Let Us Draw Near #11

Series: Let Us Draw Near
December 02, 2018 | Don Horban
References: James 2:19Acts 4:23-31Psalm 105:1-31 Corinthians 14:26
Topics: FaithNew TestamentThe Holy SpiritWorshipChurch

Let Us Draw Near #11


NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP AND THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY CHURCH (Part two)

Last week we began tracing the trajectory of worship in the New Testament. I said we were going to look at four New Testament passages and we looked at the story of the woman at the well in John chapter four. Ten times in His conversation with that woman Jesus uses some form of the term "worship." That's ten times in five verses.

And the first point we zeroed in on was that worship has to do with receiving - ingesting - "living water." And Jesus, in trying to introduce this woman to living water does two things. First, He exposes her sin. Living water follows repentance and confession. She knows all about the regulations of Jewish worship. But her life isn't transformed.

Then, second, Jesus shows this woman that the living water of true worship - worship in Spirit and in truth - trains the heart to see that only living water - only the presence of Jesus Himself - has the power to end the tail-chasing worship of other things - "If you come to terms with Me - if you learn to worship Me - you will never thirst again." Worship ends the hampster-wheel chasing of other streams to satisfy the heart. Worship opens the heart to prizing what the mind knows.

That's what those oft quoted words about worshiping in "spirit and in truth" are all about. We are given eyes to see the glory of spiritual things. We know the truth in a way that is different from the way the devil knows these truths - James 2:19 - "You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!"

That's where we ended last week. Today we will consider three other New Testament passages as they relate to New Testament worship and the twenty-first century church:

2) NOTHING TAKES THE PLACE OF CORPORATELY WAITING ON GOD IF WE ARE TO REMAIN FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

If you took the time to read Acts 1 and 2 right through, you would see more than amazing demonstrations of God's presence and power. You would see the pattern God lays down to prepare His own people to receive spiritual life and dynamic from His willing hand.

As Pentecostals, we're pretty good at emphasizing what happened to the church in Acts chapter two. What we don't talk quite as much about is the fact that the early church waited together in that upper room seeking God's face for ten days straight. Ten days of praying. Ten days of kneeling, pacing, standing, kneeling again, fasting, singing, and crying out to God.

What's the lesson here? Most of us aren't instantly sensitive or instantly attentive to the Spirit of God. We easily overestimate our latent spirituality. Even when, like the early church, we have a clear promise from the Lord for provision and blessing - even when it is clear there is no unwillingness on the part of Father God to impart and empower - we still aren't instantly ready to receive what God wants to give.

This idea needs to be probed more deeply. I believe it explains much of the barrenness - the frustration - in the present church scene. Here is a lesson on receiving what God has promised. There is more to receiving from God than the expression of a casual wish for blessing.

Church, believe me, I know there is no need to fruitlessly wear people out with empty repetition and forced times of trying to work something up in the crowd. Our leadership talks about this a fair amount as we think about our own church and what's going on in the worship life of the church.

But there's still another side to consider. We also need enough time to have our distracted hearts softened - drawn in - by the Holy Spirit. We need enough time on our corporate knees to get our minds properly wrapped around what we really should be thinking about and praying about. We need enough time to allow the Holy Spirit to purge sins out of our hearts that we'll never even discover in the first two minutes in His presence.

This creates a huge problem for us. And it's not one we easily diagnose. The problem is we feel we are being inconvenienced when things take too long in any church setting. We actually feel justified with our impatience when things don't roll along efficiently enough for our fast-paced tastes. We don't feel the least bit unrighteous in our frustration over the necessity of larger blocks of our time being spent before God's throne.

And while it's absolutely true that time shouldn't be wasted in worship, it is also true that large amounts of time are required for our worldly souls to open up to God. That's because our souls don't open like a door swinging on hinges. They open gradually, like a flower opens up to the morning sun.

I'm amazed how this truth rarely registers in our instagram culture. One of the reasons God allows us to attend, at least occasionally, long worship services is to teach us our time is not our own. I talk frequently to pastors who constantly tailor worship services so they make the least possible imposition on the schedules of attendees. They do it as a marketing ploy to get larger crowds. And it works - but at horrific cost.

The tragedy of this is it actually fosters the growth of the death-dealing delusion that our time is our own. But it isn't our own. And only the built-in inconvenience of worship reminds us that it isn't.

Properly embraced and understood, worship before the throne of God usually isn't instantly delightful. Worship, over a period of time, creates a hunger in our hearts that wasn't perceived when the worship time began. And that's a good thing if we have the patience for it. The Holy Spirit is like a dove. He doesn't crash the door of your heart down. True, when He comes He brings great power and authority and the fire of God's consuming holiness. But I'm not talking now about what He does. I'm talking about how He comes. He must be entreated.

You show the importance of someone by the time you willingly take away from other things to devote to that person. Marriage is a great illustration and it's probably one of the reasons the church is likened to the bride of Christ. And like any personal relationship, the Holy Spirit comes when there is a devoted, persistent, repeated, and spiritually patient emphasis on His presence.

