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Our God is a Consuming Fire, So Worship Him Acceptably (Hebrews Sermon 67 of 74)

Our God is a Consuming Fire, So Worship Him Acceptably (Hebrews Sermon 67 of 74)

June 03, 2012 | Andy Davis
Hebrews 12:25-29
Warnings, Worship

Made for Worship

This morning as we come to Hebrews 12:25-29 and meditating on this text, I realize we're coming again to the heart of worship, the very heart of worship. We were created to worship God. That's why we were made. That's why missions exist. John Piper tells us that in Let The Nations Be Glad. Missions is temporary; worship is eternal. Missions exist because worship doesn't. Missions goes where people aren't worshipping God, to solve that problem. That's my paraphrase. His words are much better. But anyway. The idea is that there's a darkness over this globe, a darkness of idolatry, of worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator, who is forever praised. Missions is temporary, however important it is; worship is eternal. Forever we will be praising and worshipping God.

So what are we talking about when we come to the heart of worship? Well, in our text, we have God presented. Almighty God. We're told that he is a consuming fire. He exists. And we have not only Almighty God as a consuming fire, but a God who speaks, who is speaking to us now. God who is revealing himself to us. That's the basis of worship, not out of our own hearts, imaginations, thinking what God is like, crafting an idol in our own hands after our imaginations.

"For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe." And so it's not possible for us to craft and think of God rightly out of our own imaginations, and our own philosophies. We must stand in his presence and listen to his word; this God who is a consuming fire. That's the foundation of worship. And then God gives us the grace of faith to believe what he is speaking to us, to believe what he has said to us. The promises of God as the text speaks once more. He has promised not only to shake the earth but also the heavens; the word promise is there. And so fundamental to our worship are the promises of God, and it speaks of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. So, we are promised that if we believe in Jesus, we will receive a kingdom that can never be shaken.

And because of all of that, a God who exists, who created all things by his powerful word, who sustains all things by his powerful word, who is a consuming fire. The God who speaks, and who is speaking right now. And we have been given the grace, the gift of faith, to hear and believe it's actually God speaking to us and not just the voice of a man. That we then, our hearts are drawn up into pure true spiritual worship described in this text as thankfulness and reverence and awe. So a combination of a thankful heart and reverence and awe for God, who has spoken such great promises to us, that's the heart of worship. And in that we are going to be for all eternity; for all eternity in some mysterious way, approaching a God who dwells in unapproachable light, standing in the midst of a God who is a consuming fire, and we are not consumed and just filled with joy and exaltation at what he has done for us and just pouring forth thankfulness.

So I was thinking about thankfulness this morning, and I realized that if I could just obey this text, most of the heart problems of my life would be solved. Seriously, think about it. And I asked my kids as we were driving in this morning... There are some tough rides with dad into church, searching questions, tough questions. Can't we just listen to music, this morning? Some nice hymns or something pretty, but searching questions because I was just thinking about this text and challenged by it. So I asked and I said, "If you just could have a random snapshot of you and an average moment in your week, Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday mornings, Saturday, Sun... Doesn't matter, just average snapshot. At that moment, are you thankful?" Average moment in your life, are you thankful? Convicting.

My answer, probably not. And I certainly know not suitably, not sufficiently thankful for all that's God's given me, for all the wealth, the riches of his promises, for the complete forgiveness of all of my sins, for the promise of a resurrection body and a resurrected new heavens and new earth, a seat at the table with the Almighty God, with the King and with brothers and sisters from every tribe and language and people and nation surrounding me, filled with the same joy; free from all death, and mourning, and crying, and pain. Am I thankful for that? For all that he's done to save me and all that he's yet to do, the good things he's giving me. No, not suitably. And then I was thinking about, "Well, if I were just absolutely filled with thankfulness, what sins would run away like shadows and darkness runs from light?" How could I complain? Complaining would be gone. It's just direct opposite. How can you complain and be thankful? Cannot be.

