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Worship in Ekklesia

Well, last Sunday I kinda left you hanging…  For the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the purpose of the church – or the purpose of God’s Ekklesia – the gathering of God’s family. And by last Sunday, we had already talked about the main over-arching purpose of the church – which is to bring glory to God. In everything we say or do, we aim to display and declare God’s goodness to the world around us.

But then we narrowed our focus just a little bit and began to discuss the specific tasks of the local church. Bringing glory to God is the ultimate aim for the church as a whole – but what is God’s purpose in establishing local congregations? How are we to bring glory to God together as a community in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own?

And so last week, we divided these tasks of the church into three main categories. They were: 

  • To bring glory to God through worshipping Him together.
  • To bring glory to God by edifying His people.
  • To bring glory to God by evangelizing the world.

And so we started last week by digging into what it means to worship God – and that’s where I kinda left you hanging! We talked primarily about what the word ‘worship’ means – but we didn’t really dig into what that looks like as one of the primary tasks of the local church. But that’s where I want to go today.

So to do that, let me first refresh your memory as to what worship is all about – because today’s message really does build on what we talked about last week.

You’ll remember that last Sunday we looked at the old english word “weorthscipe” – which basically means to ‘declare the worth of’ something. And it’s from this old word ‘weorthscipe’ that we get our modern word ‘worship’.

When we worship something, we are declaring it’s worth or its worthiness. But worship isn’t simply about the words we say or the songs we sing in church. Worship is much more about the daily decisions we make and the priorities we have in life. It’s about showing how we esteem and value God (or anything else for that matter) by the choices we make every day.

Because whatever it is that is our highest priority, whatever it is that we value above all else, whatever it is that is our greatest consideration in every decision – that is what we worship.

It’s like what Jesus said in Matthew 6:21… 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21 NIV

Whatever it is that we hold most dearly, whatever it is that we choose above all else – that’s what we treasure – that’s what we worship in our hearts.

We don’t have to sing any particular songs. We don’t have to physically bow down. We don’t have to bring any offerings or sacrifices. We can do those things, but they only have meaning if they are outward reflections of what’s already going on inside in our hearts. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth, like Jesus said in John 4:23. He says…

23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. 24 For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” John 4:23-24

That’s why the object of our worship isn’t necessarily revealed by what songs we sing on Sunday morning. The object of our worship is revealed by our daily decisions and choices. It’s those choices that truly reveal what we value in our hearts – what we worship.

If you spend your week living in disobedience to God, that reflects on how you value God much accurately than any songs you sing Sunday morning.

When we worship God in spirit and in truth – our worship comes out in every decision we make each day.

And that’s kinda where we left things at the end of the message last week – hopefully with a good understanding of what it means for us to truly worship God in our hearts – which is evidenced through our personal choices each day.

But now how does all that apply to us bringing glory to God by worshipping Him together as the local church? Since it’s clear we can (and we must) worship God individually and personally, why and how do we worship God together?

Well, again, it’s not all about the songs we sing – although that is certainly part of our worship. I think a major part of our worship together comes down (again) to our choices – specifically our choice to obey God and His Word – to honour Him by following His plan and design for our lives and for His church.

God has laid out his expectations for us as a church body – as His ekklesia – and when we chose to obey and follow those expectations, that in itself is an act of worship. We are declaring the worth and worthiness of God by living according to His commands.

Just for example, Mike spent some time a couple weeks ago speaking about Hebrews 10:25 which reads:

 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near. Hebrews 10:25

In this verse we are exhorted to not neglect our meeting together. In other words, we are to make it a priority to gather together as a church family on a regular basis. These are God’s instructions to us.

Therefore, when we determine in our hearts, that attending the weekly worship service with our local church family each Sunday morning is of the highest priority – because God has asked us to do so – that in itself is an act of worship. We are declaring how much we value God by being obedient to his instructions.

On Sunday mornings, when we decide to forgo our sleeping-in, or to delay our family outings until the afternoon – when we re-arrange our priories so that God’s command takes precedence, that speaks volumes to how much we value or worship God.

And as all of us together make that choice to gather and worship God – that brings much glory to God. That’s a very clear way that we declare the goodness of God to the people around us.

The very fact that all of these families gather every week to spend time singing God’s praises, reading and teaching God’s Word, praying together to God – the fact that all of us would interrupt our regular schedules to do that together every single Sunday morning – that says something to our community about how much we love and value our God. That gives great worth-ship to God.

