Worship: Timeless and Temporary (Hebrews Sermon 34 of 74)
July 24, 2011 | Andrew Davis
Great Kobe earthquake
Well, I'll never forget one particular morning, I know I've mentioned it before from this pulpit, when Christi and I were serving as missionaries in Japan, Tuesday, January 17th, 1995, the earth, literally, shook beneath my feet. 5:46 AM, I was getting ready to go for breakfast and prayer time with my Japanese pastor and his wife, and the great Kobe earthquake shook the ground. Over 5,000 people were killed in that city. No great tragedies like that in Tokushima where we were, but unbelievable power and strength to that earthquake, lasted 46 seconds. I remember the curtains swaying back and forth as though it was a windy day. I remember the floor shaking so much that the toilet water slashed out of the bowl, it was just an unbelievable time. The kind of thing... I don't even think I was terrified, I just didn't know what was happening. It was so amazing and astonishing, and then it hit me, we'd been in an earthquake, and how incredible that was.
And I remember also after that, in the weeks that followed, the after shocks. I remember seeing the kids' pool in the back and you could see ripples in the pool when those after shocks would come. Some of them are very weak, some are stronger, but it's a very unsettling thing to think that the ground beneath your feet, the very Earth under your feet can move. It leads you to wonder what is eternal, what is unshakable, what is that that we can hold on to that will never change, that will never move? And I think this is a question that's in front of us. Change itself is a difficult thing. For myself, as I look at my own life, I think about my own... The changes that have happened to me. You grow up, you get stronger, you get older, you gain certain capabilities, you reach your peak, but you didn't know at that time that was your peak. And then you kind of plateau for a while and then you get into regression, and you age. And thank you elderly saints for reminding me just what that's like, alright? And giving us vivid testimony to that.
Meanwhile, you see your own children then following in your footsteps. And again, acquiring capabilities, the ability to stand and then to walk and to talk, and then little by little, they just are able to do more and more, but then they're grown and gone. And so, change itself starts to feel a bit like an enemy. In that hymn, "Be still my soul when it talks about when change is passed." I say Amen when we sing it, we don't see that hymn very often, but there's something powerfully painful sometimes about change. And so, we look for stability and we think if there's one place that we can find it, it's in our religion. We come to church every week and we celebrate timeless unchanging truths about almighty God and we find security and stability in that. It just never changes and we love that, but then there are certain aspects of our church experience that do change. The songs that we maybe enjoyed in a certain way that we enjoyed them when we're growing up. Other people that come along later, younger people don't enjoy it in the same way. And so certain patterns of worship change around us and it begins to get a bit unstable, and we wonder what we can really hold onto? Is there anything really permanent, anything that we can grab onto?
And then a valid question, and as we come to this text here in Hebrews 12, 25-29, we look at two categories of things that are mentioned here, those things which can be shaken, and those things which cannot be shaken. So I'm jumping out of order. In my sermons in Hebrews to look at this passage in particular, more on that in a moment. But there are two categories of things here. Those things that can't be shaking our eternal, they're timeless, they never move. And then there are those things that can be shaken which the author tells us are created things, those physical things around us that can be shaken. And you may ask, "Why are you jumping a out of order?" First of all, I am. If you've been away and you came back, I didn't just hit the overdrive and we just zoomed through chapters 9, 10 and 11 of all things. Hebrews 11, when did that... I was looking forward to Hebrews 11 and now here we are, what happened?
The Changes Coming to FBC
Well, I jumped ahead, and we did it for a reason, because today the elders want to communicate to the church, and we want to speak about something that's been on our heart for a couple of years now, and it just has to do with patterns of corporate worship that we feel it's time to change. And those patterns are significant enough to mention it and to talk about it, and we'll give more details this evening, but my role this morning is to talk about these two categories of things and to give us a sense of those things that can never change, must never change, will never change by God's grace here in this church. And those things that must change. Our desires as elders at First Baptist Church is to conduct worship services every week that are faithful to those things that can never change, the unshakable things, the unshakable truths of God's word, but to do that in a temporary culture, in a temporary time, in a temporary building, with temporary musical instruments and temporary patterns, to marry those two together in a way that honors God.
