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Preaching: An Act of Worship

March 1, 2011 2 comments

 

 “Hear the word of the Lord,
all you of Judah, who enter by these gates
to worship the Lord!”

Jeremiah 7:2

 

I pray that your Lord’s day was uplifting and that each of you were blessed as you offered yourselves holy and living sacrifices before His throne of grace.

 
I’m sure that many of you have spent long hours contemplating the act of worship –  what it involves . . . why you come before God each Lord’s Day . . . how you are to present yourself to Him, etc., etc.  But have you spent much time thinking about the centrality of the Word during the worship  service?  What  is  the  purpose  of  the  preacher  standing  in  front  of  the congregation?  What is he really doing?  How are we, sitting in the ‘congregation’, supposed to receive his message?  Whose message is it intended to be?

 
I have spent hours over the past 20 years (and will continue to spend much more time)  thinking about just that,   i.e., preaching as as an act of worship. If preaching is not an act of worship then the church will end up worshiping the preacher and what he says rather than worshiping God and what He says.

“When I declare the Word of God I offer sacrifice.”

Martin Luther

 

  “When thou hearest the Word of God with all thy heart, thou dost offer sacrifice . . . Preaching, if not sacramental, is profane.  By this we mean that a true sermon is an act of God, and not a mere performance by man.  In real preaching the speaker is the servant of the word and God speaks and works by the word through his servant’s lips.” 

J. I. Packer and R. J. Coates in their book Beyond the Battle for the Bible

 

The act of preaching is an awesome responsibility. The witness to God, the witness to the church, and the witness to a lost world are all brought together in the proclamation of the Word.  The Pastor is called to be both a prophet in that he proclaims the Word of God and a priest in that he also administers the Word and its sacraments.  Paul viewed his ministry of the gospel as a “priestly ministry.” He used the word latreuo (“priestly service of God”) in Romans 1:9 to describe his ministry of the gospel; and in Romans 15:16, he used leitourgos
which gives us our English word liturgy.  Both words have priestly overtones. (It’s interesting to note that these are these same words used in Revelation 22:3 describing our service before God and the Lamb in the New Heaven and the New Earth!)  Paul viewed his evangelist ministry as that of a priest, bringing the people won to Christ as sacrifices on the altar, to the glory of God.  He sees himself  as “a  minister (leitourgos) of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles,  ministering as a priest offering the sacrifice of the gospel of God, praying that the offering (prosphora, a sacrificial offering) of the Gentiles might be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16).

What a high and holy view, not only of preaching, but the sacrifice of worship and also of personal evangelism!  When we look at preaching and evangelism as acts of spiritual worship, it ought to change the way the preached Word is heard. It certainly ought to have an impact on the way the Word is preached.  If preaching is an act of worship, then the preacher must not present to God that which has cost him nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).  Malachi reprimanded the priests of his day because they were not giving God their best. They put defiled food on God’s altar and brought sacrifices that were lame and sick (Malachi 1:6-8).

May that never be said of those who teach and stand in the pulpit of Covenant Reformed PCA.  It is my prayer that as we worship each Lord’s Day, as you hear the Word taught and as you hear the Word preached, that each one of you might be brought face to face with the living God through our Lord’s preaching ministry, which is

“an effectual means of convincing and converting sinners, and of building them up in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, ShorterCatechism Q. #89

 

May God richly bless you as you serve Him this week through the knowledge of His Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ, and in the power of His Spirit.

In His Service and Yours,

Pastor Mark

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The Sacrifice of Worship

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

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.
Rom. 12:1

 

A couple of young children one day while at home decided they wanted to reenact Noah’s Ark. They found a cardboard box and went into the bathroom. They rounded up all the stuffed animals they could find, put the plug in the bathtub and turned on the shower till the water reached the top of the tub. That was the flood. They stopped the shower.They pulled the plug. The water drained. The flood was over.  They had a good time, but there was a problem. They had learned in their Sunday school class that at the end of the flood Noah presented a sacrifice to God.