And so that I would be filled with a heart, a mouth of thankfulness, speaking thankfulness to God and thanking him for all of his blessings and not complaining about whatever is going on in my life that I don't like right now. Complaining would be gone. I think greediness and selfishness would be gone. How could somebody who is genuinely thankful to be anything less than satisfied? I'm just thankful, filled, satisfied. I don't need anything more. God has given me everything I need. Thank you God. I'm satisfied. And so, my lust would be greatly subdued, greatly hindered. They would have little impact on me. Like magnet on wood, I would just be so filled with thankfulness and gratitude.

So this morning, I'm preaching for your faith and mine that as a result of hearing these verses, you would be so filled with a God-saturated thankfulness that these sins will run from you. And I'm also yearning that as a result of that, our times of corporate worship would be rich and full as well. As we do these little dress rehearsals every week for Heaven as we come together every week by the Spirit and unify together and just worship better together than we do alone, that our corporate worship will be better than ever before because we've heard this text this morning. That's my desire.

I. Warning: Do Not Refuse the God Who Is Speaking (vs. 25)

So as we come to Hebrews 12:25-29, I want to set it in context. We've come immediately from last week, from the contemplation of two mountains, Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Mount Sinai is described in the Scripture here as a "mountain that can be touched, and it's burning with fire. Darkness, gloom, and stormed, trumpet blast, such a voice speaking words, that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them because they could not bear what was commanded. If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I'm trembling with fear." You've not come to that mountain, mountain of judgment and wrath and condemnation under the law of God. God's law that stood opposed to you, was against you, that condemned you, you've been liberated from it. Jesus took all of those precepts on himself.

All of your sins and the ways that you've violated God's laws, all of the wickedness of your heart and of your life, he took all of that on himself and he died under the wrath of God. And so we've not come to that mountain though we deserve it. We've been liberated from Mount Sinai, liberated from judgment and wrath and condemnation. We are free from it, but instead what have we come to? Hebrews 12:22-24, "But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly. To the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect." You've come to the New Covenant, to Jesus, and to Heaven. That's where you have come, and you've already come there. As I mentioned at the end of my message last week, if you've come to faith in Jesus, you're already there; you're already welcome to worship God in spirit and truth now, already.

Hebrews Is a Book of Warnings

And yet, not yet, because you're told to run a race with endurance right to the end, and so we're not there yet. Already and not yet, both there. So that's the context. Bigger context, as we've said many times, this book is an epistle of warning. It's a word of warning to us. We were warned in Hebrews, and this is the last word of warning in the Book of Hebrews, as far as I can see. So, the author is completing his warning; he's writing to first century Jewish people who had made an outward profession of faith in Christ, but who are under pressure to turn away from Jesus, to forsake Jesus. The point of contact to your life; you don't have to be a first century Jew. 21st century American who's made an outward profession of faith in Christ is enough point of contact for you, because you're under constant pressure to forsake Jesus and go back to an idolatrous lifestyle. And so you need this warning as much as they did. We all need this warning. The warnings do is good. They don't do us any harm.

It doesn't hurt us to be told that our God is a consuming fire; it helps us. And so also we come to this final word of warning, and he says, "See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks." See to it; take it seriously. Look after this issue, but what is the issue? Listen to the one who is speaking to you. This one who has spoken to us and is speaking now. Take it seriously and see to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. So the issue here is the Word of God; we're talking about God, the God who speaks. "He is there and he is not silent" as Francis Shafer told us. God speaks even now. And so the issue is the Word of God; it's how the entire book began. Hebrews 1:1. "In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways. But in these last days, he has spoken to us by his son."

Jesus is the one who speaks here; he's the one who's talking to us. And this is everything, we must listen to him as he speaks. Hebrews 2:1, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." So the remedy to drifting away in the Christian life is to listen more carefully to what you've heard. Hebrews 3:7-8 says very plainly there, "So as the Holy Spirit says," maybe intensify a bit. "So as the Holy Spirit is saying to you, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." So there's an ongoing listening to the Holy Spirit that is essential to our salvation. You're just going to keep listening to the Holy Spirit as he speaks in Scripture, because it's in quotation, Psalm 95. As you hear him speak in Scripture do not harden your heart.

