Weekly Worship

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(Ephesians 4:16)

INTRODUCTION: Many of you received a letter in the mail this week entitled: “The Challenge and Power of One.” In that letter I challenged each of you to consider five commitments for the coming year. If you didn’t receive a letter and you would like to have received one, I apologize. There are some extra copies on the welcome table out in the foyer. In the meantime, you can find a list of the five commitments on the insert in your bulletin. Let me read the list out loud:

With God’s help I commit to do the following this year:
   1) Worship one day weekly with my church family;
   2) Serve in one ministry capacity in my church family;
   3) Cultivate one friendship with a non-believer for Christ;
   4) Give one regular portion of my income for the work of the church;
   5) Participate in one regular small group setting for prayer, growth and fellowship.

I call this the “challenge of one” because we are challenged to commit to one thing in each of these five areas. I call this the “power of one” because as each one of us takes up the challenge, we will see the power of God working through our combined efforts as a church body. The theme verse for the five commitments comes from Ephesians 4:16: “From Christ the whole body . . . grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” The body of Christ only grows and develops as each one of us does our part.

Now, the first thing I want to say as you look at these five commitments is this: don’t panic! No one is going to ask you to stand up and make a public pledge to these commitments in front of everyone else. No one is going to ask you to sign a written statement concerning these commitments. There will be no list of those who have or have not made commitments in each of the areas. This is strictly between you and the Lord – although it is usually helpful when you make any type of commitment to share it with at least one other person who can encourage you and help you stay on track.

The second thing I want to say about these five commitments is I want you to notice that they are all commitments relating to the church. There are many great commitments you could make as an individual believer: read one chapter of the Bible each day, spend twenty minutes in prayer with God each day, and so on, but these five commitments focus specifically on your participation and involvement with the church, not just your own personal walk with the Lord.

The third thing I want to say about these five commitments is that I want us to consider them one at a time. In other words, don’t commit to or reject the whole list today. If you are looking at the list and number three or number four or number five is causing you anxiety, put it out of your mind. Don’t even worry about number two for right now. Let’s just start with number one and work our way forward.
You know how when it comes to sermons, you usually hear the message first, and then you get the application? Well, we’re doing it all backwards this time. You already have the application for this entire message series in your hands – the five commitments from “The Challenge and Power of One.” Those are the main application points we will be drawing out of our messages in this series.

For some of you these commitments are old hat. They are already part of the regular pattern and discipline of your life. That’s awesome. I pray that this series will encourage you to continue in the commitments that you have made to Christ and his church. But for some of you these commitments are going to be a real stretch. You will need to look at each one and determine if you are indeed ready for the challenge.

Remember what I said earlier. Don’t panic. Let’s take them one at a time and see how they play out in real life. Let me tell you, they are all worthy commitments that come straight from Scripture, and I encourage you to give each one your full consideration. Weekly worship, service in ministry, sharing Christ with others, giving to the work of the church, and growing in Christ with others: if each one of us made the commitments in these five areas, this church would literally explode with spiritual and numerical growth, all for the glory of God.

So, our first commitment we are looking at in the series is weekly worship. Worship is one of God’s main purposes for the church. One of the primary reasons we exist as a church is to worship God. Why? Because God is worth it. God is worthy of our worship and praise, and this is one of the reasons why God created the church to begin with: simply to worship him.

There are many ways we can worship God, but today I want us to focus on the importance of corporate worship, worshiping God together as a church family. One of the most common responses I hear from people who do not attend church weekly is this: “I don’t need to go to church to worship God; I can worship God anywhere.” Any of you ever hear someone say that before? Any of you ever say those words yourself? I want to talk about what is right and what is wrong with those words this morning as we discuss worshiping God together as a church.

I. You can and should worship God anywhere and everywhere

So, what is right and what is wrong with those words: “I don’t need to go to church to worship God; I can worship God anywhere.” Well, first of all, there is a lot right with them. The words themselves are absolutely true. And they not only are true, but they teach an important biblical principle. God is not limited to one physical place, and therefore worship is not limited to one physical place or places. Church is not the only place where you may worship God. You can and should worship God anywhere and everywhere.

   A. God cannot be contained (1 Kings 8:13,27)

We sometimes get confused about this because in the Old Testament there was a single, physical location where people would offer their sacrifices to God in worship. People came to the temple to offer their sacrifices. There was an actual physical temple with a physical altar where flesh-and-blood priests would sacrifice flesh-and-blood animals. It was very physical and localized in one physical place. But it is important for us to realize that the New Testament church is not the same as the Old Testament temple.

The Old Testament temple was built as a physical dwelling place for God. King Solomon said to God after building the temple: “I have indeed built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” (I Kings 8:13) And yet even Solomon understood that God did not really “dwell” in this temple he had just made. Just a few verses later he confessed: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

The temple was a place that symbolized the presence of God in the midst of his people, but it certainly did not contain God, as though God could somehow be contained. You cannot put God in a box – no matter how big or fancy you make the box, no matter if you call it a temple or a church. The highest heavens cannot contain God. God is present everywhere.

