doesn’t just refer to him as a stone, however. He calls Him a “living” stone. I believe that this speaks to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah who brings life. He alone died for our sin, but He did not stay dead. He rose from the grave and lives to make intercession for us. He is the living stone and because He died and rose, because by His death He redeemed us and by His life He sustains us, He is worthy of worship. He is our “living stone.”
But Peter uses another stone image in this passage. In v 6, Peter says:
Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense. . .
To call Jesus the “chief cornerstone” speaks of His importance. A couple of images come to mind. In one, the cornerstone was the main stone used to make the foundation of a building. It was the most important part of the foundation. In another image, what Peter may have in mind is a “capstone.” It is the last stone put in place at the top to give glory to the image bearer. So the image of the cornerstone means that Jesus is the foundation of everything and the image of the capstone means that He is above everything. He is the one and only one worthy of our worship.
And yet we seem to worship everything, but Him. That’s the thing. We were created to be worshipers and all of us are really good at worship. We attribute worth to something in our lives for it is that which gives our life meaning. We can give worth to our looks, to our money, to our homes, to our families, to our jobs. All of us worship. The problem is that we often worship the wrong gods. I pulled this clip from a Louie Giglio DVD on worship. It is an interview that Oprah did with Michael Jackson when he was at the height of his career. It really has a lot to say about the object of our worship.
You see, that’s it. There’s worship going on there, its just focused on the wrong god. This is the key. Jesus, Peter tells us is the living stone and He is the Cornerstone. He is the only one worthy of worship. All of history flows to the cross and all of history flows from it. That Cross and this Jesus becomes the stone that separates history. Either you fall upon Him and receive His forgiveness or He will fall upon you in judgment. There is no middle ground
Church! We cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked from the message of the gospel and the supremacy of Christ. Some people wonder, “Why don’t you become more politically active, Rusty? Why don’t we join the tea party? Are you afraid of losing your tax exempt status?” In a word, No! Listen, if the only reason you obey the word of God and give is because you get a tax deduction, you’re wasting your time anyway. We will never, in this church, refuse to do what’s right to keep the government off of our backs because we answer to a different ruler and we belong to another kingdom. The reason I don’t become more politically active is because I refuse to be sidetracked. Listen, the revolution began in this country because preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield preached the Word of God so powerfully that a revival broke out that brought the courage to pursue freedom. But never forget that it was the peole themselves who pursued the politics. The pastors and the preachers preached the word. Now, yes, they did comment on the issues of the day and so will we: Homosexuality is a sin, just like adultery is! If a person is using welfare as an excuse not to work, that’s sin! Abortion is murder and you are a believer are bound to do your best to put a stop to it! But here’s the real point: All of thses sins flow from wicked hearts that need to be changed by the grace of God and that’s what I have to preach. I preach the supremacy and the power of Christ and I refuse to be sidetracked!
And if you’re here today and you really don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, I can tell you the main reason why: It really has to do with worship. You see, you are refusing to give Jesus Christ the supreme position He deserves in your life. Either you don’t really believe in Him enough to let go and let Him into your heart, or you are so determined to keep going in your own direction you won’t let Him come in and change your life. It is, at its heart, an issue of worship. If you are truly going to worship, you have to let go of your life and allow Christ to change you. You have to let Him be supreme in You. True worship must be directed at the right person. That’s the “who” of worship. But not only must you answer the question of Whom you must worship, you must also answer this question as well:
DIV 2: HOW SHOULD I WORSHIP
Now, the “how” of worship is spelled out in v 5. We are told that the way we worship is to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ. In our culture, we really aren’t used to “offering sacrifices.” In fact, any religion that slaughters animals in their worship would be looked on with horror in our society. Not so in the past! In OT Judaism many sheep, goats, and bulls were slaughtered as an atonement for sin.
Yet, we are told here to “offer sacrifices,” but it is a particular kind of sacrifice we’re told to offer. We are told to offer up spiritual sacrifices. What does this mean:
Primarily, worship is everything I do: Romans 12, again, gives us the idea of what is meant by that phrase. Paul said, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. The spiritual sacrifice we are to present to god is our bodies. We are the sacrifice. But that doesn’t mean we’re supposed to climb up on the altar and have someone lop off our heads and spill our blood. No! We are, Paul says, “living” sacrifices. One person wrote of this:
. . . the spiritual sacrifices in view may be understood as all behavior that flows from a transformation of the human spirit by the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit (1:2). “The whole of life is the offering up of sacrifice.”