And then Hebrews 4:13, "For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double edged sword." We are listening now to God speaking to us, and he's speaking the Gospel through Jesus. He's speaking eternal life through Jesus, forgiveness of sins. That you can live forever and ever, sinner, though you may be. Sinner, though you are, you can live forever and ever in the presence of a consuming fire, who is God. That is the good news of the Gospel and he is speaking it to you. He's speaking to you of Mount Zion, and you can go there. You can be with the angels in joyful assembly, hundred million of them. You can be there with the spirits of righteous men who have been made perfect because you're going to be made perfect by the same word. Jesus said in John 13, "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." He speaks these words.

Warning: Do Not Refuse the God who is Speaking

So what is he saying here? What's the warning? See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. So this word refuse, it means to turn away. I have in my mind the parable of the king who wanted to prepare a wedding banquet for his son and he sends out messengers, but nobody wants to come to the feast. Nobody wants to come. And the messengers go out and they just go to the highways and byways, and people are making excuses. "Please excuse me, I have a new yoke of oxen and I want to try them out." Well, they better be good oxen to turn away from the Kingdom a seat at the King's banquet table. "I want to try them out. I can't. I'm busy with this. I don't want that." Just refusing, something else is more attractive. Some idle something in this life, more attractive than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. See that you do not refuse him.

Or it could be just outright rebellion. Just refuse, "I will not. I will not become a Christian. I will not believe in Jesus. I will not fall in for all of those things. I refuse to be duped or tricked by any of that." Well see to it that you do not refuse him who speaks, the one who is speaking to you, now. "For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven." Now, he's bringing us in our minds back to the Jews who did stand around Mount Sinai. God came down and warned them at that time concerning the 10 commandments. "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God."

Well soon after that, as you know, they turned away; they refused him who warned them from Earth. And they made a golden calf, and in their hearts they turned back to Egypt and they would not enter the promised land, and so their bodies were scattered throughout the desert. They did not escape. Cannot escape. "Where can I flee from your Spirit? "Where can I go from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths, you are there…If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me." Jonah thought to escape, get on a boat and sail to the end of the earth. Sailing to Tarshish to get away from the Lord. It can't be done.

And so there's no way to escape this one who is speaking to us, the one who's speaking the Gospel. There's no way to escape. And they found that there was no way to escape the wrath of God when they refused to obey him who warned them from the earth. They could not escape. God brought the judgment on them.

The "How Much More" Argument: The Old Covenant vs the New Covenant

And we have here in this text a "how much more" argument If they couldn't escape the one who warned them from earth, how much less could we escape the one who warns us from Heaven? Now, God spoke both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. So I don't think we have Moses versus Jesus here. I think instead it's more of the topic of the covenant. I think the Old Covenant was more earth bound and the New Covenant more heavenly focused. And so if they didn't escape when he warned them concerning their earth bound covenant, how much less when God has promised us infinitely greater riches in this New Covenant; it's a "how much more" argument.

It's a greater covenant, and it's a clearer communication from God, and therefore it puts under obligation, a greater obligation, those who hear such a clear command from God. We have a clear word from God concerning his son Jesus, the life he lived, the death he died, his resurrection on the third day, forgiveness of sins, proclaimed in his name. All you have to do is repent and believe in Jesus, and all of your sins will be forgiven so that no one can boast before him. It's by faith and not by works, a simple message of salvation; a child could understand it. Many children do understand it and believe. It speaks of heaven; it speaks of an eternal life, free from death, mourning, crying, and pain. It's a better word. It's a better gospel. It's a better message, and carries with it a greater obligation. And so that's the, "how much less will we" type argument. If they didn't escape when God was just talking to them about an earthly promised land, and Palestine, and all that, how much less will we now that God has come and opened up Heaven's gates through faith in Jesus.

We will not escape if we refuse this Gospel. There is no other message; there's no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. There's no other way to get to heaven. And it's a sure and certain way. And we will not escape, if we refuse Jesus who's speaking this word to us now saying, "Come unto me, all you who are weary and burdened and I'll give you rest." This heavenly rest, he's speaking it to you. And we will not escape if we turn our backs on him, Jesus, who is speaking this Gospel to us.