And as we do that, to constantly in a winsome, delightful, God honoring way, connect with the generation that we're called on to reach with the gospel, the generation that we're called on to disciple and train up in the faith. And so that's the challenge that's in front of us. And as for me, as I look at this, I tend to see a lot of times visually, and I see us traveling on a narrow road with steep slippery slopes on either side. Recently I watched the YouTube video of a guy called 'The Swiss machine', and this guy is a free soloist rock climber, who climbed the Eiger North Face. Usually takes about two days to do it, climbed it without any equipment just these two picks, almost ran up the side of this mountain, vertical mountain, in two hours and 37 minutes. Just about freaked me out watching this thing. It was scary to watch, there's helicopters videoing this guy, etcetera. No ropes, nothing, just him in the mountain side and a tremendous amount of skill, and an awful lot of foolishness, in my opinion.
But the worst part of all for me visually, was when he got to the top of the Eiger, and it's just a knife edge and it's just as steep on the other side. And he was running to get the quickest time he could, running along the ridge to the summit. And I'm just, "Wow!" I just had a hard time watching it, especially because he stumbled a little bit. The crampon stumbled a little bit. I'm like, "I don't want to watch this guy die." Well, I knew he didn't die, but it was just... Now, for us elders, it's not so dramatic, alright? Not so spectacular, but still there is that sense of kind of a slope on the left and on the right. What are those slopes? Well, on one side you have the danger of theological compromise, a biblical compromise, that we would give in on certain aspects of the Gospel to please our surrounding culture and to satisfy itching ears, to compromise aspects of the Gospel to make people happy and comfortable in their rebellion against God. That we must never do, it's a danger though.
But there is an opposite danger, and that's something that's been growing in my mind and the mind of the elders. And I don't even know, I guess, how to describe it, but I've seen it and I've been to certain churches, that it just seems that they're frozen in time, just the world moved on. The music, the visual sense, the way that the people are, the way that they carry themselves, it just seems disconnected from the world that surrounds us. And so, as I think about that, as I look at that, I trace it back to what I think is probably a cowardly lack of following the Holy Spirit when the spirit said it was time to move out of certain patterns and keep moving. And as I look at it, I don't think that the reason that that church, and is characterized by a constant aging process, few and fewer younger people are involved, few and few younger families, not many baptisms. The babies that are celebrated being born are grandchildren and great grandchildren, they're not born in that church, born in other churches and in other states.
And as I try to diagnose what's going on there, I don't think it's primarily an issue that that church didn't keep with it in terms of corporate worship, it's not so much that. I think, a far bigger issue is a cowardly and faithless retreat from evangelism, from encountering lost people and seeking to bring them to faith in Christ. Why do we do it? Because it's not comfortable. A close cousin or maybe even a brother of that same mentality is we don't want any trouble in church either, we don't want to offend people, we don't want to have difficulties with church people, we don't want to ruffle any feathers. Let's just keep everything the same. And so, as a result of those things, the far greater being a lack of engagement with the outside world in the Evangelism, both of them trace to our own levels of comfort, what we feel good about, what makes us feel comfortable, because life is difficult and it's painful, and I just like a place of peace and security and comfort where I can be happy, and I just want to make it through and go to heaven.
Look, I understand that, I know that, but God hasn't called us to step back and retreat, but to engage and to hurt and to suffer and to allow the Lord to bind up our wounds and to keep going and serving him until we at last get to the place where there's no more death or mourning, or crying or pain and I would say no more change. We're not there yet. And so, I have a picture of myself in a kind of a shady arbor, with a nice stream going by and fruit you can just reach and grab off the bush, and it's just comfortable, and it's like the Lord's standing and saying, "Get up and move. We can't stay here. So if we do, I'll move on and you'll be left behind." So that's the opposite danger.
The Book of Hebrews: The Perfect Book to Address The Issues of Timeless and Temporary
And so I want to communicate from the book of Hebrews what... Just some preliminary thematic concepts, the details will be tonight, of those things that can never change about corporate worship and those things that must be constantly changed. I don't mean constantly, like every week, but certainly every decade or two, so that we don't get wrapped up into traditionalism in certain patterns that can never change to become idols really, that are frozen in time. And I think there's no better book in the Bible to deal with this than the Book of Hebrews. And I think we've already laid enough groundwork for me to make that claim.
