Good article by Randy Alcorn

http://www.epm.org/resources/2010/Mar/26/if-our-loved-ones-are-hell-wont-spoil-heaven/

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Why Worship, He is Worthy

Worship, why? He is Worthy, I am not. (Rev. 4:11)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, September 24, 2017

Attitude and attitude in worship:

I want to think about our attitude when we come to worship God. Listen to what Cuck Swindoll says about attitude:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Now, let’s start talking about worship. What is our attitude when we come to worship? Who do we think we are? Really? I remember hearing that Jon Eareckson Tada said something about when she gets to Heaven she is going to kneel on her new legs and worship God. Now, what you must know is that she has been a quadriplegic for decades. What does she want to do? She wants to worship God.

Please, reflect on your attitude as we look at this passage and as we talk about worship. Let’s read Revelation 4:1-11 and the application is that we humbly worship God because He is worthy. We are not worthy.

Please turn in your Bibles and let’s read Revelation 4:1-11:

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne.Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads.From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.

In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. 7The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“‘Holy, holy, holy

is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was, and is, and is to come.”

Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

  1. I have one application. I am going to walk through this passage in order to show that God is worthy to be worshipped.
    1. In order to do this I need to explain where we are at in the Bible. I think it would be wrong of me to simply start us a quarter of the way through Revelation and not give more detail about this book.
    2. Actually, context is always important.
    3. This is Revelation chapter 4 and John, the writer of Revelation is taken into the throne room of God. Imagine this. Have you ever seen something absolutely amazing? Have you ever seen something that compelled you to realize how awesome our God is? Have you seen something that reminds you of how little you are?
      1. When I was a kid my parents took me to see Mount Rushmoore and I really was not that amazed or that shocked. It was a cloudy day and it just did not strike me.
      2. A few years later my parents took me to see the Grand Canyon and wow! That is all I can see. The Grand Canyon is amazing! I went there a few years later and it was the same reaction on my part. When I see the Grand Canyon, I am reminded of how little I am and how Great God is.
      3. But, even before that, I was going into third grade and we went to Myrtle Beach and I saw the ocean for the first time. I love, absolutely love looking out on the ocean. The ocean reminded me of how great God is and how big the world is.
      4. I remember being a child going into a planetarium at the Dayton Museum of Natural History. “Radical” was an adjective that I recently had learned. The person leading the show was showing us all the galaxies and where earth is and I said, “Radical” in a way that everyone could hear. Then the man leading the show said, “Is that the word these days?” “Radical” is a good word, but “awesome” is the best word. Seeing how big outer space is shows our awesome creator.
      5. We are little God is not just big, but amazing.
    4. In this text John is trying to describe the indescribable.
    5. Some studies show that children’s memories do not necessarily begin at age two or three. The problem is that before that age they do not have the words to retain, or process or explain what they have experienced. Therefore, there is no way for them to store these experiences in their memory. Think about that with this passage, and really most of Revelation. John’s vocabulary is not great enough, diverse enough to describe what he is about to see. How does that work? Neither would my vocabulary be exhaustive enough to describe this nor would yours. But what he does describe is absolutely amazing.
    6. Verse 1 is the beginning of this vision. John says that there was a door and a voice like a trumpet said “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.” The first two words and last two words of verse 1 are “after this” that means what is in between is called an inclusio. Sometimes in the Bible there are inclusios which cover a few chapters. It is like a parentheses.
    7. In verse 2 John is “immediately” “in the Spirit.” This could mean that he was in the Holy Spirit, or Spirit just is a spiritual state.
    8. Now, this is not the first time John has written about being in the Spirit. In Chapter 1:10 John wrote that he was “In the ‘Spirit’ on the Lord’s day…” So, something we must understand with the book of Revelation is that there are all kinds of things happening around John all at once. John likely describes things as he can, using the terminology that he can, but also he seems to repeat things, but he really is not. He is simply describing the same thing again in order to describe something else related to it. I heard this described as a cyclorama. Those are 360 degree pictures that depict an event. There is one at Gettysburg. This shows the war all around you. What John is experiencing is all around him and it is outside of time. John is describing these things in a temporal way. We are looking for chronology but there is not.
    9. So, it appears what he is describing in this passage is similar to Revelation 21:9 so it is possible that John is seeing the New Jerusalem right here and then he particularizes the New Jerusalem in chapter 21.
