Revelation 4:11 (NLT)
11 “You are worthy, O Lord our God,
to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things,
and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
Dear Friends in Christ,
We’ve all had them at some time or another – those experiences or events that stand out in our minds and our memories where something exciting, exhilarating, and extraordinary happened. There’s a term that we use for them. We call them mountain-top experiences.
When I think of my own life, I’d have to say that the first sermon I ever preached would definitely qualify as a real mountain top experience. Nerve-wracking? You bet. Stomach-churning? Oh yeah! Especially in the light of what happened at the start of that service. This very first sermon of mine was preached in front of my professors and fellow students at a chapel service my first year of college. And some goofball whose identity was never discovered decided to spice things up a bit by putting firecrackers in the candleholders. So when the candles were lit, there were 2 loud booms that resonated throughout the chapel and kind of shook me up. But it wasn’t enough to break my concentration because I had written and memorized that sermon 6 months before and gone over it almost every day and had it so ingrained in my mind that an atom bomb couldn’t have removed it.
Other mountain top experiences I’ve had would have to include the free throw championship I won out of 13 schools when I was in 8th grade, tennis tournaments I’ve won, my graduation from seminary, my ordination into the holy ministry carried out by my dad, and the literal mountain top experience of hiking with Marilyn to the top of Pike’s Peak some years ago. And speaking of Marilyn, I would have to say that the day I married her was one of the biggest if not the biggest mountain top experience I’ve ever had. But right up there with my wedding day would have to be the births of my 2 daughters. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotion that swept over me when I saw those 2 precious girls come into the world and I held them in my arms for the first time and realized that God had allowed me the incredible privilege of participating with him in the process of creation.
But you know what? Not only did the birth of my children bring me great pleasure, from our text for today we discover that their birth, as well as my birth and your birth and everybody else’s birth, brings great pleasure to the heart of God. Listen once again to these words of praise that are offered to God in Rev. 4:11: “You created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.” Picture it, my friends. The moment you were born, God was there as an unseen witness, smiling down at this tiny wrinkled human being. He wanted you alive, and your arrival gave him great pleasure. Please understand that he did not need to create you, but he chose to create you for his own enjoyment. What that means is that you exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, his delight.
Now let me tell you something. When you get a firm grasp and understanding of that biblical truth, you will never again feel insignificant or unimportant. You will never again be plagued by feelings of low self-esteem. For if you are that important to God, and he considers you so valuable that he would do everything possible and everything necessary for you to live with him for all eternity, what greater significance could you possibly have? You are a child of the King, an heir of everlasting life, a living stone in his temple. You are the bride of Christ and part of the body of Christ. Or as Peter put it in his 1st epistle: “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” All of these phrases and terms are used by God in the Bible to reveal to us how highly he thinks of us.
And while our just being born into this world brought great pleasure to God, we need to understand that there is so much more we can do that can bring even greater pleasure to him. In fact, there’s a term that we’re all familiar with that God uses in the Bible to describe what brings him the greatest pleasure, and that term is WORSHIP. Psalm 147:11 says: “The LORD delights in those who worship him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
But what exactly is worship? Ask that question of most Christians and you’ll probably get an answer that has something to do with what takes place in a sanctuary like this on a Sunday morning. And while that is certainly part of worship, there is so much more to it than that. Somebody once said that worship is like a diamond in that it is multi-faceted. So I want to use the rest of my time this morning to help you better understand this multi-faceted activity that brings great pleasure to the heart of God and that can help us to live a good news life in a bad news world which is the theme for the sermon series I am currently preaching.
Now interestingly, anthropologists have discovered that worship is a universal urge found in human beings. It’s almost like it’s been hard-wired by God into the very fabric and fiber of our being – a built-in need to connect with One who is greater or higher than oneself. Even people who fail or refuse to worship the true God will sooner or later find a substitute to worship, whether it’s money or sports or an idol of wood or stone or even themselves.
