I was given the privilege of stepping into the pulpit and offering exposition of the Word on my chosen topic of worship and discipleship during the Sunday morning worship service on February 11, 2018 at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. If you would like to read the text of my message, “Fiery Flame Throwers or the Frozen Chosen?!” read on. . . .
“Fiery Flame Throwers or the Frozen Chosen?!”
From the “Helping One Another Follow Jesus” Sermon Series
By Dr. Bob Stouffer
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, February 11, 2018
Quote of the Week:
“Who will deny that true religion consists, in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actions of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart? That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above the state of indifference.” (Jonathan Edwards)
1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] 2 And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. 3 Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. 4 And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” 5 And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. 8 And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
- Acts 3:1 – That is, 3 p.m.
English Standard Version (ESV)
[Without introduction, Bob Smith gave his testimonial about his wrong heart for worship when visiting a church early in his life as a Christian.]
Be honest with yourself:
- Have you ever held similar thoughts or beliefs like Bob’s?
- How did you feel or what were you thinking when you walked into this sanctuary today?
- Did you “feel” like worshipping God?
- Should feeling have anything to do with worship?
- After our singing, confessing, praying, and giving today, are you closer to God?
- To what extent do we “choose” a heart of worship?
- Do you get uncomfortable when you see more demonstrative expressions of worship?
In this sermon series, we have been considering biblical truth on how to help one another follow Jesus.
Through worship, we should be helping one another follow Jesus.
God commands us to love Him with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength. So each of us should be worshipping Him with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.
Cheryl and I very much enjoyed the recent Chris Tomlin / Matt Maher concert at Bon Secours in Greenville. The worship experience was very unique throughout – at one point, Chris Tomlin’s pastor from Nashville came onstage and preached a really cool message from the Psalms and the ideas of this book, Holy Roar, which the two of them wrote in 2017.
Pastor Darren Whitehead has identified 7 Hebrew words of praise used in the Psalms.
He described worship related to. . .
- Holding out hands as if to throw a stone or arrow,
- “Being clamorously foolish” in worshipping the Lord, (More on that in a moment.)
- Celebrating in song and music,
- Thanking God for all that He has provided AND “for things not yet received,”
- Kneeling and blessing God,
- Spontaneously singing hymns and songs, and
- Commending glory and triumph in shouts and loud tones.
According to Paul, in Colossians 3:16, we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God.” (ESV) THAT is “full” worship.
True worship focuses us on God, rather than our worries, fears, heartaches, and sufferings. “Instead of focusing on the things out of [our] control, [we] turn our attention to the One who is in control.” (Holy Roar, p. 62)
We ought to get used to a more unbridled worship, because, once we get to heaven, we will be worshipping constantly.
Charles Spurgeon once stated, “Praise [on earth] is the rehearsal of our eternal song. By grace we learn to sing, and in glory we continue to sing.” (Holy Roar, p. 92)
Of course, we know the passage from Revelation 7:9-12, which forms the basis for our weekly service-ending declaration:
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice [a “holy roar”], ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!’” (ESV)
THAT will be everlasting worship to anticipate in the future!
But worship is an important element of discipleship, as the Kingdom breaks through NOW.
As the body of Christ at Eastside Presbyterian, we can – AND MUST – help each other in worship as a part of our discipleship.
EXPOSITION OF THE TEXT:
So why does Acts 3, verses 1-10 illustrate worship?
Let’s look at this truly amazing narrative.
Peter and John continued their Jewish custom of prayer at fixed times of the day.
John Calvin believed their practice in this case was intentional evangelism (in Guzik, Blue Letter Bible). In other words, they were looking for opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This lame man had been carried to the gate of the temple like it was any other day for him. Praise God for the people who got him there on this day! But he was ready to settle into the grind of begging for money.
We can imagine him seeing the typical blurred shapes of passing bodies, with no real concentration on the people themselves.
“God [however] wanted to completely change his condition.” (Guzik)
The lame man begged for money from Peter and John.
And, then, what a remarkable sight we can see in our mind’s eye:
Both Peter and John looked intensely into the eyes of this man, who is expecting money.
The lame man fixed his gaze on Peter and John, expecting a handout.
Peter boldly declared, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”
The man expected money on this day. He probably wasn’t seeking personal interaction. He certainly must not have anticipated that he would be healed on this day!
Prompted by the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus, Peter told the man to “rise up and walk!”
“It was one thing [for Peter] to say, ‘Rise up and walk,’ but it was another thing entirely to so boldly take the man’s hand and lift him to his feet”! (Guzik)
The Holy Spirit had obviously directed Peter to take this man’s hand, and, in faith, lift him to his feet!
And the man — a man who had not been able to walk since birth — received a gift of infinitely more value – his mobility!
This healed man responded so well. He attached himself to Peter and John, entering the Temple with them.
Peter and John helped this man follow Jesus by leading him into the very place where he could worship the Lord!
