Server Outage Notice: TheSeed.info is transfering to a new Server on Tuesday April 13th

Statistics
2079 sermons as of May 18, 2022.
Site Search powered by FreeFind

bottom corner

   
Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
 send email...
 
Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:How Then Shall We Worship?
Text:LD 35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Worship
 
Added:2022-01-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: John 4:1-42

Lesson: Lord’s Day 35

 

HOW THEN SHALL WE WORSHIP?

  1. In Wisdom because He is Jealous

  2. In Obedience because He is Just

  3. In Joy because He is Loving

 

  1. Psalm 50: 1, 3, 5, 7

  2. Psalm 86:1-4

  3. Psalm 136: 1, 2, 12

  4. Hymn 1

  5. Hymn 77:1-3

  6. Hymn 84:1-4

 

Words to Listen For: convert, Oprah, flux, seeds, pigs 

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What’s the difference between the first two commandments?

  2. What does it mean that God is jealous?

  3. What was the 4-word inside joke at the seminary?  Why is it important to remember?

  4. Does the second commandment mean that generational curses are real?

  5. Where is the grace in the second commandment?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved worshippers of God,

Where is He?

Where is God?

If a visitor would come to our worship service, without any knowledge of the Bible, without any idea of what Christianity was all about...where would they think God was?

  • Maybe they would think that He is in our Book of Praise...after all, when we sing to Him, we stare at the book.
  • Maybe they would think He is right at the ceiling, right in the corner.  C.S. Lewis writes about this temptation in his book: The Screwtape Letters.

In this book, Lewis writes of a correspondence between two demons - a young demon named Wormwood, and his older uncle named Screwtape.  Screwtape is explaining to Wormwood how to make prayer and worship ineffective.  He says the following:

Wherever there is prayer, there is danger of God acting.  Human beings have not seen God, they have not seen His ghastly luminosity, His stabbing and searing glare...but rather, the object the humans pray to is a composite object of many quite ridiculous ingredients. There will be images derived from pictures of the Incarnation.

There will even be some of his own reverence (and of bodily sensations accompanying it) objectified and attributed to the object revered. I have known cases where what the patient called his "God" was actually located-up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall.

But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it-to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. 

 

That was a long quote, so let me simplify it for you.

The goal of the demonic forces in this world, is to keep us from worshipping GOD.  If they can divert our attention to an image, whether it is in our heads, or if we can imagine that God Himself is located in the left corner of our bedroom ceiling...then they have us, and our worship serves their nefarious purposes instead of God’s glorious ones.

 

Let me give you one more example.  One more story.

When I was at college, in southern Manitoba, I was taught by a wide variety of Christian Professors.  One day, a professor was recounting the story of his ordination.  On the day of his ordination, he was in high spirits, and spent a long time celebrating and talking with his new congregation.  Eventually they all left, and only his family was left.  They walked out of the building, and he locked the doors, and was immediately approached by a homeless man.  This homeless man asked him a simple question: Is God home?  This man was wanting to worship, he was wanting to know God.  And what did my professor do?  What did he say?  Did he use this as an opportunity to witness?  His first day on the job, maybe this would be his first convert.

But no.  He wanted to keep celebrating with his family, and so he simply said: “No.  God isn’t home, come back next week.”

There is a lot wrong with this response...but perhaps what was most wrong with it, was that both the homeless man and the pastor spoke as if God was located in the church building.  As though He was located ONLY in the church building.

Solomon spoke powerfully and so accurately when he said: Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!

If Solomon’s temple, with its construction blessed by God, its walls containing the ark of the covenant, could not contain God...how much less this church building that we have built?  Let us not think that God lives exclusively in this building.  That is idolatry, just as much as thinking He dwells in a crucifix, or in the corner of your ceiling.  This is missing the point, just like the Samaritan woman at the well, asking if, at the end of time, we will worship God on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, or Mt. Gerizim in the land of the Samaritans.