Now the word “worship” is an interesting word. It comes from 2 Anglo Saxon words, weorth and scipe, which, when put together means the act of letting someone or something know how much they are worth to us. And while we most often associate that definition with what goes on here in a “worship service” – the singing, praying, listening to a sermon, receiving Communion, and so on – true worship is so much more than that. In fact, true worship is a lifestyle. In Psalm 113:3 we’re told: “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.” That’s just another way of saying from the time we get up to the time we go to bed we are to be worshiping God. Now does that mean that we must continually have a praise song on our lips or in our minds and that if we don’t do that, then we’re falling short? Of course not. We need to get away from this idea that in order to worship God we need to be singing. Worship is far more than music. In fact, did you know that worship actually predates music in the Bible? I don’t think there’s any doubt that Adam and Eve worshiped God in the Garden of Eden before their fall into sin, but music is not mentioned until Gen. 4:21 with the birth of Jubal who is described as “the father of all who play the harp and flute.”
And think about this. If worship were just music, then anyone who is nonmusical could never really worship God, right? Furthermore, when it comes to music Christians often disagree over the style of music that should be used in a worship service, passionately defending their preferred style as the most biblical or God-honoring. For years in our own church body we have had what I call “worship wars” going on between those who believe that the only proper way to worship is out of a Lutheran hymnal and that to sing anything outside of that hymnal is nothing short of heresy. At the same time there are those who prefer a more contemporary style of music and who have a tendency to look down upon those who prefer traditional styles. That’s why I say that worship is far more than music. Worship is a lifestyle.
Every activity that we do throughout the course of the day can be transformed into an act of worship when we do it for the praise, glory, and pleasure of God. In I Cor. 10:31 the Apostle Paul writes: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Martin Luther understood this concept when he said that even “a dairymaid can milk cows to the glory of God.”
But how can that be? How is it possible to do everything for the glory of God, even milking a cow? I think the answer to that question is pretty simple. Whatever you do, you need to look upon it as though you were doing it for Jesus. Colossians 3:23 puts it this way: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Can you imagine what a difference it would make in our lives if we would actually begin to function like that and live with that kind of a mind-set? All of a sudden, going into work for that grouchy old boss wouldn’t be so difficult because that grouchy old boss isn’t really your boss. Rather you’re going in to work for the Lord. And that pile of laundry that you dread doing each week is no longer laundry that you’re doing for your family, but now you’re washing clothes for Christ. And teenagers, that messy room of yours that your mom keeps bugging you about, keeping it clean is a whole lot easier if you realize you’re keeping it clean for Jesus. I love how the modern version of the Bible known as The Message renders Romans 12:1 when it says: “Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.” What an awesome thought – that your job, your school work, your recreation, your home life, your day to day interactions with people, the meetings you attend, can all become acts of worship when you get it in your mind that you’re doing them for Jesus.
And really, when you think about it, doesn’t he deserve that kind of worship from us? I mean he’s the One who lived a perfect life for us so that we who are unrighteous could be clothed in his perfect righteousness. He’s the One who willingly laid down his life on the cross to pay the full price and penalty for all of our sins and to open up to us the gates of everlasting life. He’s the One who defeated death by his own victorious resurrection and who gives us his word and promise that because he lives, we shall live also. You know, he didn’t have to do any of that. Please understand that. But he chose to do it because he loves you that much and he would much rather go through hell for you than go to heaven without you. He would much rather die for you than bear the thought of having to spend eternity without you. So he allowed cruel men to mock him, spit on him, beat him, scourge him, to pound nails into his hands and feet and he allowed his Heavenly Father to place upon his shoulders the sin and evil of all mankind, so that he could do all that was necessary from heaven’s perspective to secure eternal salvation for unworthy, undeserving sinners like you and me.
So you want to live a good news life in a bad news world? You want to bring pleasure to the heart of the One who longs to have a personal relationship with you? Then worship him, on Sunday morning, yes, by all means, but also worship him every moment of every day. Do what I used to do when I first met and fell in love with my wife. I couldn’t get that girl out of my mind. I thought of her constantly: while driving in my car, while sitting in class, while working at my job, while waiting in line at the cafeteria. She occupied my every waking and sleeping thought. Allow Jesus to do the same for you, understanding that it will take time to get to that point. But once you get there, you will discover that just the very thought of him can transform everyday mundane activities into nothing short of powerful acts of worship. Amen.