Celebration – Worshiping God

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Celebration – Worshiping God
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1 Peter 2:5; John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1

INTRODUCTION: Why do we have church? What is the church’s purpose? What is the church’s mission? Until you can answer those questions, it is difficult to know what you are supposed to be doing. I once read about a church that started serving weekly chicken dinners in order to reach out to the community. The dinners became so popular they started serving them more frequently. Eventually, they were doing so well with the dinners, they just shut down the church and became a restaurant instead! Now that is an example of a church that had lost sight of its mission!

I don’t think we are in any danger of shutting our doors and becoming a restaurant. But unless we have a clear understanding of our church’s purpose and mission, we can easily become distracted or discouraged. And this can happen with individuals as well as with the church. When you forget why you are part of the church, it is easy for you to lose interest in church. And that is when you need to go back to basics. Why do we have church in the first place?

One of the things we have tried to do here at Agawam Church of the Bible is to make our mission and purpose clear. We have done that by putting together a purpose statement that describes our mission as a church. Let’s take a look at that statement right now:

The mission of Agawam Church of the Bible is to glorify God by worshiping Him (Celebration), loving our neighbor (Community), sharing the gospel (Communication), and growing in Christ-likeness (Cultivation).

You will notice that our first and primary purpose is simply to glorify God. We could spend a whole message on that alone, but suffice it to say that glorifying God is the ultimate purpose of all our lives and should be the ultimate purpose of every organization on earth. So we start there, and then we look at the four ways God has called us to glorify him as a church.

We call these the four purposes of our church, and we try to keep these in front of you as much as possible. They are on the front cover of your bulletin. They are listed on the church web page. We even print them in the local newspaper every week. These are the four reasons why we exist as a church: 1) to worship God, 2) to love our neighbor, 3) to share the gospel, and 4) to grow in Christ-likeness.

You will notice that we have organized these four purposes into four words that each begin with the letter “C”: Celebration, Community, Communication, and Cultivation. Celebration stands for worshiping God. Community stands for loving our neighbor. Communication stands for sharing the gospel. And Cultivation stands for growing in Christ-likeness. The following graphic ties these things together nicely:

The Four Purposes of the Church

Each of the top words in the graphic is a noun that describes that purpose. Each of the words on the bottom is a verb that describes the main action for that particular purpose. So, our four purposes are celebration, community, communication, cultivation. And the actions that grow out of these are that we worship, love, share and grow.

Notice also that each of these purposes represents a different dimension in our spiritual lives. For example, Celebration, or worship, is the vertical dimension where we focus on God. Community is the horizontal dimension where we focus on other people. Communication is the outward dimension, where we reach out to others with the gospel. And Cultivation is the inward dimension where we seek to grow to be more like Christ.

Now these four purposes are not just four things that somebody made up along the way. They represent God’s purposes for his church as revealed in Scripture. Different churches may phrase them or organize them in different ways, and yet God’s purposes for his church remain the same. The four purposes actually come from what we call the Great Commandment and the Great Commission in Scripture.

The first two purposes come from the Great Commandment. Someone once asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment of all, and he replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39) Elsewhere Jesus spoke of these two commandments really as one big commandment – to love God and to love people. So, the first two purposes come from the Great Commandment.

The second two purposes come from the Great Commission. The Great Commission was the final command Jesus gave to this disciples in the gospel of Matthew where he said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20) The Great Commission includes both communication, sharing the gospel with others, and cultivation, helping them to grow in Christ-likeness.

So the first two purposes come from the Great Commandment:
    1) Worship God (Celebration)
    2) Love your neighbor (Community)

And the second two purposes come from the Great Commission.
    3) Share the gospel (Communication)
    4) Grow in Christ (Cultivation)

This morning we will look at the first purpose, which is celebration or worship.

The Four Purposes of the Church | Purpose 1: Celebration (Worship)

Our first purpose as a church is celebration, or worshiping God. We spend a good deal of time each Sunday morning simply celebrating and worshiping God through music and prayer. This is not just a warm-up to the sermon or message. It’s not an optional part of the service. This is part of our essential purpose as a church. This is one of the main reasons we are here, and that is simply to worship God.

Our English word “worship” comes from the word “worth-ship,” meaning how much something is worth. So when you worship God, you are saying that God is worth it. He is worthy of all your adoration, love, excitement and praise. Think about it. How often do you expend your energy and resources on things that are not really worth it? I can think of plenty of activities, projects, ventures, and purchases in my life that in the long run were just not worth it. I can look back on any number of things and honestly say, “I wasted my time on that.” Or, “I wasted my money on that.” You will never have that problem when it comes to worshiping God. God is always worth it, and he is worthy of our first and our best.

    A. Proclaiming God’s excellencies. (1 Peter 2:5)

So what does it mean to worship? First of all, it means proclaiming God’s excellencies. 1 Peter 2:5 says, “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God is building each one of us into a spiritual house together to proclaim his excellencies.

