Sermon Notes for January 23, 2005
Sermon Series on Worship
“Is Your Worship a Religion
or a Relationship?”
3 men died and were standing at the pearly gates. What have you done to deserve Heaven? 1st – police officer, enforced the law, fought crime. Peter, “OK, go on in.” 2nd – very wealthy and gave lots of money to charitable causes. Peter, “OK, go on in.” 3rd – director of an HMO organization. He had helped save millions of dollars for health care and insurance companies. He had helped cut down on waste, fraud, and abuse in the system. Peter, “OK come on in, but you can only stay for 3 days.”
- Have We TRULY WORSHIPPED When We Come To Church?
- Just because we have gone to a church service, does it necessarily mean that we have truly worshipped God? After all, look at what we had to do . . .
- we got out of bed - early
- got our family dressed and in the car
- we parked, came in, sent everyone their respective ways
- sat down . . . finally, and sang and prayed and listened
- WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO DO?
- Don’t kid yourself.
- your presence in worship does not necessarily reveal anything
- while you “could” worship when you come to church, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you did worship
- How Can I Be SURE THAT We WORSHIP When We Come To Church?
- We MUST make sure that we don’t DEFINE worship as merely external involvement or attendance at a service.
- We will see in today’s text a perfect example of what corporate worship is NOT:
- for we shall see an Old Testament people who were very, very faithful in their attendance and involvement in worship
- in fact they were, by far, more involved than most Christians with their involvement
- but . . . we will also see what God truly thought of their faithful involvement
I. The TIME Of Their Worship.
- The Prophet ISAIAH.
1. Isaiah was considered a major prophet who was used of God to speak to the
people of Israel from 740-680 B.C.
2. Isaiah prophesied:
- to the Northern Kingdom until they were taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 720 B.C.
- he then began to prophecy of the impending captivity of the Southern Kingdom that would eventually occur in 587 B.C. by the Babylonians
3. God would use Isaiah to call Israel to truly worship Jehovah God.
B. The People ISRAEL.
1. God had called the people of Israel to worship Him in:
a. special days, months and years
b. particular feasts
c. the Tabernacle
2. However, God did not call Israel to worship MERELY to:
a. observe special days
b. have particular feasts
c. and kill animals at a Tabernacle
3. BUT . . . this is what eventually happened to the people of Israel in their worship:
a. they became “obedient to a fault,” in that they DID obey the call of God
to worship JUST AS GOD HAD PRESCRIBED
b. but there would eventually be no thought as to WHY the Jews were
worshipping in the manner that God called them to
1. they were faithful to observe the days
2. they were faithful to observe the feasts
3. they were faithful in sacrificing animals at the Tabernacle . . .
even if they didn’t know why
4. What grieved the Lord about the Israelites was the actual actions and attitude of
the nation while they were worshipping what we must know historically, during
the days of Israel;
a. the Jews were involved with idol worship as they attempted to worship
the world and Jehovah God
b. they were undergoing a civil war
c. there was sexual immorality
d. and general spiritual complacency
II. The TYPE Of Their Worship.
A. God’s VALUE In Worship.
1. DESPITE Israel’s sins, God still desired to maintain a relationship with His
2. And . . . these ceremonies, special days, and the Tabernacle enabled a sinful man
to be in a relationship with a holy God.
3. HOWEVER, sinful man would have to deal with, confess and repent of his sin
BEFORE HE COULD TRULY WORSHIP GOD.
- God’s VARIETY In Worship.
1. The Israelites never quite realized that God had a real spiritual purpose in all of
the days, ceremonies and the Tabernacle.
a. New Moon Feasts – held once each month to remind them that it was
God who gave them the earth and their crops
b. The Sabbath Day – one day in seven to allow man to worship God and
rest from their physical labors
c. Solemn Assemblies – allowing God’s people to come together on a
periodic basis for worship and fellowship
d. The Tabernacle – allowing man to come before God by symbolically
looking forward to the Messiah who would shed His blood for His
2. But to Israel, these special ways to worship became virtually meaningless.
III. The TRAGEDY In Their Worship.
- The CONFUSION In Israel.
1. The Israelites were faithful to keep the New Moon Feasts.
2. The Israelites were faithful to observe the Sabbath Day.
3. The Israelites were faithful to bring their animals to be sacrificed at the
a. purchase the unblemished animal
b. take it to the Temple
- give it to the priest
- watch the animal be killed, blood everywhere
- The CONSTERNATION Of God.
1. BUT . . . NOTICE WHAT ISAIAH SAID. Vs. 11-15 (read)
a. after all . . . WHY were they worshipping?
b. and . . . WHO were they worshipping?
