Worship Matters Part Three: True Worship Requires Repentance

In Isaiah’s vision in chapter six, the heavenly temple is quite literally bursting with the glory of God. The train of God’s robe was already filling the temple, indicating God’s majestic glory. And if that was n’t indication enough, as soon as the seraphim begin to shout God’s praises back and forth to one another, the foundation of the heavenly temple itself begins to shake and smoke fills the temple. This place is literally bursting at the seams with God’s glory!

And there, in the midst of it all, feeling completely out of place, is little Isaiah. He knows the truth. He knows that he doesn’t deserve to be in this glorious place. He doesn’t deserve to be in the presence of the glory of God. He knows that he should be utterly destroyed in the glorious presence of this thrice-holy God. He doesn’t belong. Simply being in the presence of this holy God demonstrates very clearly to him the stark contrast. He is a sinner.

Just like the foundation of the temple, so Isaiah himself trembles at the holiness of this great God. He is so struck with the holiness of God and his own sinfulness that he is only left with one option:  repentance.

Woe is me!
For I am lost;
for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell in the midst of  a people of unclean lips;
for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!
Isaiah 6:5

True worship of the holy God of the Bible requires confession and repentance Tweet this!

When Isaiah says “I am a man of unclean lips,” he is indicating a deeper reality of his heart. Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). Your mouth is directly connected to your heart. Whatever is in your heart is going to come out of your mouth. This is why Jesus also said that it’s not what goes into a person, but “what comes out of a person is what defiles him,” (Mark 7:20). The mouth is the conduit of the heart. Your mouth is the litmus test of your heart Tweet this!.

So when Isaiah confessed that he was a man of unclean lips, he was confessing that he was sinful to the core. He saw more clearly than he ever had before that he was sinful at heart. Sinful at root. David had a similar vision of his sinfulness after being rebuked by the prophet Nathan:

For I know my transgressions
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you and you only have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Psalm 51:3-5

We are no better than Isaiah. We are no better than David. We are just as sinful, just as wicked. If you desire to worship God in all his glorious holiness, you must learn this about yourself, confess your utter sinfulness, and repent. Any attempt to worship God without repentance is not only rejected by God, but is an abomination to him Tweet this!.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
– Proverbs 15:8 –

True worship requires repentance. And worship is the only thing that will not get boring throughout the endless ages of eternity. You ever wonder why you get bored and dissatisfied with things so quickly? Why does that new toy that brought you so much joy at first now just sit in the closet or garage? Why is it that nothing fully satisfies you? C.S. Lewis describes this phenomenon well:

If we find ourselves with a desire
that nothing in this world can satisfy,
the most probable explanation is that
we were made for another world.
– Mere Christianity

Worship is why you were created, only thing that will fully satisfy you, and worship requires your repentance Tweet this!.

Here are three applications:

True corporate worship:  Corporate worship requires corporate repentance.

Our worship gatherings must include an aspect of “we are a people of unclean lips.” When we get together to worship God, if we are not struck with God’s holiness to the extent that we are driven to repentance, we are not experiencing God’s holiness in a tangible enough way.

True individual worship:  Individual worship requires repentance.

For help in this area, two passages that are extremely helpful are Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. Use these psalms as templates for prayer. They will walk you through how to appropriately respond to God’s Word in repentance.

True family worship:  Family worship requires repentance.

When a family is committed to repentance and reconciliation, there is great joy in that family. A family that is constantly emphasizing forgiveness and biblical communication is at peace.  Even when there is sin (and there always will be on this earth), that family knows that repentance will come, forgiveness will follow, and reconciliation will win the day.

It brings incredible joy to know that even when your family sins against you, you can rest in the hope that they will ask for forgiveness and you will forgive; or when you sin against your family, you will ask for forgiveness and they will forgive you.

And that’s what the gospel is all about: the joy of reconciliation.

