Vision and Values, Part 2: Worship | Hebrews 10:19-25
Brian Hedges | April 22, 2018
Thank you, worship team.
Turn in your Bibles this morning to Hebrews, the tenth chapter, Hebrews 10. This morning we’re continuing in a series that we began last week on our vision and values as a church. This is a somewhat different kind of series; most of the time we’re working through a book of the Bible together, or maybe a section of a book of the Bible together, but for four weeks, just four weeks, we’re looking at our four core values as a church, and we’re doing that because it’s helpful, every so often, for us to just be reminded of some of the distinctives that we have as a church body, and we’re also doing that because, as our elders have proposed a pretty significant change for our church, we want to give some grounding in our mission and in our values as a church.
Again, I want to invite you to come tonight to the coffee break, where we’ll actually give kind of the rationale, the reasons, explanations for how we have come to this decision. But these messages are meant to be something of a foundation. They’re giving some biblical reasons behind this change.
So, we’re looking at our vision and values, and let me just begin by reading our mission statement as a church and then the four core values, and then we’ll zoom in this morning on the second of those values.
This is our mission statement: “As people whose lives have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, our mission is to worship the Lord, to live together in community, and to reach out in both word and deed in the Michiana area and around the world.”
Now, as I mentioned last week, there’s nothing particularly unique about that mission statement; every church that has any kind of biblical thinking beneath it wants to worship the Lord, wants to build up and edify believers, and wants to reach out to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re just trying to summarize that in our own way.
Our core values, then, break this down into four different aspects. These core values are, number one, “Trusting Jesus and his finished work with all of our hearts,” that’s the gospel, we talked about that last week; number two, “Seeing Jesus every week in Scripture, prayer, and at the table.” This is our way of describing worship, what we do, especially, in corporate worship as we gather week by week to focus on Christ and to worship and praise God. We do that as we see Jesus. Remember that Psalm 34 tells us to “taste and see that the Lord is good,” and there is this heart aspect to our worship; we express that with this language.
And then, over the next two weeks, we’re going to look at these other two core values, “Following Jesus in partnership with others,” that’s community; and then, “Sharing Jesus in word and deed,” that’s mission. But this morning we focus in on the second of these core values, “Seeing Jesus every week in Scripture, prayer, and at the table.”
Now, I just have to confess at the beginning here a certain amount of frustration in preparing a sermon like this, because the subject of worship is so broad in Scripture, and there are so many possible places to go, it’s almost impossible to cover everything in one sermon. In fact, as I was working on this I thought, “You know, one of these days we need to just do a whole series on worship, because there is so much to be said.”
So, I had to be choosy in what we’re going to talk about this morning, while attempting to cover the material well, and the way I want to do that is by focusing in on one passage of Scripture, Hebrews 10:19-25, and I’m going to spend about two thirds of the sermon kind of working through this passage, and then at the last point of the sermon I’m going to take ten minutes to just kind of sketch a philosophy of worship, a practice of worship, that is based on our understanding of the gospel, as well as what the Scripture teaches at large about worship. But we’re going to focus especially on this passage in Hebrews 10.
So, let’s read it, Hebrews 10:19-25, and then I’ll give you the outline, three things we’re going to look at about worship. Here’s the text of God’s word.
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us 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.”
This is God’s word.
So, three things about worship for us to see this morning:
I. The Essence of Worship
II. The Way of Worship
III. The Practice of Worship
I. The Essence of Worship
Number one, the essence of worship, and I want you to focus on the short phrase at the beginning of verse 22, “Let us draw near.” “Let us draw near.”
Now, there are lots of ways we could talk about worship. We could just define the words for worship; there are two of them in the New Testament. The word proskuneo (προσκυνεω) carries the idea of falling down before a deity, another word, I think it’s latria (λατρια), carries the idea of service to God.