  • So, he describes a beautiful throne room with all kinds of jewels. Then he describes 24 thrones with elders on the thrones. The elders had crowns. I like the belief that the elders are reflecting all believers. For example, in Rev. 3:11 Jesus said not to let them take your crown. In Rev. 1:6 we are called a Kingdom of Priests. In the Old Testament there were 24 priests. 24 was an important number in Judaism. 1 Chronicles 24 we have a listing of the 24 orders of priests. The beginning of Luke’s Gospel we see Zechariah’s vision and we see Abijah was one of the 24 priests.
  • Verse 5 references flashes of lightning and thunder. These are always signs of God’s presence. God is in the middle of this throne room. Remember what I said, John is trying to describe the indescribable. There is more in here but let’s skip to verses 8-11.
  • There are four living creatures that never rest. They are constantly worshipping the Lord. “‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
  • Up until now we have talked about the setting and Who was at the setting and that is God. God’s presence was with them. Now, the response to the setting is worship.
  • Let’s think about worship. Remember I talked about attitude. When you come here to worship is your focus and attitude on God? Who are we worshipping? Are we sacrificing ourselves? I am not talking about money, I am talking about surrender. Are we surrendered. Don’t say, “I don’t have the right attitude so I might as well stay home.” No, we must prayerfully seek the Lord and ask that He corrects our attitude.
  • I must confess, my attitude is not perfect, some of you may have better attitudes than mine. I must ask God to work on me. We must ask God to work on me.
  • We are going to get into this now and I want it stated that I am not preparing to say what style of worship is best or what songs are best or right or wrong (and there are some songs that are not about God, but us), I want to show you that when we are with God we respond in worship. I want to focus on attitude. Look at this.
  • Look they say “Holy” how many times. Anyone, share how many times we see the adjective “Holy.” Three times. In Jewish language they could not say “holiest” so they would say something three times and that meant “most holy.” They are saying that God is most holy. He is the holiest. He Is Lord, He is God, He is most powerful or almighty.
  • He is eternal.
  • Then, whenever they gave glory, honor and thanks to God, the elders would throw themselves down. Wow!
  • That is humility. Dr. Mulholland of Asbury Theological Seminary shared:
    1. We are not a bowing culture. When Dr. Mulholland enters the room the students do not bow to him, but when he taught in Korea when he came in they would bow and if a student came in late they would bow. Bowing acknowledges God as God.
    2. Worship is allowing God to be God. Not just praising God and saying God you are God, but allowing God to be God.
  • I am not asking that you bow, but maybe we should. How do we know that our attitude is one of humility?
  • I do not know that answer, I am asking you. I have pride in my heart like I am sure you do and maybe in bowing or falling on the ground we are forced to remember our station before God. Is our attitude one of humility in worship.
  • It used to be common to pray on our knees, maybe we must get back to that. I had a preaching professor who talked about studying on His knees.
  • In the Old Testament Moses would fall prostrate before God in repentance.
  • We see this sort of humility all throughout the Bible.
  • Where are we?
  • Let’s pray and repent of our attitude of pride and lack of reverence before we move on. I am sure I am not alone, but if you feel you don’t have to repent then as I pray you don’t have to or you can pray, “Father God thank you that my attitude is correct…”
  • Next, these elders did not simply fall down. They offer their crowns before the throne. This is surrender. They cast their crowns. The crown represents role, authority. The Elders, who represent us, are surrendering their rule of their relationship to God, to God. Are we allowing God to be God on His terms or our terms. Casting crowns allows God to be God on His terms. John uses the present tense, they “are casting.” They are continually casting crowns. Our relationship with God is a love relationship which means we are free to say “no.” This means that we continually offer our authority and power before God and surrender and say, “You are Lord and I am not.”
    1. Cast (βάλλουσιν). Read βαλοῦσιν shall cast. The casting of the crowns is an act of submission and homage. Cicero relates that when Tigranes the king of the Armenians was brought to Pompey’s camp as a captive, prostrating himself abjectly, Pompey “raised him up, and replaced on his head the diadem which he had thrown down” (Oration “Pro Sestio,” xxvii.). Tacitus gives an account of the public homage paid by the Parthian Tiridates to the statue of Nero. “A tribunal placed in the centre, supported a chair of state on which the statue of Nero rested. Tiridates approached, and having immolated the victims in due form, he lifted the diadem from his head and laid it at the feet of the statue, while every heart throbbed with intense emotion” (“Annals,” xv., 29).[1]
  • Lastly, they worship as well.“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
  • Who is worthy to be worshipped? God.
  • Who created all things? God.
  • Your will they were and were created.
  • John is seeing who we are and who all creation is, what all creation is.
  • John is seeing that we existed in the heart of God’s love before we were created.
  • Ephesians 1:3: Paul notes that our lives are immersed in blessings. Verse 4: God chose us before the foundation of the world. “chose” this means to speak forth. Genesis 1: God spoke forth creation. We were in the heart of God before we were created, before anything created. There was no emergency in Heaven when we were conceived, maybe in our mother’s life.
  • Psalm 139
  • By God’s hand we existed and were created.
  • We are not accidents.
  • The only response is self-sacrificial worship. The only response is worship in humility.
  • The only response is to join the elders, which we may be in that group anyways and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.

