1 Ascribe to the Lord, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.
Dear Friends in Christ,
I know some of you will find this hard to believe, but on Aug. 11 of this year I will turn 60. I know I don’t look a day over 40, but that’s the sad truth. In 5 months and 11 days I will reach the 60 year old mile marker. And I’ve got to tell you, this growing older is for the birds. In fact, the older I get, the more senseless I become. And no, I’m not talking about common sense, though my wife might want debate that. I’m talking about my 5 senses. You know: sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. My hearing began to go south when I was in my early 20’s because of loud rock music I used to listen to with my headphones on and the stereo cranked up all the way. Not a very bright thing to do! Then when I hit about 40 it was my eyesight as I found the words on the page getting blurrier and blurrier. Then I lost my sense of smell. I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s hereditary because the same thing happened to my brother. I can’t smell much of anything anymore, which sometimes comes in pretty handy, but oh, how I would love to be able to smell a nice juicy steak being cooked on the grill. And while I have yet to find any way to restore my sense of smell, I do wear hearing aids that have dramatically improved my ability to hear, and I have these, bifocals, that have done wonders to correct my poor eyesight.
Oh that it would be so easy to correct another problem that I have and that you and all other people have as well. I would call this problem poor I-sight too, only I don’t spell “I” e-y-e, but rather I’m talking about the personal pronoun “I”. You and I have an I-problem, a me-problem. We tend to view ourselves from one of 2 extremes. One extreme says, “I can do anything. Just name it and I can do it. I can fix it. I can answer it. I can handle it.” We put our thumbs in our lapels, puff out our chest, and basically say, “I’m the master of my own destiny.”
Now what causes us to feel that way about ourselves? Well, a nice shiny new truck or car can certainly do it. A college degree can create that kind of a feeling. Or how about a new job that has us earning more money than ever before or a new diet or exercise program that has us looking better than we’ve ever looked before. Things of this nature can instill in us a feeling of pride that makes us walk around with our nose a little higher in the air and this aura of invincibility and superiority. That’s the 1st example, the first extreme of poor I-sight.
But then there’s the other extreme that some people go to where instead of saying “I can do anything,” they say “I can do nothing.” This too is poor I-sight. These people don’t suffer from self-loving, but rather from self-loathing. This person has the self-image of an earthworm. “I’m just a bum. I’m no better than pond scum.” Defeat, despair, despondency, and depression are the order of the day for one who has this type of poor I-sight.
And what causes this view of oneself? A failed marriage can. The loss of a job…health problems that prevent you from doing what you were once able to do. Sometimes people feel that way about themselves because they’ve heard it from their mom or dad most of their lives.
So you’ve got 2 extremes when it comes to the kind of poor I-sight we’re talking about this morning. You’ve got those who think that they are God’s gift to the world and you’ve got those who think they are God’s mistake in the world. Now my suspicion is that all of us here today fit somewhere in between those 2 extremes, but that we probably tend to favor one side or the other. In fact, if you’re like me, you might even find yourself fluctuating between both sides, depending upon what is going on in your life.
And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that neither of these views of oneself is healthy. I mean, how many of you want to be married to the person who thinks he or she is God’s gift to the world? Some of you are thinking, “I already am married to that person.” Or how many of you employers want somebody working for you who thinks he or she is God’s mistake in the world? Neither one of these views is healthy. So what is a healthy view of oneself? I would suggest to you this morning that it is a view that is located right in the middle of the 2 extremes we’ve looked at, a view that is stated so beautifully for us by the Apostle Paul in Phil. 4:13 when he says: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” There, my friends, is perfect I-sight, real 20/20 vision. Not so hard on yourself that you think you can’t do anything, but not so high on yourself that you think you can do everything.
The question is, how do we get to that point? How do we attain that kind of I-sight? The answer I’m going to give you might surprise you. It doesn’t happen through a seminar we attend or books that we read or vitamins that we take. Now there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but the best way to correct our poor I-sight and to attain great I-sight is through worship. Why worship? Because the act of worship properly aligns us before God and at the same time gives us an accurate view of ourselves. Worship does for your soul what Dr. Engel of our congregation can do for your spine when you visit his chiropractic office. If you’ve ever been to him or any other chiropractor, what do they call what they do to you there? It’s called an adjustment, isn’t it? They adjust your spine so that it’s in proper alignment again. That’s what worship does. It properly adjusts and aligns the view we have of God and the view that we have of ourselves. And that’s why we want to spend some time over the next few weeks on this 3rd and final leg of my “Faith Odyssey” sermon series talking about worship and going higher in our understanding of this vastly important and necessary part of the Christian life.
