June 12, 2011
Watch Your Step – Part 4
Pastor Philip De Courcy
Ecclesiastes 5: 1-7

Purchase the CD of this sermon.


Quest for the Best challenges us to live in fear of the Lord to find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment because our Creator alone holds the answers to our most profound questions about life and eternity.

More From This Series


Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Ecclesiastes 5, Ecclesiastes 5. If you’re visiting with us today, we’re in a series of expositions on the Book of Ecclesiastes, and we’ve pulled a handbrake on here, and we’re parked on the first seven verses of Chapter 5 because we’re drilling down into this very rich vein of God’s word. And we’re learning again and afresh how we ought to worship God. We’re trying to find again the lost jewels of worship.
“Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Do not be rash with your mouth, and let your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes through much activity, and a fool’s voice is known by his many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed-better not to vow than to vow and not pay. Do not let your mouth cause your flesh to sin, nor say before the messenger of God that it was an error. Why should God be angry at your excuse and destroy the work of your hands? For in the multitude of dreams there is many words, and that, too, is vanity, but fear God.” So reads the Word of God.
Recently, I came across one of the saddest statements I’ve read in some time. The biographer of Horace Walpole, a prominent 18th century English author, wrote about Walpole, “All his tastes were minor.” All his tastes were minor. Evidently, this man was the kind of man who lived life in a minor key. Here was a man who didn’t dream much. Here was a man who didn’t desire much. Here was a man who lived sleepily and sheepishly below a very low horizon. For this man was content with secondary things taking first place, unimportant things making the headlines in his life. All his tastes were minor.
He was majoring on the minors, and surely, you’d agree with me this morning, that’s no way to live. Life is too short. An eternity is too long, and God is too glorious, and Jesus Christ too wonderful, and the gospel too important for you and I to live life to a minor key, to allow all our to tastes to be minor. So with that in mind, I want to come back into Chapter 5 of Ecclesiastes, 1-7, because here Solomon is reminding us that the chief end of man is to glorify God. Here he’s reminding us of the thing we need to major on. We need to major on God and the worship of God because the argument goes like this. It’s quite simple. It’s irrefutable. God is first, God is sovereign, God is above and before everything else. God is first, and if that’s true, and it is true, then worship must be the overarching passion and priority of each of our lives. We need to major on worship, not minor on worship.
In fact, let me remind you of the importance of worship. I came across these seven thoughts recently, and I’ll share them with you just to reinforce how worship must be the overarching passion and priority of each one of us here this morning. And then we’ll come back into Chapter 5 with that at the back of our mind, in the front of our thinking. Worship is the first and greatest commandment. In Matthew chapter 22, in verse 37, we read, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.” Number two, worship is the first thing we should do when we come into God’s presence. Psalm 100 in verse four says what? “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to the LORD and praise His name.” Worship is the first response we should make when we come to Christ. When Christ has lifted us out of the miry clay, with it, He will put a song in our mouths, even praise unto our God. Saved people are singing people.
Worship, fourthly, is the first mark of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of the Christian. In Romans 8:15, what do we read? “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the spirit of sonship whereby you cry, ‘Abba, Father.'” Fifthly, worship is the first sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit. We’re told by Paul in Ephesians 5:18-19, “not to be drunk with wine wherein is excess, but to be filled with the Spirit,” and then to, “Speak to one another with Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord.”
Sixthly, worship is one of the first characteristics of the early church. Worship marked the advent of Christianity. In Acts 2:46-47, every day, it says of the early Christians, “They continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes. They ate together with glad and sincere hearts praising God and enjoying favor with all the people. Seventhly, and finally, worship is the first essential in hearing God speak to us. What do we read in Acts 13:2? “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.'” Worship is first and foremost in the life and liturgy of the church.