 

When I was a child my dad would rebuke me and say, “You need an attitude adjustment.” I wonder where our attitudes are at when we come to worship, or, why limit it to worshipping with the body of believers? Why allow our attitude to be a mess throughout the week. Maybe we simply must ask the Lord to work on our attitude.

Fijian Government Silences Singing at Conference

In Fiji, singing hymns can get you in trouble. About one million Methodists live in the south Pacific island country, and each summer 20,000 to 50,000 of them gather for a conference. Before the conference begins, they have a massive choral contest. About 10,000 people participate. They sing hymns. That’s it. Hymns. But in July 2009, the government shut them down. “No choral contest this year,” the government said. There is a lot of turmoil in Fiji, and the government feared that the big crowd might get out of hand. According to news reports, “Church officials said the government fears the conference and singing contest will lead to further political instability.” Nothing like singing Methodists to make a government nervous!

They are on to something there, though. Christians worshiping the Lord really are dangerous—although perhaps not as those officials feared. Worshiping God in Christ upsets world systems. It is revolutionary, subversive. It brings another kingdom into view.

Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois; source: Kim Cain, “Fiji Bans Massive Methodist Hymn-Sing,” Religion News Service (7-31-09)

Let’s pray.

[1] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 485.

Eph 4:7-10 and spiritual gifts part 2

Ephesians 4:7-10: The different gifts part 2

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes of Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio on Sunday, September 10, 2017

As I thought about this sermon I knew I wanted to write more about this passage in Ephesians. However, I did not know what more I wanted to say. We are going to talk more about spiritual gifts next week as we get into the gifts themselves. Today, I wish to talk more about the motivation beyond the gifts. First, allow me to read something I read on the introduction to Ephesians in a Spiritual Formation Bible:

 

