Robert Jeffress - Up With Worship
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress. And welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Tragically fewer and fewer Christians today see the church as an essential component for their spiritual lives. Church attendance has become an option rather than a necessity. Well, over the next few days I'm going to show you four ways that the church helps us experience the power of the Holy Spirit. And today we'll start with priority number one, worship. My message is titled "Up With Worship" on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
Dorothy Sayers has written that in God's effort to rescue humanity he has willingly undergone three great humiliations. The first humiliation was the incarnation when God willingly gave up his rights as God and came in human form to earth. God's second great humiliation was the crucifixion in which God willingly allowed his son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to be tortured and executed by his own creatures. But Sayers says the greatest humiliation God willingly has undergone is the church. The church in which God has entrusted his reputation to simple human beings like you and I.
Yes, the church is the body of Christ. The church is God's representative here on earth, but the church is also a channel, a conduit through which the Holy Spirit pours his power into your life. You will never experience the power of God without first of all being connected to the people of God, the church. And that's the truth we're going to see in today's passage. If you have your Bibles turn to Acts chapter two, Acts chapter two. In our series on Sunday morning's unleashed we're discovering how to experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our everyday lives. And we've seen that there are really four channels, four conduit through which the Holy Spirit's power is generated into our life. First of all, through Word of God, that is the Bible. Secondly, through conversation with God, that is through prayer.
And today, and next time we're going to look at that third channel through which the spirit's power flows into your life. And that is the people of God, that is the church. Without a vital connection to a local church you're kind of like a severed limb from a body. If you were to take my hand and separate it from the rest of my body, this hand would quickly atrophy. It would wither and then it would die. And it is the same way with members of the body of Christ. You cannot exist as a Christian apart from the connection to a local body of believers. I'm going to say it again so nobody misunderstands. You will never experience power of God in your life unless you are vitally connected to the people of God, that is the church.
Now I know that runs contrary to people's thinking today. In our day, in our culture of rugged American individualism we get this idea that we don't need other people. We've got everything we need, it's the Holy Spirit in me and that's all I need to have a relationship with God. In fact, George Gallup's surveyed Christians and he found that 70% of Christians today believe that it is possible to have a vital growing relationship with God apart from any involvement in a local church. But that is not what the Word of God says. The Word of God says that we need the body of Christ.
You see a lot of people look at the church just like they do any other human institution. In fact, one person said, "Now I see the church as not much different than the government. Both are overpowering. They just build buildings and take our money. The buildings and the foreign mission programs are nice, but the church has become a power broker". And yet, in spite of its flaws and potential pitfalls the Bible says God created the local church to carry out his purpose in the world. But he also created the church through which to pour his power into your life.
How does God pour his power into our life through the church? We'll look at Acts chapter two. The setting in Acts 2 is just a days after Christ ascension back into heaven. And remember, as soon as that occurred a few days later God sent his Holy Spirit to baptize every believer into the body of Christ. For with one spirit we have all been baptized into one body. And the result of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is Christians were not only joined together with the head of the body, Jesus Christ, but we are also joined together with other believers in the body. And it is through those other believers as well as the head that God pours his life, his energy into our life.
I want you to notice that energy that was in this first century church. Look at acts 2 beginning with verse 42, talking about these Christians, Luke says "And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. And everyone kept feeling the sense of awe and many and wonders and signs were taking place throughout the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common". Now look at verse 46. "Day by day, continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart praising God and having favor with all the people". The result, look at verse 47, "And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved".
Now as I look at what the early church did I find four activities, four priorities that the early church had through which God poured his energy into the lives of other believers. And today and next time I want to share with you four ingredients of a successful church. Four priorities that every church should have if the individual members want to experience the power of the Holy Spirit of God. What did that early church do? First of all, notice they were focused on worship. Verse 47 says they were praising God and having favor with all men.
Now, what is worship? When we talk about worshiping God what are we talking about? Today it's been popular in many churches to use worship as a synonym for music. Some churches call their minister of music the minister of worship. And it's very easy in our thinking to limit worship to music. You know, we talk about the worship portion of the service and we talk about the wonderful choir and orchestra. Then we have a great time of worship. We have the great time of worship. And then we separate that from the preaching, which may or may not been so wonderful, you know. And we separate that in our mind, but the Bible never makes that separation. Music is an essential component of worship, but it's not the only component of worship. What is genuine worship? What does it mean to truly worship God?
