SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 15 November 2020
Sermon Text: Hebrews 10:19-25
Watch Sermon Vedeo: Click the link below
I. Worship is our confident entrance into the holy places
II. Worship is our drawing near to God with a true heart
III. Worship is our stirring up one another to love and good works
A church invitation leaflet was handed out to passers-by and it said this: ‘Come as you are. We accept one another without judgments or agendas. We help people connect to God without jumping artificial religious hurdles. We are a church the way it was meant to be, because YOU matter to God and to us!’ Although you might be able to pick up a couple of warning lights, generally and broadly speaking, no heresy is in it.
Now, hear some more church’s mottos. ‘A growing church serving a growing community’: ‘Building people through a loving, caring fellowship: Building a church through loving, caring people’: ‘We build hope’: ‘Large enough to serve you, small enough to know you’: ‘The end of your search for a friendly church’: and lastly, ‘Biblically based, family oriented, dynamic fellowship.’ What do you find from those catchwords? None of those sound heretic or weird; each one speaks about something important for church as a gathering of God’s people.
But, one thing all of them miss is the foundational basis of the church’s existence, that is, worship. All of those church mottos don’t say that ‘church is a body of believers called by God to worship Him.’
God searches and calls His worshippers. Calling them, He makes them worship their Maker. And that’s the foundational ground for church’s existence. As a church, we’re a worshipping church of God. We gather together for worship on the Lord’s Days now, but our worship to God continues till the Lord’s return and, when He returns to us, our worship will be perfected and last for eternity.
I tend to use the word, ‘eternity,’ often. And there’s a good reason for it. Whatever we do here on earth in the name of the Lord Jesus is the foretaste of what we’ll eternally do in heaven and in God’s consummated kingdom. So, I love to connect what we do here and now to what we’ll do there and then, and doing it is quite fun because connecting now to eternity gives a full meaning to all we do here.
Regarding the foundational ground of the church’s existence, the important point we must know is that God is so interested in our worship. Fellowship among Christians is a good thing and deepening it is important and commendable; but, the church’s worship is the main concern and interest of God. He began His search for a people suitable for worshipping Him; then, He called them and enabled them to worship in the name of His Son Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So, worship is the very central and foundational objective of God’s church. When we talk about church, we’re in fact talking about a worshipping church. So is our church’s motto, ‘A family of God worshipping Him through Christ since 1896.’ It means, our worship will continue in the Lord Jesus.
Today, we focus on this ‘worship’ as the second topic of the sermon series, ‘Life in the Father’s house.’ I’d like to consider what worship means to us who come to God and worship weekly. Then, what should be our attitude toward worship and in worship.
I. WORSHIP IS OUR CONFIDENT ENTRANCE INTO THE HOLY PLACES
I believe you’ve heard of the etymology of ‘worship’ – I mean, the origin of the word, ‘worship.’ It’s ‘worthship.’ ‘Worthship’ is an old word of ‘worship,’ meaning to proclaim or give worth to something you consider precious and supremely valuable. Hearing this, you’d agree and say, ‘Yes, that is right; God is great and awesome, He’s precious and worthy to be praised.’ You’re perfectly right when you think of this; surely, God is worthy to receive praises from all His creatures.
But, like the way those church invitation leaflets and church mottos I introduced to you earlier missed something very important for a church, this understanding of worship as a corporate act of giving ‘worthship’ to God misses something truly important for the meaning of worship. Worship is much more than our giving God glory and praise and thanks.
In addition to this meaning, worship is a ‘reversal of what the ancient serpent did wrong and pervert in the garden of Eden.’ Let me repeat this: ‘worship is a reversal of what the ancient serpent did wrong and pervert in the garden of Eden.’ In every worship service, when you and I gather together and worship our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus the Lord, it is an act of, firstly, ‘annulment’ of what Satan did in the garden to our first parents and, secondly, ‘restoration’ of what our first parents failed and missed, that is, worship to God the Creator.
This is nuanced in v. 19 of Heb. 10. Hear what this verse says, “we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” ‘Entering the holy places’ refers to the OT worship in either the tabernacle or the temple. In both of those worship places, there were the Court of the Gentiles (starting from outside and moving inside, toward the centre), the Court of the Tabernacle, the Holy place, and finally the Holy of holies (or the Most Holy) where the Ark of the Covenant was. The Holy of Holies was separated from the outside not only by a curtain, but also by the command of God because that place represented the presence of God. So, only the priests could enter the Holy Place. But for the Most Holy place, only the high priest could go in and that was only once a year. If anyone violated this command, death penalty awaited that person.
As the Most Holy place represents where God presides, it also reflects the first place God dwelt with man, that is, the garden of Eden. There, a perfect worship was given to God by Adam. There, our first parents, Adam and Eve, shared a perfect union and fellowship with the Creator. Everything they did in that place was worship to their Heavenly Father.
Yet, in sin, our parents failed and rebelled against God; they abandoned their worship, their union, their fellowship with their Creator, thus, they lost them all. And the Most Holy place in the OT worship was the place that union and fellowship and worship were restored by God’s grace. When the high priest went into the Most Holy place and bowed before God in worship, seeking God’s forgiveness for His people and restoration of God’s favour upon them all, worship was restored and God’s favour returned to His people.
Pointing out this place and reminding us in Heb. 10:19 that you and I now have confidence to enter into the holy places, the author of Hebrews tells us that we’ve received a ‘free pass’ to enter into the very presence of God or into the garden of Eden where God meets man and man worship God. In a word, this is what worship is. Satan severed Adam and all his descendants from God; but, through worship we participate in Jesus, we’re ‘invited’ to enter the garden of Eden, the ‘holy’ place – I mean, the place where God shared a perfect union with man!