And that’s why I want to come back to this passage, and for another week or two, because sincere worship is the Christian’s ultimate priority. We must, at all costs, avoid offering worship to God that’s vain, empty, and lacking in meaning. And that’s exactly what was going on here. They were offering worship that tantamounted to a sacrifice of fools. They were worshiping vain, empty, religious activity to God that was unacceptable, and Solomon rebukes them. And he says, “Walk prudently when you come to the house of God. Draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifices for fools, for they do not know that they do evil. Don’t be rash with your mouth. Let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, you on the earth; let your words be few.” Speak less, and when you do speak, may there be more meaning and heart to what you say. Their prayers were hollow, their promises were empty. Their worship needed a tune up.
So Solomon, first of all, seems to identify several things that were lacking in their worship. This is what we call the vices of improper worship, and we’re still there. And soon, we’ll get to looking at the virtues of proper worship, but what were the vices of improper worship? Number one, their worship lacked preparation. Secondly, their worship lacked pause. And thirdly, their worship lacked perspective. That’s where we were last time. Their worship lacked perspective. They had a diminished view of God. They had lost this elevated, transcendent vision of a thrice holy God who dwells in the heavens. They forgot there was a distinction between them and God and a great distance between them and God.
You know, don’t you, that light travels at 186,000 miles per second? That’s an amazing fact in and of itself. And the light that leaves the sun, which is 19 million miles away, takes about eight minutes to get to planet earth. We serve a God who’s, as we sang this morning, indescribable, uncontainable. Well, let me stretch your minds a little bit further. Imagine one of the stars in the constellation of Orion. Some of those stars are so far away that even when light leaves those stars and travels towards planet earth at 186,000 miles per second, it will take 520 years to get here. That’s mind-boggling and blowing, isn’t it? In fact, let me help you measure that. The good Protestants that we are, we like the 31st of October 1517. That was the day that Martin Luther nailed his theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg. On that day, light began to leave one of the stars in the constellation Orion, and it hasn’t yet arrived. Indescribable, uncontainable, that’s our God.
And the church here, or the believers here to put it more specifically, in the Old Testament had forgotten that. That’s why Solomon needs to say in verse two, “For God is in heaven, and you are on the earth, and your worship lacks preparation, it lacks pause, it lacks perspective.” And you know what? We reminded ourselves that the God before whom we stand this morning dwells in unapproachable light. He’s a glorious, majestic being that the angels even cover their faces in beholding Him. He’s mighty, He’s majestic, He’s sovereign. He’s wholly separated from us in both the distinction of His person and the place where He dwells most gloriously. Now, we tried to apply that. We started on this fact that if that’s true, then we must remind ourselves that we worship a sovereign God.
Let’s bring that back into our worship. Our worship, like their worship, is often out of place because God is not in His place. He’s not high and lifted up in our minds. We have minimized Him, we have miniaturized Him. We have a God who fits in our pocket, who sits comfortably in the midst of our lives. He doesn’t cause us any fear. We don’t find ourselves taken up by His nature and how awesome it is. That’s a missing note in their worship, and it’s a missing note in ours, and we need to remind ourselves that, indeed, God is sovereign. He’s high, He’s above us, and that means that He’s beyond our complete knowledge. And He’s beyond our scrutiny, He’s beyond our judgment, and He’s beyond our questioning. We reminded ourselves of that. His ways are past finding out. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. And sometimes He appoints times of suffering in each of our lives. He allows things to take place that baffle us, that cause us to question His love and make a judgment on His wisdom.
And it’s at that point we need to say to ourselves, “God is in heaven, and we’re on the earth. Let our words be few, and let our questions be fewer.” Let’s be careful not to try and dethrone God, and we reminded ourselves of that. Let me give you a quote that will summarize what we covered last week. I like what John Piper says. “Anger at sin is good, but anger at goodness is sin.” That is why it is never right to be angry with God. He’s always and only good no matter how strange and painful His way is with us, anger towards God signifies that He is bad or weak or cruel or foolish. None of those things are true, and all of them dishonor Him. Therefore, it is never right to be angry at God. When Jonah and Job were angry with God, Jonah was rebuked by God, and Job repented in dust and ashes.