Now, you may notice that the sermon theme is HOW then shall we worship, and not WHERE then shall we worship.  And so, you may wonder if this properly and truly introduces the sermon.  But that’s the point that I am making here.  The question of WHERE is wrong.  The question of WHERE has nothing to do with it.  Christ is there, God is there, wherever the church gathers.  

History tells us that the location is irrelevant.  Lydia’s church met by the river (Acts 16).  The Apostle John was worshipping on the Lord’s Day in exile on Patmos (Revelation 1).  The early church met in catacombs, the great revivals took place in open fields.  Our missionaries preach in jungles.  I even heard of one of our ministers proclaim that he received his training under a palm tree.  It’s not about where...and when we make it about where, we are failing to understand HOW.  When we make it about where...then we are in danger.  So the real question concerning worship is: 

HOW THEN SHALL WE WORSHIP?

  1. In Wisdom because He is Jealous

  2. In Obedience because He is Just

  3. In Joy because He is Loving

 

We have come now to the second commandment in God’s holy law.  And there is some debate, some difference of opinion in this commandment.

The Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Lutheran church, teach that, what we view as the second commandment, is really the same as the first.  And, admittedly, the transition is rather subtle.

    You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or that is in the water under          the earth.

It is easy to see their thought process.  They combine these first two related commandments, and then, to still have a total of 10, they separate the 10th commandment into two parts.

9 - You shall not covet your neighbour’s house.

10 - You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant or female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.

But the second commandment, though intimately related to the first, is nonetheless separate and distinct from it.  They are not identical to each other.  Our covenant God was not being redundant when He spoke these words to Moses on the mountain.

1 - You shall have no other gods before me

    This is about WHO we must worship.  Yahweh is above all others.

2 - You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

    This is about HOW we must worship.  Since Yahweh is above all others, He cannot be pictured.  We cannot contain Him within a building, or a crucifix, or an idol.  We must worship Him in the way that He has commanded - serving in spirit and in truth.

We can divide this commandment up into 3 parts.  3 confusing and wonderful parts

  1. God’s jealousy - I, the LORD your God am a jealous God

  2. God’s wrath - visiting the inquiry of the fathers to the children of the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

  3. God’s love - BUT showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

We must worship Him in this way, He says, because He is a jealous God.  He is jealous.

Now, there are those who are confused by this.  God...being jealous.  I was one of these confused people...for a lot longer than I care to admit.  There are those who are confused by this, and there are those who lose their faith over this.  That wasn’t me, but you might be surprised that THIS VERY PHRASE was the nail in the coffin for Oprah.  She was raised in the church, but one day, when the minister talked about the jealousy of God, she couldn’t accept it, and she left, devoting her life instead to a vague sense of spirituality.  Devoting her life to new-ageism, and to remaking God in her own image.

So, just in case there are some here who think like her, in case there are some here who think like I did when I was younger, perhaps it is wise to unpack this a little bit.

God is jealous.

The first problem that we have is with the word itself.  What does “jealousy” look like?

If we look around at the world, we see, almost exclusively POOR forms of jealousy.  Almost exclusively SINFUL forms of jealousy.

For the church to describe God as an abusive boyfriend who flies off the handle and gets violent when his girlfriend goes out with her friends...or for the church to view God as someone who is jealous of someone else’s success or wealth...such a god is not worthy of worship. Such a god is not consistent with our loving and holy God.  Such a god is not consistent with our omnipotent, omnipresent God, who is above all created things and fills both Heaven and Earth with His love.

So...maybe the solution is to do away with this word, if it gives us all this trouble.

BUT.  Here is the problem with that, beloved.  Holy Scripture shows that jealousy very clearly.

In Exodus 34, we read: The Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Similarly, in Joshua, we read: He is a holy God.  He is a jealous God.

In Ezekiel, God Himself says: I will be jealous for my holy name

1 Corinthians warns us of provoking the Lord to jealousy.

This concept is found throughout the Bible, and so, for lack of a better term, we are stuck with it.  Our God is a jealous God, and we must learn what this means, so that we can serve Him as He truly is, not as we imagine Him to be in our minds.

You shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

If anyone but God would say these words, demanding exclusive worship, and demanding exclusive worship in an exclusive way, we would be concerned.  This would be the height of arrogance, and such a person would be rightly labelled an egomaniac.  But God’s jealousy is not like our jealousy.  And we shouldn’t be surprised by this...for why would God, the infinite, incomprehensible, immutable, Almighty Creator, share this weakness of His creation?

Our God is jealous, but He is not arrogant. 

Our God is jealous, but He is not an egomaniac.

Your God is jealous...not OF YOU, but OVER YOU.  For what would He have to be jealous of?  Your intellect?  He is omniscient.  Your power?  He is omnipotent.  Your possessions?  Every beast of the forest is His, the cattle on a thousand hills.

But your God is jealous OVER YOU.

He says: I am jealous for your worshipping, your serving, your loving, and your obeying.  You belong to me, I made you.

He says: You are mine.  I am your God.  Your Maker, your Saviour, your King, your Treasure, your Life.  Your heart belongs to me, do not give it away.

Your God is jealous over you, and He is jealous FOR YOU.  Our God wants us to feel most alive, to be the most joyful, to be the most satisfied, for this is what true love is.  We were created to find our life in Him.  So, when we try to find our ultimate joy in any other source, we will be disappointed, and He will be dishonored.

As a preacher so wisely put it: Here is the end of the matter: God is the one being in the universe for whom self-exaltation is not the act of a needy ego, but an act of infinite giving.  The reason God seeks our praise, is not because He will not be fully GOD until He gets it, but that we won’t be fully HAPPY until we give it.

How then shall we worship?  We must worship in wisdom.  God has not only told us WHO to worship, but HOW to worship.  He has given us instructions on the best and most faithful way to worship Him.  Let us not throw it aside for whatever our heart feels that particular day.  Let us not throw it aside because the preached gospel is auditory, and we are more of a “visual learner.”  For who made man’s mouth?  Who made man’s eyes and mind?  Surely God knows how best we are to worship.

Our catechism puts it like this: We should not be wiser than God.  He wants His people to be taught, not by means of dumb images, but by the living preaching of His Word.

We must worship in the way that God has commanded.  For God has not given us 10 suggestions, but 10 commandments.  God is not soft, God is not safe.  He does not suggest, but He commands.  We must worship obediently, because He is just.  Our second point.

How has our God commanded us to worship Him?

This is dealt with more comprehensively in Lord’s Day 38 in the catechism’s treatment of the 4th commandment, but we can still find instruction and direction here in Lord’s Day 35.  And this instruction and direction is not constantly in flux.  God’s commandments are clear and they are solid...unlike our feelings about them sometimes.

There was an inside joke when I was in the seminary.  An inside joke of just 4 words.  And we would use this regularly.  The words?

“I just feel like…”

The context?  We would be involved in a vigorous debate a bout some obscure theological point, perhaps how far away Adam was from Eve when she ate the fruit in the Garden, or the distinction between dogmaticians and theologians (we were a fun bunch).  And inevitably, one of us would be debated into a corner out of which we couldn’t argue ourselves.  And so, we would just throw up our hands and say the famous four words:  “I JUST FEEL LIKE…”

And we would trail off, because this was our joking way to admit that we had lost the debate.

If you didn’t catch it, the joke is this: if you have to appeal to your feelings about something, rather than the facts, then you’ve lost.  Because feelings are not facts.  And facts do not care about your feelings.

Maybe I don’t like that God is Almighty...but that doesn’t make Him any less powerful.

Maybe I don’t like that God is all-knowing...that doesn’t diminish any of His knowledge.

And yet, so much of the broad evangelical Christianity is based, almost solely, on feelings rather than facts.  And one of the ways that they justify this, is through misinterpreting passages like our reading for this afternoon, John 4.  This is how they (mis)understand the story:

Jesus meets this Samaritan woman at the well.  A woman steeped in sin.  When He begins to call out her sinful lifestyle, she is uncomfortable and changes the subject to theology, which Jesus then dismisses, saying that theology doesn’t matter, it is just about loving God.  This is their misunderstanding.

