For those of you who weren’t here last week I’d just like to take a few moments to make you aware of some of the background of what I talked about.Last week I started a series entitled, “The Heart of Worship”. I expressed my hope that the words spoken from the three messages on true worship would be more than inspiring, and more than challenging – that they would be life-changing, life giving and would instill in us a deep, ravenous hunger for the presence of God.
The Heart of Worship, the essence of worship – is exactly that: True worship flows out of a deep, wrenching, hunger and thirst desire to know God and not only to know Him but dwell in His presence. It goes beyond the ritual or habitual worship into true God-inspired worship.
We began our series last week by talking about the presence of worship. From the words of Jesus in John 4:23-24 and through the illustration of these words in Luke 7:36-50 we learned that true worship is not determined by place or posture but by the attitude of our hearts and the longing of our spirits after the heart of God.
You see, you can exhibit the form or display the acts of worship but it is not true worship unless it is in spirit and in truth.
True worship flows out of a heart that has reverence for who God is, that is humble and repentant, and that has a penetrating love for God. True worship also flows out of a heart that seeks the giver not the gift and is concerned more with ministry to God rather than ministry FROM or FOR God!
Last week we discovered that the presence of true worship is found among worshippers who worship Christ in Spirit and in Truth not necessarily people who “worship”. And as we’re going to discover today, there is a real difference between the two!
Read Exodus 19:1-25
1 In the third month after the Israelites left Egypt–on the very day–they came to the Desert of Sinai. 2 After they set out from Rephidim, they entered the Desert of Sinai, and Israel camped there in the desert in front of the mountain. 3 Then Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” 7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the LORD had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the LORD has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the LORD. 9 The LORD said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the LORD what the people had said. 10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the LORD will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not go up the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. 13 He shall surely be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on him. Whether man or animal, he shall not be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain.” 14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.” 16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, 19 and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. Then Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him. 20 The LORD descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the LORD said to him, “Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the LORD, must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them.” 23 Moses said to the LORD, “The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you yourself warned us, ‘Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as holy.'” 24 The LORD replied, “Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the LORD, or he will break out against them.” 25 So Moses went down to the people and told them.
Exodus 19:1-25 (NIV)
Then in verses 1-17 of chapter 20, God spoke the ten commandments.
18 And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. 19 And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. 20 And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. 21 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.
Exodus 20:18-21 (KJV)
Folks, there is worship and then there is WORSHIP! True worship is much, much different from the worship that some people profess for God. The message today is entitled the price of worship and as we begin I want to draw your attention to a few things from the scripture passage that I just read.
It was God’s intention that Israel be a kingdom of priests (v. 6)
It was God’s desire from the moment He lead them out of Egypt that Israel, as His chosen nation, would become a kingdom of priests. I believe that the event that transpired at Mount Sinai was the first monumental turning point in the history of Israel. It was here that a crucial decision was made among the people of Israel. I believe that it was God’s intention that this band of rovers would be made into a kingdom of priests at this fabled mountain. Notice what the scriptures say:
First, Moses was told to consecrate the Israelites (v.10)
This action is remarkably similar to the process by which God instructed Moses to consecrate Aaron and his sons later while instituting the priesthood. The Israelites were being told to prepare themselves to be in the presence of God.
Second, it seemed as thought God expected the people to want to see Him. (v21-23)
It’s as if God said in verse 21, “Moses, you better go down and warn everyone not to come up here or they’ll die!” Notice what God said in verse 22, “Even the priests, who approach the Lord, must consecrate themselves, or the Lord will break out against them.” It’s interesting that God would say this when the people are already gathered at the foot of the mountain. It’s as if God was saying, “If they’re going to approach any closer to me – even the priests must consecrate themselves or they’ll perish in my presence.” But then Moses seems to remind God and says, “Wait a minute Lord, the people cannot come up this mountain because you already warned us to make boundaries around the mountain where we’re not to cross!” Then God said to Moses, “Okay then, go get Aaron and bring him up with you…”
Third, Moses refers to the thundering display of God’s power as a way to ensure correct reverence for God that would keep them from sinning.(18:20)
God wanted this nation of priests to be convinced of his power and might!
It was Israel’s response that led to the priesthood.
When the people of Israel saw God’s power displayed the Bible says that they trembled with fear and withdrew from the mountain and stood at a distance. They said to Moses, “Hey Moses buddy, ummm…we know you and if you speak to us we’ll listen – but umm…we don’t want to go any closer to God and hear Him speak to us again or uh, we’ll die!” And then Moses said, “Don’t be scared guys, God just wants to keep you from sinning” But still the people chose to remain at a distance and sent Moses back into the close presence of God.
