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What Worship Accomplishes
We ascend into the heavenlies in our worship and meet with our God there (Heb. 12:22). But this heavenly worship is not something that has fearfully run away from the enemy on earth. Rather, as the book of Revelation shows in great detail, the worship of the saints in heaven accomplishes God’s judgments on earth. The twenty-four elders worship God in heaven (Rev. 4:10), and the seven seals are opened in heaven (Rev. 5:5). But this does not leave the earth untouched or unaffected.
If you want to fight the culture war, you have to fight from the high ground. The only high ground we can successfully fight from is the high ground of Heaven, where our Lord Jesus is seated at God’s right hand.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3–5).
Summary of the Text
Paul here tells the Corinthians that we still live our lives in the flesh but we do not conduct our warfare according to the flesh (v. 3). Our lives are material without being worldly. The fact that our weapons are not carnal weapons does not make them ethereal, impotent weapons. Just the reverse. They are mighty (through God) in the toppling of the devil’s castles (v. 4). Unbelieving man erects two things against the knowledge of God, and those two things are “imaginations” and “every high thing.” These exalt themselves, but the weapons of our warfare cast them down, and take them captive (v. 5). And the warfare is described as total—we take every thought captive.
Relate This to Our Worship
First note that in our text we are expressly told that we do not accomplish this mission by means of physical weapons. One of the things that has disturbed our local secularists is that they have heard us saying things like “all of Christ for all of life for all of Moscow.” This seems to them as though we want to get a row of howitzers up on Paradise Ridge, and to start dictating terms like we were the Taliban of the Palouse. They have also quoted us saying that Moscow is a “decisive point,” to use our military phrase. But we are talking about spiritual warfare. However, spiritual warfare has real time consequences. Spiritual warfare is not ethereal warfare, or some form of make-believe warfare.
Secondly, we know that Jesus Christ has ascended into the heavenly places, into the court of the Ancient of Days, where He was given universal dominion (Dan. 7:13-14). He bought all the nationsof men with His own blood, and He intends to have them (Ps. 2:7-8). He told His followers that He had been given all authority in Heaven and on earth, and that was why they were to fan out and disciple all the nations on earth (Matt. 28:18-20).
And third, our worship services are a weekly celebration of that great coronation. And coronation celebrations always spell trouble for all pretenders to the throne. This is what Adonijah discovered to his dismay. His coronation party was quite overshadowed.
“And Zadok the priest took an horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon. And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them. And Adonijah and all the guests that were with him heard it as they had made an end of eating . . . And Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet have anointed him king in Gihon: and they are come up from thence rejoicing, so that the city rang again. This is the noise that ye have heard. And also Solomon sitteth on the throne of the kingdom . . . And all the guests that were with Adonijah were afraid, and rose up, and went every man his way” (1 Kings 1:39–49).
Warfare Through New Eyes
God established the antithesis at the very beginning of human history (Gen. 3:15). There is therefore a constant state of war between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The Lord Jesus crushed the serpent’s head in His crucifixion and resurrection, but by His grace He permits us to participate in that struggle (Rom. 16:20). He crushes the adversary badly, bruising him under His heel. But remember, as His body, we are His heel.
“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church” (Eph. 1:22).
But there is more. Jesus promised us that in this conflict, the gates of Hades would never prevail against us (Matt. 16:18). But please note that the gates of Hades are not an offensive weapon. We are not besieged by the gates of Hades. We are the besiegers. We are not manning our tiny little Alamo, fighting until we finally go under. It is the other way around.
This does not mean that our warfare is easy. Far from it. The first men up the scaling ladders can find the fighting hot at the top of the wall. But it is the top of their wall.
Proclaim the Lord’s Death Till He Comes
Every faithful sermon that declares Christ as Savior and Lord is a proclamation, but not just to the gathered believers. The message is also for unbelievers, as well as all the principalities and powers. Every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, which we do every seven days, we proclaim the vicarious death that conquers the whole world (1 Cor. 11:26). And every time we open our mouths and our psalters to sing, we want to do so in a way so that Adonijah can hear it.
What is it that overcomes the world? Is it not our faith (1 John 5:4)?
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The Structure of our Worship
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We assemble here week after week to worship God in the name of Christ in the power of the Spirit. This is what we do. But it is also important for us to understand what we are doing, and why we are doing it. Otherwise we will drift into a mindless routine—which is quite different from a Spirit-led routine.
And this I say, lest any man should beguile you with enticing words. For though I be absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving (Col. 2:4-7).
Summary of the Text
In verse 4, Paul warns against the seductive power of a certain kind of religious approach, the kind that always fails to approach Christ. Even though Paul was not present with the Colossians (v. 5), he was with them in spirit. He rejoiced as he beheld their order (taxis), and the rock-solid nature of their faith in Jesus Christ. This word taxis is a military term, and should be understood as a kind of regimentation. But note that this order was both disciplined and alive. It was not an orderly row of gravestones, but rather it was the order of a military troop, arms at the ready. It was more than such order that pleased Paul, but it was certainly not less.