II. God’s Voice Will Shake Heaven and Earth (vs. 26-27)

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'" Here we come to the center piece of our worship and that is the voice of Almighty God. God's voice is awesome. By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made. Think about that. Just by the Word, by the breath of his mouth, all the starry hosts. How awesome is the Word of God, how powerful, and how creative. God speaks and it is. So we have this voice of God and when God spoke such a voice that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken it was an awesome thing, and I think it actually caused the ground to shake under their feet. As God was speaking, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt." The whole ground was shaking under their feet and they were terrified by it.

"At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.'" Now here, he's speaking of the second coming of Christ and the end of the world, and notice that he uses the word promised, not threatened, or warned. I find that interesting. For us, it's a delightful thing, isn't it? Are you looking forward to that shaking? Because what comes after the shaking of those things that can be shaken? Well, what cannot be shaken will remain. The kingdom of Christ will remain. That is what can never be shaken; it's a kingdom that will last forever and ever.

And so at that time is voice shook the earth but now he has promised, once more, "I'm going to shake, not only the earth but also the heavens." And so this mighty this awesome voice of the Lord, God is going to shake the heavens and the earth with it. Isaiah 13:13, "Therefore I will make the heavens tremble and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger." Verse 27. "The words, 'once more,' indicate the removing of what can be shaken, that is created things, so that what cannot be shaken may remain." Now, we covered this back in Hebrews 1, verses 10-12, there it says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish but you remain. They all wear out like a garment, like a robe they will be changed. You will roll them up like a robe, but you remain the same and your years will never end." Speaking of the future of the created realm that we're so used to, so comfortable with, that five cents world that surrounds us every day.

The world of sight and sound and taste, the world of touch. This world that surrounds us, that were so familiar with, and so comfortable. It is completely temporary, friends. It's hard to imagine, I know, but by faith were told this. Many times too, not once or twice, but we're told again and again, concerning the future of the created realm. It's all going to go away. 2 Peter describes it plainly, 2 Peter 3:10. "But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar. The elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." Later in that same chapter, "That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise, we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness."

Revelation 6 describes it too, I think. "I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?'"

What Remains?

So God has promised once more, "I'm going to shake not only the earth but also the heavens." And so, what will remain?  Well, Revelation 21:1, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth had passed away." Oh, that's our home, that's our true home. Aren't you longing for it? I long for it more every week. I actually frequently say to you folks, when I see you and before worship starts, "One week closer to heaven. One week closer." A new heaven and a new earth. Yearn for it. This place is not my home. It's not my home. And so, what will remain after all that shaking, after all that shaking that God is going to do? You know what's going to remain? The kingdom of Jesus Christ will remain. That's what's going to remain. Frankly, that's who's being addressed in Hebrews 1.

"They will perish, but you, [Jesus] remain." It's addressing Jesus there. And so also will everyone who has taken refuge under the shadow of his wings. You stand under the shadow of his cross by faith. You come close to him. You come to him all you who are weary and burdened and he will give you not only rest but he will give you refuge when God shakes everything in the universe. And you will remain. You will live forever and ever; you will live eternally unshakable because of Jesus.

III. We Are Receiving an Unshakeable Kingdom (vs. 28)

So, we are receiving it says in verse 28, a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Amazing grace, this kingdom that cannot be shaken. Again, if I can urge you to consider it, already and not yet. The kingdom is already here, and you can enter it today by faith in Jesus. Just read John 3; read all about it in John 3. Jesus talking to Nicodemus, remember. And Nicodemus wants to make some small talk based on the power of Jesus' fruitful ministry. "We know that you are a man from God because no one could do those works." "Nicodemus, can I just interrupt you and tell you something that you need to know? Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Unless you're born of water and the Spirit, you cannot enter the kingdom of God, but if you are born by the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit, you can enter the kingdom of God now." Many of you already have. You entered and you can never leave; you are secure in that kingdom. You've crossed over from death to life, and you are secure and you'll never be shaken.