It’s good to be angry at sin, but it’s sin to be angry at goodness. God is good, and what He does is good, and because His ways are past finding out, even the things that we don’t like, we don’t want, we would rather not have in our lives, they all work together for good. And therefore, we need to remember God is in heaven, and He does whatever pleases Him, and we must worship a sovereign God. And as we do it, our words will be few, and our questions will be fewer. But here’s another thought. This is where we’re picking up. If the God they worshiped, and we worship, is sovereign, we believe He is, then He must be sovereign in worship. What do I mean by that? I mean that God must never become a side show, a footnote to anything we do in the worship service or in the meetings of the church. His name, His kingdom, His glory must be center stage. We mustn’t vie for the spotlight in God’s presence. How ridiculous! How wrong!
True prayer begins with God, doesn’t it? Jesus taught us that in Matthew six, verse nine and following. “Here’s the way I want you to pray. When you pray, say, ‘Our Father who is in heaven…'” Here we are, Ecclesiastes 5:2. “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” You see, prayer is not about getting our will done in heaven. It’s about getting God’s will done on earth. Prayers that get to heaven are prayers that begin in heaven. I’ve said it many times. If prayer is to be God centered, how much more praise, how much more worship?
In Psalm 115:1, what do we read? “Not unto us, O LORD,” not unto us, “but unto you be the glory. We need to write that over to every door that brings us into a place like this, which has been set apart for worship. It’s not unto us, it’s not about us, it’s about Him. It’s about the Lord, His name, His fame among the nations. “The LORD is worthy to be praised.” Psalm 18:3. That means that the chief end of man is to glorify God, and the main aim of worship is to please God. I know that that’s theology 101, but we forget it. Solomon had to remind his listeners and his readers that God is in heaven and should be the center of their worship. They stand before the very throne of the universe. Their words need to be few, their heart needs to be right, their sacrifices need to be meant. There can be no tomfoolery, no shenanigans in the presence of a thrice holy God, who’s worthy of our worship.
Therefore, we cannot dishonor Him in seeking to honor Him. And that is something we need to nail to the floor. Our worship must be God centered and throne focused. I know it goes without saying, but I don’t want it just to be a trite piece of theology. I want it to be real in your life and my life. I want it to order our services. I want it to drive our ministries. Everything should be focused on God and His throne. I won’t turn you there, but if you go to Revelation chapter four, John is bid to come up into heaven. A door is opened unto him, and as he comes up into heaven it says, “And there was in the midst a throne and One who sat on the throne…” That was the focus of heaven, a throne and One who sat on that throne. And before that throne were the angelic hosts and the redeemed of all the ages praising God, the One who had created them, the One who had redeemed them, the One who owned them twice, by birth and new birth.
That’s the focus of heaven, and that should be the focus of earth. God’s glory, His name, His fame ought to be the headlines. And that should remind us that the singular motive for worship is the glorify God. We should have no utilitarian motive. It’s about God and God alone, and that poses a warning, doesn’t it? We must never use worship for any other purpose than to glorify God. Worship’s not about reaching the non-Christian, and at its heart, worship’s not about blessing you or me either. It’s about exalting the name and fame of the one who, alone, is worthy to be worshiped. Listen to these words, reportedly, said by AW Tozer. Here’s what he said, and see if this doesn’t be a challenge. “The hardest service to get people to attend is the service where God is the only attraction.” Wow, I just stopped when I read that this week in preparation. Let me say it again. “The hardest service to get people to attend is the service where God is the only attraction.”
And he’s right. In fact, I chastised myself, and I thought about the way we present services, often, at our announcement times or when we’re talking to each other. We try and butter it up. We try and make sure there’s a little bit of a hook in there. We want to give you a reason for coming out. You have so many important things to do. We don’t want God cramping your style, so we got to give you a reason to come out other than saying, “You know what? Tonight at six o’clock, we’re going to meet with God.” How does that go over? Should go over really good. That should be enough. We should just want to be here tonight because tonight, the church is meeting to worship God. The Word will be preached, His name will be exalted, His people will come together.