And the healed man used the gifts which God had just given to him – walking and leaping. He began to praise and worship God. (Guzik)
The testimony of this man’s healing amazed the crowd gathered in the Temple.
Perhaps he was a familiar beggar at the Temple. Even Jesus, during His earthly ministry, might have passed by him there. He had been lame. But then he walked and leaped and praised God!
Please focus on this man’s response to his healing.
The man leaped!
He worshipped God!
This scene made me think of David when he returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem [recorded in 2 Samuel 6:16-23].
David leaped and danced and worshipped God.
Michal, his wife, attempted to shame David for what she saw as his outrageous attire and behavior.
But David confidently and joyfully declared to her, “. . .I will celebrate before the LORD. I will become even more undignified than this. . . .” (2 Samuel 6:21, 22, NIV)
Here is the “clamourously foolish” worship of which Tomlin and Whitehead spoke in Holy Roar!
C.S. Lewis once said, “The most valuable thing the psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”
David’s actions were centered on God, not on himself.
Peter and John were centered on God, not on themselves, ready to do anything the Holy Spirit directed them to do – which, on this day, included the incredible privilege of participating in God’s healing of this lame man.
Let’s apply this passage to our own lives.
Okay. So none of us entered this sanctuary today after having been healed this very moment of a disability which has prevented us from walking for our entire lives.
If such is the case, I will GLADLY give up the pulpit RIGHT NOW for your testimony, and we would all be “filled with wonder and amazement at what [has] happened to [you]”! (Acts 3-10b)
However, all of us have ample reason to be filled with wonder, amazement, praise, and worship for our great God of the universe!
Can you be more “undignified than this” in your worship?!
How can we help each other follow Jesus through our worship?
First of all, we’ve got to show up on Sunday mornings.
Attendance does not necessarily equate with discipleship or drawing closer to God, but showing up is the first step to worship. You – and you alone – are a unique part of the body of Christ. If you are missing, the body is not fully functional.
Second, our focus is not on self but fully on God.
Francis Chan once said, “Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him. Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” AMEN!
Third, the Word of God should be woven through every aspect of worship.
The Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that we are to worship “in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24, ESV)
Jayson D. Bradley has stated, “It isn’t until we’re able to rightly prioritize God above everything else in our world that we can begin to worship in spirit and truth.”
In Acts 3:1-10, Peter pronounced healing in the name of Truth – Jesus Christ of Nazareth!
Fourth, love of God is foundational to worship. The Great Commandment calls us to first love God with all of our being – and to love all others around us as God’s image-bearers.
Henry Ward Beecher once said, “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.”
Augustine of Hippo said, “Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.”
Fifth, we’ve got to be intentional in our worship of God. We must come with hearts ready to give our all to God, rather than coming with a consumer mentality of what the church is going to do for us.
In Romans 12:1, Paul called followers of Jesus Christ to engage in worship as an intentional act: “I appeal to you. . . by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (ESV)
Sixth, we come not to be entertained. We worship enthusiastically to please God!
Noted Pastor John Ortberg once said, “In the context of worship, amusement is a waste of time and a waste of life, and therefore a form of sin.”
I definitely do not believe Ortberg overstated his point.
Listen to what R.C. Sproul once had to say: “The worship to which we are called in our renewed state is far too important to be left to personal preferences, to whims, or to marketing strategies. It is the pleasing of God that is at the heart of worship. Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him.”
Seventh, worship is all about God, not “feelings” or “experiences.”
Listen to what Graham Kendrick has to say in that regard: “Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand. . .[worship] is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Finally, we must be positive examples of worship to the others around us – not as a “show,” but as a positive witness. This is how we help others follow Jesus through worship.
John Piper has said, “From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs. The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation. In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship. Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.”
Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
He might just as easily have written, “Worship Christ as I worship Christ!”
We help each other follow Jesus by sincerely expressing the mannerisms, phrases, tones, facial expressions, habits, demeanors, convictions, and beliefs which cause others to know and follow Jesus.
What is your example of worship to others? Parents, what are your children seeing from you as acts of worship?
How vibrant is our worship of God on a Sunday morning? On this Sunday morning?
For that matter, how vibrant is our worship of God ALL of the days of the week. We should be in a constant state of worship, drawing close to the Lord and relying on the direction and power of His Holy Spirit.
Did you know that the Hebrew root, “avodah,” translates to worship AND WORK?
Regarding our worship at church, are we fiery flame-throwers or the frozen chosen?
Now, please don’t misread that question as my call for this church to become charismatic in our worship.
I was raised to believe that my faith was a private thing, and our worship tradition didn’t include any behaviors which would have distracted someone during the service.
For instance, I’m not a hand-raiser, generally. I think you would, however, see me closing my eyes at more introspective moments of singing, and I would definitely be swaying to the music, even though I can’t dance, nor can I walk and chew gum at the same time!
There are times when I look at church congregations – not ours – and I don’t see a lot of vigor or joy or even energy in acknowledging the Lord.
I think our body at Eastside Presbyterian should be open to different expressions of worship in our midst, particularly as we pray for an increase of diversity.
