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"We Have Come to Worship

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"Worship is finding God where you are at." " I think worship is being mindful of the presence of God." "Good question. For me worship is ascribing value to God." "Worship is ascribing worth to God." "I would think worship would be just spending time with God. It doesn't have to be like in the sanctuary. It could be like in your car or you know just giving him the respect that we should." "What's worship? An encounter with God through words and music and gathering together his people and just recognizing he's God and I am not." "And it's just living and knowing that God is a part of your life everyday wherever you are." "I guess its something that I tend to naturally do when I am enamored with something." "Just giving myself back to God, giving my praise, giving who I am, just back to God."

"Worship is understanding the best of who Christ is and he's worthy of all of our affection, all of our allegiance, all of our heart, soul and mind." "What is worship just to me, yes, a very very personal thing though I like to see other people be enthusiastic around me." It something about this Sunday morning thing, doing it with a bunch of people it's a different thing." "When I am here at church it is a little more formal." "Worship is the experience of coming into the presence of God and telling him all together how great he is." "Then I think it's very nice to join in with all of the people and hear that agreement." "Focus your thoughts, your emotions, your mind all on one moment." "I often give thanks privately in my home and consider that worship before I forget to do it here." "And sometime it's less formal. I think it can be singing in the shower or

praying while you are doing housework."

"Real worship, part of that is coming in to his grace and that he accepts us the way we are and its his grace that allows us to take care of that stuff and lay down all of the junk and burdens that we carry throughout the week." "Worship is finding God where you are at. I think worship is being mindful of the presence of God. And it's just living and knowing that God is a part of your life everyday wherever you are. And sometime it's less formal. I think it can be singing in the shower or praying while you are doing housework." "What is worship, just to me, yes, a very, very personal thing though I like to see other people be enthusiastic around me. When I am here at church it is a little more formal. Then I think it's very nice to join in with all of the people and hear that agreement. I often give thanks privately in my home and consider that worship before I forget to do it here. I want to read to you from the Book of Matthew, 2nd Chapter, just the first two verses.

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"after Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." Last Thursday we didn't have any special service or anything, but on the church calendar last Thursday was the Epiphany of the Lord. It's a time in the season following Christmas day when the church remembers that soon after Jesus' birth some scholars and religious leaders from non-Jewish countries came to seek Jesus out. And when they are searching for Jesus the reason for their journey they say is we have come to worship him. Now the fact is, we really don't know what they mean when they say we have come to worship him, not exactly, because first of all they are not Jewish and so what does a non-Jewish idea of worship mean? They might have been polytheistic. They might have had a number of Gods, so how does that change the idea of what they mean by worship? And also they are going to worship a human being and the word that they use could also mean to show great honor to a person. So here at the start of Jesus' life there is this word worship and yet it's hard to understand exactly what the people meant when they came to say I have come to worship him. Yet, when we use the word worship, I am not sure that we understand what we mean all the time. What do we actually mean when we say together, we have come to worship him today? I can remember a time a number of years ago, I was part of a blended service at a church, contemporary and traditional service and so the service began with some hymns. It began with a call to worship and a time of confession, and I can remember where a third of the way through the service and we are coming into the period of time where we are going to sing a series of contemporary songs and the leader comes up and says, "Now, now let us worship the Lord." And what that person was unconsciously saying and I do believe it was unconscious, is that they didn't recognize the fact that the confession, that the hymns were worship, because in their minds worship meant only praise. And so since this was clearly the more praiseful part of the service that was when we were worshipping. So, even within the church sometimes the way we use worship might be the way the children use the word worship, which is legitimate to mean praise. But in this clip that we just saw of people within the church, we have some good insight in to what worship really is. Worship is when we proclaim the worth of God, when we talk about God's value, his beauty, power, purity. Worship as someone pointed out is a natural response when we are in love with God. There is a private side of worship that can be expressed anywhere. It could be expressed in the shower, or the car, or in the kitchen. All of those were mentioned. There is a public side of worship where we take what we've got in our hearts already, but we are encouraged because of the enthusiasm of the people around us and we hear the truth together. We sing. We pray. All of this is worship and all of that was reflected in the sorted answers we got from people who are part of the life of this body. Worship, the word we use in English comes from an older word within the English history of its language, which means worth ship. The act of honoring God because he is worthy of it. So the word worship is directly related to the word worth. It's adoration, thanksgiving, prayers of all kinds, the offering of sacrifice and the making of vows. Worship embraces all of those things that are part of the history of the Jewish people and the history of the church. Now there are two words that are often used in the Old Testament and the New Testament that have a meaning behind it. The first is the meaning of to bow down. This comes up again and again in the words used for worship. To bow down, to kiss the ground, to bow down to kiss the hem of a garment of a great person or a God, to bow down to show that you are lower than the other. This is part of the words that are used for worship in Hebrew and in Greek. And the other is the word to serve. This is another word that comes up again and again describing what it means to worship. So that focuses in on the priests who serve in the temple and do special things to honor God there, but it also has a broader meaning of the fact that worship in our lives involves service to God. Now, we are going to be looking at the issue of worship over the next few weeks. It's a natural outgrowth of our theme for the year. Our theme for the year begins with the fact that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind. And if we love God in that way inevitably that propels us towards worship. We talk about ourselves being a church that is moving people towards Christ. That is part of our mission statement. That is part of the encapsulation of our vision statement. Moving people towards Christ is where we begin. And if we are moving towards Christ ourselves, and we are moving people towards Christ that means we are moving towards worship. It's a natural response to knowing God. And worship is basically the only possible response we can give to God when we see him face to face. And that's where