But too often, we try and give a reason other than that so that people’s interests will be stirred because they’re so focused on themselves, so busy with the things of the world. Give me a good reason other than God alone for coming out. In fact, I was challenging myself. At times as a pastor, I think every Christian leader feels this, at times you feel like a salesman trying to sell the meeting or sell the Bible study, but the pastor needs to see himself not as a salesman because God doesn’t need to be sold. The pastor and Christian leader needs to see themselves as the tour guide. Just bring people, like a tour guide brings someone to the mouth of the Grand Canyon, and they really don’t need to say much. Your jaw just drops naturally. Wow. The Grand Canyon sells itself, and we need to get back to that within the church. We just need to bring people before God, and the glory of God and the magnificence of His nature, and the glory of His love sells itself.
But you see, we’re so taken up with ourselves. Let’s never forget that the original sin was a sin of pride and the exaltation of the self will in the presence of God. That was Satan’s sin. Listen to what we read of him in Isaiah 14. You can also find out his heart motive in Ezekiel 28. Lucifer said, “I will ascend into heaven and exalt my throne above the stars of God.” The audacity, blasphemy, pride, treason. In all of that, I will ascend in the presence of the one who sits on that throne? Apart from grace, we all have a pretension to divinity. That was the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden. They wanted to know what God knew. That’s the attraction of Mormonism and new age theology where you get to be your own God. We have pretensions to divinity apart from grace. We don’t love ourselves too little. We love ourselves too much. We tend to live for our desires, our comforts, our ambitions. And if those desires are not met, well, then there’s war.
Go with me for a moment to 2 Timothy 3, 2 Timothy 3. And we’re warned by Paul that in the last days, man’s arrogance will know no limit. There will be a godlessness that marks society, a self-centeredness. Humanism will replace theism. Man will be the measure of all things. And Paul says, “In the last days, perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves.” Go down to verse four. “…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” Tell me, is that what you’re seeing all around you? Of course it is. Men are bowing down before the unholy trinity of me, my, and mine. They have made their desires and their dominion the focus. And that’s what’s happening outside the church, but as is always the danger, what happens outside the church can start happening inside the church.
The church must always be on the guard that it doesn’t marry itself to the age. We’re not to conform ourselves to this world, but sometimes we cave into the culture, and Paul, in fact, warns the church at Ephesus here that what goes on outside can start to happen on the inside. Go to chapter four as he tells Timothy, “I charge you, therefore, before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living on the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, preach the Word. Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine,” He’s speaking of the church, “but according to their own desires,” Did you notice that? Their own desires, “…they will heap to themselves teachers and turn their ears away from the truth.”
What will drive last days Christianity? Man’s desires. The kind of teaching that will go on in the church in the last day will be palatable to man. It will present the therapeutic gospel. It will present the God who exists to glorify you, exalt you, satisfy self. And those are the days we’re in, and we’ve got to be on guard because we’re reminded here God is in heaven. We are on the earth. He’s sovereign. That’s the God we worship, and if that’s the God we worship, He must be sovereign in worship. He must be at the center and circumference of all that we do. Worship is a means to an end, the glorification of God. It mustn’t slip into a quest for human fulfillment.
Savonarola was a 15th century preacher in Florence, Italy, and he observed one day an older woman worshiping at a statue of the Virgin Mary in the city’s great cathedral. He saw her one day, he saw her the next day, and one day after that, and so on and so forth. He was so taken by this, and he assumed that this was an act of devotion. In fact, he brought her to the attention of his fellow priests. He said, “Look how she reveres the virgin mother.” But one of the priests said, it’s not what you think. Many years ago an artist was commissioned to create a statue for the cathedral. He found a lovely young woman to be his model for the statue. That woman now worships that statue each and every day. Was the woman worshiping God? Not that worshiping Mary is worshiping God in the truest sense, but I’m using it as an illustration. Was this woman worshiping God, or was she worshiping herself? Sometimes those lines get blurred, and they’re being blurred in the church today.
