Sunday, February 11, 2018

Psalm 95 - THE CHURCH IS MADE TO WORSHIP

Our general theme at this time is,  “Life in the Father’s House”. We meditate for a season on the meaning of the church and of Life in the Church.  We do not want you to have small thoughts,  no small ideals of the church. We want you to think the same thoughts as Christ does  about the church. 

We began our series with  the consideration of  Matthew 16:18, where Jesus says, “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Two thoughts derive from that text: 

(i) The true church belongs ultimately to Jesus. He laid down His Life for her. He purchased her people with His blood, and therefore the church belongs to Him. She is not a human franchise business, such as some church denominations sometimes seem to indicate.  
(ii) The true church is indestructible. Satan cannot destroy her and the church will outlast this world  and  she will continue   in  the new creation  –in eternity, as the  body of Christ, who is the Head of the church (Eph.  1:22,23)

Last  week Pastor Brits  continued  and asked the question: “What does the church do?” How does the church   on earth express herself?”  He pointed us to the spontaneous activity of the church after Pentecost  and by taking us to Acts 2:42  he answered  from  the Scriptures: The church meets  to gather under the Word of God, and to have fellowship, to  break bread (to remember  her Lord Jesus Christ in the Lord’s supper), and to pray.  These are the primary marks and activities  of the church, and whatever we do not do, we must not fail  to do this.  

When we talk about the church we speak of her in two senses: The church universal and the church local.  In most instances in the Bible the church speaks of the local church, and therefore our reference point in this series is to the local church. Our definition of the church is, “an assembly of the people belonging to the Lord”. The church universal or local  should  reflect this fact.  The church is a holy people, separated from the world and separated to God. The church is not like the world. She is distinct from the world and yet she is  a part of the world. She influences the world as salt and light. Salt preserves and stops the rot and light dispels darkness (Matt. 5:13-16).  The church is made up of people  that have  been purchased by  Jesus  and they  have  been born again  (Jn 3).

Today, we want to look at the subject of worship and the church . 

Worship is that which grabs your heart most,  after all is said and done. We essentially are what we worship. For the Christian,  God is the center of  worship  and therefore our thesis  is  this :”the church is made to worship God”, and every true church must reflect that priority. So,   the church is made to worship God. Now, at face value hat seems to be pretty obvious, but is it? 

The church in our age and in every age has struggled with this concept, and for many people in our day  worship has been reduced to   that time in the service when we sing. We have a worship band and a worship leader and we sing songs of worship.  At a strategic point of the service the worship leader says: “We have now finished worshiping God, and now it is time for the 15 minute sermon.”  But is that it?  Is that worship? We want to argue that worship is more than that. It is a mindset and a way of life that inhabits the life of the individual member of the church.  We want to argue that all that we are and all that we do reflects worship.  Let us then look at a text in the Bible that teaches us the heart of true worship. 

Psalm 95
Psalm 95 is part of a group of Psalms that praise and worship   God as King (cf. Pss. 93; 95-100). Psalm 95 has long been used in the church as a call to worship. [1] This Psalm can be divided into two parts: 
(i) Vv. 1-7b   reflects a call to worship 
(ii) Vv. 7c- 11 a warning against false worship. We are often helped to appreciate the true by considering what is false. As I said, this Psalm helps us to understand that heart of church life – worship – giving the Lord the glory and honour that is due to His Name!  

And so, in  verses 1-7, we  find the call  to worship.  It begins with exuberant rejoicing. God’s people are a happy and joyful and singing because they see  what God has done for them. Note also  the following  aspects  associated with our worship: 

(i)        Worship is God-centered. There is a preoccupation with God. Worship is not music driven, or personality driven, and least of all, it is not  some kind of self-energized enthusiasm.  Biblical worship has God in mind.  A faulty view of  God  or  a little view of God  diminishes our worship.

(ii)           Worship is congregational:  Four times in vv.1,2 we read of the ’us’, “Let us sing,  let us make a joyful noise; let us  come into his presence  …”  

(iii)       Worship is vocal:  The words employed in verses 1 and 2 all refer to a vocal, public praise of God. Here it is not subdued. It is exuberant. The phrase ‘Joyful noise’ (cf v.1b, 2b)  comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to raise a shout.”[2] This was done in anticipation of a battle or a triumph[3]. Some Christians think that our singing to God cannot be loud or exuberant.   Now while there is such a thing as a jarring and irritating noise made by overpowering instruments, perhaps because the musicians are man centered and focused on themselves, there can be nothing more God glorifying than a congregation singing loud and exuberantly to the praise of her God.  We will speak about the silent aspects of worship in a moment, but for now, let us settle the point that an aspect of our worship is loud.