Neither one of those words are actually used here, but there is a word used here that I think is a very important word that has to do with worship, and it’s the word translated here “draw near,” “to draw near.” This is actually a word or a phrase that appears, I think, seven times in the letter to the Hebrews, and it’s an important phrase that describes what the people of God in the Old Testament would do as they drew near to God through the whole system of the priesthood.
You see this in chapter 10, verse 1. If you’re actually in your Bible, if you have a copy of your Bible, it should be open to chapter 10 so that I can reference that a couple of times in the message. In chapter 10, verse 1, we read these words: “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year make perfect those who drew near.” So, here were the people of God, and they were drawing near to God. They were drawing near to God, they were doing that through a priest, through a sacrifice, through the temple, through this whole Old Testament cultic system. They were attempting to draw near to God, but the whole argument of Hebrews is that that whole system was shadow, whereas Christ is the reality.
So, the writer to Hebrews is now saying, “Let us draw near,” and we do that through Christ, as we’re going to see.
Here’s one other reference to drawing near, out of the seven that appear in Hebrews. This is a familiar passage; if you know nothing else in Hebrews besides the faith chapter in Hebrews 11, you’d probably know this passage in Hebrews 4:14-16. It’s kind of a bookend, along with Hebrews 10:19-15, that brackets the main argument of this letter. Chapter 4, verses 14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
So, drawing near; that’s the essence of worship in the language here of Hebrews, drawing near to God. It implies something, doesn’t it? It implies that we are naturally at a distance from God, and to worship God we draw near to him, we are coming close to him. The really significant thing about this drawing near language in Hebrews is that it’s not something we do merely outwardly or externally, physically; it is, rather, a drawing near to God with the heart.
In fact, when you look at how this writer tells us to draw near, that becomes very clear. He says three things about how we are to draw near to God. Look at these.
(1) Number one, we are to draw near to God with sincerity. He says we are to “draw near to God with a true heart.” “With a true heart.” By true heart he means a sincere heart. A true heart is a heart in which there’s truth in the inward parts. It’s not a divided heart, it’s a whole heart, it’s a genuine heart, it’s an authentic heart, a sincere heart, and this shows us, doesn’t it, that worship is a matter of the heart.
It’s so easy for us, when we start thinking about worship and we start thinking about worship in the local church, we immediately go to things like styles of worship, modes of worship, means of worship. We’re contrasting the worship style of one church with the worship style of another church. This church uses piano and organ, another church uses drums and a band. One church uses video clips and another church uses 17th-century catechisms. We’re contrasting these things.
But here’s the important thing for you to know: in either kind of church, granted that the focus is on God and on the gospel, people can draw near to God in their hearts. You can draw near to God even if there’s a video clip in the service; I’ve done that occasionally. And you can draw near to God when you’re using 17th-century reformed catechism...or you can’t. You can miss it both ways. You can “get” to God in both methods, and you can completely miss it, because it’s not a matter of the form.
We can read all of these Scripture readings, we can do antiphonal responses, and we can sing wonderful, rich hymns, and you can hear the preaching of the word, and I can work through a passage of Scripture, and we can come to the table and take communion, we can mouth our prayers; we can do all of that and not be worshipping, if your heart is not moving towards God. The heart has to be engaged. The heart has to be involved.
This is why Jesus said, in Matthew 15:8-9, quoting from the prophet of Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. In vain do they worship me.”
So, the very first thing to acknowledge here is that to draw near to God is a heart matter, worship is a thing of the heart, and you have to do some heart work on a Sunday morning when you’re coming to worship. Not just on Sunday morning, but in your day-to-day life as well, but especially as we gather for corporate worship you have to do some heart work.
John Piper said in his wonderful book Desiring God, “Without the engagement of the heart, we do not really worship. The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead.”
So, maybe the first application question this morning is just this: how is your heart in relationship to God? I know we just sang about lifting him up, but were you lifting him up in your heart? We just sang about these glorious truths of God holding us fast, but were you moved by that? Was there something going on in your heart? If not, there’s work to be done.