Paul then urged the Colossians to walk in Christ Jesus in just the same way they had received Him initially (v. 6), which was of course by grace through faith. As they did so, they would be rooted and built up in the Christian faith, in just the way they had been taught. The overflow of this, when it is happening, is an abundance of gratitude. As with all things of this nature, we measure whether or not it is happening by the fruit. That said, why do we do what we do?
The Structure of Our Worship
Consider first the broad outline of our worship service. We find five basic elements here. Take a look at your bulletin as we consider this. Notice that the first and last elements are the Call to Worship and the Commissioning. These are the book-ends of our service. The church is the called out gathering. The word for church (ekklesia) means “called out.” So at the start of the service, we call you in, and at the end of the service we send you out. You are sent out with a blessing and a task.
So the first invites us in from the world to assemble before the Lord to worship Him. The last sends us out into the world in order to function as ambassadors of Christ and of His gospel. If we have learned rightly, when we are being sent out into the world, we are letting the clutch out. Worship is the engine, but we have to let the clutch out.
Then there are the central three elements of our worship.
Confession of Sin—we wipe our feet at the door.
Consecration—we offer ourselves up to God as living sacrifices.
Communion—we sit down for table fellowship with our God.
These follow a basic biblical pattern of sacrifice. In the worship of the older covenant, God commonly required three kinds of sacrifices together. Whenever they are mentioned together, they come in this order. First was the guilt offering (confession of sin: Lev. 17), then there is the ascension or burnt offering (consecration: Lev. 16:24-25), and then comes the peace offering (communion: Dt. 12:17-19). We see this overall pattern in Lev. 9 and 2 Chron. 29:20-36.
Our name for worship that deliberately and self-consciously follows this basic pattern is called covenant renewal worship. This is not because the covenant was going to expire, like a lease. It is an everlasting covenant. But it is also organic and alive, and needs to be nourished and fed.
Filling the Structure In
We find in various places of Scripture that certain particular practices are called for in New Covenant worship. So one of the things we therefore do is look at the nature of that practice and decide where it would best fit within this general structure. For example, the Bible requires the public reading of Scripture in worship (1 Tim. 4:13). So where do we put it? It seems to fit best under Consecration. The Bible commands us to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). Where do we place the different kinds of songs? We would put penitential songs at the time of confession, for example. We are commanded to have preaching (1 Tim. 4:2). Where does that go? In doing this, we are seeking to be obedient while arranging our worship intelligently.
Posture and Demeanor
A very common temptation among the Reformed is to over-engineer the intellectual aspects of our faith. Reason and systematics have their necessary place, but that is not every place. Reformed people need to be reminded that they have bodies, and that these too are involved in worship. This is why we lift up holy hands in the Doxology (1 Tim. 2:8), and why we kneel in confession (Ps. 95:6). We stand in order to show deep respect for God’s Word (Neh. 8:5). Our overall demeanor is to be solemnity mixed with gladness. “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1).
A Conversation Between God and His People
Worship is a time of meeting. During this time, God speaks to the people through His ordained representatives (as in the Scripture reading, assurance of pardon, or the sermon). During this time, the people also speak to God, either through their appointed representatives (as in the prayers of petition), or all together with one voice (as with a hymn or psalm, or the creed). We should therefore learn how to think of the worship service as a large conversation, with a direction and a theme, and not as a disparate collection of random spiritual artifacts, crammed into a shoebox.
In the Call to Worship: God says, “Come, meet with Me now.” We say, “First, let us praise Your majesty.” Having done so, God warns us through the Exhortation not to approach Him with unclean hearts. We respond by Confession. God responds by declaring that we have Assurance of Pardon. This is a conversation in which you all are called to actively participate. And so on, through the rest of the service. As you do, you are following the most important conversation in the world, which is between God and His people.
Worship is Warfare
One other thing. And last, we return to the passage in Colossians. The order we are cultivating here is not the order of porcelain figurines in a china hutch, neatly arranged on a shelf. The order we are pursuing is alive and disciplined, the order of a well-trained military unit. And why? Because every Lord’s Day we go into battle. But as God’s people we fight on earth from the high ground of heaven. There will be more on this next week when we consider the point of our worship.
All About Jesus
In the meantime, whether we are considering the regimented array of our forces, or the reason for the war, never forget that everything is all about Jesus, all the time. He is the crucified one, He is the risen one, and He is the ruling one. And make sure you consider these things by faith, such that they include you and your family.
