Sermon series: The Way of a Worshipper
The Bible study connection
Thankfulness is at the heart of a worshipper. When we come to worship we can't help but thank God for who he is and what he has done. This sermon reminds us of the role of thankfulness in our encounter with God.
Raymond Edman was a missionary, a college president, an educator, an author, and friend to countless Christians and seekers alike. Billy Graham once called him the most unforgettable Christian he ever met. Edman served as chancellor of Wheaton College for many years. He died in 1967 in the most appropriate setting imaginable - though surely traumatic to those how were there. He passed on while preaching the chapel service at Wheaton. And his topic was worship.
That morning, Dr. Edman shared with his listeners a personal anecdote. It involved his meeting with the king of Ethiopia some years earlier. In order to have an audience with the king, he had to observe strict protocol. If he didn't meet and follow through on each criterion, he wouldn't be judged worthy of coming into this king's presence. Dr. Edman then drew a parallel with attending weekday chapel services at Wheaton. "You have an audience with the King of Kings," he said. The ruler of Ethiopia or any other nation would fall on his face and cast his crown in the presence of the Almighty.
Dr. Edman wondered if those in the audience really comprehended the awesome act of worship. He went on to offer practical suggestions of how to make chapel more meaningful, how to come to a better realization of being in the transforming presence of God. And just like that, in the very midst of his wise and godly counsel, Edman himself was taken from among them. He had gone to meet the Lord face to face. It was the last and greatest sermon illustration Raymond Edman ever shared.
His very life was spent in worship: missions, education, preaching. In his death he was instantly in the presence of God.
It is into this presence that we, too, want to go. But how?
Psalm 100 tells us how. This psalm is a literary masterpiece. It has been said that the Bible is shallow enough that the immature can play without drowning, but it is deep enough that the most mature can never touch bottom. Such is Psalm 100. This Psalm does not contain a single concept that is not expressed elsewhere in the Psalms.
When studying Psalm 100 one gets the impression that it is inappropriate for us to barge into God's holy presence without taking the proper actions and necessary steps. God is willing to meet us anywhere, anyplace, and anytime, but we need to come into his presence with heart and mind, body and soul that acknowledges the presence of the King.
Isn't it interesting we are willing to wait for hours, standing in line, to catch a glimpse of some earthly monarch or celebrity - yet we think nothing of running into the presence of God? A spiritual protocol must be followed for whomever who wants to enter into the presence of the King. Psalm 100 shows us the pathway into God's presence, as it were, a procession as to visit dignitary or a protocol as to visit a king.
I. Raise your voice to God
"Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth" (Psa. 100:1). This is a repetition of Ps 98:4. The original word signifies a glad shout or to give a blast (as on a trumpet) such as loyal subjects give when their king appears among them. Since we don't see royalty very often, in our culture, it would like shouting at a celebrity to get their attention. The phrase "Shout for joy" includes a shout of triumph or a battle cry.
When we come to worship our agenda is to meet God. God's agenda is to meet with us. We raise our voices to get his attention. This is not being rude or disrespectful. As we walk down the path to worship God, we simply cannot be quiet. We are not raising our voices to draw attention to ourselves. We shout for joy because the Lord is among us.
II. Render honor to God
"Serve the Lord with gladness" (Psa. 100:2). In scripture the word serve is used to denote both an overall way of life - the broader, way-of-life, use of the term; and a specific activity - a narrow, personal use of the term. The psalmist here speaks of a specific and personal activity of praising God. We glorify God by ascribing to him the honor and adoration due him because he is God.
What really is worship, in this specific sense of praise and adoration? The Puritan Stephen Charnock called it "nothing else but rendering to God the honor that is due him." John MacArthur defined it as "honor and adoration directed to God." A. W. Tozer gave a more expanded meaning. He said that God "wants to cultivate within us the adoration and admiration of which he is worthy. He wants us to be astonished at the inconceivable elevation and magnitude and splendor of Almighty God."
III. Draw near to God with singing
"Come before Him with joyful songs" (Psa. 100:2). Our shouts will turn to song. Music is the form through which we often express our gladness, our joy, and our praise. Our songs are not to create our gladness, but to express it. Through our singing we approach God. It is a fit anticipation for heaven.
575 references to praise, singing, and music are found in the Bible. At the very center of the volume is a 150-song hymnal knows as the Psalms. From the beginning, music has been an essential link between God and his children. Throughout history music has played an important and essential part of our worship to God. Most churches devote one half of the worship hour to music.
The danger, I fear, is that in many churches and for many individual believers instead of worshipping God we are worshipping music. Music is a vehicle that stirs the emotions and expresses our hearts. But music is not worship. It is part of the protocol that prepares the heart and sets the stage for the encounter with God. Music is a sacrifice of praise not a synonym for worship.
I agree with John MacArthur, who wrote: "Music and liturgy can assist or express a worshipping heart, but they cannot make a non-worshipping heart into a worshipping one. The danger is that they can give a non-worshipping heart the sense of having worshipped. So the crucial factor in worship in the church is not the form of worship, but the state of the hearts of the saints. If our corporate worship isn't the expression of our individual worshipping lives, it is unacceptable. If you think you can live any way you want and then go to church on Sunday morning and turn on worship with the saints, you're wrong."
IV. Acknowledge God
"Acknowledge that the Lord is God" (Psa. 100:3). Here we pause, like a parishioner to a Catholic Church who dips their hands into the water and does the sign of the cross or like a subject that curtsies to a king before approaching the throne or like a soldier that salutes a five-star general, to recognize that we are entering into the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Here we acknowledge that Jesus is our Savior and submit to him as Lord.
We remind ourselves as to whom God is, and, at the same time, we are reminded of who we are, too. He is the Creator; we are the created. He is the shepherd; we are the sheep. He is the Supreme Commander; we are his people. We are completely dependent on him for everything. In other words, he is God; we are not.