Let me share with you three characteristics of genuine worship. There's a lot of things in churches today that are passed off as worship that are not worship. What does it mean to really worship God? First of all, genuine worship centers on God not on us. Genuine worship centers on God not on us. Now there are a lot of benefits that accrue to us when we worship God. An exhilaration of spirit. A regaining of our joy. A fresh perspective on our problems. Those are all benefits of worship, but they are not the purpose of worship.
Remember, the purpose of genuine worship is to express to God how much we appreciate him. How indebted we are to him. It's expressing to him our commitment to following him. And that means every song, every message, every prayer that is uttered should magnify God not the person delivering them. Genuine worship does not center on man. It always centers on God. The Psalm has said it this way in Psalm 29:21 "Ascribe to the Lord, the glory due his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness". To worship God is to ascribe to him the glory that is truly due him. Secondly, genuine worship is corporate. Not only individual. True worship is corporate, not only individual.
Sometimes people will say to me, "Well, pastor I don't need the church to worship God. I can worship God in my car. I can worship him on the golf course. I can worship him while fishing in my boat. I don't have to go to church to worship God". To which I say, I agree 100%. You can worship God anywhere. Fact is, if you're a Christian you are indwelt with the Holy Spirit of God. That means you're your own private tabernacle so to speak. You can just move from place to place and place and wherever you are you can talk to the Lord. You can worship God, but just because we worship God individually doesn't mean there isn't a time once a week when we need to come and worship him corporately. And by the way, not only does that benefit God it benefits us as well when we come together.
Pastor Leath Anderson expresses our need for corporate worship this way. He said, "It is easy in this life to lose hope, to become pessimistic, to convince ourselves of defeat. But as Christians we must open our eyes to see the view from where Jesus sits. When I'm discouraged and my hope runs thin I remember that I'm a part of something much bigger than I am". Coming together every Sunday as a church is a way of reminding ourselves that we're a part of something much bigger than we are. There's encouragement. There is power in that. Genuine worship is corporate as well as individual.
A third characteristic of genuine worship. Write it down, genuine worship is active not passive. It's active, not passive. A few years ago William Hendricks wrote a book entitled "Exit Interviews". He tried to figure out why people were leaving the church in droves. And so he interviewed people who had left good sound evangelical churches to find out why did you quit going to church? You know what the number one reason people gave was? Boredom. But Hendricks was quick to point out when he probe further what he found was they weren't looking for more entertainment. They were looking for participation. They wanted to be involved in what was going on in the church.
That's the way the first century church is, the one that we're reading about now. They were not passive. They were active in worship. In fact, if you want to know what a first century worship service was like, we get a clue in 1 Corinthians 12:26. And the first century church, this may surprise some of you, people did not sit in pews staring at the backs of one another's heads, okay? That's not how first century worship happened. They just didn't sit there and watch the paid professionals do their thing. Instead, we find a glimpse of what the early church was like in 1 Corinthians 12:26. Paul says "What is the outcome? When you assemble each one has a Psalm. Each one has a teaching or a revelation or a tongue or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification".
In the early church everyone participated. Now, remember this was in the days before there was a New Testament, okay? There was no New Testament to preach or teach from. So the apostles would teach, yes. But also the members would participate. Don't let the words revelation and tongue throw you off. The real point here is that worship was not just passive. It was active. Now the question is, how do we pull that off today? How do we make our worship active rather than passive? We need to be careful here to avoid the extremes.
There are some churches that have decided to completely overhaul their worship services. They've said we don't want to do just presentational worship where it's the pastor and the choir director and the choir doing everything and everybody else just sits out there. Instead of having presentational worship we want to have participatory worship because after all what if a layman has a message he wants to stand up and give? Isn't his message just as valid as the pastor's message? Why not let everybody participate? So they've gone away from presentational worship to participatory worship.
Well, what should we be? Presentational or participatory? Well the answer is both. We're both. There is a time once a week when we need to come and hear the Word of God presented. Ephesians 4 says God has given every church a pastor teacher for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ. Those of you listening today by radio and television if you're in a local church God has given your church a pastor. And that pastor his job is to equip you to do the work of ministry. But just because we have a presentation it doesn't mean we shouldn't participate as well. There ought to be a time when people get to participate in worship. How do we do that?
Let me share with you two ways that you can actively participate in worship. First of all, become a part of a Sunday school class or a small group. Become a part of a Sunday school class or a small group. There needs to be a time when you as a church member can share what God is doing in your life. There needs to be a time when you can share prayer requests. There needs to be a time when other people can pray for you. But there's nothing that says that it has to be at 11 o'clock on Sunday mornings, okay?