2. God had nothing but disgust with their faithful adherence in worship . . .
a. THEIR FAITHFUL WORSHIP WAS PERFUNCTORY! A
COLOSSAL AFFRONT TO GOD!
b. WHERE WAS THEIR HEART IN ALL OF THIS?
1. WHILE they were worshipping idols, they would ALSO
worship Jehovah God
2. WHILE they were committing adultery, they would attend
their solemn assemblies
3. WHILE they were fighting and killing one another in a civil
war, they would hold up their bloody hands to praise God
4. There is a church in New York City, a magnificent church
building, Riverside Church. Soaring towers, glorious stained
glass, a spectacular organ, all the spiritual ambiance you could
ever want. But some of the folks who go there now are a bit
embarrassed by it all, because most of the money to build it
came from a family of oil barons who made their money
driving smaller competitors out of existence! Oh, now, these
oil barons, especially the founding father, John D. Rockefeller,
were very particular about their personal morality. No drop of
alcohol crossed his lips. No labor on the Sabbath day, and
certainly no messing around with other men’s wives.
Personally impeccable. But absolutely without a social
conscience, absolutely devoid of justice, absolutely without
love for the poor, the needy, the disadvantaged, and the
- DID THE ISRAELITES:
1. THINK THAT GOD WAS BLIND?
2. DID THEY THINK THAT GOD DID NOT SEE WHAT
THEY WERE DOING?
3. DID THEY THINK THAT GOD DID NOT CARE ABOUT
4. DID THEY THINK THAT GOD WANTED THEM TO
SIMPLY GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS?
- The CALLING Of God.
- The church of Jesus Christ is ALWAYS in danger of the same sins as the people of Israel in the days of Isaiah.
- first of all, we can all make the SAME MISTAKE in thinking that worship is something that we DO.
1. that worship is an event, a service
2. that worship has “parts” to it, such as singing, prayers and a
3. and that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT
WORSHIP IS “DOING” THE WORSHIP SERVICE
a. set up the chairs
b. set up the stage
c. the service is coordinated, music chosen, the bulletin
d. the choir has practiced
e. the sound set up
f. the sermon prepared
4. The Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard, tells a parable of a
theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each show is more
fantastic than the last, and is applauded by the audience.
Suddenly the manager comes forward. He apologizes for the
interruption, but the theater is on fire, and he begs his
patrons to leave in an orderly fashion. The audience thinks
this is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer
thunderously. The manager again implores them to leave the
burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At
last he can do no more. The fire raced through the whole
building and the fun-loving audience with it. “And so,”
concluded Kierkegaard, “will our age, I sometimes think, go
down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded
house of cheering spectators.”
- preachers can be the most guilty of abusing worship because the service must be planned and a sermon must be preached every Sunday – REGARDLESS
1. it takes all week to prepare
2. WHAT IF THE MINISTER IS MENTALLY prepared but not
a. “the show must go on”
b. Dr. Buck Hatch – professor at CBC – “I’m not
spiritually ready to teach; class dismissed.”
- Can’t you see the SAME DANGER is before us as Christians?
- we come to church and:
1. we have just had a “knock-down, dragged out argument” with
2. we have just sent in our IRS form and hid about our deductions
3. there is another person in the youth group that I have not talked
to in 6 months. All the talk I have done has been behind their
- and we lift our “bloody hands” in praise to God
1. DO WE THINK THAT GOD IS ASLEEP?
2. DO WE THINK THAT HE DOESN’T NOTICE?
3. DO WE THINK NOTHING OF HIS HOLINESS?
4. Henry David Thoreau once went to jail rather than pay his
poll tax to a state that supported slavery. His good friend
Ralph Waldo Emerson hurried to visit him in jail and, peering
through the bars, exclaimed: “Why, Henry, what are you
doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “No, Ralph, the question
is, what are you doing out there?”
IV. The TRUTH Of Worship.
A. The AUTHENTICITY Of Worship.
1. What worship is not:
a. true worship is NOT merely coming together one day a week
b. ESPECIALLY when your heart is not truly involved in worship
c. IN FACT . . . your coming to church filled with a heart of sin is not
only NOT worship, IT IS AN OFFENSE TO GOD!
2. What worship is:
a. NOTICE what God calls true worship
1. look to whom God calls Israel to focus instead –
Vs. 17 – “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the
oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of
a. GOD IS SAYING THAT TRUE WORSHIP, A
TRUE HONORING OF GOD, INVOLVES
b. and these two groups, orphans and widows, were
perhaps the most needy
1. they could not help themselves
2. they could give you nothing in return for your
2. FIRST of all, worship does not focus on SELF but on
Pastor Ralf Bergman: “Why doesn’t the world look at the
church as an example? It might be obvious to many, but too
much of the church has become fake. Money is more important
than souls. Comfort is more important than conviction.