So, when I go to work, when I spend time with my family, when I help my neighbor, when I share the gospel, when I work in the nursery, or when I work as a greeter, I am worshiping God. I am offering up a spiritual sacrifice to Him.
But, secondarily, worship is something we do together. There is something that happens when we get together as the people of God that cannot happen in the same way when we are apart. Hebrews 13 says it like this: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. When you come into this sanctuary and sing the songs from your heart, you’re offering a sacrifice. When you sit and listen to God’s Word and take it to heart, you’re offering up a sacrifice. When you lift your hands in worship, you’re offering up a sacrifice. When you take that check from your wallet and place it in the offering place, you’re offering up a sacrifice. That’s how you worship. It’s everything you do and it is also everything we do together when we gather here.
So let me just take a moment to contrast the “how” of real worship with the “how” of false worship. You see, there is a false worship out there. O yes! There is. I have experienced it. I was in a service not to long ago where there was a lot of ceremony and some high-sounding hocus pocus. It was very quiet and solemn and there was a lot of ritual. That’s what some people want, and, I suppose, in some cases those folks really worship. But let me just tell you what I observe. I see a lot of people sit there and do the hocus pocus stuff, but they have no reality in their hearts. There’s no surrender to God. It’s all about going through the ritual and checking the box. By the way, it can happen in an informal church, too. But real Christianity doesn’t just call on you to “jump through the hoops,” it calls you to become a living sacrifice. You become the priest and you offer yourself up to God. So if you’re here today, don’t think that checking the box kind of faith is going to cut it with God. You can’t just sit here and try to ease your conscience. There must be a real, living, dynamic relationship going on.
So let me ask you Christian: Are you a living sacrifice? Are you tangibly offering yourself to Christ. Is He supreme in your life? Does he rule over your thoughts? Is the focus of your mind on Him. This is where it starts. Does the Spirit of God rule your mind? If you get this part right, you’re well on your way to worship. If we displayed your thought life this past week for everyone to see, would we find a person who was a living sacrifice, or would we find a lying hyocrite? Does He rule your thoughts?
Does God rule your time? Do you give God your time in the mornings to get alone with Him? Do you give God your time by spending time with your wife and your children? Do you give God your time by serving in the nursery or teaching a class, or singing in the Choir? Does God rule your time?
Does God rule your treasure? Is the Lord of everything, the Lord of your checkbook and your bank account? Do you tithe? What do you do with the rest of His resources, the other 90%. Does God rule your treasure? You see, when I am a living sacrifice, every area of your life is tangibly devoted to Him. This is the how of worship.
And you know the best part of all of this? When I come to understand that everything I do is worship, I begin to see that even the most mundane parts of my day have great meaning.
You may recall these lines from this past year’s Christmas musical. They were words that George Bailey spoke to Mary on their first “date.” He said:
"Mary, I know what I'm going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that. I'm going to leave this little town far behind, and I'm going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then I'm coming back here, and I'll go to college and see what they know, and then I'm going to build things. I'm going to build air fields. I'm going to build skyscrapers a hundred stories high. I'm going to build bridges a mile long."
As it turns out, George is wrong. He doesn't know what he's going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that. As it turns out, what he is supposed to do tomorrow is pretty much what he did today. God's plan for him is to do the ordinary thing—which, of course, is the last thing that George wants to do. If you remember another famous scene from the film, you know that George Bailey wants to lasso the moon.
In his book Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eugene Peterson recounts the story of the fourth century church father Gregory of Nyssa whose brother Basil had arranged for him to be made bishop of Cappadocia. "Gregory objected," Peterson writes. "He didn't want to be stuck in such an out-of-the-way place. His brother told him he didn't want Gregory to obtain distinction from his church but to confer distinction upon it." Is this not what Christ wants for us as well? To lower our sights and put away our lasso? To seek the good of the small places in which he has placed us and to confer distinction upon them by serving him with humility there? The path of worship is often an obscure one. It is the way of the cross, and it always involves becoming a living sacrifice. That is the how of worship.