I tell you that no generation of Christians in history and Church history has ever had to make such significant changes in the area of corporate worship as did these Jewish Christians of the first century. It's astonishing when you think about what God was asking them to leave behind more or less instantly, within their own generation, immediately leave it behind. Everything was changing. The Levitical priesthood was obsolete, the temple was obsolete, the animal sacrificial system was obsolete, the thrice annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem were obsolete, the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles beginning at the circumcision were obsolete, the dietary regulations were obsolete. It was all changing.
And what is more, the author to Hebrews, and we haven't gotten there yet, in Hebrews 10, but the author of Hebrews in effect says, "If you don't by faith, move on into the promised land of a new form of new covenant worship, of spiritual worship. If you don't move on embracing an invisible high priest who is at the right hand of God and is ministering in an invisible way by the power of the Spirit and we no longer have a shrine that we're going to, and we no longer have all of these old covenant patterns. If you do not move on into the promised land of new covenant worship, you're really no better than that generation in the time of Moses that refused to enter the Promised Land, but shrank back through unbelief." You can't do it, the old covenant is over. And you need to move on. And so, the author at the end of Chapter 10, right before the faith chapter, he says this, "But my righteous one will live by faith." You live by faith "and if He shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved."
That is a dynamic Christian life right there in those verses. We are going to live by faith, walk by faith, we're going to move by faith, we're not going to be shrinking back people. And then he immediately gives us Hebrews 11 to give us encouragement of what a life of faith looks like. God Himself instituted those very patterns of worship that were now obsolete, and God Himself was telling them to move on. Now, Jesus Christ in a beautiful and a powerful way, had prepared the people of his own generation for precisely these changes. I remember the encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, and she's talking about the place of worship, this mountain or that mountain and Jesus says, "Neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. There's a whole new kind of worship coming. God is spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." More on that passage this evening.
But also very powerfully for me is Matthew 9-17, where Jesus again talking about a pattern of worship, in that case, fasting, gives this analogy of the Wine-skins. He said, "Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved." Now, there's a way to take that either individually or nationally corporately, I think both are fair enough. But here's the thing, the new covenant that the Lord was coming and bring the new thing that Jesus was doing, the new wine was not going to be static, it was going to be dynamic, there was going to be moving, it was like wine, new wine still fermenting, giving off gases, and if that old wine skin can't handle it, it's going to rupture. And so you must be made flexible, you must yield to what the Spirit is doing or you will rupture.
And so I think any local church that isn't submissive to the Holy Spirit as He moves, as He goes out in that direction, runs the risk of rupturing and that's the warning I think that the wineskins gives us. So Jesus was preparing, and as I said, I think the book of Hebrews just does an admirable job addressing this, also because it talks about worshipping God acceptably. And so, it's a good passage to address the issue of corporate worship.
I. Central Call: Do Not Refuse the Lord Who Speaks
Let's look a little more carefully at Hebrews 12 and verse 25. And at the beginning, the central call this text is do not refuse the Lord who is speaking to us. Verse 25, "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. 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." The context of the statement, ordinarily, I would have already preached through this, so now I have to just go back and tell you what the author is doing here.
And in this section of Hebrews 12, he's already contrasted this earthly mountain Mount Sinai with this heavenly Mount Zion, he's drawn a contrast between the two. Mount Sinai represents earth and the earthly covenant of Moses, Mosaic covenant, and Mount Zion represents that heavenly future that we have in Christ. And so the contrast is very striking. I'm not going to go verse by verse, line by line, but Mount Sinai shook with the voice of God. It was a terrifying place with darkness and gloom and storm, and terrifying sounds like a trumpet blast in such a voice, speaking words at those who heard, begged that no further word be spoken because they couldn't bear what was commanded. If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned. And Moses' reaction, he said, "I'm trembling with fear."
The author says, "You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to 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 am trembling with fear.' 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, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel."
You've come to a superior place that cannot be touched. So what is the author doing? He's saying Mount Sinai can be touched, physical. We knew that stuff. Its type, its shadow, it's finished, it's done. Do not come to that. Now, we've come to a spiritual kind of worship and is meant for here and now, okay? Because he's speaking. "You have now come to this mountain by faith you've come here now." And we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We haven't finished receiving so it's here now. We have in a very mysterious, powerful, spiritual way, come to this heavenly worship place, this Mount Zion and it's so much better. It's infinitely better in every way.