(2) We draw near to God with sincerity, with a true heart; secondly, we must draw near to God in faith. Notice it says, “...a true heart in full assurance of faith.” That phrase “full assurance” just carries the idea of a certitude, a certainty of faith. And sure faith. It doesn’t mean that we never have any doubts, but it means that it is a genuine faith that draws confidence from its object, and the object is God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ.
If there is no faith, there is no worship. If you don’t come believing the word of God, trusting the word of God, if you do not come trusting Jesus Christ, there is no worship. Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he is and that he rewards those who seek him.”
(3) So, drawing near to God with a sincere heart, drawing near to God with faith, and then thirdly, we are to draw near to God in holiness. Notice it says, “...with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” We can’t worship God unless we come in holiness. There must be a cleansing in order to come into the presence of God.
Now, I think all of that suggests to us two important applications, at least; I want to give you two.
(a) Here’s the first: true worship is God-centered, not man-centered. True worship is God-centered, not man-centered. We are coming to God! Our audience this morning is God. You’re not the audience; God is the audience.
Now, as we’ll see later on, there’s a horizontal dimension to worship, of course, we gather together and we’re to help one another in worship; but God is the main audience. We do this for him! “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
William Temple, the famous 20th-century archbishop, said, “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 with the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
I love that statement, because it’s so God-centered, but because it brings that God-centeredness into intersection with what goes on in our hearts. Are we drawing near to God, and are we doing that with a true heart? True worship is God-centered, not man-centered.
(b) But there’s a problem (here’s the second application): the problem is that God is holy and we are not. We come to a holy God.
I just have to push back a little bit against our cultural sensibilities here, because almost nobody, even Christians, think that the main problem in worship is how do you come before God. Almost nobody thinks that. Almost all Christians, almost all churches, when they’re thinking about worship, they’re thinking about, “How can we engage better? How can we perform better? How can we have greater excellence? How can we have better messages? How can we have a smoother service? How can we get a little more pizazz in there?” That’s what almost all of us are thinking about, alright? And it is not the main biblical problem! The main biblical problem is that there is a holy God, and we are not a holy people, and how are we going to have interaction with this holy God?
Just two chapters later, Hebrews 12:28-29, the writer says, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” That’s the problem.
You remember when Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, seated on a throne, his train filled the temple, the glory of the Lord… He heard these angelic creatures in antiphonal song, saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And Isaiah saw the Lord, and what did he say? He said, “Woe is me, for I am undone.” He is psychologically disintegrated. “I’m undone! I’m a sinful man. I’m a man of unclean lips.” That was his response.
Do you remember when the children of Israel see the thunder and the lightning on Mount Sinai, and Moses has been there on the mountain speaking with God? Do you remember what they said? They said, “Moses, don’t let God talk to us. You go talk to him; don’t let him talk to us. We’ll die if God talks to us. Don’t let him speak to us.” That’s what they say, because God is a consuming fire.
That’s the problem. I mean, that is the problem of worship. That’s the problem of human existence: how do sinful people interact with a holy God? And until we grasp that, we won’t grasp what Hebrews has to say about worship, and we won’t really enter into the reality of genuine worship. We may come and we may sing songs and we may mouth the words and we may leave with kind of a nice, warm feeling in our hearts, but we will not have encountered God until we have grasped this, until we have wrestled with this, we’ve thought about this. God is holy, we are not; worship is about him, it’s not about us. How then can we come before God? That’s the question.
II. The Way of Worship
And the answer is seen in the second point, the way of worship. The way of worship. It’s what this whole passage is about. Look at verses 19 through 21, leading up to that command in verse 22, “Let us draw near to God.” He’s giving his reasons; here’s why you can and why you should draw near to God. Look at verse 19.
“Therefore, brothers,” implied “brothers and sisters,” therefore brothers and sisters, family of God, “since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain - ” that’s why I’m calling this the way of worship “ - by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near…”
Do you see what he’s doing? He’s telling us how we get to come before God. He calls it a new and living way.
