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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Worship and Authority - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Worship and Authority - Part 1

TOPICS: Worship, Authority

I want to continue the general theme that we began a couple of sessions ago talking about worship, praise, and thanksgiving. In this session, I want to talk a bit about worship and authority. And the genesis for this study for me really was the realization that we've drifted a long way from a biblical presentation of worship. We tend to think about worship in terms of a song service, or a gathering of the church. And I'm not casting stones or pointing fingers, I plan these things that we do several times every week, and we call them worship services. But the reality is oftentimes they have very little to do with worship. And I think oftentimes when we label things as evenings of worship or worship times, what we're really doing is singing our favorite Christian songs.

Worship is not about music. It can be, but it doesn't need to be. Worship doesn't mean we sit in a particular building. Worship fundamentally begins with an attitude of the heart. And all those other things will extend from that. It's a very important distinction to get established because I do not believe that we'll be able to live in the authority and the freedom that God intends us to have unless we understand the value of worship. Worship gives us access, brings us into the presence of God. Worship invites a response from the Spirit of God.

I hear Christians say all sorts of things around worship that I don't think are overly helpful like, "We won't participate if we don't like the musical style," you've heard many things, some of you probably shared in some of those opinions. And I appreciate preference and taste and all of those things are legitimate and have value, we're different and we're unique. I don't wanna confuse those things with truly worshiping the Lord. But the reason is not because we want more enthusiasm or more emotion in a gathering of God's people, or that we want you to demonstrate more emotion when we sing songs. The reason I would submit to you is we desperately need to see the authority of our God on display in and through our lives. And I believe to do that, we will have to become a people that recognize the value of and commit ourselves to worship.

So, that's the background for this little series. We are witnessing, as I mentioned earlier, the unraveling of our culture. Whether you like it or not, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, it's happening all around us. But I would submit to you that it's not really caused by evil. It's not hard to find expressions of evil. And yes, evil does always lead to destruction, that's biblical. It doesn't have to have a plan. It doesn't have to have an agenda or an objective. Evil is satisfied to be expressed towards the end result of destruction. However, the group task withstanding against evil in our world is the church of Jesus Christ. And the capitulation of the church to a secular progressive ideal has resulted in a tidal wave of destructive behaviors. I don't imagine that we should point our fingers at the evil, I think we have to go find a mirror. The root cause of our ills is spiritual.

So my most consistent prayer, or one of my most consistent prayers, is that God's people will awaken in time to take their place as watchmen on the walls. And that we will have the corresponding courage that is needed to tell the truth in each of those arenas where we have both experience and expertise. I appreciate your prayers that pastors will speak the truth, but if you'll allow me, I think it's equally important that you speak the truth in the arenas where you have experience and expertise. When you see ungodliness flourishing in arena where you have those things, use your voice. It is important. Don't capitulate. Yes, you will forfeit some things. Not everybody will applaud, there will be pushback. You'll be removed from some things, but you'll be included in some things by Almighty God. And I would submit to you that it is worthwhile.

Our God is able to restore, renew, and forgive. He is well capable; our Bible is filled with example after example of him doing that. I'm more an optimist than a pessimist, but it will require us to humble ourselves, to acknowledge our failures, and to repent. If God's people will do that, God will move. In Hosea 14, the covenant people of God are in trouble. They're facing the judgment of God. And God delivers them a message that I think is appropriate for us. It says, "Return, O Israel, to the Lord your God. Your sins have been your downfall"! Not the strength of your enemies, not the international threats, not the weather, your sin has been your downfall. That's a very humbling thing to have to grapple with. The next sentence intrigues me. "Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him, 'Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.'"

This is written to a culture who are in the habit of taking offerings when they have to approach God with worship. They take the appropriate animal or the grain, whatever the offering directed by the law of Moses was. That's not the instruction. God says to them, "Take words with you and return to the Lord". The imagery is that words have a tangible quality to them. "In the same way you would take a goat, or a lamb, or a bull, take words with you," he said. I would submit to you, we need some words. There's some words we need to take to the Lord. And God tells them, he said, "Say to him: 'Forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips.'" And then he points out to them that international alliances, political alliances, are not their salvation. "Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war horses. We will never again say 'Our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in you the fatherless find compassion".

Again, if you and I have a deep and abiding love for the church. I have given much of my life to the church. But because of that, I at least have some reasonable reason to speak to the church. And we have imagined that our freedom and liberties could come from every place other than God. The next election, a political figure; I believe in elections, you need to participate in the process. I understand they're flawed, I understand our leaders are flawed, but some alliance with something other than God is not going to transform our culture. Only God will do that. And I think it's worth noting that in this passage, worship begins as an attitude, but it extends to utilizing our words to align ourselves with God's purposes. Worship is seen, I would submit to you, much more in humility and repentance than it is in songs and choruses. And I'm not opposed to those.