The book of Psalms is full of praises to God. Listen to David’s words in Psalm 9. “I will praise you, O LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High … The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” (Psalm 9:1-2,7-10) Again and again the Psalms proclaim the goodness and the greatness of God: his power, his majesty, his holiness, his sovereignty, his justice, his compassion, his mercy, love, forgiveness and grace.

Praise in the Psalms is very specific. The Psalms rarely just say, “I praise you, O Lord,” but usually give the reasons why to praise God. And those reasons always have to do with God’s character and his actions. His character is holy and perfect. His actions are righteous and just, full of grace and mercy. When you proclaim God’s excellencies, you are declaring God’s infinite value and worth. You expand your thoughts of God and come closer to appreciating him for who he is. You can never think too big thoughts of God. God is greater, God is more wonderful, God is more majestic than any thoughts you could ever imagine. You can only have too small thoughts of God – never too big. Worshiping God means first of all, proclaiming God’s excellencies.

    B. Worshiping in spirit and in truth (John 4:23,24)

Secondly, worshiping God means worshiping in spirit and in truth. Jesus told the woman by the well in John 4: “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 4:23-24)

What does it mean to worship God in spirit and in truth? Jesus relates the word “spirit” here to the fact that God himself is spirit. God does not have a physical body. He is not part of the created universe for he is the Creator. Jesus is teaching us here that true worship is not just the physical forms of worship. It is not so much where you worship, when you worship, how you worship, but that true worship is spiritual in nature. It is not a matter of just going through the motions – showing up at church; stand when the people stand; sit when the people sit; pray when the people pray; sing when the people sing. No, true worship comes from the heart and is empowered by God’s Holy Spirit. When we worship God in spirit, we focus our hearts and attention on him, giving him our love and adoration and praise.

“True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.” What does it mean to worship God in truth? Well, part of it relates back to what we have just said about worshiping in spirit. Our worship must be heartfelt and sincere. It must be true worship of God from the heart and not just the outward motions.

But worshiping God in truth also has to do with thinking and speaking true things about God. This is why the Bible is essential to proper worship of God. We can have some understanding of God simply from nature and creation. We look at God’s handiwork, and we learn some of the awesome power and beauty of God. But in the Bible we have a fuller and more complete revelation of God’s character and his works in history. The Bible is full of truth about God from God. Who knows God better than God himself?

And so the songs we sing in worship should be full of truth about God from the Bible. When we read the Scriptures in our service, we give our attention to the words as they are read because they are the Word of God. When God’s Word is preached, we listen in expectation, because we know that God’s Word has the power to change our lives and the lives of those around us. When we join together in prayer, we speak to God in the quietness of our hearts and praise him for who he is and all that he has done.

So, worshiping God in spirit and in truth means:

Worshiping God truly and sincerely from the heart in the power of the Holy Spirit while proclaiming the truth about God as found in Holy Scripture.

God is worthy of our praise because all these things that we proclaim about him are true. God is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, all kind. When we proclaim God’s excellencies we are simply speaking the truth about God and praising him for it. These are the kind of worshipers God the Father seeks: those who will worship him in spirit and in truth.

    C. Offering him our very lives (Romans 12:1)

There is a third aspect of worship that I would like us to look at this morning, and that is offering God our very lives. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 12:1: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship.”

Part of ascribing value and worth to God is offering him your very life. Think about it. Everyone lives for someone or something. And whatever you live for is that to which you ascribe ultimate value. The person who lives for pleasure values pleasure more than anything else. The person who lives for power values power. The person who lives for money values money. The person who lives for self values self, and the person who lives for God values God most of all. So when you live for God, when you offer your very life to him, you are ascribing ultimate value or worth to God, and that also is worship.

Sometimes when we think about offering our life, we think in terms of actually dying. We think about the soldier who offers up his or her life in war, or Jesus who offered up his life as a sacrifice for all. But Romans 12:1 speaks of offering our bodies to God “as living sacrifices.” God is not talking about dying for Christ here, but living for Christ. There are many people who have died for Christ throughout the ages. We call them martyrs for the faith, and we should have the utmost respect and admiration for their sacrifice. But every martyr, long before they died for Christ, learned first to live for Christ, and that is what Romans 12:1 is talking about.

God wants us to give him all of our lives, completely and without reservation. “Almighty God – all that I have, all that I am, I give it to you. Use me for your kingdom and glory. I offer my body and my life as a living sacrifice, pleasing and holy to you. I value you, O Lord above all other things. I worship you.”

Worshiping God means proclaiming his excellencies, worshiping in spirit and in truth, and offering him our very lives.

CONCLUSION: How are you doing with this first purpose this morning? Do you come to church to worship? Do you come to church ready to celebrate our awesome God? If not, then you are missing out on one of the four main reasons why the church exists. If you have lost some energy or interest in church, perhaps it is because you have lost sight of worship.

And worship is not just for Sunday mornings. Do you celebrate and worship God throughout the week as well? You see, the church is not a building or a time slot or a program. The church is the people. And so these four purposes only become real as you and I live them out in our day to day lives.

God is awesome! God is holy! God is great! God has given us life! God sent his only Son into the world that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. That is worth getting excited over. That is worth celebrating. That is worth loving and worshiping God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

© Ray Fowler

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