And so that’s one example of how and why we worship God together and glorify him as the local church, but that’s certainly not the only way. Let me share with you a couple more:

Another way that we worship God in the context of the local church is by how we interact with one another as His children. We show how we love and value God by how we love and value His family.

Jesus speaks about this in Matthew 25… He says…

31 “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit upon his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.

34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

37 “Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39 When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

40 “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’

41 “Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. 42 For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44 “Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’

45 “And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’

Matthew 25:31-45

In this passage, Jesus equates how we value and treat each other with how we value and treat Him. The esteem and worth we have for one another is a reflection of the esteem and worth we have for God. John makes a similar statement in 1 John 4:20. He says…

20 If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? 21 And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers.

1 John 4:20-21

This is probably one of the clearest commands in the New Testament. It’s repeated over and over again. Our love for each other is a reflection of our love for God.

In fact, Jesus said in John 13:34….

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:24-25

One of the biggest ways we can bring glory to God and to declare His great worth to the world – is simply by loving each other the way that God has loved us. What clearer picture could we paint to display the goodness of God than to showcase God’s love in how we interact with each other?

I think that’s why the Bible has so may “one another” commands. I didn’t do the math, but someone has tallied it up and there are 59 different “one another” commands in the New Testament. Let me give you just a sampling….

“Be kind and compassionate to one another…” (Ephesians 4:32)

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21)

“Encourage one another daily…” (Hebrews 3:13)

“Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (I Peter 4:9)

“Spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” (Hebrews 10:24)

“Forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” (Colossians 3:13)

“Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

And there are 52 other similar commands for how we are to interact with each other.  All of these commands are reflections of God’s love and care for us! Therefore, when we carry out these commands in the context of the local church, we are truly worshipping God because, by honouring God’s family, we are honouring God Himself.

How we treat our brothers & sisters in Christ – how we honour and value those whom Christ has died for – that is a clear reflection of the worth-ship we give to God.

And so that’s the second way we worship God together as a local church in ways that we simply couldn’t on our own. We certainly can’t carry out the ‘one another’ commands in isolation – apart from the family of God. We have to have those relationships in place with one another in order to worship God in this way.

Then the last example I would give you for how we worship together as a local church in ways that we couldn’t on our own (and by no means has this been an exhaustive list….), but the third way I would mention is the ordinances of baptism and communion.

Both of these are significant acts of worship that can only be carried out in the context of the local church.

Earlier today I mentioned how our obedience to God’s command to regularly gather together was an act of worship – it’s evidence of a heart that desires to honour and obey the commands of God. And baptism would fall very much in that same category – perhaps even more so.

Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples – and the primary marching orders for the church today – is found in Matthew 28:18-20. It’s known as the Great Commission.

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20

We worship God by carrying out this command to makes disciples and to baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is both an act of individual worship – as each person must personally choose to obey God and be baptized – but it’s also an act of collective worship – as we, the church, choose to obey God by baptizing that person.

And so this morning I just want to remind you that if you have put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, but have never been baptized as His disciple, then I would sure encourage you to consider taking this step of obedience – to carry out this act of worship – and be baptized. Please come talk to me after the service or send me an email or something. We’d love to worship God with you in that way. We want to be obedient to His commands.

And that leads me then to our final point of the day – the second ordinance by which we worship God together – and that is communion.

To go back to that definition of our old english word, “Weorthscipe” or “Worship” means to declare the value or the worth of Someone or something.

And that is exactly what we’re doing when we share communion together. We are declaring the incredible worth of the person of our Lord Jesus Christ and the incredible worth of His death on the cross.

Jesus tells us to share communion in remembrance of Him – and that when we do, we are announcing His death until he comes again. We read in 1 Corinthians 11 starting at verse 23…

23 For I pass on to you what I received from the Lord himself. On the night when he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread 24 and gave thanks to God for it. Then he broke it in pieces and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are announcing the Lord’s death until he comes again. 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

As John Piper puts it, ”We must remember him because he is the most valuable Person in the universe. We must remember his death because it is the most important death in history. The Lord’s Supper is worship because it expresses the infinite worth of Christ. No one is more worthy to be remembered. No one is more worthy to be proclaimed.”

So this morning I want to conclude our time together by worshipping God as we share communion together.

Already today, we’ve worshipped God in several ways. We’ve worshipped Him by simply obeying his command to gather together this morning. We’ve worshipped Him by declaring His great worth through our songs and our prayers. We’ve worshipped Him by listening to His Word and choosing in our hearts to be obedient to Him. And now let us worship Him yet again by eating this bread and drinking this cup – declaring His infinite worth as our Lord and Saviour – proclaiming His death until He comes again.

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