For a few moments, let me try and run this home, run this to ground. If God is to be sovereign in worship, what would that look like? First of all, it would mean that His glory and His pleasure is at the front and center of all that we do. We’ve said it, but I’ll drill it home a little bit further. You and I need to awaken to the fact that our age is self-absorbed, man-centered. America is going under a Copernican revolution, philosophically speaking, where humanism, not theism, dominates the thinking of the day. And as a result, the culture has moved from a focus on the soul and the thought of the transcendent to a focus on self and an occupation with the material. Consequently, if society has any room for religion or any place for God, it has to be therapeutic in nature. That religion has to feed man’s ego, man’s emotions, man’s expectations. If we let God hang around, He’s got to be useful.
That’s the day we’re in. That’s society. But sadly, what’s happening out there is starting to happen in here, and the gospel that’s being preached from many pulpits is therapeutic, emotional, psychological, man-centered. It’s about you finding your best life now. That’s bad. That’s bad because that means that the church has caved into the culture. The church has lost its perspective. The whole goal of many services today is to make people happy. The preaching is psychological, non-theological. The atmosphere is relaxed, the tone is positive. The songs are contemporary and have no link to the past. The seeker sensitive service means minimizing church related stuff.
There’s no intercessory prayer, there’s no offerings taken. There’s no communion on a regular basis. Why? Because everything is judged by the effect it has on man. Church leaders today don’t meet to say, “Okay, what are we going to do this Sunday to attain to the advancement of God’s glory and the extension of God’s kingdom?” No, they meet to say, “What do we need to do or not do to draw a crowd?” That’s what’s going on. Some of you have come from churches like that, and there’s no looking back, thankfully, because that’s a tragedy, that’s a travesty. God must be at the center of all that the church does. His glory, His name, His fame. The tabernacle, geographically and strategically, was at the center of the life and liturgy of the people of Israel. We need to come back to the heart of worship. It’s all about Him.
Listen to John MacArthur in his book on worship. He says this, “Why do you go to church? Why do you meet together with the saints? Is it really to worship, or do you go to church for what you get out of it? Do you come away having scrutinized the soloist, analyze the choir, and criticize the preacher? We’ve been too long conditioned to think that the church is there to entertain us, there to edify us. In the words of Kierkegaard, the philosopher, ‘People have the idea that the preacher is an actor on stage, and they are the critics blaming or praising him. What they don’t know is that they are the actors on the stage. He is merely the prompter standing in the wings, reminding them of their lost lines, and God is the audience.'”
It’s true. And look at the way a modern evangelical service looks. It’s all pointed towards this stage. It’s very relaxed. The lights are dimmed down, the congregation’s hardly ever seen. The spotlights are on the stage. All the actors are up there, and you are the critics gallery. Thumbs up, thumbs down. That was good, that was bad. And it all hinges on whether I felt it was good or whether it did me good. And MacArthur, through a quote from Kierkegaard, reminds us we got it all back to front. The congregation’s the actors, the preacher is the prompter reminding them of what they ought to be and do to the glory of God. And God is the audience. God is the critic. It has to meet with His approval. That’s what a good worship service would look like if God is sovereign.
Secondly, when God is sovereign in worship, our services will not be seeker sensitive or driven, not evangelistic in focus, primarily. We’ve already noted this. We saw a week or two ago that worship is the church’s priority, not evangelism. Loving God comes before loving your neighbor. Now those things aren’t in competition. If we’re a worshiping congregation, we will be an evangelizing congregation because worship produces evangelism. It’s a short step from loving God to loving your neighbor. Worship provokes evangelism. When you and I understand how glorious God is, we’re provoked and affronted when we go out into the world and see His name dragged through the mud, we see His gospel mocked. And so as ambassadors of Jesus Christ, we speak up and we speak out in His name. Worship and evangelism are not mutually exclusive. One feeds off the other, but one’s before the other. Worship before evangelism, and that’s why it’s my conviction reading the New Testament that the early church met to worship, they scattered to evangelize.