And so the author is saying, "We can't refuse the one who's speaking. The same one who spoke then is speaking now, the one who spoke the old covenant is now speaking the new covenant and we cannot refuse, because if we refuse we will be destroyed." There's a threat here the author is giving. And really the issue is coming to faith in Christ, believing in Jesus and not rejecting Christ as Savior, clearly, and if you turn away from that he says you will not escape, you will be destroyed. The first covenant people day they destroyed it, how much less could we, if we turn away from Christ, that's what the author's saying here. The same God is now speaking the new covenant.
II. What Can Be Shaken: Temporary Things
And then he talks about these things that can be shaken, those things that are temporary. Look at Verses 26 and 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." Verse 27, "The words once more indicate the removing of what can be shaken. So that what cannot be shaken may remain." So the shaking of the earth represents those things that are transitory. They're temporary, they're created things and they're only here temporarily. When I felt the earth moving under my feet, there in January of 95, I had a clear testimony that this earth is temporary, it's not here permanently, it's terrifying really, but it's true.
And so the physical things of this world are merely temporary, and many passages teach us this, this passage does, we've already had one in Hebrews Chapter 1, Verse 10-12. You can go back there and look but in Hebrews 1:10-12, the author says, "In the beginning oh Lord, you laid the foundations of the Earth and the heavens of the work of your hands. They will perish, but You remain. They will all wear out like a garment, You will roll them up like a robe. Like a garment, they will be changed, but you remain the same and your years will never end." Do you see the same thing? Things they can be shaken, and that which cannot be shaken. And so the universe itself is going to get rolled up like a robe and thrown away. Many passages testified of this truth. 2 Corinthians 4:18, says, that we walk by faith and not by sight, we trust in those things that cannot be seen not those things that can be seen, because those things that can be seen are temporary, but those things that cannot be seen are eternal. And so also in 2 Peter 3:10, we're told that every physical element around us will be destroyed, melted in the heat, and the Earth and everything in it will be laid bare, everything is going to be destroyed. It's all going to go.
What does that mean for our Sunday morning experience? Well, here we are at 414 Cleveland Street, in Durham, North Carolina. In case you didn't know where you were. 414 is temporary friends. Cleveland Street is temporary. Durham is temporary and so is North Carolina. This building that was built here was built in 1927, it's built in a new kind of classical neo-classical style, with the pillars out front, we've been told it looks like the post office. We have all kinds of interesting comments. There's no steeple. I guess people think it looks like the post office or some of the governmental building, but a very magnificent structure with the steps in front. In 1927 it was established. It was built, the interior with a balcony with wings that reached to the left and the right, all the way to these walls.
Those were removed in the 1970s, amidst a very rancorous debate, I'm told, I wasn't here, wasn't even a Christian at the time, was alive, but didn't care much about the balconies at First Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina, I can assure you. Cared a lot about the Red Sox at that point, not much about the balconies. Still care about the Red Sox. Moving on. Balconies left and right. Lots of debate. Finally, they got taken down. I can't imagine what this room was a look like when those balconies were being ripped down, but they say it's just much lighter in here as a result, there's much more light that streams in through the windows, but a lot of debate. Everything here's temporary friends, if you don't know, then just walk through the hall back here. Have you been through the hall recently? Don't you love what we've done with it? Don't you love the lime green paint that we have uncovered? It's kind of growing on us. Like a mold, something like that. I don't know what it is, but there it is, it's temporary. Temporary, everything here, it's all temporary. The pipe organ is gone, completely gone. You didn't know that, did you?
I know you hear the sounds of a pipe organ, but there are no pipes. The pipe organ was removed in the 1990s. Again, amidst quite a debate and discussion, some purists wanted a real pipe-organ, but others say, "Look, the electronic versions are just as accurate." Not one person in a million can tell the difference, and a lot more inexpensive. It's temporary, the electronic one right here, temporary. We have this Steinway piano, beautiful instrument, it's beautiful to hear the sounds that come from it, friends, it's temporary. The carpet under your feet, it's temporary, the pews that you're sitting on are temporary, certain patterns of worship are temporary. When I first got here, the choir wore robes, maybe some of you remember that. They're gone. Lots of changes have happened in the worship since I've been here, lots of changes that Eric has moved in. Some of them a little more subtle, some more significant. These chairs here are temporary, everything around you. So that's what can be shaken.
