Sermon: The Power of Worship - Psalm 40, John 12
Sermon series: The Way of a Worshipper
- The Presence of Worship - Exodus 33
- The Preparation of Worship - Ecclesiastes 5
- The Power of Worship - Psalm 40, John 12
- The Protocol of Worship - Psalm 100
The Bible study connection
Worship is celebration - a celebration to be experienced and a celebration to be shared. This message reminds the hearer of the power of worship to an unbelieving world.
On a vacation my family and I visited Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is a geological hotbed with hundreds of geysers and hot springs. One of our first stops in the scenic wilderness was the geyser known affectionately as Old Faithful. Old Faithful is the most visited of all the geysers for a simple reason: It is faithful. It is not the tallest geyser or the most beautiful, but it is faithful. Presently, one can count on Old Faithful erupting every eighty minutes. On the day we went to Yellowstone, we arrived with about seventy-eight minutes to spare. The National Park Service has built a boardwalk that encircles the old geyser with benches around one side. (You can stand on the other side, but when the geyser erupts you will get a shower.) The historic hotels and quaint shops fan out from the geyser. No doubt about it, Old Faithful is the center of attention.
As the time for the eruption got closer, more and more tourists joined our family, setting on the benches or on the boardwalk. Latecomers stood behind. Many had their cameras - video and still - trained like weapons on the famous hole in the ground.
From the steam rising from the opening in the earth, first there was a sputtering of water. "There she goes," exclaimed one observer who thought he was in the know. But the sputtering ceased and I refrained from any more comments. A moment later came the sputtering again, turning into a fountain of hot water streaming toward the heavens a hundred feet high. Everyone looked up. Jaws dropping. Eyes popping. The sense of wonder filled everyone encircling Old Faithful as the geyser sent cascading waters up and up. The crowd was spellbound, awe-filled, as the dancing water performed its magic for a minute and then quietly returned to earth. Its water supply depleted, but in another eighty minutes its subterranean plumbing would be filled again ready to burst forth toward the sky. And other onlookers would witness its majesty.
I noticed something that day. Onlookers displayed a sense of awe, a worship-like quality. They had witnessed something powerful, something from beyond themselves.
One Dad said to his kids, "Did you see that? Amazing, wasn't it?"
A little boy replied to his sister, "I can't wait to tell Johnny when we get back home."
Another shouted, "Hey, Grandpa, did you see that?"
Still another said, "Can we watch it again?"
With a sense of reverence people returned to their cars or the gift shop knowing they had witnessed something spectacular.
The same dynamic occurs when we come to worship God. Or, must I say, should happen. We ought to witness the spectacular hand of God. We are supposed to witness something beyond ourselves. We are to be in awe, spellbound, mesmerized by the life-giving, life-flowing, power of God. We should be motivated to tell others about what we have experienced.
What Old Faithful does for the tourist in Yellowstone, our worship of God should do for those who worship God in church.
David wrote, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD" (Psa. 40:3), or, as the New Century Version translates "will see this and worship him."
I. The two elements of worship
From this verse we see two profound elements of worship: celebration and proclamation.
A. Celebration: The vertical dimension
David had an experience with the Lord. God had rescued him and refreshed him. David had experienced the presence of God. He was changed. And, he couldn't be silent about it. He sung praise to God "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God" (Psa. 40:3). David was exuberant in song and praise. He was excited. He could not contain his joy, his happiness, his relief. He had to shout and sing.
All of the Psalms were designed to be sung. Singing is an important spiritual expression. Singing is mentioned explicitly some 68 times in the Psalms. No wonder Longfellow called the human voice "the organ of the soul!"
And it wasn't just any song that David sang. It was a new song. There was a freshness and newness to his experience with God. It was as though he were seeing God again for the first time. It was like, as I have been told, seeing Old Faithful erupt never grows old. Each time one is amazed and entranced. Each person wants to see it again and again. Furthermore, his singing was praiseful - it was worship. David was expressing a song of gratitude to God for who he is, what he said, and what he was doing. For David knew that the source of his good fortune was none other than God himself.