history is going. And that's where our personal history is going. We are moving towards the day when we see God, face to face, and when that day comes the only appropriate response will be worship. In Revelation 5 we see a worship service happening in the very presence of God, and so I would like to now have us all turn to the Book of Revelation, Chapter 5 and we are going to look at the whole chapter. We are going to read through it and see this worship service in progress. Revelation, Chapter 5: seals." "Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven Let me stop for a moment. It's going to be loaded with symbolic language. If you don't understand some of the symbols here, join the club. I don't understand them either. Okay? "And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped." Let's pray. God we can't imagine what it means to actually be in your presence with no veil between us and you. As we struggle with all of our failings, with all of the things that fill our lives we pray that these next few weeks might be a time that worship deepens as a reality in our lives and that we taste more of the reality that the future will bring and in so doing, we will honor you now for we ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. So much going on in a passage like that so I would like to just focus in on three ways of looking at the passage. We are going to look at it one time by looking at who it is that's worshipping. Then we are going to go through and look at it in terms of the atmosphere of worship. And I will explain that later. And then we will take a look at it, at the message of worship. But let's first take a look at who is worshipping. The first thing that comes out is that there are 24 elders here. These 24 elders appear again and again in the Book of Revelation. They sit around the throne clothed in white robes and wearing crowns. They cast these crowns before the throne of God. They continually worship and praise, they bring to God the prayers of the