III. What Cannot Be Shaken: Eternal Things
Okay, what cannot be shaken? Well, look again in verses 27-20, "The words 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken, that is created things, so that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful." Well, what cannot be shaken is already listed above this text in Hebrews 12. Mount Zion cannot be shaken. It is established and firm, in the heavenly realms, it cannot be shaken, it's eternal, it's permanent, God Himself and His throne cannot be shaken. Jesus, the mediator of the New Covenant, cannot be shaken. His blood has established forever a new covenant, it is permanent, timeless, it cannot be shaken. The Kingdom itself, I'll talk more about this in a moment, it cannot be shaken. The countless worshippers that are up there, the spirits of righteous men made perfect, they cannot be shaken, they're done with being shaken by the things of this world. All of these things cannot... And the scripture reveals other things than just in Hebrews 12 that cannot be shaken. The Word of God cannot be shaken. Heaven and Earth will pass away, but God's word will never pass away. God Himself will never change, His characters His traits will never change. I, the Lord, do not change. So, you O Israel are not consumed, Malachi 3:6. He never changes.
He will not improve neither will Jesus ever change His nature. These things are timeless. They're permanent and there are practical aspects of our worship that are not going to be done in Heaven, but are timeless and cross-cultural and are just going to be there and are such all over the world. They're just parts of our present worship that cannot, will not change. God-centered worship. When we come together, we will celebrate God, we will celebrate Him, as He's revealed in Scripture, His attributes and His actions, His accomplishments, we're going to celebrate God, we're going to celebrate Jesus Christ and His achievement at the cross. We're going to keep preaching the same Gospel, we're going to keep preaching Christ crucified and resurrected. That's never going to change, and every word that we say and sing, and the comments, we're going to keep testing it by the grit of truth, the scripture is going to be the truth test, always. And so whatever lyrics we're singing it must be true, or we're not going to sing it. Prayer, and the public reading of scripture will not change. The consistent exposition of the Word, the proclamation of the Word is not going to change. We're going to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
It's right in the New Testament, we're going to do it, it's not going to change. We're going to be physically assembling together in a place of worship, and not forsaking that, because Hebrews 10 says that we must not forsake it. We're going to give ourselves faithfully to the administration of the ordinances that we saw of baptism, this week and I believe next week, is it Lord's Supper? Next week, Lord's Supper, prepare your heart for that. We are going to continue to faithfully Minister these two ordinances. We're going to continue to collect money, tithes and offerings for the ongoing support of this church, of the evangelization, of the lost and the relief of the poor. Those things are timeless features. And if I worked at, I could tell you some others besides, and they come up out of the text's scripture. For those of you that know what the regulator principle is, that's what it means to me, is these patterns, these structures come from the scripture. That's what it means to me.
IV. Let Us Worship God Acceptably
What then does it mean to worship God acceptably? Now, that's the key question, isn't it? Look at Verses 28-29. "Therefore, since we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful. And so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."
What does that mean? Well, first, what I get out of these verses, is that there is such a thing as acceptable worship as and there is by contrast such a thing as unacceptable worship. We want, the elders at FBC want to do acceptable worship, we don't want to worship God in a way that He does not accept. We believe that the word of God defines what that is in the New Covenant, we want to understand that. And so just looking carefully at these verses, the first thing the author gives us as the ground of our corporate worship, is the fact that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Because, therefore, since we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us worship God. So the foundation of our worship is what we are receiving in Christ. Oh, praise God for that. That is never going to change. And what does it mean that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken? Well, to receive a kingdom means that you're an heir. We're going to talk more about this another place in Hebrews, but we are heirs of a kingdom, we are sons and daughters standing ready to inherit a kingdom.