Go to “Worship Matters Part Two:  True Worship Begins with the Bible

Go to “Worship Matters Part Four:  True Worship Is Jesus-Driven

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Worship Matters Part Two: True Worship Begins with the Bible

Have you ever seen God in a vision?  Don’t worry, visions are not the normative way in which God has ever spoken to his people.  When Isaiah received this vision, it’s because God especially chose Isaiah to receive this revelation.  Through this special revelation of God, Isaiah 1) received his calling, 2) was then to preach this message to God’s people, 3) and was then to pen this vision down so that future generations of God’s people could benefit from this vision of God.  Even today 2,800 years later, here you are reading a blog article about this experience of God.

In the year that King Uzziah died
I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up;
and the train of his robe filled the temple.
Above him stood the seraphim.
Each had six wings:
with two he covered his face,
and with two he covered his feet,
and with two he flew.
And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook
at the voice of him who called,
and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6:1-4

The most important thing we learn about God from this vision is his complete and utter holiness.  God’s primary attribute is his holiness.  Many would say that God’s primary attribute is love.  Doesn’t the Bible even say, “God is love? (I John 4:8)”  God is love. But his love is a holy love. In fact, all of God’s attributes are defined through his holiness Tweet this!:

  • God’s love is a holy love
  • God’s justice is a holy justice
  • God’s judgment is a holy judgment
  • God’s wrath is a holy wrath
  • God’s grace is a holy grace
  • God’s mercy is a holy mercy

God’s holiness is demonstrated in the vision through his perfect and exalted royal majesty.  He is King. This is one of the great themes of Isaiah.  The reason many people have a hard time reading through the book of Isaiah is because of all the “woes.”  “Woe to you Damascus…woe to you Tyre and Sidon…woe to you Israel…woe to you Judah.”  They can’t find the profitability of reading these today (II Timothy 3:16).  But the reason the Holy Spirit inspired those woes for us to read even today is to show that God is not just the God over his chosen people.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the sovereign ruler over all the earth.  That is what the throne signifies.  This ruler sits on a high and exalted throne over all the earth.

But this vision took place not on an earthy throne, but in the heavenly temple of God.  It’s interesting that this temple has a throne.  Or should I say that it’s interesting that this throne is in a temple.  God is so high and exalted that no one deserves to approach him.  However, he desires, yea even commands, worship.  His throne is in a temple for the purpose of worship.

The seraphim in this passage that worship God are mysterious creatures that we don’t know too much about.  We know they are holy…yet even they cover their faces before this thrice-holy God.  We also know that they call out to one another in worship:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”

This structure of three ‘holy”s in a row is the Hebrew version of the superlative.  It’s similar to us saying “really, really, really, holy” or “the most holy.”  God is so holy, that the entire temple is trembling and bursting with the glory of God.

What we learn from this experience when it comes to worship is that worship must begin with revelation.  Worship at root is our rightful response to all that God is Tweet this!.  For us to respond with worship, we must be exposed to who God is.  As stated before, a vision like this is not normative, so if you are waiting 4 God 2 reveal himself especially 2 you, don’t close your eyes and wait for a vision, open a Bible Tweet this!.

True worship begins with the Bible.  We encounter God through his revelation of himself.  And that happens through his Word.  Therefore here are three points of application with regard to corporate worship, individual worship, and family worship.

True corporate worship:  Worship with the church must begin with the Bible.

The church must keep the Word of God central in all that she does, especially worship.  Paul commanded Timothy something that we need to hear today more than ever:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture
– I Timothy 4:13

Reading of Scripture, both the dumb reading & preaching, must be central to the corporate worship service Tweet this!.

True individual worship:  Individual worship must begin with the Bible.

Each time I begin my private devotion, I start with a short prayer of illumination (something like Psalm 119:18) followed by the reading of Scripture.  Only after I’ve spent time meditating on the Word do I then pray and sing a psalm, hymn, or spiritual song (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).