Jesus said people were entering the kingdom even in his day. Tax collectors, and prostitutes, he said to the scribes and Pharisees, are entering the kingdom ahead of you. They're entering now, by faith already. It's already here, the kingdom is already here; it's in our midst through the Gospel. But yes, the kingdom is also yet to come. And so we pray, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." The kingdom is coming. And that kingdom is ours. He's giving it to us. Do you see it in the text? You are receiving a kingdom; it's flooding into you now, like just life-giving sap; you the branch and he the vine. The kingdom is just flowing into you. The sovereignty of Jesus flowing into every area of your life. You're taking his yoke upon you and you're submitting to him and delighting in his kingly reign; and the kingdom is just flowing into you like sap, like nourishing sap; it's happening now.

You are receiving a kingdom like that, and you're going to receive it when it comes in all it's fullness and all its glory. Because it says in Matthew 25:31-34, "When the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory, and all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he'll put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left, and then he will say to those on his right, 'Come you who are blessed. Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.'"

Friends, that's what we're getting. You get a kingdom. You get a king; you get to be in that kingdom forever, and you're receiving a kingdom it says that cannot be shaken. Why can't it be shaken? Because it's Jesus's kingdom. He is the rock that cannot be shaken. Read about it in Daniel chapter 2. You remember how Nebuchadnezzar had a dream? And he wanted his counselors to tell him what his dream was and then to interpret it for him. Remember he's going to kill them all if they couldn't tell him what his dream was. You remember that chapter. And Daniel comes and stuns everybody and does both; he tells him what the dream was and what it meant. It was a dream of a statue of the head of gold, and chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, feet partly iron, partly clay. It represented the flow of world history; one empire after another after another, one empire after another.

But in the midst of all that a rock comes out, cut out, but not by human hands and it strikes the feet of clay, and it smashes that statue and that huge statue becomes... I always imagine at that point like it's made of crystal, just crash. And it's just chaff on the floor and the wind blows it away, without leaving a trace. It's all gone. It's all going to be shaken, and it's all going to go. But the rock that was cut out but not by human hands became a mountain that filled the whole earth. That rock is Jesus; it's a kingdom. In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that cannot be shaken; it cannot be removed. It will last forever and ever. By the end of chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar got the message. His dominion is an eternal dominion. His kingdom can never be removed. And what's so beautiful about that? He's giving it to us. You are receiving this eternal kingdom.

IV. So Let Us Be Thankful and Worship God Acceptably (vs. 28)

So, since you're getting all that, how about being thankful? Since you're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, what do you say we spend the rest of our day, thanking him. Let me just add a single letter to that sentence. What do you say we spend the rest of our days thanking him. All of them. I yearn for this and I yearn for the help of the Holy Spirit. Just do nothing but thank God the rest of my life.

Don't you want to be like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail? Beaten, scourged, whatever, having a horrible day, you've never had a day like that. I've counseled with a lot of you; none of you have had days like that. Okay, you've had some bad days, but not like that. That was a bad day, tough day. But there they are midnight, pitch black, bleeding backs, maybe going to be executed the next day, thanking God. Just thanking him, praising him. Why? because they're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Or just Daniel facing the edict that if he should pray to any God other than the king that he would be thrown in the lion's den. What does he do? Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed giving thanks to his God just as he had done before. I just... I want to live like that; three times a day get down on my knees and just thank God for my blessings.

want to be richly fully thankful. And in that way, according to the text, I will worship God acceptably. You see that? You see the connection. By being thankful, I will worship God acceptably. That's what acceptable worship is. Now, that word acceptable can snare some of you; you may struggle with it. In the Old Covenant, there were lots of rules and regulations concerning worship. Only the Levites, only the sons of Aaron, only this kind of incense, and only this kind of rhythm to life, and only this type of sacrifice; God prescribed everything. Those days are over; that covenant is obsolete. We worship now in spirit and truth, neither on this place nor in Jerusalem, Jesus said to the woman at the well. We worship in a new way, and so we may struggle with forms of worship. I know that the church has struggled with that from time to time.