But this is how the story actually goes, please notice the difference:

Jesus meets this Samaritan woman at the well.  A woman steeped in sin.  When He begins to call out her sinful lifestyle, she is uncomfortable, and changes the subject to locational theology.  She essentially asks the question that I asked you at the beginning of this sermon - where is God?  Is God on Mt. Zion, or is He on Mt. Gerizim?  Jesus responds that this is the wrong question - first of all, God is the one speaking to her at this very moment.  And it is not about location, but rather, worshipping in spirit and in truth.  Let us not forget the truth aspect.

True worship being in SPIRIT is easy for us to accept.  It’s also easy for us to twist to our benefit.  If the SPIRIT is all that matters, I don’t have to gather for worship.  If the SPIRIT is all that mattes, then sitting on the couch on a Friday, catching up on old sermons is just as good as Sunday worship, meeting with God’s people.  BUT. IT’S. NOT.

Let’s not forget the truth aspect.  Truth means truly worshipping.  Truly worshipping means obediently worshipping.  Obedience is important!

Now, we can say that it IS all about love...as long as we understand love in the way that Scripture does.

John 14 - If you love me, you will keep my commandments

1 Corinthians 7 - Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything, but keeping the commandments of God.

For those who say, “I worship God in spirit by walking in the forest, marvelling at the trees...I don’t have to attend a worship service” … THAT’S NOT THE WAY IT WORKS!

While the trees can tell you a bit of God’s power… they do not tell you of your sin.

While the trees can tell you a bit of God’s creativity… they do not tell you of your Saviour.  They do not tell you of the service which God commands of you.

You cannot worship God in your own manner.  You CAN and you MUST worship God in the manner that He requires.

When we say: This is how I like to think of God...you are just rehashing the seminary joke.  Truth has flown out the window at that point.

This is how I like to think of God…

No good comes out of this...and not GOD comes out of this.

For an imagined God is an imaginary God.

And God will have no rivals.  We heard that in our first point.  He will not allow for any rivals, for He is jealous for you.  He will not even allow for the rival in your mind.  Your imagined god is just as much of an idol as a golden statue on an altar.

And we see how seriously our God takes this, saying,

You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me

God’s just wrath against sinners is so strong, that He says that He will visit it on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him.

If we take this simply, and not consider the context of all of Scripture, this would mean that God would hold me accountable for the sins of my great-great grandfather.  If my great-great-grandfather was a pagan and worshipped idols, then, even though I have never worshipped an idol, I would still be punished for the sin of idolatry.

But is this was God is saying here?  Some say that it is, and speak of generational curses.  That when someone bows before an idol, they give their soul, and the souls of their descendants to Satan.  That they are cursed.  But this is not how our God works.  He speaks directly against this accusation in Ezekiel 18, going into great detail.  Essentially, God promises this:

  • If there is a righteous man who follows God’s laws, keeps away from sin, he will be blessed.

  • If this man fathers a son who rejects his father’s teaching and lives a wicked and sinful, he will be punished.

  • If this wicked man fathers a child, who sees his father’s wickedness, and rejects it, following the path of his grandfather, he will be blessed.  He will not be punished for his father’s sin.

Each man, each woman, dies for their own sin.  Not anyone else's.  So, what DOES this mean then?

It means that the children and grandchildren of idolators start their life under many disadvantages.  They would be taught idolatry from a very young age, and these sinful seeds would be deeply ingrained in them.  They would have their morality perverted, and in this way, they would suffer for their parent’s faults.  It would be difficult for them to change the course of their life.

But we see that it does happen - we are not forced to live like our parents.  We see examples of wicked sons born to righteous fathers, and righteous sons born to wicked fathers.

King David was a man after God’s own heart...and yet his children were wicked.

King Ahaz was a wicked man, sacrificing his own children to false gods...and yet, his son, King Hezekiah, restored right worship and was faithful.