And a good place to begin is by answering the question, what exactly is worship? One of the best definitions that I’ve come across is found in the book of Psalms, which was really the Jews’ book of worship. In our text for today, Ps. 29:1-2 it says: “Give honor to the Lord, you angels. Give honor to the Lord for his glory and strength. Give honor to the Lord for the glory of his name. Worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness.” The essence of worship then is simply this: giving God the honor and glory and praise that he so rightly and richly deserves. Worship is placing God centerstage – applauding him and proclaiming his greatness and goodness.
And this is certainly reflected in the background for our English word “worship.” That word comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word weorthscipe. In time that became worthship and finally it was shortened to our word worship. But notice the word “worth” in there. Worthship orworship is the act of declaring the worth, the value of God. It is our way of letting him know how much he is worth to us.
And there are really 2 types of worship that the Bible describes for us. In Rom. 12:1, for example, the Apostle Paul writes: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul is speaking of worship there as a lifestyle, or as some of our young people might put it today, a 24/7 way of living. The way you conduct yourself on the job, the way you act on the ball diamond or the basketball court, the way you drive your car, the way you treat your family or your fellow man – all of these are ways whereby we worship God, whereby we let him and others know how much he is worth to us and how much of an impact and influence he is having on our lives. Paul puts it this way in I Cor. 10:31: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
And I hate to say it, my friends, but this type of worship seems to be woefully absent today from the lives of many who call themselves Christians. When we look at the condition of our society – all the garbage we see on television and the movie screen, the rampant drug and alcohol abuse that pervades our land, our overcrowded prisons, lack of respect for authority among our young people, off-the-chart violence in our big cities, and so much more, it’s easy for us to point the finger of blame at so many things. But the truth of the matter is that a lot of the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of God’s people who instead of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world that Jesus has called us to be have become all too complacent about their faith and all too comfortable with the progressively evil and godless ways that our society has been adopting over the years. In fact, for some time now pollster George Barna has found that when he takes his surveys, he finds no appreciable difference between the way the average Christian and the average non-Christian live their lives. That’s a sad commentary on the state of Christianity in America today, but hopefully it’s a wake-up call to all of us that being a Christian is more than just a one-hour a week thing that we do on Sunday morning. It is a day-by-day, moment-by-moment, minute-by-minute lifestyle that we live not in order to be saved, but because we already have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
But not only is worship depicted as a lifestyle in the Bible, it is also defined as an event. In Ps. 100 we are told to “Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs… Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” In Lev. 23:3 the Sabbath Day is not only called a day of rest, but also a day of sacred assembly, a time for God’s people to come together to collectively proclaim the worthiness of God.
Now why is that so important? Why is the worship of God of such great significance that he would include it as one of his top 10 commandments that he gave to us? Two reasons: 1stbecause we need it. We need worship like our body needs food and exercise. If you deprived your body of those 2 essentials for very long, what would happen to it? It would grow weak and flabby. It would become much more vulnerable to illnesses, germs, bacteria, and other harmful things that are just waiting to attack us.
In a similar way, when we deprive ourselves of the spiritual nourishment and sustenance and exercise that regular worship offers, bad things happen. Our faith grows weak and flabby. It’s no longer able to sustain us through the tough times of life. We become vulnerable to spiritual predators like the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh.
So we need worship to feed ourselves on the life-giving Word of God and his faith-strengthening Sacrament. We need it to equip us for the daily challenges and spiritual battles that come our way. We need it to keep us properly aligned and in step with God.
But there’s a 2nd reason why worship is so important. Not only do we need it, but even more importantly than that, God deserves it. Just think about it. He’s your Creator and Sustainer. You know that heart that beats within your chest. He put it there and he’s the One who keeps it beating. The beauty that’s in the sunset, the giggle that it’s in the laughter of the baby, the love that you feel in your heart toward your spouse – all of those things and countless others are his gifts to you. Doesn’t a Creator like that deserve your worship?
But not only is he your Creator, he is also your Savior and at no other time of the year are we reminded of this more than this, the season of Lent. His love for you was so great that he would rather die for your sins than see you die in your sins. He would rather go through hell for you, which is precisely what he did on the cross, than go to heaven without you. And not only is he your Savior, he is also your Friend, what the book of Proverbs calls “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” And this Friend says to you in Is. 49:15-16: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” Doesn’t a Savior and a Friend like that deserve our worship? That’s why for the next few weeks we’re going to be taking a much closer look at this subject in the hopes that worship will become both a regular event in our lives that we truly look forward to and take advantage of every time the doors of this church are open, but also a lifestyle that we adopt and live out every day in gratitude and praise for all that our Creator, our Savior, and our Friend has done for us and all that he has made possible for us.