If I’m really going to worship, I must answer some important questions. Whom should I worship and How should I worship? Last of all I must know:
DIV 3: WHY SHOULD I WORSHIP?
Three specific reason for worship show themselves in these verses. First, I worship because it is my purpose. Simply put, it’s what I was created to do. You see that in this passage in a couple of titles we receive. V. 5 says that as we come to Him the Living Stone, we as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a royal priest hood. While Jesus is the Living Stone, and the Cornerstone, I’m also a living stone and so are you. WE are being built up into a spiritual house of Worship where God, by His Spirit, comes to dwell. As the temple of God, then, we’re also the “priesthood” of God. We minister to Him. We serve Him. We offer ourselves to Him. That is our purpose.
We need to grasp this! God has a powerful purpose for you and me. Chariots of Fire is the true story of two British runners competing in the 1924 Olympics. Eric Liddell is a devout Christian and one of the finest runners in the world. His sister, Jennie, doesn’t really approve of what he is doing. Jennie wants him to leave competitive running to join the family on the mission field in China. She feels Eric is putting running ahead of serving God, and she questions his commitment to Christ
In one scene, Eric attempts to help his sister see his point of view. Eric announces with a smile,
"I've decided I'm going back to China. The missionary service has accepted me."
His sister, thinking she has convinced him, says "Oh, Eric, I'm so pleased."
But Eric continues, "But I've got a lot of running to do first. Jennie, you've got to understand. I believe that God made me for a purpose, for China. He also made me fast, and when I run, I feel his pleasure. To give it up would be to hold him in contempt. You were right; it's not just fun. To win is to honor him."
God created us the way he created us for a reason. He’s gifted us to serve Him and we are to offer ourselves up to Him and when we do that, we discover our purpose in life, and listen! Nothing is more fulfilling than that.
And closely aligned with that purpose is His promise. You see that’s the second reason we must worship. Our worship brings a wonderful promise into our lives. It’s in v 6 Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion A chief cornerstone, elect, precious, And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”
Now don’t miss this: Peter is writing to a group of persecuted Christians. They are experiencing rejection by unbelievers and are going through trials and hardships. Peter tells them that their misfortunes are not a sign that God has rejected them. O no! It’s just the opposite. When they suffer they are experiencing as living stones the very rejection experienced by their Living Stone. Their rejection means that they are a part of His eternal building program and they can be confident that when the last stone is laid and the building is finished, then the scaffolding will come down and the Kingdom of Christ will be revealed in all its glory. They may suffer now, but they will be vindicated then. That’s the promise and that’s why they worship. They worship because of their purpose and because of God’s promise.
But last of all they worship because of God’s plan. This is the greatest reason for worship. It is the plan of God. It is his plan first because of His Love for us. Our great, majestic, holy, just God would not allow us to perish, even though our sin demanded punishment. The Bible says it like this, For when we were still without strength, (that is, when we were sinners and unable to save ourselves) in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Peter tells us that this Jesus is our Living Stone whom God sent to save us. We encounter Him and we must choose. That’s God’s plan, but it is not a plan to take away our freedom or force us to follow Him. It is a plan of Love. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. It’s a plan of love.
But it’s also a plan of sovereignty. God has deternined that this choice is unavoidable. Notice what verses 7,8 say: Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” One writer said:
“Christ is laid across the path of humanity on its course into the future. In the encounter with him each person is changed: one for salvation, another for destruction. … One cannot simply step over Jesus to go on about the daily routine and pass him by to build a future. Whoever encounters him is inescapably changed through the encounter: Either one sees and becomes “a living stone,” or one stumbles as a blind person over Christ and comes to ruin, falling short, i.e., of one’s Creator and Redeemer and thereby of one’s destiny.” God, in His grace, gives you a choice.
Now some might look at v 8 and ask, “Well, do I really have a choice? What about v 8, preacher? Look at what that says. It says: They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed. It sounds like there that those who are disobedient were appointed to be disobedient, so if God appointed me to be disobedient, how can I really have a choice?”