In World Christian, John Huffman describes one unforgettable moment with his daughter. He had been away from home for several weeks on an overseas mission's trip. When his airplane landed, he could hardly wait to see his wife and four children, but he and the other passengers were detained in customs for two hours. Finally the customs officials allowed Huffman to proceed to the lobby, where hundreds of people were anxiously waiting for family and friends. Huffman writes:
There was such a press of bodies, I knew I would not be able to pick my children out until I walked up the ramp, past security, and got out into the open. But my three-year-old daughter, who had managed to squeeze her way to the front of the crowd, began screaming at the top of her lungs, "Daddy! Daddy! That's my daddy!" She must have shouted that at least five times, when suddenly she broke free from the crowd, and bolted past the security guards, still yelling, "Daddy! Daddy! That's my daddy!" She literally flew into my arms and began kissing and hugging me. What a welcome! I have never felt so loved and acknowledged in my life. It was a wonderful, fulfilling moment that even today brings a warm and happy feeling.
That, says John Huffman, is what God feels like when we acknowledge him in worship.
Acknowledging God is the intellectual side of our worship protocol. Mentally we acknowledge the God of the Universe. Our worship is to have a firm foundation based on the Creator God. This is the precursor to praise.
V. Open the door to God
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise" (Psa. 100:4). Drawing an analogy from the temple, the Psalmist informs us as to how we can open the door into God's presence. The gates were a part of the outer wall that surrounded the temple grounds. One entered the temple complex through the gates. As we enter God's presence we enter his gates with thanksgiving - here we thank God for what he has done. Once through the gates, the worshipper enters the courts with praise - here we extol God for who he is. One gets a sense of movement from the outside to the inside, moving closer to the presence of God.
Praise is not worship. It sets the stage for worship. Praise anticipates what is to come, entering the presence of God. Praise precedes worship. Praise is the way into worship, and worship is the way into an encounter with the living God. David Edwards in his book, Worship Three Sixty Five, writes, "When we praise God, we are ringing the doorbell, making our presence known, letting Him know that we have come to see Him. When He hears our praise, He gets up to open the door and invites us to come in. When we go inside, we move from praise to worship. In other words, praise is the vehicle into God's presence, and worship is what we do once we get into God's presence." While God is everywhere (omnipresence), God's revealed presence occurs when we worship God. God has chosen to manifest himself in the praises of his people. David wrote of God, "But You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel" (Psa. 22:3). God is enthroned in our praises. Thus, our praise creates the atmosphere for an audience with the King. We come before God with thanksgiving and praise on our lips and in our hearts.
VI. Give thanks to God
"Give thanks to Him" (Psa. 100:4). Notice the repetition in verse four. Giving thanks to God and praising him are stated twice. It is repeated so that we will not miss its importance.
VII. Bless the name of God
"Praise His name!" (Psa. 100:4). The word praise means to kneel. It communicates the idea to show honor and homage to God, by kneeling before him as King of kings and Lord of Lords. True worship always involves falling at the feet of God.
In Touch and Live, George Vandeman writes:
A young stranger to the Alps was making his first climb, accompanied by two stalwart guides. It was a steep, hazardous ascent. But he felt secure with one guide ahead and one following. For hours they climbed. And now, breathless, they reached for those rocks protruding through the son above them - the summit.
The guide ahead wished to let the stranger have the first glorious view of heaven and earth, and moved aside to let him go first. Forgetting the gales that would blow across those summit rocks, the young man leaped to his feet. But the chief guide dragged him down. "On your knees, sir!" he shouted. "You are never safe here except on your knees."
Why on our knees? Because we are in the presence of the King, the God of the universe. The essence of his being, his all-encompassing nature, his very person, his resolute character are summed up in God's name. All of God is embodied in his name. He is the object of our worship - the personal God who reveals his name, which includes his presence and his authority.
What do we know about the name - the person, the character, the nature - of God? The Psalmist reminds us that "The Lord is good" (Psalm 100:5); he is gracious and kind. "His love (or mercy) is eternal" (Psalm 100:5). The word for love means covenant love. God has bound us to himself in a covenant or contract that he will never revoke or abandon. "His faithfulness endures through all generations" (Psalm 100:5). God is not fickle or forgetful. He does not change his purpose or break his word.
We must understand the name of God. We have to begin to grasp, as feeble as our minds and hearts are, the greatness, holiness, wisdom, goodness, loving kindness, and truthfulness of the name of God. The essence of worship is to bless, to fall down, and to ascribe glory to the name of God. Heartfelt worship is to be gripped in the depth of our beings by the goodness, love, and faithfulness of our Creator God.
The presence of God is revealed. At this point we have truly worshipped. Worship is not the shout or the singing or the thanksgiving or the praising, all those are prelude. Worship is encountering the person of God as revealed by his name.
Worship is an audience with the King. Let us not forget that. Our hymns refer to this truth again and again. We sing such songs as: "O worship the King, all glorious above," "Praise ye the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation," "Come Thou Almighty King, help us Thy name to sing." When we come to worship we come to meet the king of the universe. And, like an earthly king, there is certain protocol that we must follow to meet him.
Someone has said that there are two kinds of worshippers: Flatlanders and Highlanders. Flatlanders live in only two dimensions. They are well-versed in the faith; they know the lay of the land. They know the routine . . . and they love it. The only problem is they are living in the horizontal realm. They don't know there is an "up" to life. Highlanders are simply Flatlanders who have discovered worship! They are constantly pushing up, up, up to experience God.
What a privilege we have been afforded to have an audience with the King. Let us not take it for granted. Let us do what is needed, following the protocol, to meet with him.