You see, in the early church they didn't split up these different functions. Instead they would all meet together, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:26. They would have a time where the apostles would teach for an extended period of time. Then they had a time of sharing where people would share prayer request and what God was doing in their life. And then they would finish with the Lord's supper every week. And their services might go two, three, four hours today. There was one service a week for the early church. And there are some churches that have done that today. I've been in services like that where the service would go two and three and four hours. And all of those things took place, both presentation and participation.
Now in our particular church in culture a two, three, four hour service probably wouldn't go over very big. And so what we've done is we've split it up. We've said, okay, we're going to assemble together on Sunday mornings in the sanctuary for the presentation that comes from the pastor, for a time of music for a time, for a time us to focus on our admiration and appreciation for God. And then the participation is going to take place in our small groups, our Sunday school class.
Now, if you're not a part of a Sunday school you're missing out on a vital function of the church. And you're missing out on a way that the Holy Spirit wants to energize you and encourage you. Now, that's just one way. The Bible says one way that we can participate in worship is to become a part of a small group, but there's a second way to be a part actively in worship. And that is to actively participate in corporate worship even in a service like this it is possible for you to be actively rather than passively involved. You know how to actively participate in the worship service of the church? First of all, prepare yourself physically and spiritually for worship.
You know too many Christians they spend Saturday trying to cram all the relaxation they can into Saturday. And they drag themselves into bed Saturday night at some ungodly hour in the midnight one o'clock in the morning. And then the alarm goes off on Sunday morning. They think, oh no, I've got to go to church. And so they drag themselves out of bed. They come down here, they sit in the pews and I'm looking at you right now. Some of you look like you're in the third stage of anesthesia, you know, I mean. You know, trying to keep those eyelids open. And then after the service you drag out of here and you say, well, I didn't get much out of the message today. Well, duh, why not? Of course you didn't get anything out of the message. Now you have to be ready. You have to prepare yourself physically for worship.
You know, for the Jews their worship day was not Saturday morning. It didn't begin on Saturday morning. It began on the Friday evening before. Leviticus 23:32, they began the sabbath the evening before. And I just want to encourage you, come in at a decent hour on Saturday night. Be sure you get plenty of rest. Be sure your kids get plenty of rest so that they're awake and alert and ready to hear God speak to them. Prepare yourself physically, also prepare yourself spiritually.
You know, if the last thing you well on before you go to sleep on Saturday night is a skit from Saturday night live on television you're not going to be thinking holy thoughts, okay? Instead of letting the last thing in your mind on Saturday night be some movie or some television show, or some novel or something else you're doing just take a few minutes before you go to bed read a chapter from God's word. Maybe it's a chapter that is a center of what I'm going to be preaching on. We put those on the website early in the week. Maybe it's a study you're going through. Read a chapter of the Bible. And then ask God as you drift off to sleep to speak to you the next morning, to really tell you what he wants you to change in your life. We need to prepare ourselves spiritually and physically for worship. Secondly, make sure that your mind is in drive rather than neutral throughout the service.
You know, there was a book that came out years ago it was entitled "Worship is a Verb". That's so true. Worship is an action. It's something we do. And that means our minds have to stay in drive rather than in neutral. Let me illustrate what I mean. When Duran or Ron are up here praying we need to make sure we're praying the very same thing that they're praying. There's something powerful when God's people join together praying for the same thing that is being verbalized. When the music is going on and you see those words on the screen. You know, the reason we put those words up there is not so you can catch any typos that might be up there, okay? We put them up there so that you can sing.
And unfortunately, I look around, sometimes people just standing there staring at the screen. This is a time for you to worship. And it's a time for you to voice your appreciation and praise to God. Use those words of those songs as your prayer to God. And when the pastor is preaching, the reason we provide those outlines for you is not so you can make your grocery list for the next day, okay? The reason we give you those outlines is so that you can stay involved in what the pastor is preaching, asking God to give you insight from his word. Make sure that your mind is in drive rather than a neutral in the worship service.
It was Kierkegaard who said, "In genuine worship God is the audience. The congregation is the actor. And the pastor is simply the prompter off to the side reminding the people, the congregation of their lines". Do you remember what Jesus said in John 4:23? He was talking to the woman at the well, he said there is one thing God is actively looking for. God is actively seeking those who will what? Worship him.
God is looking right now for men and women, boys and girls who are so appreciative of him, who are so grateful for all he has done in their lives that their number one heart response is to want to express that appreciate, that admiration to God. Worship ought to be the priority of every one of us. And while it's something we can certainly and should do individually. It's an activity that is best performed in a community of believers. Now, next time, we're going to look at the three other priorities of the early church that unleashed the power of God in the lives of its members.