Worship Like You’re Told
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Worship Faux Pas
Glory Upon Glory
Worship as Our Warfare
The church is the “worshiping assembly,” and her mission is to call the nations to worship God. But worship is not only our goal; it is also one of the chief means for achieving that goal. Worship is not a retreat from the church’s work of conquest. Worship is a fundamental “strategy” of the church militant.
During this time of the coronavirus scare, we are being told that our worship services are somehow “non-essential.” In actual fact, it is the most essential activity of our lives. As we assemble before God now, we want to be pleading with Him to rise up and vindicate His name. Without Him, we are all of us nothing.
“It came to pass after this also, that the children of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and with them other beside the Ammonites, came against Jehoshaphat to battle. Then there came some that told Jehoshaphat, saying, There cometh a great multitude against thee from beyond the sea on this side Syria; and, behold, they be in Hazazon-tamar, which is En-gedi. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah . . . Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation; And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s . . . And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground: and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell before the Lord, worshipping the Lord . . . And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the Lord, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the Lord; for his mercy endureth for ever . . . And when Jehoshaphat and his people came to take away the spoil of them, they found among them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stripped off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much . . . Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat in the forefront of them, to go again to Jerusalem with joy; for the Lord had made them to rejoice over their enemies.” (2 Chron. 20:1-3, 14-15, 18, 21, 25, 27).
Summary of the Text
Though he had sinned by giving support to Ahab in the Northern Kingdom (2 Chronicles 19:1-3), Jehoshaphat (whose name means “Yahweh judges”) was generally a faithful and reforming king of Judah. He removed the idols from the land (17:6; 19:3), and appointed judges throughout the land (19:5-11).
Jehoshaphat’s response here was consistent with his faithfulness:
He assembled the people at the house of the Lord and proclaimed a fast (20:2-5). Even the infants and children were included (20:13; and see Joel 2:15-16). In the assembly (20:5), Jehoshaphat prayed to the Lord. He confessed that the Lord is “ruler” of all nations and that “no one can stand against Thee” (20:6). He called on God to remember His covenant with Abraham (20:7; see Genesis 15:18), and specifically that He had driven the Canaanites from the land and given it to His people (20:7). He reminded the Lord about the promise that He would deliver His people when they turned to Him at His temple (20:8-9; see also 2 Chronicles 6:24-25,34-35). His prayer was also a confession of helplessness before the invaders (20:12).
He trusted the word of God through Jahaziel, that the “battle is not yours but God’s” (20:15-17). Jahaziel’s instructions to “stand and see the salvation of the Lord” is reminiscent of Moses’ words at the Red Sea (Exodus 14:13). The Lord here is promising a new “exodus,” a miraculous escape from a new Egypt.
Jehoshaphat led the people in humble worship (20:18), and appointed the Levites to praise God (20:19, 21).
In short, he responded with an assembly for prayer, preaching, and praise. He responded with worship. While the army of Judah went out with the singers in the lead, the Lord “set ambushes” for the Ammonites and Moabites, turning them to fight among themselves (20:22-23). When Judah went to find out what had happened, they found a valley full of corpses, which they plundered for three days (20:24-26; see Exodus 12:35-36). The Moabites and Ammonites came to plunder Judah; but the plunderers ended up plundered. When Judah worshiped, Yahweh became a terror to the surrounding nations (20:29).
So Worship Really is Warfare
Worship and prayer are frequently a means of warfare in Scripture: Israel “cried out” during their oppression in Egypt, and the Lord remembered His covenant and came near to deliver them (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:6-9). Throughout the period of the judges, Israel was oppressed and defeated whenever they worshiped idols. When they repented and “cried out to the Lord,” He would raise up a judge to deliver them (Judges 2:11-23; 3:8-11; 3:12-15; 3:1-3; 6:7-10). And when Samuel assembled the people at Mizpah, the Philistines attacked them. While Samuel offered sacrifice and cried out to the Lord, God thundered at the Philistines and confused them, allowing Israel to win a great victory (1 Sam. 7:3- 11).
Battle in the Heavens
Though the power of worship is evident in the Old Covenant, it is even more so in the New. In Christ, we are positioned in the heavenly places, that is, in places of rule and authority (Eph. 2:6; see 1:21-23). When we assemble for worship, we join with the heavenly hosts (Heb. 12:22-24), and our heavenly worship affects the course of earthly history. Our prayers and praises ascend before God, and coals are thrown from the heavenly altar. And the Lord thunders from the heavens, shakes the earth, and scatters our enemies before us (Rev. 8:1-5).
“Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: Let them also that hate him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: As wax melteth before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God” (Psalm 68:1–2).
God shall arise and by His might put all His enemies to flight;
In conquest shall He quell them.
Let those who hate Him, scattered, flee before His glorious majesty
For God Himself shall fell them.
(Ps. 68, Huguenot Battle Hymn, Cantus Christi)
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