Well, that’s an astute observation and, while I was studying this passage, I looked into it. Several of those I read had similar opinions as to what was being said here. They said that, based on the fact that the same word “appoint” is used of Christ as the stone and the appointment of unbelievers to stumblings not as two distinct appointings, but as one divine appointment with a two fold result. One wrote:
When God appointed Jesus Christ as the atoning sacrifice, to be the stone placed in Zion, by that act God also necessarily appointed two consequential outcomes with respect to acceptance or rejection of Christ. There would be those who receive the message of the gospel, described in 1 Peter as those “chosen” (eklektos) by God’s foreknowledge (1 Pet. 1:1–2). There would also be those who would not believe, whose opportunity for disbelief was set [tithēmi] with the setting [tithēmi] of the Stone in Zion.
The point is not that God has predestined some men to be lost but that He has predetermined that every man be confronted with the Living Stone and that those who believe would be saved and those who rejected would be lost. That is His plan and no one can escape it. We worship because in our confrontation with the Living Stone, we either bow the knee in worship or we are crushed in judgment. That is His plan.
Which just leads me to these applications: First, because worship is your purpose, you’ll never be happy till you do it! Listen, go ahaead and try to fill your soul-hole with anything else. It’ll never work. I was watching a TV evangelist the other night speak of his conversion. He had made it big in the music business. Had more money than you could shake a stick at. He was doing drugs and living the high life. . . literally, but he looked at himself in the mirror one night and got honest. He said “I am not happy.” He watched Billy Graham on TV and went into the hotel room bathroom got down on his knees and asked Jesus to save him. Today He’s in his sixties and still preaching the gospel. While I would not agree with all of his theology, I’ll tell you what I cannot argue with: I cannot argue with his joy. Because worship is your purpose, you’ll never be happy till you do it, and
Because worship brings God’s promise, you’ll never be sorry if you trust Him! You know, I have never met a believer who was sorry they came to Christ. Now I have met some sorry believers, and I have been a sorry believer, but I’ve never met a believer who was sorry they gave their heart to Jesus. I counsel sinful ones. I live with a sinful one, and I’m not talking about Kathy, I’m talking about me. I’ve never met a believer who was sorry they came to Christ.
Christian, has it all become meaningless to you? Are you just going through the motions? Have you lost the wonder of God? If so, how do you get it back? I’ll tell you what you have to do. Just remember why God saved you: it wasn’t so you could worship Him in the “Sweet by and by,” but so that you could fully worship Him now. Today, you may just need to come back to the living stone and experience real life again. Because Worship brings God’s promise, you’ll never be sorry if you trust Him and because worship is your purpose, you’ll never be happy till you do it. But last of all:
Because worship is God’s plan, you’ll never be able to avoid a decision. Jesus is the stone God has placed in your path. You’ll either accept what Jesus did for you on the cross, or you will reject it, but there’s one thing you cannot do. You cannot ignore it.
One man, like many in the bible, faced this decision. He stood before jesus. The crowd had driven this pathetic creature into his court for a judgment. Why, then, did the judge begin to feel like the judged? Somehow Pilate knew this was more than just a man, but the crowd wanted what they wanted, and they refused to take no for an answer. So the Bible says in Matthew’s account (27:24) “When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this man’s blood.” In the Jewish custom washing one’s hands was a ceremonial way of saying that you declared yourself innocent, and that’s just what Pilate was doing.
And really it kind of makes sense doesn’t it? I mean after all he really wanted to free Jesus, didn’t he. After all, he had said he found no fault in Christ, hadn’t he? After all, he had washed his hands in front of the crowd, hadn’t he?
It seemed like a good strategy. There was only one problem: it did not work for Pilate and my friend it will not work for you either. You see you can decide to accept Christ, or you can decide to reject Christ, but you cannot wash your hands of the decision you make. There is no neutrality. Not to decide is to decide.
Derrick Johnson writes:
Pilate never handled the lash that lacerated the back of Jesus...a Roman soldier did that.
Pilate did not weave the crown that tore an ugly gash in His regal brow...the palace guards did that.
Pilate did not strike His swollen cheek or wield the hammer that drove burning spikes in the hands of Christ...other soldiers did that.
But the same hell that contains those whose spittle ran upon the face of Christ contains Pilate...because he remained neutral...he did absolutely nothing. And all eternity shall rise up to expose his utter folly and prove once and for all to every man that indecision is the worst decision of all.
You see, because worship is God’s plan, you’ll never be able to avoid the decision. That’s why you should worship, so are you? Are you worshiping God?