Our worship should be enthusiastic. Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great Welsh theologian, has argued that “a dislike of enthusiasm can be ‘one of the greatest hindrances to revival.’” (in Holy Roar, p. 13)
Allow me to give testimony to my most memorable worship experiences:
- I have never been closer to God than when I am singing His praises among men of God. Some of the older men in this sanctuary will remember the height of the PromiseKeepers movement. A very memorable worship experience for me occurred in 1994 when I had committed my life to the Lord as a 36-year-old man, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” with 56,000 men at The University of Colorado in Boulder!
- I was swept into the PromiseKeepers movement with similar experiences in Chicago, Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Minneapolis, twice in Dallas, and with among well over 500,000 men at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1997.
- Through my involvement with the Evangelical Free Church of America, I was fortunate to worship with Chris Tomlin at rallies on numerous occasions before he became a household name among Christians; and I have always been impressed by his sincere heart to draw people toward a deeper relationship with God.
- During the several times I have worshipped in African-American churches, I have thoroughly enjoyed the more demonstrative expressions of worship, even if the expressions pushed me outside my comfort zone a bit.
- When we moved from Iowa to Greenville, Cheryl and I visited almost a dozen churches for several weeks until Cheryl told me she didn’t care where I went to church on Sunday as long as I understood she would be worshipping at Eastside Presbyterian Church! I heartily agreed with her. We love the friendly, welcoming community – the upbeat music – the opportunity to sing every verse of every hymn – the extended prayer – Mark’s Gospel-centered preaching – and the authenticity of the people who make up this church.
- My most memorable worship experience actually occurred during a funeral of all places. The Holy Spirit seemed to physically leap inside of me was at the memorial service of a 30-year-old woman who had died unexpectedly. I have never known a more powerful grip on my heart, with the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit enveloping me. How unusual to worship God in such a unique way.
These have been profound worship experiences for me.
To close, we are, too often, as the body of Christ, the “frozen chosen.” We pour our hearts, souls, minds, and strength into so many other passions, but we fail to draw closer to the Lord, and we stifle our worship. On any given Sunday morning, we are distracted, apathetic, lackluster, and going through the motions of worship.
Imagine this sanctuary lit up with a vibrant heart of worship. What would you hear? What would you see? What thoughts would be going through our minds?
- We would be on time and in our pews preparing our hearts and minds.
- We would approach the presence of God with reverence and awe.
- We would block out the distractions of what happened to us leading into the service.
- We would not be thinking of what we were going to do later in that day or week.
- We would be at peace with God.
- We would sense His presence in this place.
- The musicians would be examples of “lead worshippers,” not “worship leaders,” directing our hearts and minds to God, as they already do week-in and week-out.
- Even with squeaky voices of joyful noise, we would sing every word with great enthusiasm, concentrating on the truths contained in those lyrics.
- We would enjoy the music, even if the selections do not fit our personal preferences.
- We would truly repent of our sins in our prayers.
- As a body, we would thirst in agreement with the persons offering extended prayer to God.
- We would give generously when the plates came down our rows.
- We would hunger for the Word of God to be preached boldly to us.
- We would have a strong desire for the preachers to speak the truth in love to us.
- We would want to be challenged to be more obedient followers of Jesus Christ.
- At the close of a service, we would pour our lives into others – listening actively, willing to get involved in the sloppiness of each other’s lives, being REAL and not engaging in “image control.”
- We would have a strong desire to reach out with the truth of the Gospel, as God places people in our path during the coming weeks.
- We would worship through our service to others.
When we are fully engaged in worship, God brings us into a stronger relationship with Him. We are reconciled with Him and to others. We are more committed disciples. We will be more wholehearted followers of Jesus.
We are the church, Christ’s chosen instrument of redemption. The gates of hell will not prevail against us when we are engaged in robust worship of God!!
One commentator made a keen observation about this healing by Peter and John in Acts 3:
“It is not the Church’s business in this world to simply make the present condition [of others] more bearable; the task of the Church is to release here on earth the redemptive work of God in Christ.” (LaSor in Guzik)
Tim Keller once said: “God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises ‘before the nations.’ We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.”
Moses asked Pharaoh to set the Israelites free — that they might worship God.
Jesus’ Resurrection sets us free to worship Him!
The Resurrected King is resurrecting me!!!
THAT is the Gospel through worship.
And the Gospel changes everything!
Let’s close in prayer by singing a short praise song together — to consecrate a greater heart for worship in the future.
If you know short chorus, please sing with me. If you do not know the words, no worries. Let the simple truth wash over you, as we worship through the hearing of God’s truth.
I love you, Lord!
And I lift my voice
To worship You,
Oh, my soul rejoice!
Take joy, my King,
In what you hear!
May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear!
Do I hear an “Amen”?!
The Holy Bible. English Standard Version. 2001.
Tomlin, Chris and Darren Whitehead. Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way
You Worship. Brentwood, Tennessee: BOWYER & BOW, 2017.