God’s righteous anger over sin is so strong.  It is so powerful...and yet, our God is not motivated by wrath.  His character cannot be summed up by anger.  Indeed, the reason for this anger, the reason for this wrath, is love.  God’s law is all about love.  The foundation of the Law is love, and, as we hear every Sunday, the summary of God’s law is love.  And so, we worship in joy.  Our final point.

Do you notice how I read the 10 commandments each Sunday?  Specifically how I read the second commandment?

Maybe some of the children have picked up on this.  I have a specific pause and a specific emphasis.  Each minister is different, but I would think, that even if this emphasis is not expressed in their voice, it is expressed in their minds.

You shall not make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me…

BUT.

Showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Did you hear the pause?  The emphasis?  I exaggerated it for you this time.  These words should put in your mind the best “but.”

Ephesians 2 - You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience - among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

BUT GOD, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.

It is grace here too.  The steadfast love of the Lord, His HESED love...is given to thousands of those who love Him and who keep His commandments.

Where is the grace? you might ask.  Is this not just pure, unadulterated JUSTICE?  It’s a simple equation...we disobey, we are punished, we obey, we are rewarded.

But there are two problems with this.

First of all, even if we DID keep all of God’s commandments perfectly, even if we DID love Him perfectly...have we EARNED His love?  Have we EARNED His favor?

No!  For living with perfect love towards God, living with perfect obedience before His face...this is only us doing our duty.  This is only us doing what we were created to do.  This is the BARE MINIMUM.  This is the BARE MINIMUM, and yet He promises to reward it.  He gives us a REWARD, not WAGES.  We have not earned His steadfast love, for thousands, or, as some translations have it, thousands of generations.  We simply did our duty.  And so it is a God of PURE GRACE and LOVE BEYOND IMAGINING who would make this promise.  This is the first problem.  Even if we were perfect, we will not have earned anything with God.

And here is the second - we AREN’T perfect.  We do not perfectly love our God as we are called to do.  We do not perfectly obey our God as we were created to do.

And so...isn’t this an empty promise then?  Like promising that you will do something “when pigs fly?”

Without Jesus Christ...it would be an empty promise.  Without our Saviour, this promise WOULD be empty, and none of us would enjoy that HESED love.

And so, Let us be thankful that this promise of Exodus 20 is not the only promise in the Bible.  For there is the promise of a Saviour in Genesis 3.  The promise of a Saviour who would transform us into those who would receive that steadfast love.

He transforms us by taking away our deeply ingrained idolatry and wickedness, and by filling us with His Spirit so that we can begin to obey all of God’s laws.  Transforming our hearts and minds so that we can begin to worship God as He commands.

Without Christ, this promise would never be fulfilled...and so we should be beyond joyful and excited, we should be thankful beyond measure that we are NOT without our Saviour!

God’s justice demands that sins be punished.  And this is the state in which we were found.  Idolators to our very core.  False worshippers.  We all have to worship somebody...and, due to our fallen nature, it is not God.

And so, because of who He is, because, at His core, our God is a loving God, our God IS love, He made that happen.  He sent the only One who could save us.  He sent us His only Son, our Saviour, who took all our sins upon Himself, He took the curse that should have been ours to bear, and gave us that steadfast love that He, as God’s perfectly obedient and perfect Son, deserved.

How happy, how blessed, how joyful are those who have Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and Yahweh as our God!

Our God is a jealous God - but He is jealous FOR you, out of love, wanting to protect you from evil, and give you what is truly good.

Our God is a just God - He punishes what is evil.  But we should not fear His wrath, because, by His power, we have been washed clean of our evil, and our evil sinful nature is dying, more and more each day.

Our God is a loving God - He did all of this for us...not because we deserve it, not because we earned it, but simply because of who He is.

Yahweh is worthy of our exclusive worship.  Yahweh is worthy of our faithful worship.

Let us worship Him AS HE IS, not as we picture Him to be.  Let us worship Him AS HE COMMANDS, not how we would prefer to worship Him.

Yahweh knows best, Yahweh commands what is best, and Yahweh IS what is best.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

Please direct any comments to the Webmaster


bottom corner