Twentieth Century archaeology has uncovered several curious things about the ancient Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Among them is the random design of the southern stairs, which carried weary pilgrims from the Tyropoean Valley several hundred feet up to the Temple itself. It was discovered that the steps were an engineering nightmare. The rise of the steps varied in some instances by several inches, while the stretch often varied by several feet. The conclusion was as painful as it was obvious: either the design engineers were incompetent or intoxicated! The ancient rabbis, our primary teachers in spiritual formation, however, had a different take. They though theologically about this matter as well as every other. In their view, the engineers of the ancient Temple Mount knew that to ascend the hill of the Lord hurriedly and without thought would be spiritually ill advised. You must approach the Temple  as you would approach God, cautiously and with measured steps. These uneven steps to the presence of God are a metaphor for reading Ephesians, and indeed the entire Bible, with a view toward spiritual formation. Read it slowly and cautiously or else you fall (The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible. Foster, Richard, et al. Harper San Francisco. 2005. Page 2117.)

 

Wow! That is powerful. As we read the Bible, we approach God and we must do so slowly and cautiously, or we die. Think about that as you think about God dwelling within you.

 

Now, let’s back up and think about that with Ephesians. Ephesians is a very powerful letter, as all of the Word of God must be. Ephesians is all about our great and awesome salvation “in Christ.” Remember, a few weeks ago I told you that the phrase “in Christ” is used 27 times in this short book? All of our Christian life is about Christ. We are “in Christ.” Christ is in us. Now, we are all separate, but we are brought together in unity “in Christ.” We have spiritual gifts, so what are our motivations in Spiritual Gifts?

 

My theme today: Our motivation behind our spiritual gifts is love.

My application today: reflect 1 Corinthians 13 on your own life.

 

  1. Our motivation for spiritual gifts is to walk in a manner worthy of our calling.
    1. Look with me at Ephesians 4:1-6 and notice unity.
    2. Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There isone body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
    3. I know we talked about this once.
    4. Notice verse 4 (Eph. 4:4): we are one body and we have one Spirit.
    5. The same Holy Spirit fills us with gifts.
    6. Now, if we have the same Holy Spirit that means that the gifts are not given for us individually, but for the church as whole.
    7. We are going to get into verses 11 and following in a few weeks but look at Eph. 4:11-12: And He gave some asapostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,
    8. for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ
    9. The gifts are for the equipping of the saints and building up of the church.
    10. We have one body and this is talking about the church.
    11. We have one hope of our calling.
    12. So, we have talked about walking in a manner worthy of our calling. We do this with unity, we do this with humility, gentleness, patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.
    13. Love undergirds all things.
  2. Our motivation for spiritual gifts is love which leads us to unity.
    1. See 1 Cor. 13: If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift ofprophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

  1. 1 Cor. 13 is the motivation of spiritual gifts.
  2. I know I am jumping a little bit, but we have to in order to talk about spiritual gifts. We see spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians chapters 12-14; Romans 12; Ephesians 4 and a few other places in the New Testament. However, I think 1 Corinthians writes more about these gifts.
  3. You see, the church at Corinth was divided. We see people saying, “I follow Paul.” Or, “I follow Apollos.” (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4) They had sin issues in the church at Corinth. So, we come to 1 Corinthians 11 and they even had issues with communion. In communion they would have a dinner first and the rich people who did not have to work as hard would arrive first and stuff themselves and there would be no food left for the poor. Then the rich were even getting drunk at their communion feast! (1 Corinthians 11:17-22, especially vs 21)
  4. So, Paul reminds them of the institution of communion. Then in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul talks about spiritual gifts.
  5. In 1 Corinthians 12 we have the Theology of Spiritual Gifts.
  6. In 1 Corinthians 13 we have the motivation of Spiritual Gifts.
  7. In 1 Corinthians 14 we have the practice of Spiritual Gifts.
  8. Paul’s thesis is in 1 Corinthians 12:4-7: There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
  9. But looking back at 1 Corinthians chapter 13, what is the motivation? Love. Love is the motivation.
  10. Our motivation behind spiritual gifts is not about attracting people to ourselves, but to God. Our motivation behind the spiritual gifts is not about puffing up ourselves, but helping each other.
  11. The greatest commandment: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:27-40)
  12. Our motivation is love.