What is significant about this occasion is that it was here that the people of Israel chose to have someone represent them before God and be a go between rather than be in the presence of God themselves. Instead of fulfilling God’s intentions for them and be a nation of priests they chose to separate themselves from the presence of God and have someone else stand between them and God. I believe this choice at Mount Sinai had a far greater impact than the choice the Israelites made to not enter the Promise Land later at the River Jordan. You see, at Mount Sinai they saw God’s power, passed off the priesthood, but looked forward to the promised Land – at the River Jordan they forgot God’s power, ignored the priesthood, and passed off the promised Land.
As I said earlier, there is a difference between worship, and true Worship. At Mount Sinai, the Israelites were satisfied to worship God at a distance but were afraid to enter into True Worship up close. It’s ironic, but the Israelites recognized at Mount Sinai that there was a price to true worship that they weren’t prepared to pay. Moses recalled this incident when He wrote in Deuteronomy:
24 And you said, “The LORD our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. 25 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the LORD our God any longer. 26 For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and survived? 27 Go near and listen to all that the LORD our God says. Then tell us whatever the LORD our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” 28 The LORD heard you when you spoke to me and the LORD said to me, “I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good. 29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
Deuteronomy 5:24-29 (NIV)
God said to Moses, “Yes, I’ve heard what they said and you know what? They’re right! – For them to press on to Me will lead to their death – they can’t see me and live. Oh I wish they would desire to know me and worship me and obey me, so that they will experience my blessings forever!”
The price that the Israelites weren’t willing to pay to enter into true worship and experience the intimate presence of God was death. They were afraid of dying! Listen Moses, you go ahead, we’ll stay here and worship at a distance but you go ahead and then tell us what God says to you! Many people today really do want to experience the presence of God and enter into His presence but are afraid of getting too close and so they’ll settle for pseudo worship…
There’s a difference between worship and true Worship!
You know it’s interesting, in the light of this passage, that Paul writes to the Romans in 12:1,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.
Romans 12:1 (NIV)
What is the price of worship? The price of true worship is ourselves. God wants us!
Remember when I talked about God’s intention for the nation of Israel to be a kingdom of priests? We’ll never know what would have happened if the people of Israel had stayed at the foot of Mount Sinai that day but what I do know is that through the cross and Christ’s one and only sacrifice, God’s intention is being fulfilled through Christians.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9 (NIV)
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father–to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
Revelation 1:4-6 (NIV)
What is a priest – a priest is one who brings sacrifices to God, and represents people before God. In the Old Testament, a priest was permitted to enter into the presence of God and work in his temple. Friends, it’s time to proclaim in the church of Jesus Christ, “Arise priests, and enter into the presence of God, arise and worship Him, arise and bring your sacrifices of praise, and thanksgiving!”
And yet there are those, who like the Israelites, withdraw from the intimate presence of God and become content with a form of worship, rather than the Heart of Worship. Why? Because they don’t want to pay the price.
The price of true worship is ourselves and because of this true worship leads us to some uncomfortable places.
place of repentance
When you are in the presence of God you become aware of your sinfulness and are brought to your knees in repentance.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Isaiah 6:5 (NIV)
There are many people who stand off in their worship because they are afraid of what may happen should they enter into the presence of God. Think of the Israelites! They had just heard the Ten Commandments spoken by God Himself. Can you imagine the frightening scene as God listed off one by one each of the commandments while there was lightning and thunder echoing around you and smoke spewing out of Mt. Sinai? I’m sure in the back of their minds the Israelites were going – Umm…I think I may have broken that commandment – I don’t feel very comfortable right now – I don’t think it would be safe to stay here much longer…
Too many people in churches aren’t worshipping God in Spirit and Truth because they start to enter into the place of repentance and feel uncomfortable and start thiinking, “Ummm… This isn’t a very good place to be right now…” WRONG! The place of repentance, while uncomfortable is the best place for you to be!! God can’t get rid of our sin until we confess it to Him! Are you hearing me? Jesus Christ has made it possible for the forgiveness of sins, but it’s up to us to confess those sins!! John wrote:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
True worship takes you through the place of repentance and into the place of righteousness – but that I’ll leave for the next message when I speak on The Prize of Worship.
place of sacrifice
Paul wrote to the Romans, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” What does this mean? A sacrifice is something that is of immense value to you that you give freely without the thought of gain for yourself. Did you hear me? Some people like to think of sacrifice without that last part, “It’s an incredible sacrifice for me… but I’ll give you my treasured stereo in exchange for your new car…” Instead of sacrifice, many people approach worship as a bartering game.