But the fact of the matter is the heart of worship in this text is thankfulness, reverence, and awe. That's what the text is about. And so since we're receiving this kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. And let's worship, it says, with reverence and awe; fear and trembling is almost a sense here. It's the same word used. One of the words is the same word used of Jesus, who was heard because of his reverent submission in Gethsemane. "Not my will, but your will be done." He submitted to this Almighty God. He will never stop being King. He will never stop being God. The seraphim, the holy angels cover their faces in his presence, and so there's a beautiful combination of confident, happy thankfulness, with just the fear and trembling that comes from knowing he is an infinite God. For our God, he says, is a consuming fire.

V. For Our God is a Consuming Fire (vs. 29)

So the good news that God is a consuming fire. What do you do with that? "Oh, thank you, God, that you are consuming fire." Yes, thank him. Because God is a consuming fire, he will allow no idols in the universe. Says it in Deuteronomy, that the Lord your God will not allow you to worship any idols for the Lord your God is a jealous God, a consuming fire. So it's linked to idols, and he will burn up all the idols in the universe, and there will be only one God in that day. Amen. All the idols will be gone. Read about it in Isaiah 2. All the idols will burn up.

So our God is a consuming fire, meaning he's going to burn up all the idols. Our God is a consuming fire, meaning he's going to weed out of God's kingdom everyone who causes sin and all those people who do evil, and he will burn them with everlasting burnings. This is the teaching of the Bible. It may not be popular, but it is true. There is an eternal hell for those who will not submit to this Gospel. They refuse this Gospel. God is a consuming fire, and the smoke of their torment will rise forever and ever. It is the threatened judgement that Jesus came to deliver us from.

Thirdly, our God is a consuming fire in that he purges and purifies us from all our sins. Amen. We are going to be purged and purified, just like he says of the sons of Levi in Malachi 3. "Who may endure the day of his coming? Who may stand when he appears? For he will be like a refining fire and like a purifying smelter's fire, and then he will have those who will offer up to him righteous sacrifices." That's us, friends, we will be purified and purged of all of our sins and glorified, and we will spend forever worshipping him free from the flesh. So yes, thank God that our God is a consuming fire. God is love. God is light. God is Spirit, and here, God is fire. We just need to know these things. This is the God of the Bible. And he dwells in unapproachable light. So let us be thankful and in this way worship acceptably with reverence and awe.

VI. Applications

What application can we take from this? Well, friends come to Christ. Trust in Jesus; believe in him. I've appealed to you, I'm grateful for visitors. I want you all who are not visitors, but members bring lots of visitors. I promise you before God, I will do my best every week to make the Gospel plain and clear if you bring them. But even if you don't bring them they don't have to come here to become Christians; they don't have to come here. Take the gospel, you hear me clearly say, and go out and put it in your own words and say it to them out at the workplace, in the neighborhoods, with your family and friends. Share the Gospel with them; speak to them.

And realize that God is speaking to you now through the Bible. I am completely irrelevant, completely immaterial, doesn't matter the individual; what matters is the truth of the words being spoken. You are the Bereans listening carefully and taking the things I'm saying and weighing them by Scripture. But what is weighed and what is coming from Scripture is the word of Almighty God; it's what God is saying to you. Take God's Word seriously; take it to heart. Repent of sin. Turn away from wickedness; turn away from sin, and follow him. And do not harden your heart to anything he says. Embrace willingly the idea that you know is true by faith that everything you see around you is temporary. Embrace it; it's all temporary, all of it. Your money is temporary; your possessions are temporary, so act accordingly.

Your positions and all the things you run after are not important. They're temporary. What matters is this eternal kingdom that's coming. So live life accordingly. Praise God for the permanence of Christ's kingdom. Amen. It's never going to change. It's permanent; it's forever, and you're going there. You will never be shaken; you're not going to be shaken by the shaking of the entire universe. Think about that. Going to survive Judgment Day. So then I would urge you to be thankful; it's what the text says. I really mean it. Be thankful always. "Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

Think right now about times when you commonly complain; just think about it. And bring this text right in like a bright shining light and dispel the darkness of that complaining. What is it? What causes you to complain? Are they aches and pains, bodily problems, body is hurting? Be thankful that some day you're going to have a resurrection body that there'll be no pain. None! Be thankful and speak that pain or you could do this. Say, "Thank you, Jesus, that you went through far greater pains than this for me." Try that. Or "Thank you, Lord, for the martyrs who are willing to be burned at the stake, so that I could have a pure Gospel to believe." Do something like that.