   B. We must worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:19-24)

This is part of what Jesus meant when he spoke about worshiping God in spirit and in truth. In the gospel of John we read about Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman by a well. The woman recognizes that Jesus is a prophet and asks him a question about worship. Let me read you her question and Jesus’ response.

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem . . . A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:19-24)

The woman was asking Jesus which was the correct physical place where people should worship God. Should they worship up on the mountain, or should they worship down at the temple in Jerusalem? Jesus answers (drum roll, please): neither! “A time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.” (John 4:21) Both are fine, but neither is sufficient. God is spirit and true worshipers worship him in spirit and in truth.

There is a great truth here that I wish more people in the church would grasp deeply in their hearts. You don’t need to go to church to worship God. You can worship God anywhere. You can worship God at home, at work or at school. You can worship God while driving in your car, while riding your bike or taking a walk. You can worship God outside in the beauty of his creation or inside in the privacy of your own room. God is not limited to one physical place, and therefore worship is not limited to a physical place of worship. You can and should worship God anywhere and everywhere.

II. You should also worship God together with your church family

However, just because you can worship God anywhere does not mean that you should not worship God with your church family. This whole “I don’t need to go to church to worship God; I can worship God anywhere” is a great concept for those who think worship is limited to the church. But it is a terrible excuse for those neglecting worship with the church.

I want to spend the rest of our time this morning talking about the importance of corporate worship, worshiping God together with his people. Why should you commit to worshiping one day weekly with your church family? Well, let’s see what the Bible says about it.

   A. Jesus did not just die for people, but for “a people,” his church
      – Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:13; Revelation 5:9

First of all, the Bible teaches us that Jesus did not just die for people, but for “a people,” for his church. Ephesians 5:25 says that “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Titus 2:13 says that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own.” Jesus did not just die for people, but for a people, a people that are his very own.

Now that does not mean that Jesus did not die for individual people as well. Revelation 5:9 tells us that with his blood Jesus “purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Of course Jesus died for people. But he also died for “a people.” Jesus died for you not just to save you and forgive you for your sins. He also died for you so that you could become a part of his people, the church.

We often call this the “universal church” to distinguish it from local churches. The universal church consists of those people everywhere who acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. There is no true Christian anywhere who is not a part of the universal church of Jesus Christ. And so, we can truthfully say Jesus died for you so that you could become a part of his universal church.

But Jesus did even more than that. He commissioned the apostles to plant local churches so that individual Christians and families in a common area could meet together for worship and to fulfill God’s other purposes for the church as well. The universal church cannot fulfill God’s purposes without God’s people coming together and meeting together as local churches. And you cannot fulfill your individual purpose as a Christian without becoming an active, committed member of a local church. And so, the universal church requires many local churches to fulfill its purpose here on earth. And the local church requires many individual Christians coming together to fulfill its purpose. (Illustration: Babylon Bee article: “Man Refuses To Join Local Gym, Claims He’s Just Part Of The ‘Universal Gym’” https://babylonbee.com/news/man-refuses-to-join-local-gym-claims-hes-just-part-of-the-universal-gym/)

The local church is the people, not the building. If you have a church building but no people, you do not have a church. You simply have a church building. But when God’s people come together to fulfill God’s purposes, then you have the church whether you have a building or not. Jesus did not just die for people, but for “a people”: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25)

   B. The church is called to worship God together
      – Hebrews 10:25; 1 Peter 2:9-10; Revelation 7:9-12
      – Psalms 22:25, 26:12, 35:18, 107:32, 111:1; 149:1

Secondly, the Bible tells us that the church is called to worship God together. Yes, you can and should worship God privately by yourself, but you are also called to worship God together as a church.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says this: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” Once you did not belong to God’s people. But now that you have placed your trust in Christ, you belong to the people of God. And God has called his people, as a people, to come together to worship him. That’s why Hebrews 10:25 says: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

The Bible everywhere describes this corporate aspect of worship. The Psalms often speak of worshiping God in the assembly of believers. Look at these examples from the Psalms. Psalm 22:25: “From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly.” Psalm 26:12: “In the great assembly I will praise the Lord.” Psalm 35:18: “I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among throngs of people I will praise you.” Psalm 107:32: “Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.” Psalm 111:1: “I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly.” Psalm 149:1: “Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.”

Of course, when we get to heaven the greatest assembly of all will be gathered together to worship God and to sing his praises. We get this glimpse of heaven from Revelation 7:9-12: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!’”