One other encouragement I have for private worship is to ensure that you are meditating on Scripture and not just reading it shallowly.  One way to do this is to underline a particular verse or set of verses that you want to come back to to pray through or spend a few minutes studying.  I can’t say reading the Word without meditation is useless because God’s Word never returns empty (Isaiah 55:11), but if you just read and don’t spend any time thinking about what you read, it’s close to worthless.

True family worship:  Family worship must begin with the Bible.

Perhaps family worship is not something you have thought about much or even heard of.  It is not a new concept.  In fact, it was a part of regular life for the Christian family back in the day to have both morning and evening devotions every day.  Men would open their Bibles and lead their family in family worship.  When was the last time you opened your Bible and led your family Tweet this!?

Go to Worship Matters Part One:  Seeking True Worshipers

Go to Worship Matters Part Three:  True Worship Requires Repentance

Worship Matters Part One: Seeking True Worshipers

True or false?  Are you in danger of worshipping a false God?  Are you a true worshiper of the true and living God?  If your conception of God is not the same image of God that the Bible presents, you are worshipping a false image Tweet this! (Exodus 20:4-6).

A.W. Tozer once said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us Tweet this!.”

The hour is coming and is now here when the true worshiper will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship.
John 4:23

Worship has been a hot topic in the church for the last couple decades, even to the point of being called “worship wars.”  The only encouraging thing about this battle within the church is that it means that someone, somewhere believes something.  Unfortunately, most of the battles fought have everything to do with personal preference and very little to do with God’s expectations Tweet this!.

Worship matters.  I stole this title from Bob Kauflin because it is so relevant.  I hope this post is helpful in that it discusses worship matters, but also in convincing you that worship matters!

God has revealed in His Word that he cares about worship.  It matters to him.  It ought to matter to us.  In Leviticus 9, Aaron worships “by the book.” The glory of God appears, God sends down fire from heaven that consumes his offering, and the people shout and fall on their faces.  God accepted Aaron’s offering.  It honored and glorified God because it was according to the very specific (and morbid to the 21st Century mindset) details that God had laid out for the priests.  This is a nice passage that shows that God is particular and even jealous about the way he commands to be worshiped Tweet this!.

However, Leviticus 10 gives us a even more shocking picture of God’s passionate pursuit of his own glory and how serious he takes worship.  Aaron’s sons get it in their mind that they know how to worship God better than God does.  They offer up incense to God in a manner that was contrary to God’s decree.  Once again fire falls from heaven.  But this time, the offering is not consumed, Aaron’s sons are!  God takes worship seriously. So should you Tweet this!.

A little exercise:  Take a moment to consider the one thing that makes you most happy.  Hold this activity in your mind.  If it’s a person, think of spending time with that person, etc…  Now, imagine that you take tomorrow off and do that activity all day long.  Pretty exciting?!  Now imagine taking two whole weeks and that’s all you can do is that activity.  A year.  Fifty years.

How long do you think it would take for you to grow immensely tired of that task?  At first what was a delight slowly becomes duty and ultimately drudgery.  This is the way any task in this world is.  There is nothing in this world that can truly satisfy you, fulfill you, satiate you, complete you.  That’s because you were made for another world!

“If I find within myself desires which nothing in the world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
C.S. Lewis

God is seeking true worshipers who will worship him in Spirit and truth.  Are you one of those worshipers?

Over the next four posts, I want to show four crucial truths about True Worship from Isaiah 6:1-8.

Until then, chew on these:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:1-2

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29

You’ve Got a Heart Problem – The Great Physician Can Help

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”         – Hebrews 4:12

The basic point of Hebrews is that Jesus is better. Chapter four discusses how not only he is better, but his message is also better. Any good news this world may offer, your doctor may offer, and even the Geico© Gecko may offer cannot compare to Christ’s good news, the gospel. The message of the gospel is that if we repent of our sins and trust in Jesus Christ to save us we have eternal life and eternal joy.  If we neglect or reject this offer, there is only “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:27).  Run to Christ!