B. Proclamation: The horizontal dimension
Just as there is a vertical dimension to worship, there is, also, a horizontal dimension. David said, "Many will see (that is, know God's presence) and fear (or revere and be awed by him) and put their trust (or find security) in the LORD in the Lord" (Psa. 40:3). As David praised God many saw it. The did not merely hear his praise, they saw him praising. And, in turn the same security that David found in God, they, too would find that security and join David in worship. David's joy before the Lord was his witness.
We don't worship just at church, because worship ought to be the constant attitude and activity of our lives as dedicated believers. At church we worship publicly and corporately. And, when the church gathers to worship, it also gathers to witness. Worship always includes witness.
When people far from God hear those people close to God giving heartfelt praise to God - when they see heartfelt worship - they are intrigued. It's like wanting to see Old Faithful. There is a mystery, a wonder, a marvel. Questions are asked: How does that happen? Why does that happen? Sparks from the fire of our worship ignites dry hearts causing them to sing a new song and seek to praise God.
II. The two products of worship
What can we learn from Psalm 40:3? Throughout the Bible there is a close, vibrant relationship between worship and witness. It is reflected in two ways: People far from God are drawn to Christ through worship and people close to God are compelled to share Christ after worship. It can be diagramed in the following manner:
→ worship →
A. Spiritually lost people are drawn to Christ through worship
This is reflected in the above diagram by the arrow on the left side of worship. Worship attracts, like a magnet it draws people to Jesus.
Paul told the Corinthian church to worship in such a clear way that if an unbeliever entered, "He is convicted by all and is judged by all. The secrets of his heart will be revealed, and as a result he will fall facedown and worship God, proclaiming, 'God is really among you'" (1 Cor. 14:24-25). Jesus stated, "As for Me, if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to Myself" (John 12:32). While his words predict his death, it still communicates volumes to us in our worship. When Jesus is lifted up in praise and worship, lost people are attracted to him.
David cited the evangelistic attraction of honest worship. "I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations" (Psa. 57:9). When God's people experience the presence of God, when they meet God, engaging the heart, lives are changed, and consequently, lost people are drawn into God's presence as well. The unbeliever wants what the believer has. The world sits up and takes notice.
William Booth the founder of the Salvation Army used to say: "If a church was on fire for God, people for miles would come to watch it burn." To paraphrase Booth: If believers experience the fire of God's worship then lost people would be drawn to God like a moth to the flames.
The Bible teaches over and over again that God would draw seekers to himself through authentic worship by his people. More people are won to Christ by feeling God's presence than by all our apologetic argument combined. Few people, if any, are converted to Christ on purely intellectual grounds. The sense of God's presence melts hearts and explodes mental barriers.
Think with me for a moment when churches had revivals. In the beginning the protracted meetings were designed to inspire the believers while impacting the spiritually lost. Many of these meetings were great times of singing, testimony, and preaching. People were drawn to the exuberance of the worship, the authenticity of the people, and the power of the preacher. And what happened? Time and time again, lost and depraved people would come to altar when the preacher finished his sermon and give their hearts to Jesus. What some old-timers will say is: "We need to have revivals again." I would suggest that what we need is power of the worship that attracts people to the Savior.
Seekers may not understand all that happens in a house of worship. They may not understand the meaning of a song or the significance of the communion, but they know joy when they see it. They know when lives are impacted. They can read when lives are changed. And when they do they want what those people have.
By the way, wouldn't the opposite by equally true? What happens when a spiritually distant person sees boredom on the faces of worshipers? What if they see scowls? Yawns? Will they be attracted to Christ?
As long as I am getting personal, may I step closer? Parents, what are your children learning from your demeanor in worship? Do they see the same excitement as when you go to a football game? Do they see you prepare for worship as you do for a vacation? Do they see you hungry to arrive, seeking the face of the Father? Children, like non believers, are watching. Believe me. They are watching.
B. Spiritually saved people are sent out to share Christ after worship
Through worship lost people are drawn to Christ and at the same time believers feel the tug, the urge, the compelling force of God to tell others about him. In my diagram, this compelling force is the arrow on the right side of worship.