The woman who came to Jesus in Bethany and anointed his head understood the concept of sacrifice. It is written in the scriptures that the perfume she poured on His head was worth a year’s wages and yet she willingly emptied the jar. True worship brings you into a place where you are willing to sacrifice anything to get closer to God and to honor Him! I believe Paul was a true worshipper! He was prepared to die for Christ (Acts 21:13).
True worship will not be entered into by curious people but by thirsty people.
There are many curious seekers in the kingdom of God. People who are content to stay in the distance and “watch” what God is doing, get the warm fuzzies, nod their heads and say Amen and then go home and carry on with their lives. Curious seekers can’t enter into true worship because they don’t want to give up anything! And yet they’ll sing the words, “Lord I give you my heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone” And then they’ll leave church and do anything but “live for God!”.
True worship is entered into by people who are thirsty for God. That is they’re prepared to sacrifice anything that will bring them closer to God. In our country, in our society most of us don’t really know what it means to go thirsty or hungry for something. You only have to watch footage on TV or talk to people who have been involved in famine relief efforts overseas to understand what people will sacrifice to get food or water.
When people are thirsty for God they are prepared to sacrifice their…
– they won’t worry about what other people are thinking – they’ll only worry about what God is thinking.
– Not my will but yours Lord. Their prayer is, “Show me your will Lord – so that I can get in it”
– True worshippers are able to take God’s wants and make them their wants – even when the two conflict.
– People who are thirsty for God are prepared to sacrifice their plans for the plans of God.
– People who are thirsty for God aren’t looking at their watch to see if the service has broken the time – limit. People who are thirsty for God live the phrase, “wait on the Lord”.
– People who are thirsty for God are also prepared to sacrifice their own time in response to the will of God.
– True worshippers are prepared to give up everything they have to God and I mean everything. Notice I didn’t say they give up everything – only that they are prepared to give up everything.
– ultimately true worshippers are people who are so thirsty for more of God that they offer their bodies as living sacrifices to Him. “Take My Life and Let it Be…”
Let me make one thing clear. True worship is not birthed by sacrifice! As I said last week, worship is the heart-wrenching, hunger-thirst response to God’s presence and to know Him more. However, as we enter into true worship we will be brought to a place of sacrifice where we’re faced with the choice of giving up something to go further into God’s presence. God never forces us to sacrifice something. It is always our choice.
True worship takes you from a place of sacrifice to a place of blessing – again, I will leave this for the next message in the series when I talk about the prize of worship.
place of brokenness
Some of the most powerful worship moments are experienced by those who are broken-hearted, at the end of their rope – who are in the pits of despair. The truth is that those who are “all-together” will never experience true worship until they are broken.
People who are broken come to God because they need Him. When they are made aware of a God who loves and cares for them they want to be in His presence!
People who have it “all-together” will have trouble stepping in close to the presence of God because they’re afraid that some cracks may be revealed, or they really don’t see any need for God. Brokenness is an uncomfortable place. No one likes feeling broken-hearted, no one likes it when life throws us a bad curve. But, oh the wonderful things that happen when with broken hearts we come to God and worship Him!!
When we bring ourselves to God he does a wonderful work through our worship. The heart of a true worshipper begins to awaken to it’s need for God. The Spirit of a true worshipper begins to cry out for more of Him. Our joys, our pains, our failures, our successes all come to the surface and in the light of God’s presence the true worshipper realizes their unrighteousness before the tremendous glory of God. But then in the midst of their brokenness God casts the light of His love and His grace and carries the worshipper to the place of healing. Again, this I will save for the next message in this series!
The price of worship? Ourselves. The Israelites stood at the foot of Mount Sinai that day and became afraid of the price that would be paid should they stay in God’s presence. Many Christians today face the same choice daily as they feel the tug of true worship on their heart. You have a choice to stay and remain in God’s presence knowing that the price of your worship is great or you can be content and satisfied with standing in the distance. That’s not what God wants! That’s not what God sent His Son to Earth for! God wants us to be in His presence, He wants an intimate relationship with you – He wants us to stretch beyond what we think our “all” is and go into the “all” he wants us to give in order that He may share the “all” He wants us to have.