(1) First of all, it’s a new way. Now, why does he say that? Why does he say it is a new way? I think it’s because he is contrasting new covenant worship with old covenant worship. That is, New Testament worship, worship of a believer after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, worship of us as believers now; he’s contrasting that with pre-Christian worship, Old Testament believers, Old Testament or old covenant worship.
In fact, if you look at everything that leads up to this in the book of Hebrews, this becomes clear, and you kind of get the summary of it in Hebrews 10:1-18. Now, I’m not going to read all of this right now; it deserves more than one message, and one of these days, Lord willing, the whole book of Hebrews. I can barely wait. But there are other things that have to come first. So, it’s coming, down the road, the whole book of Hebrews!
But let me just give you the argument, okay, and read a few of the verses. Here’s the argument: verses 1 through 4 he’s describing the inadequacy of the old covenant, the inadequacy of it. Look at these verses, verses 1 through 4: “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.”
Do you see that? The law is inadequate. It’s just a shadow of reality, and that’s why these sacrifices had to be offered over and over and over and over again. There were some offerings that were every day and there were some offerings that were once a year, the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement. But they couldn’t perfect the offerers. They could not deal with the real problem of sin.
Verse 4 says - why? - “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” The animal sacrifices were insufficient. They weren’t meant to do that; they were just pointers, they were pointers to something else.
And then, verses 5 through 14, the author is showing us here how Christ comes, and he comes not to offer animal sacrifices, but he comes, rather, to offer himself, and in doing that he fulfills and replaces the entire old system. You can see that. Let me just read verses 12 through 14: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” What the law could not do, Christ has done. The law could not perfect, Christ has perfected, and he’s done it by a single sacrifice, a sacrifice of himself.
Verse 9 says, “He does away with the first in order to establish the second.” In other words, he’s done away with the old, the old order, in order to establish the new order, new covenant worship.
And then, in verses 15 through 18, you actually have reference to the new covenant, as prophesied by Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31. This is summarizing for us, really, the whole argument of Hebrews, that here are Jewish Christians who are tempted to abandon Christianity and just go back to old covenant worship, and the writer to the Hebrews is showing them, “Listen: Christ is superior. He’s superior in every way. He’s superior to angels, he’s superior to Moses, he gives a superior rest, he is a superior priest, he offers a superior sacrifice; he does it on the basis of a better covenant, he gives us better promises, and he brings to an end the old so that he can bring in the new, and in light of all of that, draw near to God!” That’s the argument.
So it’s a new way. It’s a new way, and it means that we have access to God in a way that the old covenant believer did not. We can come into the very presence of God.
(2) And then it’s also called the living way. Again, there’s a contrast here between the old and the new, because the old covenant, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 3, was a covenant of death. It led to death, not to life. He talks about the ministry of death, carved in letters of stone, and he says that we are “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Now, why is it this new and living way? Just look at verses 19 through 21 again, and let’s tie the other threads together. He says, “Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near.”
It’s a new and living way because Christ has shed his blood, we come through the blood of Christ; because Christ’s flesh has been torn for us, just as that curtain in the temple was torn in two when Jesus was crucified, so it’s showing us symbolically how Christ, in rending his body, opens the way to God. We come through him, and because Christ is our priest he is our final priest, he’s our last priest. We don’t call clergy in our church priests, because Christ is the one and only priest. Because of all of that, we can come to God.
Now, here’s the application.
(a) First of all, there are important differences between worship in the new covenant and worship in the old. The differences are these: we have more freedom, and we have greater boldness.
We have more freedom. Have you ever noticed that there’s nothing in the New Testament like the book of Leviticus? Any of you ever read the book of Leviticus? A few of you have, yes. It’s a tough book to get through, because it’s detailed prescriptions about how to worship God in the old covenant, and there’s nothing like it in the new. One reason is because of what we’ve already seen, that Jesus fulfilled all that, and the other is because, as new covenant believers, there’s a great deal of freedom when it comes to forms. God doesn’t prescribe those for us. There are certain things that belong, that we can gather from looking at the New Testament church and what they did when they gathered together, but there’s a simplicity to it, there’s a flexibility to it, there’s a freedom to it, because Christ has fulfilled all of those types and shadows for us.