Okay, what about financial troubles, does that cause you to complain? Thank God for the way he's provided for you up to this point, all of the times he's met your needs; for the fact that he is still faithful, that he doesn't bring beyond you what you're able to bear. The fact that you belong to a family of believers, who cares for you and loves you; you're not isolated in the world. That God is faithful. "I was young, and now I'm old, and I've never seen the righteous begging bread," the Psalmist said. Thank God for that.

What causes you to complain? Your spouse. Well, probably not. But in the midst of your family situations, thank God for whatever it is that's troubling you, whatever it is that causes you to not speak words of thankfulness; speak words of thankfulness. Thank God for that person, spouse, parents, children, brothers and sisters, whatever, neighbors. Thank God for everything; bring thankfulness into your circumstance. And worship God acceptably, okay?

This is the second time I have preached on this passage to you, second time in the last year. First time I did a sermon called, "Timeless and Temporary." The reason I preached that sermon out of order is because the elders were desiring to bring a different direction in corporate worship. Since that time, there's been a lot of discussion about corporate worship, specifically music styles, different things like that. Can I urge you to look again at the essence of worship as we've seen in this text here?

The essence of worship is a God who is a consuming fire, who speaks to us by his word, who has given us faith to believe those promises and who is giving us a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and so therefore we should be thankful and worship him with reverence and awe. That's what worship is. So, I would urge you to consider thankfulness when you come in here. When you come into this room to worship every week, be genuinely thankful. Be thankful for God and for these promises. Be thankful for your brothers and sisters in Christ. Be thankful for those that are serving you on the instruments. Thank God for each one. Be thankful for Eric and for how hard he works to do worship in spirit and truth. And I can't even put into words what a joy and a blessing it is to labor with you. Thank you for that solo that almost brought me to tears.

Michael Card, I love Michael Card. But praise God for Eric and how hard he labors to do a quality job. And these folks practice and they do it and labor. And I've used this illustration with a number of you, but fundamentally, when your brother or sister serves you a meal, and even if it's not your favorite, your job is to eat it with thankfulness. Okay? Just eat it with thankfulness because your brothers and sisters are trying to bless you.

And yes, we are trying to please people. I've heard that one. "You're just trying to please people" We're not certainly trying to tick people off by our corporate worship. We're not trying to annoy and irritate people; we want to find a sound that no one will like. We have done it. We have found sounds that no one will like. That's what we do. Everyone's zigging; we're zagging. Were the zag church. You come here, you will hear such sounds as you have never heard before, and they will torture your very being but God is good anyway, and we have... We're not trying to do that, friends, we actually are trying to please people. We are. We are trying to please God ultimately, but it is our desire horizontally, to be a blessing. And the people that practice the music, that pick the music, that write the music, that write the lyrics, and Sarah Bone where are you? I don't know. Thank you for that hymn, beautiful lyrics today with Sarah, our sister in Christ, church member that wrote those lyrics.

We should be thankful horizontally for the brothers and sisters in Christ who are laboring to do the best they can in worship. And if you think a different worship style would be better, I understand that. There are times I think that too. Not every song is my favorite song, but I seek to sing every one with all my might because I want to give thanks to Jesus who shed his blood for me. And the only time we will all perfectly agree with the worship style is up in Heaven when that new song is being sung. Until then, Romans 14, we love one another. We don't bicker or argue with one another; we don't judge each other's motives.

We just trust that God's at work in this church. We don't dread the future, thinking we're going off the cliff. Let's stay faithful to this, and we're not going off any cliff. We're going to keep preaching God's word, and we're going to listen. We believe in iron sharpening iron. We want people to share their concerns. We do. But at the end of the end of the day or the beginning of the day when we come together to worship on Sunday, let's come in here in the spirit of this text and worship in this way, with genuine thankfulness to God for what he's giving us. Let's close in prayer.

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