Even as Christians who have eternal life and joy, we still live in these sinful bodies.  This means that we are subject to temptation from the world, the Devil, and ourselves.  Scripture speaks of redemption in all three tenses:  past, present, future:  We have been redeemed, we are redeemed, and we will be redeemed.  Until we are fully redeemed and are living in redeemed, resurrected bodies, we must fight against “all that is in the world:  the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride of life” (I John 2:16).

Think of it like this:  We have heart disease.  “Our heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand  it” (Jeremiah 17:9)?  We need open heart surgery.  We must allow the Great Physician to use His scalpel, the Sword of the Spirit, to change the desires of our heart to match His Tweet this!.

To carry this analogy (possibly) too far:

Reading God’s Word is changing your diet.

Memorizing God’s Word is taking the right medication.

Meditating on God’s Word is changing your exercise routine.

Studying God’s Word is laying on the surgery table under the knife of the Great Physician, allowing him to take out your old, cold, heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh; open heart surgery Tweet this!.

How is your spiritual health? What are you doing to change your spiritual lifestyle Tweet this!?

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”     – I Timothy 4:8

Praise Befits the Upright

Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous!
Praise befits the upright.  – Psalm 33.1

This Psalm is such a beautiful picture of what worship in Spirit and truth looks like.  When the righteous man shouts for joy and sings the praises of his Redeemer, it is a glorious thing to behold.  Praise befits the upright!  It is fitting for the redeemed to sing the praises of the RedeemerTweet this!.  It is right.  It is becoming of the upright to praise Him.  When I read this verse, my mom’s voice rings in my ear.  She was always saying, “that’s not becoming of a young man,” or “that shirt is not very becoming.”  In the same way, it is not becoming of a believer when they speak curses.  And it is certainly not becoming of a believer to praise God on Sunday and then curse people made in His image throughout the week.

But no human being can tame the tongue.
It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With it we bless our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse people
who are made in the likeness of God.
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.
My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
– James 3.8-10

It ought to be just as odd to hear a Christian curse as to hear a cat crow Tweet this!!  When David prayed for forgiveness and repented of his sin, he recognized that his repentance included his mouth.  “Then I will teach transgressors your ways…O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51).  May our repentance be evidenced by our lips.

Which comes out of your mouth more? Blessing or cursing? #TestURself #OughtNotToBe #James3 Tweet this!

Ruminate

Growing up on a dairy farm had its joys.  Getting up early enough to feed the calves before catching the bus was not one of them.  But living on 200+ acres of land was awesome, and I learned so much about life and faith on that land.

One of the intriguing things about being around cows a lot was the fact that they seem to always be chewing.  I mean, I understand the fact that they’re cows and they eat a lot (which is what makes calling someone a cow not so nice), but they even seem to be munching when they are laying down catching some shade from the hot sun under the big oak.  As a young inquisitive boy who asked too many questions I was told they were “chewing the cud.”  I didn’t find out what this meant until I was a teenager.

Cows are ruminants.  They belong to a classification of mammals that regurgitate their food, re-chew it for a while and then swallow it again before digesting it using their four stomachs!  They are called ruminants because of the way they chew.  To ruminate is to chew on.  So what are they doing out there laying under the old oak?  They are vomiting up their lunch and chewing it up more!  Gross and awesome at the same time.

But the most interesting reality about rumination is that God expects us to do it, too!  Now before you go vomiting up your lunch as a mid-afternoon snack (too far?), the word ruminate also means ‘to think over, muse about, or meditate on.’

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it.”   – Joshua 1:8

This specific command to Joshua applies to all Christians.  We are not to live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  As the robin feeds her young the worm, so from the mouth of our Father the Word of God comes as life-giving nourishment Tweet this!.

So ruminate!  Chew the Word.  Think on it, meditate on it.  Mull it over and apply it to your life every day.  For the man that meditates on the Word day and night is the blessed man Tweet this!.

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of God and on his law he meditates day and night.”   – Psalm One

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