(iv)          Worship must  be based on truth. 
  •   In vv. 3-4  we are helped to understand what ought to excite our worship. Consider  the primary  biblical truth  in  Psalm 95 which  helps us to sing exuberantly: V.3  The LORD (YAHWEH) is a great God (El)   and a great king (Melech) above all gods (Elohim). The  primary  truth which ought to govern our worship  is  that our  God is sovereign. He is our King.   
  •   Moreover,  from Vv. 4 & 5   we learn more about the nature of God’s sovereignty. Here we learn that God is the Creator and Owner of the earth. He is sovereign over every aspect of life on this earth. He is sovereign over the depths, the heights, the sea and the dry land.  We find here the totality of His creation and control of the earth. The world is not only the work of His hands, but it is in His hands right now. That is a reason for praise, particularly as we survey the news.
  •  In vv. 6,7 the effects  of that worship  on the lips  of the worshipper  sink deep down into the worshiper’s  heart. The worshipers are no longer making a joyful noise, no longer singing loudly.  The key word that characterizes the first five verses is praise, while the key word that summarizes vv.  6 and 7 is ‘bow down’. Worship involves both, making a joyful praise and a speechless bowing down. When the God who is praised is understood, we are silent and we are comforted.  We experience Him as our personal God, our Maker, and our Shepherd. 

False Worship :  A Warning From Massah and Meribah  (95:7c-11)

Life in a fallen world severely challenges worship. We see it illustrated  in the following  verses, which are an illustration from Israel’s  flawed history of  worship. The reference here  is to the waters  Meribah and Massah.  The illustration from Israel’s history  is taken  from  2 incidents  which  illustrated  the conduct of God’s people who had hardened hearts- another way  to say that they  did not have their God on their minds. (Ex. 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13). Meribah is derived from the Hebrew word for strife. Massah means  test. Both incidents refer  to  times  in the life of  Israel when, after having been brought out  of Egypt  and through the desert by God with great signs and wonders and visible miracles, they  refused to believe and trust God when they saw that there was no water (see Ex. 17:7). They refused to   worship God in their experience.  This text is cited in Hebrews 3:7-11, and there it refers to Hebrew people who were tempted  to give up on Jesus, when times got tough.  So then, we find  a dramatic change of tone in the closing verses  8-11  of this Psalm.  And the repeated point concerning this  incident is  that  God’s people refused  to worship  when it came to a time of testing.  They became faithless. They hardened their hearts  against God. Faithlessness and a hardened heart are the sworn enemies of worship. So we must see that Massah and Meribah are not just historical incidents. They are manifestations of a persistent problem with true worship. These problems are  picked up in Psalm 95 and in Hebrews 3:7-11, and they are addressed as  worship problems .  

We cannot  take the message of this Psalm lightly, because the New Testament makes it clear that the warning of this text applies as much to men and women of our time as it did in ages past.

The message of this Psalm, both to its original audience and to us: 

  • We should worship God as a congregation, both by our rejoicing (vv. 1-2) and by our reverence (v. 6). 
  • Our worship is to be based both on God’s sovereignty as our Creator (vv. 3-5) and Sustainer and  Shepherd (vv. 6-7).  
  • Vv. 7c-11 remind us that we must worship God by our obedience
  • We must learn to worship in good an challenging times.  Worship is not just the repetition of rituals or the shouting of praises or participating in any acts of reverence. 
  • True worship begins in the heart, and it governs  our mind and actions.  
  • Let us take very careful note then  of the relationship between the exhortation to worship God in verses 1-7 and the warning of verses 8-11 where we are reminded that failure to worship is  induced  by a hardened heart.

SOME DIAGNOSTIC QUESTIONS  WITH REGARD TO  WORSHIP  TO SELF AND THE CHURCH
 You need to ask the following of yourself:[4]
  • How much do I know about what the Bible says about worship?
  • Who can help me learn more about biblical worship?
  • Do I want above all to draw near to God in worship?
  • Do I want to please God rather than myself in worship?
  • Do I understand my responsibility to worship God with his people regularly?
  • Will I seek God’s will in worship while avoiding a judgmental and legalistic spirit toward others?
You  need to ask the  following about the worship of any church you attend:
  • Does this church love and believe the Bible? Is the worship of this church filled with the Word of God?
  • How much of the service is given to the reading of the Bible?
  • How much of the service is given to biblical prayer?
  • How much of the service is given to singing that is biblical in content?
  • What is the content of the preaching? Is preaching a substantial part of the service?
  • Is the Law of God clearly present in the service? (Without law you cannot understand gospel)
  • Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ clearly expressed and central in the service?
  • What is the role of the ordinances  in the ministry of the church?
  • Are both joyful thanksgiving and reverent awe expressed and balanced in the service
An Invitation to Worship

Oh come, let us worship and  bow down;  let us kneel before the LORD our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture,  and the sheep  of his hand.  (Ps. 95:6-7)

We need to heed that call to worship and to identify with a congregation that worships faithfully. We must worship in a way that pleases God, for our God is a consuming fire.

This  service ended with celebrating the Lord's Supper. 




[1] ‘Before the beginning of their prayers,’ writes Athanasius of the practice of the Church of Constantinople, ‘Christians invite and exhort one another in the words of this Psalm.’ In the Western Church the whole Psalm appears to have been generally used. In the Eastern Church an invitatory founded on it is used at the commencement of service.” A. F. Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House , 1982), p. 572.
[2] The primary nuance of the word ranan is to “cry out” or to “give a ringing cry” (BDB). It may refer to jubilant singing, but not necessarily so.
[3] Josh. 6:10,16,20; 1 Sam. 4:5; 17:20,52
[4] From an article  by Dr. Robert Godfrey : “ PLEASING GOD IN OUR WORSHIP “

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