You can see that in words like Acts 2, that, “They continued in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayers.” They met together in one place to do all those Christian activities, and then God gave them favor with the people. They were in favor with God, and God gave them favor with the people. They worshiped, and they evangelized in that order. We read in 1 Corinthians 14:23, “When you come together, one should pray, one should praise.” There was disorder in the church at Corinth, and Paul says, “Look, when you come together, get your act together. This worship is not that pleasing to God.” The rich are overlooking the poor at the Lord’s table, the agape feast, all sorts of things were going on. In fact, he uses a conditional clause. “And if the unbeliever comes in, he’s going to see disorder, which isn’t a good witness.” If the unbeliever comes in.
That happens. Their services were public, much like ours, but the focus was on the believer, the church, the exaltation of God. Hebrews 10, “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, but meet and stir one another up unto love and good works.” Now as you listen, you say, “Pastor, it sounds awful like a holy huddle.” Yeah, it is a holy huddle. What’s wrong with the huddle? If you’re going to win the game, you need a huddle.
Look at the football field. The team huddles, calls are made, the quarterback gives direction, then they break the huddle, they execute the play, they win the game. That’s what the service is. It’s our coming together. It’s a huddling, it’s a listening to and a looking for something from God so that we might do His will on the playing field of every day living. Now we’ve got to break the huddle. If all we do is meet and don’t evangelize, if all we do is talk to each other and not to a lost world, then that is a holy huddle we should be embarrassed about. But of course the church is a holy huddle. It’s a holy people meeting on a holy day to hear the holy scriptures that they might live holy lives. We mustn’t forget that. That’s what it’s all about.
I remember an old pastor saying to me as a young preacher back in Northern Ireland, he says, “Philip,” and he based this on Jesus’s words to Peter, “Peter, feed my sheep.” Now, Peter was an evangelist also. He went out and reached the world for Jesus Christ. You hear him preaching in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost. But Peter was first and foremost a shepherd, a pastor within the church, and what was his calling? “Feed my sheep.” And this old pastor said to me as a young pastor, “Your job, Philip, is to feed the sheep, not entertain the goats.” It was good advice. And then he went on to say, “Plus, Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep’ not my giraffe, so don’t talk over your people’s heads either.” It’s good advice. I’ve never forgotten it.
And this thought that we’re talking about here, it’s a world away from the tailor made evangelical mega churches, isn’t it? Who actually poll people in their community as to what kind of church they want to come to? And how ridiculous is that thought? That’s like a doctor saying to you in a surgery, “Well, what’s wrong with you, and what do you want me to do about it? Self-diagnose yourself.” Well, if you could do that, you wouldn’t go to the doctor’s in the first place, would you? The whole point is the doctor knows what’s wrong with you. The doctor knows what’s good with you, and sometimes you have to hold your nose and take his medicine. My friend, the unsaved don’t know what’s good for them. It’s a ridiculous exercise to go to the world and ask the world what they want from God because the God they love is not the God we love. It’s a God made in their own image, and the church is now remaking God to suit that culture.
Here’s the last thought. When God is sovereign in worship, preaching will be central. Okay? Hopefully, I haven’t lost you. Here’s what we’re doing here, okay? God is in heaven. He’s sovereign. He’s above our scrutiny, our questions, our judgment. Therefore, let our words be few, let our questions be fewer. And if we worship that God, then He’s got to be smack dab in the middle of all that we say and do in His name. He’s got to be sovereign in our worship, which means His glory comes first. It means that the church, when it gathers, is focused there, and finally, it means that preaching will be at the heart of what we do.
And you say, “Why?” And I’ll tell you why. Because if we’re going to know God, He has to make Himself known, and He has. He has revealed His mind and He’s told us something of His heart in the holy scriptures. He’s also supremely revealed Himself in the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And so what are the scriptures? They’re the promise of Jesus coming the first time and the promise of His coming the second time. From Genesis to Revelation, it’s all about Jesus. God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, and what we know of Jesus Christ has been revealed to us in the scriptures, in an infallible, inerrant record of all that He has done.