Look at Hebrews 13. "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name". This is New Testament if you didn't notice. And we're invited to continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. Hebrews is written to a Jewish audience distributed throughout the Roman world, so I think there's a play on words a bit. They're used to offering a sacrifice of animals again, and now the language is to offer to God a sacrifice of praise. Do it continually, not intermittently. Let that attitude begin to grow within you, the fruit of lips that confess his name. We want God's Word, what God has said, what God has instructed, who God says we are, what God has said he will do to be the words that continually come out of us. It's intentional, it's purposeful, it will take effort, it will take desire, it'll take some preparation.

Now I wanna look at a couple of case studies; I don't know how much of the scripture we'll get to do. Some of you looked ahead, I put almost the entire chapter of 2 Chronicles 20 in your notes. I know I did that. I broke it into segments, it's less intimidating. But it illustrates a chapter of Israelite history where an attitude of worship brought deliverance to a nation. They were facing certain destruction. And because of an attitude of worship, God brought deliverance, but it wasn't in a singular way, it's woven throughout the fabric of the chapter, at every level of the culture, at every level of the nation. Again, we have to change our imagination. If we are going to get different outcomes than we have watched in recent decades, we're going to have to respond differently.

What's the popular definition of insanity? Doing the same thing in the same way you've always done it and expecting a different outcome. Folks, we have to be different. Our outcomes aren't good. We are presiding over the most precipitous decline of Christian influence in the history of the church. In spite of our wealth, and our technology, and our freedoms, and our liberties, in spite of our Christian heritage, in spite of our Christian foundation, in spite of all of those things. It's time for us to adopt a different response. And I think 2 Chronicles 20 will help us. "Some men came and told," the king, "Jehoshaphat," we may just call him Joe before we're done but, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea". It's the Dead Sea. "It's already in En Gedi".

Some of you have been to Israel, you know where En Gedi is. It's a spring in the desert. It's where David hid from King Saul; you can visit it still today. "And alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah". The whole nation. "The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him". So this is the beginning sequence. "There's a vast army coming, we do not have the capability of defeating them. We lack the manpower, we lack the firepower, we don't have the technology, we're outnumbered, there's no hope". And the king calls the nation to seek the Lord. He resolved of himself to inquire of the Lord. He proclaimed a fast for the whole nation, and then the people came together. You can proclaim a fast and the people be disinterested.

Now I don't imagine every person came, but before we're done with this chapter, you'll see they've come from the towns and the villages across the land. The people came together to seek help from the Lord. We've almost lost the notion in the church that the Lord helps. We would rather have a seminar on whether or not it's appropriate to pray for the sick, than pray for the sick. We would rather have a seminar on whether God still does miracles rather than to invite the miracles of God into our lives. We've got to make some fundamental adjustments. They began to seek the Lord. Look at verse 13. "All the men of Judah, with their wives and their children and their little ones, stood before the Lord". That's a pretty stirring scene. The people came from across the nation because they recognized they were in trouble.

Folks, they had tickets to concerts and ball games. Their kids had programs in school. They had crops in the ground. They had things to do. They had purchased vacations. They were going on Mediterranean cruises; it was really close. They had lives just like you and I have lives. But there's a perceived threat. The King invites them to seek the Lord, and the people gather to seek him. Men, women, children, and their little ones. It's a very intentional inclusive presentation. Teach your children to seek the Lord. Please don't teach them to sing Rocky Top and not teach them to seek the Lord. I'm not opposed to Rocky Top. But when the real pressures of life come, that funny little jingle isn't going to be the difference maker. "And the Spirit of the Lord came upon someone, who was the son of someone, who was the son of someone else".

In fact, they were sons of lots of people. And he said, "Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.'" Now, we have done this enough times together, when there's an instruction to not be afraid or discouraged, what do you suppose one of the primary challenges is? The people are frightened and discouraged. This is overwhelming. To be discouraged, it's a compound word, the prefix "dis" means without. To be discouraged doesn't mean to be blue. To be discouraged isn't to be bummed out. To be discouraged is to be without courage. Don't be afraid and don't lack courage.

Well, why not? We have a tremendous adversary coming. We can see them. We see the significance of the problem. We're struggling with this in contemporary Christendom. We see the magnitude of the problem. We see the lack of truth in the public square. We see the manipulation of things that we have trusted in and they're being demonstrated as being untrustworthy. And it's very easy for us to say, "Well, let's just not talk about it," or, "Let's not think about it. It's overwhelming. It's more than we can do anything about. I'm insignificant". You're right, we are, it is. So we have embraced being frightened and discouraged. Listen to the instructions. "Don't be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle isn't yours, but God's. Tomorrow march down against them".

Blub, blub, blub, blub, what? "You're outnumbered. I don't want you to be afraid or lack courage. Tomorrow march against them". "Time out, I'm afraid and discouraged because we can't defeat them". And God says, "Tomorrow move. They'll be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You'll not have to fight this battle. Take up your position, stand firm, and see the deliverance the Lord will give you". Well that may be the case, but you've got to mobilize the army and march as if you're going into battle. Again, "Do not be afraid or do not be discouraged". Hebrew is an old language, it's a simple language by comparison of the Greek of the New Testament.