More importantly, there’s a boldness, a greater boldness, that comes. That’s what that word “confidence” means in verse 19: we have confidence, we have boldness, to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus. Brothers and sisters, this is the answer to that problem that we were thinking about a few minutes ago, God is holy and we are not. How in the world, then, can we come before God? We come by the blood. We come by the blood of Jesus.
Do you remember that song that we sometimes sing,
“Come boldly to the throne of grace,
You wretched sinners, come,
And lay your load at Jesus’ feet
And plead what he has done.
“‘How can I come?’ some soul may say,
‘I’m lame and cannot walk.
My guilt and sin have stopped my mouth;
I sigh, but dare not talk.’
“Come boldly to the throne of grace,
Though lost and blind and lame;
Jehovah is the sinner’s friend,
And ever was the same.
“He makes the dead to hear his voice,
He makes the blind to see.
The sinner lost he came to save,
And set the prisoner free.
“Come boldly to the throne of grace,
For Jesus fills the throne,
And those he kills he makes alive;
He hears the sigh or groan.
“Poor, bankrupt souls who feel and know
The hell of sin within,
Come boldly to the throne of grace;
The Lord will take you in.”
Come through the blood of Jesus, the new and living way! We have confidence.
(b) And this all means (this is the second application) that our worship is not only to be God-centered but it must be Christ-centered as well. It must be Christ-centered.
You remember last week I gave you this chart of our core values. There are four core values: the gospel, worship, community mission. And the gospel’s at the center. The reason the gospel is at the center is not because the glory of God is peripheral to the gospel; in a way, we could put the glory of God at the center and say, “God’s glory is central to everything,” and that’s right. But the gospel is at the center of our core values because it is only through the gospel that we can worship. If we don’t have the gospel, if we don’t have Jesus Christ, if we don’t come to God through Jesus Christ, there can be no genuine worship.
I’ll tell you a pet peeve of mine. One of my pet peeves is people who pray and never mention Jesus in their prayer, people who pray and never say, “In Jesus’ name.” And I know we can add that as just a tag to the end and we’re not thinking it about it, but we need to think about it, because there’s no way to come before God except through Jesus Christ. We want to be Christ-centered, because we don’t assume to come into the presence of a holy God. We don’t assume that; we don’t take it for granted. We only come through Christ, we come through the priest, we come through the mediator; it is through him that we have access to God in the spirit, as Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter 2.
So, worship is to be God-centered, and worship is to be Christ-centered. The gospel is the foundation of our worship.
III. The Practice of Worship
Now, having seen this kind of foundation for understanding gospel worship - that is the most important thing, I think, for us to understand about worship, that worship is a matter of the heart, it’s coming to God, and it’s coming through Jesus Christ. Nothing’s more important than that. If you have that right and you’re self-consciously doing that, you can worship God. If you’re not doing that, it doesn’t matter how good all the forms are; you’re not going to be worshipping. So it just seems like that’s essential, that’s important.
But, having all of that in place, how then might we describe a philosophy of worship, a practice of worship for our church? I have six minutes to give this to you, okay? So this is going to be fast. I have six pairs of words; I’m going to give you a 30-second to a minute explanation of each one, and just kind of give you - this is just kind of a philosophy of worship. This would be worth doing a seminar on some time, but we don’t have time to do that this morning. But six pairs of words, when you put these together, I think just help us understand how to embody this, how to live this out and bring together everything else that the Bible says about worship.
(1) First pair of words: revelation and response. Worship is about revelation and response. God reveals, and we respond, and you can see that pattern in the whole book of Hebrews. It begins with an emphasis on the Son of God, Jesus the Son of God, as God’s final word; God has now spoken through his Son. He did speak through the prophets and all these different ways, but now he’s spoken through the Son!