saints and almost everything you see the 24 elders do in the Book of Revelation centers on worship. But who are they? Well John doesn't ever exactly say who they are, but we have some educated guesses. They probably represent the fullness of the people of God. In other words, there are 24 representatives that represent all of humanity that has responded to God in faith in all of history and the reason for thinking about it this way is two reasons. The first is, is that in the priestly life of Israel, the Levites, it talks in this passage about God making everybody a kingdom of priest and in the priestly life of Israel there were 24 teams in a year that were to worship God. They broke up the year into 24 teams and these 24 teams had 24 leaders, and these leaders were responsible for leading the worship life of Israel. So one of the reasons we believe this might represent all of the people of God is because of this rotation of 24 people that would have been very familiar to a Jew. Another reason it could be representative of that is that you've got the 12 tribes of Israel and you've got the 12 apostles representing the Gentiles and the 12 tribes of Israel naturally represent Israel and when you add them together you get the 24 leaders and elders. So that's another reason we could look at it that way and finally they are carrying the incense that represents the prayers of the saints. That's another reason. We can view them as our representatives in this worship service at this point. So that's the first group. The second group is the four living creatures. Now, here's the problem when you get in to symbolic language. It's hard to imagine even what something like this would look like, because they have six wings and they are full of eyes. I don't know how that all fits together, but what we do see them doing is that they are constantly engaged in praising and worshipping God, and they have certain functions to perform to move this whole process forward in the Book of Revelation. They are very close to the Old Testament cherubs that are mentioned in books I guess like Ezekiel, maybe even Isaiah. There are certain times in the Old Testament prophets where you get a glimpse into the heavenly court and you see creatures there that they call cherubs and these are very similar to that. So these are guardians of the throne of God. They are heavenly beings that are close to God, and apart from that I have little idea of what to say. But there they are right in the center of this drama; heavenly beings that we can't even imagine. Third group. Take a look at Verse 11. "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels numbering thousands upon thousands and ten thousand times ten thousand." So there are angels involved in this worship service and John uses the largest word he can have for a number, which is myriad, which means ten thousand. It's the largest word that was commonly used in the Greek language for any one number. And so he uses ten thousand times ten thousand, meaning countless, a hundred million if you want to multiply it or whatever. Countless angels are involved in this. I hope you are getting the point here, that worship is not just a human thing. Because here we see a major moment where worship is happening and humans are only part of the assembled congregation. Heavenly, spiritual beings worship too. And then the final group involved in worship. Let's go down to Verse 13. "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them singing to him who sits on the throne and to the land, be praised and honor and glory and power forever and ever." Every created thing at this point is involved in worship. Every created thing. Everything in the universe is lifting up its voice at this point in praise to God. Everything alive is praising God and to be honest as you look at the prayers of the saints and everything else, everything that ever lived is praising God. So in Revelation 5, this passage we are looking at, who is worshipping? We have a deafening cry of worship from all the universe. No one, nothing is left out, all of them their voices united in declaring the greatness of God. That's who is worshipping at the end of history. The second thing is the atmosphere of worship. What's the environment, what's the feel of what's happening here? Take a look at Verse 2, how it all begins in Chapter 5. "And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice." So the first thing that comes up in Chapter 5 that sets the feel, the atmosphere for what's happening, is the loud voice, a shout is how it begins. It's not a quiet contemplative moment. Now, there is plenty of room for contemplation, but that's not what is happening here. So a loud voice cries out and grabs people's attention and shakes them up a bit. Move down a moment to Verse 4. "When John hears what's happening, he weeps and he weeps." Now this isn't weeping for joy, he's weeping here because of grief. Worship is not just the joyful part of what we do when we assemble. He says that he weeps and he weeps and so one of the things that we have to realize is that even

though this is just a sentence and the actual worship that's happening there is a moment when he can experience this. You can't say I weep and weep if you are talking about four seconds of time in a worship service where the angel cries out and immediately everything else happens. That is not what's going on. We've got to look at the words carefully. So the angel proclaims this and there is a moment, a long moment, when John feels like there is no answer to this need and he has grief over it and he laments the fact that there is such a crying need in the world, there is such a crying need for the church and no one is there to deal with it and so he cries. There are times in our worship with God that we feel that crying need and we don't sense where the answer is coming from, and yet the feelings that we have there, the lament, the grief, the mourning is part of our worship. Sometimes we feel our own brokeness and so we mourn and we lament and that's okay. Next, Verse 7. The lamb comes and takes the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And action happens in worship. Actually we can see it again in Chapter 6, it's not part of what we read today, but the lamb starts opening the seals on the scrolls. There is an action that happens. It's not a static situation where everybody is seated or standing in one place. There is movement happening in front of them. Symbolic things happen in this worship service, like the scroll being opened. But these symbolic things also stand for real things that are happening, and so actually in this worship history is moving forward. Things are actually changing as God moves on the stage in front of them in worship. Concrete things in history are starting to change. Decisions are made. Judgment comes. And in our experience in this world, these things happen in worship too because God is here. Then we go on to Verse 8. "The four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the lamb." Verse 8 and Verse 14 and in countless other places in the Book of Revelation you find humans and heavenly beings falling on their face before God. Their whole bodies are involved in worship. The people of God; these 24 elders that represent the people of God, these leaders fall on their faces before God in worship, because anything less than the full use of their bodies, prostrate before God is insufficient for their worship. So worship involves everything that they are. Also in Verse 8 you see two more things. Each on had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. So, we have musical instruments. There is a whole part of the church that doesn't use instruments in worship, because they feel like there is a biblical reason not to. It escapes me, but I respect that part of the church, but it escapes me how they come up with that, because here we have a worship service in the very presence of God and they've got instruments in their hands and then they have incense in their hands. And so the picture of worship we have here involves all of our senses, even our sense of smell. This symbol of the prayers of the saints is something that we smell when we think of it, when we experience this and all of this is part of the picture of worship that's happening in the actual presence of God at this moment in history. Verses 12 and 13. It talks about singing. Now, I want you to notice in Verse 12 how it begins in the NIV, in a loud voice they sang. Again, we've got loud, everything in it, response of singing before God and its more than just humans. Even the angels and all of creation are singing with all of who they are, because there are some things that just can't be expressed apart from music; in all of creation, not just human creation. Now, I think one of the things that this shows us in this corporate worship in the Book of Revelation is that this is not a moment of deep quiet reflection. Silence and quietness is totally appropriate for worship. In fact, in Chapter 8 that chapter starts with a half-hour of silence before God. That's totally appropriate in our worship. But it's not what's happening here. What's happening here is loud, it's full of action and involves all of the senses. It involves all of creation, ten thousand upon ten thousand of everything united in prayer before God and praise and worship; whatever word we use, all of it together is worship. Let me focus on the third thing now. The message of worship. Verse 9 and again in Verse 12. "You are worthy." Verse 12. "Worthy is the lamb." The first message of worship is to let God know that he is worthy; to actually let God know that we recognize that he is worthy. It says in Verse 12, "You are worthy to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise." The people assembled are saying that everything of worth, all these ways that we can possibly recognize and show how great you are, you are worthy of that. You are worthy to receive these things from us even though it all belongs to you already. And so people raise up their voices. You are worthy. Worth ship. Giving God credit where he deserves credit.