The little girl reached over and took one of her brother’s animals saying, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Immediately her brother responded, “No you won’t. That’s my favorite stuffed animal.” He quickly reached into the box.  Taking one of her animals he said, “We’ll sacrifice this one.” Without hesitation she responded, “No you won’t! Grandma gave me that one. I would never think of giving it up'” After fighting for a moment, the sister ran upstairs. She searched through some old toys. It didn’t take her long. She had found just the right animal for the sacrifice. Bringing a toy sheep that had only three legs, one eye, one ear, and a missing tail she said, “We can sacrifice this one. I don’t need it anymore.”

Sound familiar? Let’s be honest! If you think about it for a moment you can see yourself in that story somewhere. Every one of us at some point in time has come before God in worship and hesitated about giving Him our best. We have all struggled with ourselves about what is appropriate. We have hurriedly searched through our inventory of acceptable gifts and presented to God those things we can live comfortably without.

Noah and his family had just been delivered through an event that had wiped every living creature off the face of the earth. Noah had found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Gen. 6:8) so he “in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” Because of such a great salvation, “Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (Gen. 8:20) before the Covenant God of Promise. Noah held back nothing. It was an offering given out of the overflow of a full heart. It was an offering given to express appreciation for a salvation so full and free. There was no holding back.

Giving to God has always been an act of worship. Cain “brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock” (Gen. 4:3-4 NASB). That they brought an offering implies that there was a specific place of worship designated as a designated place of sacrifice.

Sacrificial giving was a part of that worship. Wherever Abraham pitched his tent he built an altar so he might express his faith through worship (Gen. 12:8; 13:17, 18; 26:25). Calling upon the name of the Lord, Abraham offered first fruits and sacrifice before the Lord his Covenant Keeping God. He brought a tenth as he encountered  Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Gen. 14:18-20). This “tenth” was  a token of his gratitude for God’s deliverance. His grandson Jacob continued this  practice of tithing as an act of worship and gratitude (Gen. 28:22) recognizing and proclaiming that all the believer possesses comes from the gracious hand of a God who is Good.

The ritual sacrifices of the tabernacle and the temple give us further illustrations of  the importance of coming before God with an appropriate sacrifice. What was important  about all these offerings was not the gift itself but the gift as the expression of the  self-surrender of the worshiper. This was what was well-pleasing to God. It was the  absolutely essential element of sacrifice. The prophets had to continually remind the children of Israel that sacrificial offerings without the surrender and obedience of the  offerer were an offense to the Lord (Isa. 1 :11; Amos 4:4-6,  etc.)

Going through the motions of worship without a heart that is totally surrendered to the Lord of Worship is still an abomination to Him. Giving Him those things that we can do without, holding back what we think is too precious to part with, giving God what is second best, is an affront to the God who has freely and sacrificially given us all things.

Every  believer  should  realize  that  the  giving  of  an offering to God is an act of pure worship. Any other motive for making an offering is unworthy. That’s why each Lord’s Day morning we emphasize the worship function of the offering we present to Him. I have often reminded those who are gathered to worship that having worshiped the Lord by offering up our prayers, and praise, and adoration, we also have the privilege to worship Him by the giving of our tithes and offerings. And this activity is part of our worship to God.  We don’t tack this on at the end of the worship service.  We don’t put a box at the back door so you can slip something into it as you leave the church.  The tithes are recognition of the sovereign authority of God. As such the offerings are an expression of our deep love and thanksgiving to Him who has given to us such a great salvation, so full and free. They are part of the worship we give to God.   Paul says in Romans 12:1 in view of God’s mercy, that we should offer our bodies as  living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is our spiritual act of worship.

There is no greater incentive to holy living than contemplating the mercies of God. How could we possibly hold back when we consider what great a love our Father has lavished on us through the sacrifice of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ? The only sensible, logical and appropriate response to him in view of his self-giving mercy is that we would offer our bodies totally and completely, worshiping  Him with our minds and hearts every day of our lives, but especially as we come before Him each Lord’s Day to worship with the corporate body, the local church.

May you have a blessed week serving the Lord sacrificially, knowing that a “broken spirit and a contrite heart” He will not despise. 

Give Him the first!  Give Him the best! Give Him your all!

Blessings and Peace to you all,

Pastor Mark