In this sense, worship is a ‘reversal’ of what happened in the garden and afterward; worship brings us, worshippers, back into that place of perfect union and fellowship with God!
This is what happens in our worship service. Let me remind you of the service order we follow every Lord’s Day. What is the beginning of our worship? It’s ‘Call to Worship’ through which we hear the voice of God, that is, His word, that calls us to come to worship the Father. Like the way God created Adam by breathing into his nostrils ‘the breath of life,’ He speaks to us and brings us back to Himself in worship. And we respond to His call and adore His name and praise His glory. That’s the beginning of our worship. We come to God as He calls us, as He invites us. We enter the place of God; we return to the place where worship was lost and see and experience that the worship once lost is now restored; we enter the place where fellowship and union were broken, and the Lord God has restored our relationship with God the Father! This is what worship is!
In other words, through worship, we re-enter the garden and Satan’s evil scheme is shattered. In sin, our first parents hid themselves from the presence of God among the trees of the garden, but through worship, you and I walk out of our hiding place, that is, sin, and stand in the garden, before the presence of God. Through our worship, we hear the voice of God who seeks us and says, ‘Where are you?’, and we joyfully answer, saying, ‘We’re here, Abba, Father!’ This is worship!
This is ‘by the blood of Jesus Christ,’ as v. 19 of Heb. 10 says. Yes, Jesus Christ, the Son of God enabled us to enter the place where God resides. Adam failed, but Jesus, the second Adam, defeated sin, thus, washed us clean from sin and granted us a ‘pass’ to the holy place!
When we gather together for worship, when we respond to the call to worship, that’s the moment we’re carried by the Spirit of God and moved into the holy of holies where God resides, where God meets His worshippers who bring the due glory and honour to Him! Through worship, our union and fellowship with Him, our Heavenly Father, is restored.
Of course, Christ’s death restored our union with God once and for all. So, there’s no need of renewing it or adding more to this once restored union. But, we’re reminded of this restored union and fellowship weekly on every Lord’s Day when we gather together for worship.
This is why giving God ‘worthship’ is just a part of our worship. All worshippers in every worship should picture in their minds, should see through their spiritual eyes their confident, joyful entrance into the garden of Eden, into where God resides, to enjoy their restored relationship with God through Jesus.
II. WORSHIP IS OUR DRAWING NEAR TO GOD WITH A TRUE HEART
Once you grasp this, the rest is easy to understand. Worship is also ‘our drawing near to God with a true heart’ as Heb. 10:22 tells us. Let me read this verse to you: “let us with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” It might sound complicated; but, simply, this verse repeats one idea three times. And the idea is, ‘we’ve received a true heart’ in worship.
This idea is rephrased and said that our heart and body are sprinkled clean and washed with pure water. Of course, we ought to be clean and true when we meet our holy God. And we’re being washed and cleansed with pure water, rather than we clean ourselves. Self-cleansing we cannot do, but Jesus washed us with His blood shed on the cross. All who repent from their sins and believe in the Saviour Jesus receive this cleansing with pure water, thus, cleansing from an evil conscience. Again, this implies washing our ears and heart and ridding of the devil’s words whispered to the ears of our first parents in the garden.
With this cleansing of our minds and receiving a true heart, we’re drawn back to the Most Holy place in the OT worship and further, to the garden of Eden. When the OT high priest went into that place, his heart had to be pure and true – I mean, focused solely on the worship he carried out in that place. He could never hold any other thoughts in his mind but focus on bringing petitions to God on behalf of his people. Otherwise, he would be killed by God at the spot.
Also, our being cleansed and having a true heart draws us to the garden of Eden where man freely met and worshipped his Creator. In that place, man had a true heart, never being arrogant nor rebellious. Likewise, we have received a true heart through the blood of Jesus, and are enabled and strengthened to enter the holy place – and this is our worship.
This true heart is, in another word, ‘full assurance of faith’ as rendered in v. 22 and ‘the confession of our hope’ in v. 23.
III. WORSHIP IS OUR STIRRING UP ONE ANOTHER TO LOVE AND GOOD WORKS
Then, if worship we participate is our confident entrance into the place where God resides, and entering, we meet God and bow to Him in adoration and praise, if in our worship, we draw to Him with a true and pure heart – in other words, with a heart of full joy because of the restored fellowship and union with our Heavenly Father – would you keep it secret to yourself? Would you have this joy alone and not invite others to have it? Of course, not. You’d love to tell others to join you and encourage everyone you know to come with you and enjoy this worship to God.
That’s what vs. 24-25 point out, saying, “let us consider how to stir up one another … encourage one another.” Furthermore, the end of v. 25 urges all worshippers to stir each other up and encourage all to worship the Father and be blessed with what it brings to all worshippers “as you see the Day drawing near”! Here, ‘the day’ means, firstly, there’ll be no more chance for us to encourage one another and, secondly, no more chance for the unbelievers to join us in this blessing of worship. The chance is limited rather than indefinite for both groups. So, we’d better make the most of this opportunity and encourage everyone to come and worship our gracious and holy God.
This is what we’re engaged in every week, my fellow worshippers. We’re invited to enter the presence of God, enter the most holy place of God and enter the garden of Eden through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, to have and enjoy our restored relationship with God, restored worship to our Heavenly Father!
If I miss a worship, if I skip a Sunday’s worship, I miss this great moment of enjoying a heavenly blessing! When I attend a worship service, but my mind is not focused on what I do in worship – in other words, my heart is not true – I miss out of the joy of being together with my Heavenly Father. But, if you picture in worship your entrance into the Most Holy place and meeting God, you know that you’ve received a true heart to worship your Father, that is, full assurance of faith and the confession of your hope in Jesus!
May the Lord deepen in you and in me this joy of worshipping God our Father through Jesus Christ! ***