We are receiving this kingdom, and it is a kingdom, therefore, that means that there's a king, we will celebrate forever King Jesus, seated on His throne the exalted mighty one, that is Jesus, He is our king forever. We're going to keep celebrating that, and because we are entering His kingdom, we will be subject to Him, every knee will bow and every tongue will swear that Jesus is Lord. We're going to be on our faces before that mighty king, we're receiving this kingdom, that cannot be shaken. And I've already talked about that, to say a little bit more, what could there ever be that could get Jesus off the throne of that kingdom? There is no power in heaven or earth or under the earth that can get Jesus off His throne. It is a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and because we are drawn in by faith, by repentance, by faith in the Gospel, we can't be shaken either. But look at the kind of present progressive, I already mentioned this, but we are in the process of receiving this kingdom. We haven't fully come into our inheritance yet, and because we are in the process of receiving this kingdom that cannot be shaken. And so that process has to do with internal journey and external journey, internal journey, sanctification, growing, becoming more like Jesus, as we kneel to Jesus more and more in every area of our lives, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
And as we serve Him, and as we obey Him, and follow His precepts by the power of the Spirit, we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. But also as we take the gospel to the ends of the earth, we are seeing lost people come in, we yearn to see more baptisms. We want two grand tributaries into the baptismal area, we want the fruit of godly families, that we've seen this morning, where they raise up their children in the training and nurture of the Lord, and we want those that weren't raised in godly families. That didn't know anything about Jesus and then they meet someone from FBC and hear the gospel and they're brought to faith, brought to the fun, to the baptismal area, They are baptized and then they are discipled, that's what we want. We want both of those things. Don't you? I yearn for that. And so we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and because of that, what should we do, what does the text say? "Let us be thankful." One translation says, "Let us have grace." But most of the commentators say, this is clearly about thankfulness. It's about gratitude, it's about joy and celebration when we come together to worship, there should be strong themes of joy and celebration and happiness.
Our worship services should have the power to reach down into pits of discouragement and idolatry and other things that get us down and pull us out onto a solid rock of joy. And if the services are disconnecting and they're not doing that and then we are not serving you well. If there's a disconnect, a sameness, a blandness, and it's just, Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it just is not rescuing you and bringing you into thankfulness for the kingdom, we're not serving you well. So we're receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, so we should be thankful. There should be just praise to God the Father for choosing you before the foundation of the world, the plan of God the Father, there should be thankfulness to Jesus for paying the price for you and me to be heirs. Shedding His blood, and thankfulness to Jesus for His mighty resurrection that gives us hope. And there should be thankfulness to the Spirit that He redeemed you, By His sovereign power. Let's thank, let's be thankful to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and in that way, worship God acceptably. But then it says with reverence and awe, reverence and awe.
The fear of the Lord must characterize our worship. A sense of the grandeur, the majesty, the glory of this thrice Holy God, we should have an encounter with this God, we should be on our faces, all the holy men and women of God, when they encounter God in Scripture, they tremble in His presence. And this text says, for our God is a consuming fire. He was a consuming fire then, He is a consuming fire now, He will never change. And so in some mysterious way, we elders have to put on worship services that celebrate joyfully and reverence our God is a consuming fire all together. How do we do that? How do we kind of curl up into the lap of "Abba Father" and say, "Daddy, I'm hurting, will you help me?" And you feel the eminence of God, that immediacy of a Emmanuel, of Jesus right with us, and at the same time, fear and awe and our God is a consuming fire, but we must, and that's what we yearn to do. And so we have to find a way to celebrate, and not in some trite, trendy, entertainment-driven sort of way, for the fun. Everybody's having a good time and all that. It's like where is the holiness? Where is the majesty? It's too flipping, too trite, too easy. But so also are simple assessments that say, If you use a certain guitar pattern or a certain way of doing rhythm that that is of necessity of that same worldly mindset, that is not necessarily the case. Stop judging by mere parents, but judge with right judgment, Jesus said.
So, our desire is to celebrate in an honorable way that worships God, that's what we're trying to do, for our God is a consuming fire.
So what applications can we take from this? Well, first and foremost, above all and forever, we yearn to preach the gospel here. And it could be that you came today and you don't even know what the worship style at FBC is. It doesn't mean anything to you at all, but you know this, you're guilty of sin, and you know that you're going to die someday, and you have no savior, there is no way you can stand before such a holy God on your own. I stand here today with brothers and sisters around me saying there is a Savior and His name is Jesus. Come to Christ, you can't worship Him acceptably unless you come to Christ first. So trust in Him, be justified, that means forgiven of all of your sins by simple faith in Jesus, trust in Him, come to Christ. That's the first application forever, friends.
