This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on March 18th, 2012. To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Lent #4 2012.
THE MISSION OF WORSHIP
This is the forth week in Lent. This morning we want to pray for God’s people and reaffirm our commitment to his kingdom. So this morning we want to talk about God’s kingdom on earth – the church. We want to recognize the importance of our calling to live as the church.
JESUS WAS CONSUMED BY HIS DESIRE FOR TRUE WORSHIP.
Jesus Reacted to What Men Worship: Take a minute and think about what it would be like to walk into one of the local churches – march up front – tear down the American flag standing on the side – and launch into a speech about how the church can serve only one master. What would people say about you? What frame of mind would you have to be in to do this?
Jesus caused a scene. What he did was highly inappropriate. I often wonder what his disciples thought while Jesus was doing this. They would have been shocked, embarrassed, amazed. This over the top action – making a whip and turning over tables – is the only time Jesus ever used force. He did this twice – here at the beginning of his ministry, then again at the end of his ministry, right after the triumphal entry.
Much later, Jesus’ disciples would read in Psalm 69:9 “…zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” They would realize that Jesus was consumed by his desire for true worship. They would recognize Jesus’ frustration at man’s tendency to turn worship into something else. They would realize that Jesus was insulted by the cheap, convenient worship of the Jews, who – rather than raising an animal and giving a real offering to express the destructiveness and ruin of sin – or to give a costly gift of thanks to God – turned the whole process into a “for profit” scheme.
Our Tendency to Turn Worship into Something Else: This is not the only place in Scripture where we see the zeal of God to be worshipped truly – in the first chapters of Isaiah, God says he is sick of their worship, even hates it (Is.1:10-15), because they are worshipping God but living as though nothing he said mattered in their lives.
There is a tendency in the human heart to turn the worship of God into something less than what it is meant to be. We are more comfortable talking about the weather than about spiritual things. Drawing near to God – in fellowship, in praise – can often be difficult.
~ Fellowship: The Scriptures talk about fellowship as a great spiritual discipline. Fellowship means coming together, loving one another – those with whom we have less in common – encouraging one another with Scripture, challenging and serving one another. How often do we only visit and exchange pleasantries?
~ Praise: I confess, I am often bored by worship songs – for instance, “Seek Ye First”. I have sung this song for over 40 years and I am tired of the tune. I am bored with the song because I only think of the tune and don’t really consider the words which challenge me to seek God’s kingdom more than the clothes I wear or the food I eat. If I listened to and considered the words I would not be able to sing it without weeping. Instead I have turned praising God into a matter of tunes I like or dislike.
~ The Word: How often have we focused on how good a speaker was above what he actually said? How often do we read the word in order to say we got it done – rather than taking the time to listen to it.
Our worship can often be detached. We tend to focus on our experience – how we are feeling – more than on who God is. Why was Jesus so consumed by this desire – and why are we often so complacent? This consuming desire – which we see here at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry – consumed his whole life. He spent his whole life – training followers… preaching about the kingdom of God and true worship… confronting false worship and belief… and finally dying for what he had been teaching and saying.
JESUS REMADE THE TEMPLE FOR WORSHIP.
Jesus Came to Destroy the Old Temple: Jesus tells those who question him about his actions, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again”. This is a play on words and ideas. Jesus, the disciples later find out, was talking about his body. He was saying, prophetically, ‘You are going to destroy my body and I am going to raise it up again’ – but he was also saying much more…
Jesus was saying – you can destroy this temple Herod built – because it is worthless. Now to the Jews, Herod’s temple was beautiful – magnificent – a place where they could worship God in the face of their enemies. The temple was a symbol of God’s pleasure towards them. But Jesus was saying – tear Herod’s Temple down, it’s worthless.
Jesus Came to Remake the Temple: Jesus was also saying, when I am raised from the dead, there is going to be a movement of people who, because they follow me, will worship in spirit and in truth. In other words, they will really desire to do what is pleasing to God – they will rejoice and worship because of what God has done for them – they will do loving justice and to show mercy to one another and to all people.
In other words, Jesus was saying, destroy Herod’s Temple and I will remake the worship of God. The focus will not be this magnificent building that impresses people so that they want to worship there – the focus will be me – and people will want to worship because through my death and resurrection they will be able to come to God and find acceptance and love, compassion peace and a new life.
JESUS HAS ENTRUSTED HIS MISSION TO THE CHURCH.
Jesus Did Not Entrust Himself to Men. Many believed in him after seeing the miracles, John tells us – but what did they believe? They believed that Jesus was the Messiah. They had their own ideas about what they wanted from the Messiah – they wanted him to make their lives easier and more convenient – to get rid of the Romans. Jesus did not entrust himself to them because he knew what people are like. People tend to be caught up in their own desires and interests and conveniences as more important than true worship.
But Jesus Entrusted Himself to the Church: Jesus gave his body and blood to those who believe in him and follow him – his church. In Ephesians 2:19-22, Paul says, that when we come together in fellowship, commit ourselves to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, and worship together, we (people) become a living Temple where God’s Spirit can be present.
So, as we close I want to leave you with two encouragements…
1. Worship With a Sense of Mission: I want to be clear in saying that this sermon is meant to be an encouragement not an accusation. I believe that true worship happens in our church. I believe that we are a city on a hill/ the light of the world. But the tendency to lose focus is always with us and we need to be aware of the mission of Christ – the great importance of worship which we carry out here on Sunday morning. We are the expression of Jesus consuming desire – his work. We carry the reputation of Jesus with us if we call ourselves by his name – Christians – we show people whether true worship is a real thing or not.
2. Worship Under the Cross of Jesus: True worship can only happen when we recognize that Jesus is rejoicing over us – even when we and our worship are very imperfect. The old impressive temple that Herod built has been destroyed – and you are now a part of the remade Temple – the community of those forgiven and set free in the presence of God. The point of this sermon is not that God is unhappy with your worship, but that God wants more of you in worship. Therefore, take up your calling to encourage and bless one another – to sing praises with all your heart and mind – and to respond to the word.