Salvation has taken a back seat to entertainment. This is the
church that the world around us is seeing. It is shallow, it is
self-centered, it is self-seeking, and it is dead and cold.”
b. can I be brutally honest with you about worship?
1. my educational training is in history, psychology, sociology and
theology – and in my opinion, the current American culture
decides on a church to attend what they like for themselves and
they will remain at that church as long as that church meets
their personal needs
2. and, my friend, that kind of attitude has nothing to do with
worshipping God. It does however, have everything to do
with worshipping self.
- witness a current bumper sticker, “God, save me from your followers”
- Karl Rahner once said in The Wittenburg Door - “The number one cause of atheism is Christians. Those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles is what an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable.”
B. The ATTITUDE In Worship.
- Our sins are our barrier to worship.
a. our reasoning with God
Vs. 18 – “Come now, let us reason together.”
1. it is as if God is saying to us – let us look at what REALLY is
going on in worship
2. after all, I am God and I know EXACTLY what the problem is
3. DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?
- our release from God
Vs. 18b – “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as
1. Isaiah uses a term that shows just how severe Israel’s sin in
worship is - he calls their sins scarlet
a. this color scarlet was actually “redder than red”
b. the color scarlet was achieved by “double dying” a color
that, once it was dyed, COULD NOT BE REMOVED,
EVEN BY BLEACH!
2. God is saying this: NO MATTER WHAT YOUR SIN – I
CAN CLEAN IT!
a. yes, Israel had become a people of hypocrisy – of
perfunctory worship, of a people with blood on their
hands AS they praised God
b. BUT . . God can forgive them –
c. after all, God fully understood the nature of man – look
at Hebrews 5:1-3 – “Every high priest is selected from among
men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to
God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal
gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since
he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to
offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the
3. let me also make a personal observation about the grace of God
to forgive us when we sin
a. the Greeks – Plato once said of the Greeks – they
believed that they could sin all that they wanted to and
obtain pardon at the hands of the gods. All that they
had to do was to bring sufficient sacrifice to the gods.
b. the Jews
1. the Jews believed that BECAUSE they had the
Temple and worshipped at the Temple, NO
MATTER WHAT THEY DID, God would
forgive them if they brought their sacrifices
2. look at what Jeremiah says in 7:1-8 - This is the
word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD:
"Stand at the gate of the Lord's house and there
proclaim this message: "'Hear the word of the
LORD, all you people of Judah who come
through these gates to worship the LORD. This
is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel,
says: Reform your ways and your actions, and
I will let you live in this place. Do not trust in
deceptive words and say, "This is the temple
of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the
temple of the LORD!" If you really change
your ways and your actions and deal with
each other justly, if you do not oppress the
alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not
shed innocent blood in this place, and if you
do not follow other gods to your own harm,
then I will let you live in this place, in the land I
gave your forefathers for ever and ever. But
look, you are trusting in deceptive words that
a. don’t abuse the grace of God
b. don’t push God
c. “The Grace Movement”
1. there is so much talk today about the grace of
a. don’t be confused - there is no one who
loves and appreciates the grace of God
more than I do
1. I wanted to have this church
named Grace Presbyterian Church
2. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for
b. but sometimes I get the feeling from
some in the church – that they believe
that they can sin all that they want
because of the grace of God
c. notice Paul’s question in Romans 6:1-3 -
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on
sinning so that grace may increase? By
no means! We died to sin; how can we
live in it any longer? Or don't you know
that all of us who were baptized into
Christ Jesus were baptized into his
1. we can view our sin the same way
as the Jews – the abuse of God’s
2. God’s grace should “drive us” to
holiness, not sin
2. we MUST realize that there are consequences to
a. Galatians 6:7-8 – “Do not be deceived:
God cannot be mocked. A man reaps
what he sows. The one who sows to
please his sinful nature, from that nature
will reap destruction; the one who sows
to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will
reap eternal life.”
b. I Timothy 1:18-20 – “Timothy, my son,
I give you this instruction in keeping with
the prophecies once made about you, so
that by following them you may fight the
good fight, holding on to faith and a
good conscience. Some have rejected
these and so have shipwrecked their faith.
Among them are Hymenaeus and
Alexander, whom I have handed over
to Satan to be taught not to
- Our confession is the blessing of worship.
a. do you know your sin?
1. BEFORE you can worship, you MUST confess your sins –
2. because if you come to worship and have not confessed your
sin, your worship can be hypocritical, perfunctory and an
offense to God
3. LOOK AT JESUS’ WORDS IN THE SERMON ON THE
MOUNT! Matt. 5:23-24 - "Therefore, if you are offering your
gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has
something against you, leave your gift there in front of the
altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come
and offer your gift.”