But secondly, if you're an FBC member, don't be a stiff old wine skin, don't be set in your ways. All of us are like this. We have to be ready for change. We have to realize that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father, except we're not there yet, friends, we have a journey to travel, we have work to do. And I don't want this church to become obsolete, friends, and don't think it can't happen. There are obsolete, local churches around. Some of them don't know they're obsolete, they still meet every week, but they are, and you've probably maybe even been there on a Sunday morning. I don't want that ever happening here. And so I guess I'm asking you to be ready for some changes. Some of them we may embrace, some of them would be like, "At last, Hallelujah!" Some of you're saying that, and others are like, "Oh no." I was saying to somebody about this sermon, it's kind of like a good friend of yours saying "I need to talk to you about something really important." "Well, what is it?" "I can't tell you, but let's set up a time to do that." Huh. Looking forward to that meeting, should be good.
Someone said, even worse, it's like a doctor saying, "We got your test results, you need to come in, I want to talk to you." And it's like, "Okay", well, it's not like that second one, maybe not even like the first, but you'll find out the details tonight, so come tonight. Some said we're going to have really good attendance at Sunday evening worship tonight. That's what the whole point. We're trying to bump up our Sunday evening attendance and want more people to come on Sunday evening, so we're just dangling suspense and turns out we're introducing a new Keith and Christian Getty song tonight, and that's it, that's the whole thing. Well, no it isn't, friends.
No. I would urge you, if you think you maybe in the category of those that might be reluctant to see any changes here. I guess I would urge you to educate yourself, in two senses, and maybe you can't do this, but in your mind at least, or ask and find out, go around the world on the mission field, and find out, if you had the next year, 52 weeks. And were in a different country, a different local church, a different culture, every week. And then you came back, you'd be a different person, and you would know what I said in an Acts class a few years ago. God loves more worship styles than you do. So just go around the world now and find out that there are people in every tribe and language, and people, almost every tribe and language, people and nations that are worshiping in lots of different ways, but doing the same kinds of things I've listed out this morning. Scripture, songs and spiritual songs, celebrating Christ, etcetera. They're doing it.
Secondly, go back in time, go across history. Friends, are you excited about us bringing Gregorian chants back here as our main style of worship? Would you love that? Look, I love chant music, I'll listen to it from time to time, I don't love it. I like it. Kind of. I mean I listen to it, I do, I love church history, and so, I listen and I kind of like it, I listen to it for a while and that's it. I also have some medieval and Renaissance dance music I listen to from time to time, some of it's worship music, sing it, you're going to hear the word Hallelujah in there. Friends, worship has changed, you know that, you know it's true. And so therefore the church must be changing. I do not say constantly, it's not different every week, but definitely in quanta you can't stay in one frozen place. Have to be willing to move on. And so for us to be eager to celebrate that, to look at certain patterns of worship, to say has traditionalism crept in here are some ways that we can reach across and grab hearts better than we've been doing, we want to look at that. So pray for the elders, ask God to open your heart. Part of the problem is that we need to consider others more important than ourselves in this. When you're hearing a song, this may be your favorite song done in your favorite way, amen and joy, but the next song may not be. And while you were enjoying your favorite songs, someone else is reaching out to you and loving you and letting you have that song. And so we need to love each other enough to be a body of Christ in this, so I ask God to open your heart, pray for the elders to have wisdom. This is not easy.
It's hard for us to assess patterns of worship, because yes, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Yes, but what's the tune? What's the rhythm, what are the instruments? Doesn't say. And so there has to be some wise judgment given in those areas. And come tonight to find out more details. Close with me in prayer. Father, we thank you for this time we've had to study your word. Just pray in Jesus' name, that you would guide this church, Lord, to offer up sacrifice, that's pleasing and honorable to you, that is a joyful celebration and that also has a sense of the fear and trembling because our God is a consuming fire. God, give us a way to continue to grow and to be flexible and yielded to the Spirit and have our worship be very effective, both for Christians and then for outsiders who come in, that they may be drawn into faith in Christ. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.