To add emphasis in the Old Testament you repeat things. "Do not be afraid and do not be discouraged" is given repetitively in this single message. "Go out to face them tomorrow, the Lord will be with you". It's a repetition of the message. So just again, the men, their wives, their children, and their little ones stood before the Lord. It's an expression of respect. They didn't lounge before the Lord. They traveled to present themselves in community before the Lord. The Spirit of the Lord came upon someone, brought a message, "Don't be afraid and discouraged". All of this has been initiated by worship, by an attitude of worship, seeking God. Not primarily a song service or a formal religious gathering, the recognition of an enemy and a call to present ourselves in the presence of the Lord. You can do that in your schools if there's two or three of you who are believers.

Gather yourselves and said, "Lord, we welcome you into this place". You can do it in your workplace. You can do it in your neighborhood. You can do it in the bleachers while you're watching the kids play ball. Don't be nearly as torqued-up about the referees or the officials. "God, let your presence be made known in the lives of these children". We are on an assignment and we're in the midst of something that is not going to end well without the sovereign intervention of God. Now what are we gonna do about it? We've got some biblical patterns, look in verse 18. "Jehoshaphat bowed his face to the ground," they've just heard this message. "The King put his face in the dirt, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord".

Remember we talked about worship in earlier sessions and we said your physical posture is a part of worship. You bow your head, you bend your knee, you kneel. You lay prostate before the Lord. The king laid in the dirt, not a particularly dignified position. And the people followed him. Some of the Levites, and it names a couple of the sects within the Levitical community who had unique responsibilities. And it said, "They stood and praised the Lord with a very loud voice". I mean, the community is engaged in this. We have a challenge, we've got to do something. We will seek the Lord. Their dignity's been set aside. Verse 20, "Early in the morning they left for the desert".

They did what God told them to do, "We'll go in the morning. We can't win. We're outnumbered, we're outgunned, but we'll go". "And as they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Listen to me, Judah and the people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God, you'll be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you'll be successful.' He consulted the people. He appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army," okay, we're gonna go face an army that's bigger than we are, more sophisticated. We're gonna put the chorus in front of the Marines. How do you think the folks in the chorus felt? Excited? I suspect no more than we would have been. This is what they're to say, "Give thanks to the Lord, for his love endures forever".

So when I say that worship isn't just about singing, I don't want to separate that. It's certainly a component of what's happening. But we have turned this upside down and the only time we think of worship is if there's music involved. Verse 22, "They began to sing, and the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir," it's really almost beyond comprehension what happens. I won't belabor it, but it says: "The men of Ammon and Moab," these invading armies, it's a multinational force. "And the men from these various nations rose up against the men from another part of their force to destroy and annihilate". They fought one another. "And after they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When the men of Judah came to the place that overlooks the desert and they looked toward the army, they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped".

They didn't do anything. They didn't have to go face Goliath. God said, "You march to battle tomorrow". By the time they got there, God had intervened. You see, God knows how to bring victory, whether by many or by few. Whether he invites us into the arena or he does it before we get there. The most essential component is the attitude of our heart towards the Lord. We will do whatever you ask. What was it that we read God said to the prophet Hosea? "Take words with you and return to the Lord". Humble yourself and repent. Verse 27, "Led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies. They entered Jerusalem and went to the temple of the Lord with harps and lutes and trumpets".

So there is a musical component to it, but to describe it only as a musical event would be to miss the essence of the story. The music is engaged as an expression of joy at the victory that has come. I don't think the march towards the desert and an enemy that is overwhelmingly greater than you was an overly joyful march; it was an expression of obedience. But we struggle to find joy in what we see God doing. We're more aware of our adversaries and our enemies. There's a change. If we will humble ourselves before the Lord, he will bring a new perspective to us. I see some beginnings of it, some stirrings of it; it's encouraging to me. It says, "The fear of God came upon the kingdoms of the countries when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. And the kingdom of Jehoshaphat was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side".

Again, they returned joyfully, rejoicing over their enemies; it's worship language. It isn't military language. It wasn't a military strategy. It was worship language. They went to the temple of the Lord with musical instruments and expressed their joy to the Lord. Again, we've got to reconstruct a little bit in our hearts when we think about worship.

We've been exploring together this idea of worship. It really begins as an attitude, and before we go today, I wanna give you a little assignment. I wanna suggest that you begin to take some time during your day to offer simple statements of affirmation to the Lord. Not complicated stuff like:

Lord, I thank you for the day, for the strength to go through the day. For your many blessings in our lives. I thank you for your strength, for your mercy, for your grace.

You pick the ones that resonate with you as authentic, and that you be determined to give expression to that throughout the day. It's a way to push back on the heaviness, the discouragement, the fear, the anxiety, all the things that threaten our peace of mind. Let's ask the Lord to help.

Father, I pray you'll give us a revelation of yourself. Holy Spirit, awaken us to the reality of a living God. In Jesus name, amen.

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