3) THE HOLY SPIRIT RESPONDS TO PEOPLE WHOSE HEARTS ARE FILLED WITH INTELLIGENT PRAISE AND PASSIONATE THANKSGIVING

Acts 4:23-31 - "When they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them. [24] And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, [25] who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? [26] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed'[27] for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, [28] to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. [29] And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, [30] while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus." [31] And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."

I love those words in verse 31 - "And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." That is what you want to see in a church service - people empowered by the Holy Spirit, and, as a result, people speaking God's Word with boldness.

Verse 31 actually describes the result of some preceding events. The story starts with Peter and John in prison. There seemed so little to celebrate then. But the church knew how to pray. The church, like Judah's King Jehoshaphat, whom we just studied, knew where the real battle was to be fought. There were no petitions to sign. There were no Christian MP's to phone. So they did what all Christians everywhere all the time are still supposed to do - before they had other resources at their disposal - they called on God in heaven.

The Holy Spirit moved upon this whole church as Peter and John were delivered from prison. But look carefully at the steps that led to this outpouring of power from on high:

a) The people related their deliverance to the promises of God's Word

Acts 4:25-27 - "....who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? [26] The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed' [27] for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel...."

Just on the side, notice the apostolic view of their Scriptures. The words they were quoting came out of the mouth of David, but they were factually the very words of the Holy Spirit.

Then notice this church is doing more than just throwing some kind of emotional release. This has almost nothing at all to do with the over-worked term "celebration" in worship. This has nothing at all to do with the glad-handed worship salesman calling people to just have a jump up and down time in worship.

The focus here is on the fulfillment of God's Word among them. This is a big part of what the text means when it says they "spoke the word with boldness." They were praying, not only with passionate hearts, but with full minds. God's Word was seen as a living Word. They believed it and declared it, expecting it to be powerfully accomplished among them. God was expected to act according to His Word in their situation.

b) They responded to what God had done when they saw His hand at work

Acts 4:24 - "And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them...."

Notice that phrase - "they lifted their voices together to God..." This was high congregational praise. This was a shout of victory. This church was not in affiliation with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. There were no denominations. But the people automatically understood the appropriateness of praise and thanksgiving to God. They didn't just passively receive what God had done. They responded with praise and thanksgiving.

Nobody seemed to even tell them to do this. It wasn't like pulling teeth. Probably they had learned and remembered words from their Old Testament Scriptures:

Psalm 105:1-3 - "Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! [2] Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! [3] Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!"

c) The church was edified together and their confident faith overflowed to those outside

Acts 4:24,31 - "And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, "Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them....[31] And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness."

Who taught these people to share their faith? What evangelism course did they attend? Where did they learn to do this? What class did they attend? What seminar? No. These people didn't take a course. They hadn't read a book. We do both of those things in our church, and that's all fine. But that's not what happened here.

These people had seen Jesus work! They had their circumstances changed. The place where they were worshiping had been shaken as they prayed. They were full of the Holy Spirit. They were excited - more excited - about Jesus than they were about anything else.

How hard is it to share the best news you know? Imagine having a child with cancer. Suddenly, after months and months of hospital appointments and treatments, your precious child is totally, completely well - 100% healthy! Do you need someone to tell you to call your family and friends? Could you possibly keep quiet about this?

Church, as much as any seminar you will ever attend, evangelism is born in prayer and worship. No amount of expertise will substitute for those. Biblical worship and praise are intricately linked with witness.

4) PEOPLE MUST COME TO WORSHIP WITH HEARTS PREPARED FOR PARTICIPATION AND INVOLVEMENT

1 Corinthians 14:26 - "What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up."

There is a togetherness in worship. Worship cannot survive without it. I've taught on these words in detail in a series on Pentecostal theology. Contrary to what most people think, they do not describe some kind of wingy, charismatic free-for-all. All things are still to be done for edification, Paul says. And there is always a right way, and a wrong way to do it. Even with involvement, there still has to be teaching and order. But it's also wrong to shut my mind to the Spirit's presence and the people's involvement just because I'm afraid of extremism.

Let me ask you this: Do you think about what God wants to do in and through your life on Sunday? Beyond mere attendance, what did our pray about for God's plan for you this Sunday? Will you think about next Sunday this Thursday afternoon, or this Saturday night?

What role does preparation play in your Sunday worship experience? Do you come into the sanctuary already having analyzed the present state of your spiritual health? Do you know what your real needs are? Have you a clear idea of what God thinks your real needs are? How open are you to growing in expression of worship? How aware are you of the nature of your spiritual gifting? What about God's plan to deepen your growth in covetousness-destroying giving to His kingdom in financial stewardship? Or have you considered which people need your touch and prayer and encouragement this week? What are their names? Is there some revelation, some testimony you need to share with leadership?

Perhaps those very questions scare you. Worse, perhaps you've never even considered them. But one thing is for certain. Most of the growth you and I need in those areas isn't going to happen at the last minute. You don't grow your business that way. And you won't grow your soul that way either.

Let's stay open to the Holy Spirit. Teach yourself, even gradually, not to fear His presence. It's Jesus' Church. He'll build it properly. And He wants your participation in New Testament worship.