And then this letter is telling us again and again, “Pay attention to what he says! Listen to the one who is speaking! Don’t turn aside; hold fast to this word, the word given by the Son.” We respond to what God has revealed, and that’s one reason why we structure worship the way we do in our church, where there is this pattern of call and response through our worship. We start with a call to worship, and we respond in praise. We come to a call to confession, and we respond in prayer. We hear the word, the gospel, expounded to us through the preaching of the word, and we respond as we come to the table and we confess our faith, and that pattern every week.
It’s not the only way to do it, but I think it’s a good way to do it that helps us capture this rhythm, this rhythm of God seeking us with his word and us responding in faith to his word.
(2) Secondly, worship is both individual and corporate. It’s individual and corporate, because worship is not only what we do on Sunday morning; worship should be what we do Monday through Saturday. Our whole life is to be a life of worship.
Do you remember how Paul says in Romans chapter 12 that, in light of the mercies of God, because of all that God has done for us in Jesus Christ, in light of the mercies of God we are to present our “bodies as a living sacrifice to God, holy and acceptable to him; this is your reasonable worship”? That’s the response of the Christian in consecrating himself to God, giving oneself to God in worship.
Listen: if you never do that in private, you cannot genuinely do that in public. If you never do it as an individual you can’t genuinely do that on a Sunday morning. There has to be this element of private worship, of individual worship, in our hearts and in our lives. We have to be giving ourselves to him personally as well as corporately.
(3) Number three, worship is both vertical and horizontal. Most of this sermon has been the vertical dimension, right: how do we engage with a holy God? But there is a horizontal dimension as well.
So I think it’s insufficient to say, “Well, I can worship God just as well on the golf course as I can in church on a Sunday morning.” No you can’t. If you could, the writer to the Hebrews would not say these words, verses 24 and 25: “Let us consider how to stir up one another in 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.”
You can’t worship God just as well and in the same way on the golf course, and I like to go to the golf course, alright. I like to play golf. And I can worship God on the golf course, but not as well as I can on Sunday morning with you, because there’s something unique about the gathered congregation. We’re expected to do this. We are not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together; we need the horizontal aspect of it.
You remember how Paul puts it in Ephesians 5, and again in Colossians 3. He tells us we are to be speaking to one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” You have both dimensions right there. It’s vertical, making melody in our hearts to the Lord; but we’re also speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.
So there’s a dimension here that we are helping one another, that as we sing we’re helping one another. As we read, as we pray, we are joining together to help one another, to spur one another on towards God. It’s vertical and horizontal.
(4) Number four, worship is to be both edifying and evangelistic. Again, this is one of the great divides in the worship wars. Is the Sunday morning service for the people of God or is it for the seeker?
Some churches are all the way on one side and some are all the way on the other, and I just want to say it’s both. It’s both. It is for the people of God; you need to be edified and the church needs to be built up. But when you read 1 Corinthians 14 it’s pretty obvious that Paul expects unbelievers to be present in worship and says that if worship is being done in the right way the unbeliever is going to fall on their face and recognize that God is in this place as the secrets of their hearts are exposed. Now, that’s not going to happen unless they understand what’s going on. So the worship has to be intelligible, the worship service has to be hospitable. It has to be understood. So there’s the evangelistic dimension to worship as well as this edification; both of those things come together.
(5) Number five, mind and heart. Worship involves both mind and heart. Remember how Jesus said that those who worship must worship in spirit and in truth. Word and spirit, mind and heart; the two things come together.
This is just to say that we need both the rigor of teaching and of thinking and of working hard with the text of Scripture and of going deep in theology; we need that, we will not sacrifice that, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough. The heart has to be moved; the heart has to be engaged. Otherwise it’s just a classroom.
Now, honestly, I think if we tend to err as a church we tend to err on the academic side. Other churches tend to err on the emotional side. So as a church I think we could move a little bit, not lose the theology, not lose the rigor, but we could express more, we could say more, we could sing louder, we could be more demonstrative with our bodies. There are ways that we could bring more emotion into it, and we need to do that. We need to do that, but we need to do that as we’re moved by the truth of the word. We sing these things; if we really believe what we’re singing, then it should move our hearts to want to express, so that the mind and the heart are engaged.