But, there is another message in worship here. It's remembering what God has done for us. It comes out in Verse 9. "You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because you were slain and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priest to serve our God and they will reign on the earth. We declare, we remember together, we rehearse together, we declare together what God has done." From the start of scripture to the end, when you see people gathered for worship in this life or in heaven, you have people rehearsing, remembering, celebrating what God has done for us. And that will always be a necessary part of our worship. And so it all ends, this section ends with the four living creatures saying amen; so be it. May it happen, or at this point in history it will so come to pass. All of those sorts of meanings can be embedded in this word amen. It means that you are agreeing, but more than agreeing you are saying yes God will do it. And so after all of this it ends with them saying amen, it's going to happen. And what happens? In the first verse of Chapter 6 the seals begin to open and it does begin to happen. It's an amazing passage. We are starting our new year with a focus on God and our response to God in worship. It's a great place to start because that's where everything ends. That's where your destiny will end; is before God in worship. It's of utmost importance; our redeemed humanity celebrating, praising, worshipping the God who created them and saved them. And so we can work on worship right now in 2006 and there is a few ways we will doing that across the next few weeks. The first way we can work on worship is to understand worship better; to correct any mistaken ideas we might be carrying around. And we will do that by studying it for four weeks. We will come again and again and look at this issue of worship a number of different ways. But another way we can work on this issue of worship is to worship, to commit ourselves, to make a priority of worship in our lives. And that means in our personal day to day lives. Remember people talked about it being private and public. A big part of worship is what you do with God when you are alone. But also in our experience together we will be talking about worship and making commitments that will hopefully help us be more prepared for worship, more ready for what happens in corporate worship, and to approach God more honestly in our worship. That's the goals for what we are doing ahead. What's absolutely critical across the next few weeks, but really always, what's absolutely critical is what you bring to God in worship. It's more important than anything we do in worship, because if you don't bring it in your heart and we will be talking about that more in this series, then nothing we can do can make up for that. It's an internal focus, a primary thing we will be focusing in across these weeks is internal, who are you, what you are doing, what you are thinking and what you are feeling, much more than any external thing. And to make that point even clearer for just a few weeks, just during this series, we are going to pair down the number of musicians that are up here. We will work it down to the absolute minimum because we want, I want, the focus of your attention to be on you and on God. That's the critical part of this chemistry in worship. Who are you? What are you bringing? Who is God? What has he done? So, we are going to be reducing the visibility a bit of what happens up here, because what is most important in worship is what happens here, not what happens here. So join me on this journey, because I need this as well. I've got to grow in my experience of worshipping God. How about you? Let's pray. God we don't even fully know what it means to worship you totally with all of who we are and in a right way with nothing standing between us, but we thank you that in Jesus Christ, right now in this life, imperfect as we are there is great hope and we can worship you even now. So Lord, even as your disciples asked you teach us to pray, we ask you now teach us to worship. For we ask it in Jesus' name. Amen. Sermon outline notes: WORSHIP = worth-ship the action of human beings in expressing homage to God because he is worthy of it. (adoration, thanksgiving, prayers of all kinds, the offering of sacrifice and the making of vows)

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To bow down To Serve The worshippers The atmosphere of worship

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The Message of worship Seek to understand worship Seek to make worship a priority