→ worship →
A quick review of the Bible reveal a correlation between people encountering God through worship and the effect it had on their lives as they went out to share Christ. Let me share a few biblical examples of this happening.
Isaiah 6:1-8. "I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple . . . my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts. . . . Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: Who should I send? Who will go for Us? I said: Here I am. Send me'" (Isa. 6:1, 5, 8). Isaiah was commissioned to go and speak to his people only after he saw the Lord in worship. Isaiah saw, he heard, and he responded. If he had not entered into worship he could have missed the calling of God upon his life.
Matthew 28:16-20. "The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:16-20). The Great Commission is the church's heartbeat for existence. It informs individual believers and the church to go and to tell others about Jesus. Notice, if you will, that the context in which this command was given - a worship encounter. The Great Commission was given following a time of worship. The disciples saw Jesus and worshipped him. Shouldn't that be our response, too? But, here's the point, it was in that context of worship that these men received God's clear clarion call to go to the entire world and represent Jesus.
Acts 2:1-41. On the day of Pentecost, it was the sound of eternal worship that invaded the upper room. Luke described the sound like that of a rushing wind. That awesome and beautiful sound, not unlike the sound of Old Faithful, was heard by God-fearing Jews from every nation who thought these early disciples were drunk. But they were "speaking the magnificent acts of God" (Acts 2:11). You could say that those one hundred twenty disciples were singing a new song. And the result was that many put their trust in the Lord - three thousand, at least! The disciples worshiped. The people heard and saw it. And, they came to faith in Christ.
One fact stands out to me: those early Christians evangelized almost "by accident." Evangelism sprang from their worship. Their worship witnessed to the awesome display of God's presence and power. Unbelievers were drawn to Christ through their worship and, in turn, their worship compelled them to tell others about him. These wholehearted worshipers called the whole world to whole-hearted worship. You could describe the relationship like this: If you truly meet God, you will worship; and if you truly worship, others will be drawn to God; and, as you are drawn to God you are compelled to witness for Christ.
III. The two challenges for the worshipper
What can you do? You can do what we did at Yellowstone National Park. Find a good seat each week to meet God in worship.
A. Come to celebrate
Lay aside your troubles, your anxieties, your fears, and your cares. Celebrate God's gift of mercy and grace; God's touch of forgiveness; God's power to lift you out of the slimy pits of life; God's provision to set you on firm footing. Sing a new song. Sing a hymn of praise. That's the arrow on the left side of worship.
B. Tell others about your experience
Worshipers don't just enjoy God's wonderful presence for yourselves. Invite people to join you at worship. Call others to join you on the mountain top of worship, to come into God's presence, to stand before God's throne. That's the arrow on the right side of the word worship.
Where are you on the diagram? Are you on the left side of the word worship? Are you being drawn to Christ? Great. You are a worshipper. While God does not need your worship, he delights in it. If you are on the left side and have not accepted Christ, at some point, you need to cross the line of faith and accept Christ into your heart.
Are you on the right side of the word worship? Are you telling others about Christ? Are you inviting others into the presence of God? May I let you in on a secret: God wants you to live on both sides of the word worship. You are to be drawn to him. You are to worship. But, here's the kicker, God doesn't want you to stay there. He sends us out. To only stay on the left side is to disobey. God want us to worship, but he also wants us to witness.
Gerrit Gustafson said it best: "Worship is the goal of evangelism and evangelism is the fruit of worship." Or, it's like seeing Old Faithful, basking in its glory and splendor, but you got to go home. You don't live on the boardwalk around the old geyser. But once you have seen it, you want to tell other about. Just as one experiences God, they want to tell others about him. Be a worshipper, but also be a witness. Be one drawn into God's presence, but also be one sent out into the world.
We ought to witness the spectacular hand of God. We are supposed to witness something beyond ourselves. We are to be in awe, spellbound, mesmerized by the life-giving, life-flowing, power of God. We should be motivated to tell others about what we have experienced.
I. The two elements of worship
II. The two products of worship
III. The two challenges for the worshipper