So if I’m to know God, and that’s one of the big priorities of my life, isn’t it? We don’t want major on the minors like Horace Walpole. God must be first and the worship of God a priority. Then I need to know Him. How do I know Him? Through the scriptures. Listen, worship is always, and must ever be, a response to the truth of God’s Word. There’s no other way to worship. You can never separate the preaching of God’s Word from worship. Worship is prompted by the Word of God. Worship must be designed according to the Word of God, must follow the patterns of the Word of God. We cannot worship God aright without a proper understanding of Him, and we cannot properly understand Him apart from His Word read, taught, and understood. That’s why, in the midst of a culture that’s in love with itself, and a church that’s in danger of apostasy and heaping to themselves teachers that tell them what they want to hear but not what they need to hear, what does Paul say to Timothy?
This is the last charge that Paul will give. It’s his last letter. What does he say? “Preach the Word. I charge you before the living God and Jesus Christ in His kingdom and appearing.” This is what you need to do until Jesus comes back. Preach the Word. It’s the preaching of the gospel establishes the church. It’s the preaching of the gospel that allows the church to be the church. And as we close, as we go for a landing, surely, that is a mantle that the contemporary church needs to pick up. Our pulpits are weak, preaching anemic. Expository preaching is going out of fashion. We’re into short sermons, trite sermons, topical sermons, feel good sermons.
By the way, thank you for being a congregation that doesn’t want that, or I hope that’s who’s before me this morning, or I’m in trouble. Thank you for sitting under preaching that’s solid and meaty and long because you see, where can we go? Christ alone has the words of life. These are the words of life. Our life depends on what we’re hearing this morning if we’re to worship God and make our life meaningful and not allow our life to become a footnote in history. I want to tell you something. We have forgotten in the evangelical church that nothing honors God more, I want to say it again, nothing honors God more than the faithful declaration of His Word and the obedient hearing of the truth.
Psalm 138:2, “God has exalted His word above His name.” Preaching is an act of worship. I hope you haven’t bought into this silliness that we stopped worshiping on that third song. Preaching is an act of worship. In fact, it’s one of the highest forms of worship. And preaching produces acts of worship because it tells us of this One who has loved us in Jesus Christ in such an unmerited fashion, in such a marvelous way. As we get to know the One who has so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, do we not want to worship Him? Do we not want to give our lives to the One who give His life for us?
Preaching is worship. Preaching produces acts of worship. John Wesley, the great Anglican preacher who founded the Methodist Church, wrote in the preface of a volume of sermons, which he published in 1746, “I am a creature of a day passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God, just hovering over the great gulf. I want to know one thing, the way to heaven, how to land on that happy shore. God Himself has condescended to teach that way. He hath written it in a book. Oh, bring me that book.” I pray that you will ever pray that before you come to the services at this church. “Oh, bring me that book. I need to hear the Word of the living God, a Word, which itself is powerful and living and brings life to those that obey its gospel and follow its commands.” Amen? Let’s pray.
Lord, You are indescribable, uncontainable. Lord, Your creation dwarfs us. We are minuscule in terms of its vastness, and yet You dwarf Your creation. It’s just an expression of Your glory, the over spilling of Your majesty. And yet, Lord, amidst this creation, amidst the stars, the swirling oceans, the mountainous regions of the world, we as men and women and young men and young women, we are those created in Your own image, those who were made for fellowship and friendship with God, those made to reflect Your glory and find our greatest joy in Your joy.
Oh help us, as men and women, to realize that’s the greatest thing about us, and that’s what makes worship so important. Therefore, oh God, this day, You are in heaven. We’re on the earth. We thank you that Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth, that we might indeed know the God who is in heaven. Help us to love our Lord Jesus. Help us to worship You. Help us then to take this message to others who are in the world without God and without hope. Help us, on a day-to-day basis, to surrender all to the One who surrendered all for us. And these things we ask and pray in His name. Amen.