(6) And then finally, and I’ll end with this, worship involves both word and sacrament. Word and sacrament. This was Calvin’s definition of the true church, right? How do you know where there’s a true church? He said, “Wherever the gospel is truly preached and the sacraments are rightly observed, there you have the true church.”
Both are necessary. We need the word every week, and never the sacrament without the word, because the word is what defines it, the word is what explains it. But the sacraments, baptism and the Lord’s table - and by the way, the phrase, “bodies washed with pure water,” may be an oblique reference to baptism; maybe not, but we certainly have baptism and the Lord’s table, both, clearly in the New Testament.
They are signs, and they are signs of the gospel, so that when we hear the word preached, we are hearing an explanation and an exposition of what God has done for us in Christ; God is holy, we are not, Christ came to take the curse of the law, he came to be the sacrifice, he came to be the priest, he came to give us entrance and boldness into the holy places through this blood; there’s the gospel. But then in baptism and the Lord’s Supper we see it, right; we see it. We see a picture of our union with Christ, we are buried with him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life, and we see and participate in a picture of Christ’s self-giving for us as he inaugurated the new covenant through the shedding of his blood and gave this meal, this communion meal, to his people. So, worship involves word and sacraments.
Now let me just end in this way as we move to the Lord’s table. As you think about your own worshipping life, you think about your life as a worshipper, and I want you to think both about, as an individual are you drawing near to God, and think about as a church, how are we drawing near to God? Are you doing so intentionally, in a God-centered way and in a Christ-centered way? Do you recognize you’re coming to God, and are you coming to God through Jesus Christ? It’s the only way to worship. It’s the only way for us to worship. That has to define the way we worship as a church.
If you’re not a Christian and you’re here today for some reason, maybe a friend invited you or maybe you’ve been attending for awhile and you’re wrestling with the claims of Christianity, maybe today for the first time it has dawned on you that God is holy and you’re a sinner.
If that’s where you are this morning, I have wonderful news for you: the blood of Christ is absolutely sufficient to give you a relationship with God, and you can turn to him in this moment, whether for the very first time or in renewal of your heart as a Christian, you can turn to him in this moment with the honest and simple confession of sin in your heart: “Father, I’m a sinner, I have no right into your presence, but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, and right now I trust in him and I come to you; receive me for Jesus’ sake.” Would you do that this morning? Would you do it right now?
Our gracious Father, as we’ve considered your word this morning we’ve covered a lot of material, but nothing is more important than this relationship that we have with you. You are a holy God, you are a consuming fire, and we would have no access into your presence whatsoever apart from your gracious work through Jesus Christ. So we come to thank you for what Jesus has done, thank you for the gift of your Son, we thank you for the sufficiency of the atoning work of Christ.
And as we come to the table now we come not just to take bread and juice, but we come to the throne of grace. We come through Christ our high priest, and we come begging you to give us mercy and help in our time of need. You know what the particular needs in our hearts are this week. There are some of us that are wrestling with sin and we need assurance that our sins are pardoned. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to break those shackles and set us free. We need confidence that we are received as your children. Would you give it through the word and through the table?
There are some of us that are wrestling with deep trials and suffering, and we need the assurance that Christ is a priest who has sympathy for believers, who has been touched with the feeling of our infirmities in every point, yet without sin. We need the assurance that Christ knows our needs and that he will hold us fast. So we pray that in these moments you would grant that, that you would assure us of your goodness, of your sympathy, of your care, of your concern for us.
Father, there are a hundred other needs that I haven’t touched on this morning; whatever they are, I pray that right now, as we draw near to your throne, that you would meet those needs through Jesus Christ. Would you minister to us through the table, even as you minister to us through the word? May your Spirit continue with us; we pray it in Jesus’ name and for Jesus’ sake, Amen.