   C. God calls you to a weekly rhythm of worship and rest
      – Genesis 2:2-3; Isaiah 40:28

Why should you commit to worshiping one day weekly with your church family? 1) Jesus did not just die for people, but for “a people,” his church. 2) The church is called to worship God together. 3) And thirdly, God calls you to a weekly rhythm of worship and rest. Look at Genesis 2:2-3: “By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”

Have you ever wondered why God rested on the seventh day? It wasn’t because God was tired. Isaiah 40:28 tells us: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary.” No, God rested on the seventh day in order to establish a pattern of rest for us. God also blessed the seventh day and made it holy. And so, the Sabbath day is a special day. It is a day when we cease from our normal activities in order to worship God and to rest from our labor and work.

When God spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, God included this Sabbath day of worship and rest as part of the Ten Commandments. The people of Israel observed the Sabbath on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. In the New Testament we find that the early church transitioned into worshiping on Sunday, the first day of the week. Sunday was known as the Lord’s Day because this was the day Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus appeared to his disciples on a Sunday, and the day of Pentecost was also on a Sunday. But the most important thing about the Sabbath is not the precise day of the week but the principle behind it. God calls you to a weekly rhythm of worship and rest. And that is good news. God calls you to take a break.

You are not designed to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You will only experience overload and stress. Engineers talk about a machine’s duty cycle. If a machine has a duty cycle of 15% that means it can only run 15% of the time or it will wear out, overheat, or break down. God gave you a duty cycle too. It is six days on and one day off. And if you get a full weekend break, five days on and two days off, hey, you are doing even better!

But the point is this. You can only handle so much. If you do not observe the Sabbath principle of rest in your life, something is going to break down physically. And if you do not observe the Sabbath principle of worship in your life, something is going to break down spiritually. You need to take time off from your regular weekly routine to rest from your labors and to worship God. God calls you to a weekly rhythm of worship and rest.

CONCLUSION: So, let’s take a closer look at this first commitment from the Challenge and Power of One. “With God’s help I commit to worship one day weekly with my church family this year.” What does this commitment mean? If you make this commitment it means that you will make Sunday morning worship an absolute priority in your life. There will be times when you are sick or away traveling. Of course, you will not be able to be here then. But overall, your commitment will be to worship God with your church family on Sunday mornings.

“But what if I have to work on Sunday mornings?” That’s a great question, and one you need to sort out with the Lord. First of all, do you really have to work on Sunday mornings? Sometimes we have other options available to us, but we choose to work Sundays because it is more convenient for us. I would encourage you, do not work Sundays unless you absolutely have to. You may even want to consider taking another job rather than working Sundays. But let’s face it, some people have to work Sundays. Doctors, nurses, policemen, and even pastors all work on Sundays.

So, if you absolutely must work on Sunday, let me encourage you to do two things. First of all, find another time during the week when you can worship with your church family. Sunday morning is the ideal time because the whole church comes together then, but if Sunday mornings are out, then find another service during the week that you can attend. For example, we have a mid-week service here at the church every Wednesday night. Make that your regular Sabbath time of worship each week.

Secondly, find another day in the week for your Sabbath rest. Just because you have to work Sundays does not mean that you have to work every day. Make sure you take at least one day off from work to rest from your regular labor and routine. I work Sundays, so I take Fridays off as my Sabbath. On Fridays I make it a point not to do any church-related work. It is a day of rest from my weekly obligations as pastor.

So, the “challenge of one” here is to worship one day weekly with your church family. The “power of one” is this. Imagine if each one of us made and kept this commitment. Think how it would strengthen us as a church.

We currently have about 230 families who attend Plantation Community Church. Those 230 families represent over 400 people. Our average Sunday morning attendance at PCC is about 250. Do you realize if everyone who attends PCC made this commitment, we would immediately experience over 60% growth as a church? It’s like someone once said. The quickest way to grow a church is just for everyone to show up!

Think how that would affect our worship! How that would affect the praise and honor we give to God each week! How that would affect our ability to give to missions. How that would affect our ability to grow and develop as a church and to achieve God’s purposes for us together.

It would be tremendous for our church! That’s why we call it the challenge and power of one. The challenge of one is to worship one day weekly with your church family. The power of one is for each one of us to participate. That’s where the real power of this commitment comes in to play, as each one does it.

It’s like picking up trash. If one person picks up a piece of trash, you’ve picked up one piece of trash. If everyone in America picked up a piece of trash, you’ve picked up 300 million pieces of trash. If everyone in the world picked up a piece of trash, you’ve picked up 7.5 billion pieces of trash. For each person it’s the same amount of work. But when each part does its work, that where the power comes in.

I’ve put this commitment first because it is really the most basic commitment of the five. If you are not worshiping weekly with your church family, it is unlikely that you will be able to take on the remaining commitments. So, it starts with weekly worship. Not being here just to be here, not just showing up for attendance or roll call, but coming each week to worship God with your church family as part of the weekly rhythm of life. That is what this first commitment is all about. And if we all made it together, it would revolutionize our church.

Are you ready to make commitment number one?

© Ray Fowler

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