Close:

Let’s commit to analyze 1 Corinthians 13 in our own life.

How many times do we do things with selfish motives?

How many times can we not even err on the side of grace?

How many times can we NOT apologize?

 

Meet with people this week and apologize for things you have said or done that were hurtful. Listen, you do not have to apologize for what you said, but how you said it. You see what I mean, sometimes we can say the right thing the wrong way. I have done it before. I can preach the right message, the wrong way.

 

If you are a husband, or a father, or a grandfather this means that you live 1 Corinthians 13 first. If you are an elder, or a church leader this means that you live by 1 Corinthians 13 first.

 

Charles R. Swindoll gives us a good illustration in self sacrifice and self sacrifice is a major motivation behind spiritual gifts:

It was a cold, blustery January night in 1973. Senator John Stennis, the venerable hawkish Democrat from Mississippi, drove from Capitol Hill to his northwest Washington home. Although older (71), he was still the powerful chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. At precisely 7:40 p.m., Stennis parked his car and started toward his house 50 feet away.

Out of the darkness jumped two young robbers—little more than kids, really. One nervously waved a .22 caliber pistol as the other relieved the senator of his personal possessions. “Now we’re going to shoot you anyway,” one told Stennis. He did, firing twice.

For six-and-a-half hours, surgeons at Walter Reed Medical Center labored feverishly to repair the damage and save his life.

At 9:15 that same night another politician was driving home from the Senate . . . a man on the opposite end of the political spectrum, a Republican “dove” who had clashed often and sharply with Stennis. His name? Senator Mark Hatfield. The tragedy was reported over Hatfield’s car radio that wintry night. Disregarding the strong differences in their convictions and pulled by a deep admiration for the elderly statesman plus a compassion for his plight, Hatfield later admitted:

“I had no skills to offer. But I knew there was something I must do—and that was to go to that hospital and be nearby where I could be helpful, if possible, to the family.”

There was untold confusion at the hospital as fellow senators, colleagues, and curious friends and reporters overwhelmed the hospital’s telephone operators. Understaffed and disorganized, the hospital crew tried their best but were unable to handle the calls and answer the questions.

Hatfield quickly scoped out the situation, spotted an unattended switchboard, sat down, and voluntarily went to work. Much later—after recovering—Stennis related what he heard happened next: “He told the girls, ‘I know how to work one of these; let me help you out.’ He continued taking calls until daylight.” An exceedingly significant detail is that he never gave anyone his name because someone would surely suspect some political connection, some ulterior motive. Hatfield finally stood up around daylight, stretched, put on his overcoat, and quietly introduced himself to the other operators. “My name is Hatfield . . . happy to help out on behalf of a man I deeply respect,” he said as he walked away.

The press couldn’t handle that story when it leaked out. It boggled their minds! No way did it make sense for a Republican to give a Democrat the time of day, not to mention several long hours of personal assistance in some anonymous, menial task. I mean, that kind of character went out with the horse and buggy and silent movies and saying “ma’am” and “sir” to teachers. Or did it?

Politics and personal preferences and opinions on things like military involvement may vary among members of the body of Christ . . . but there is a bond deep within that binds us to one another. It is the glue of authentic love, expressing itself in compassion, fairness, willingness to support, and (when possible) coming to the aid of another. Personally. Without strings attached. Committed to the protection and dignity of human life . . . regardless of how somebody votes.

And what does it take? Bigness. Being free of grudges, pettiness, vengeance, and prejudice. Seeing another in need—regardless of differences of opinion—and reaching out in solid Christian maturity. Just because you care.

That’s bigness. It’s living above labels . . . it’s seeing beyond hurts . . . it’s caring unconditionally, helping unassumingly.

And therefore it’s rare. As rare as a hawk and a dove in the same nest on a cold winter’s night.[1]

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

Pray

 

[1] https://www.insight.org/resources/daily-devotional/individual/bigness