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Author:Rev. Daniel R. Hyde
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Congregation:Oceanside United Reformed Church
 Oceanside/Carlsbad, CA
Title:A Doxological People
Text:Revelation 1:5b-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:End Times

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

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

Originally published in The Presbyterian Banner (May 2004): 3-5.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow." We as Protestants call this "the doxology." In 25 brief words, this song expresses our emotions of joy and thanksgiving, awe and wonder. So what is a "doxology?" "Doxology" comes from two Greek words: doxa, which means "praise," and logos, which means "word." A doxology is a word of praise that we offer to God in response to his grace in Jesus Christ.

We as historic Reformed Protestants are a doxological people, that is, we are worshipping people. As a worshipping people we have always ordered our worship services along the lines of a dialog between God, who speaks to us in Law and Gospel, and us His people, who respond in repentance, faith, and praise. Notice the order here: God speaks to us, then we respond. Or, to put it another way, our praise to God is offered after we are given reason to praise. In the Bible singing is always a response, firmly based in what God has said and done for us in Jesus Christ. And this is what St. John gets at this in our text this Lord's Day. He bursts out in praise to Jesus Christ for what He has done. He explodes with a doxology that captures the heart of our praise to God – but only after he speaks to us about the work of Christ on our behalf.

The Basis of our Doxology

John first lays before us the basis of our doxology. This is runs so counter to much of contemporary Christian worship, in which you show up to church to an already revved up band, and jump into the singing wherever they are already at. Instead John first says, "This is what Christ has done for you, therefore give him praise." The objective facts of your redemption in salvation history are laid out first and foremost before us. Without Christ's objective work during his life, death, and resurrection, we would have nothing to sing about. Our subjective response to God is based always upon these facts. If we get emotional about singing to the Lord but can't say why we are crying, or full of joy, than we are guilty of non-Biblical religion. Our feelings have not been grounded in Christ but have become emotionalism.

Praise for What He's Done For Us

The first reason to praise God is because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. What has Christ done for you, O church? He has and continues to love us. His love is not a sappy, sentimental wish, or an emotional fad. In Scripture love is not primarily an emotion; it is an action! Love is a choice to do something for someone else. When Paul tells husbands to love their wives (Eph. 5:25) he is not saying "tap into your emotional side." This is needed in a healthy marriage, but Paul says that to love as Christ loved his church means to give yourself for your wife. It means to put aside your own needs and feelings and choose to provide and protect your wife to let her know that you love her.

The wonder of Christ's love for us is that it is the Father's love for the Son. In Christ God has acted to love us more deeply than we can ever imagine: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8); "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20); "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10).

Do you know just how great the love of Christ is towards you? He loves you so much that "for us men and for our salvation" He "came down from heaven" (Nicene Creed) to live, die, and rise again for you! You wouldn't send your only son into a burning building to save a dog; but God sent His Son to experience hell for us on the cross. And Christ did this willingly. He gave himself for us. He knew the consequences of coming to earth. He knew what would happen if he took our place upon the cross. He knew the price to be paid. But he loved us! He choose death that we might live. He choose suffering that we might be comforted. He choose injustice that we might be justified. Oh beloved, praise Jesus Christ today for he loves us!

He's also freed us from our sins by his own blood. Did you know that you were once enslaved to sin? Did you know that it once held you in its dungeon awaiting execution? Did you know that your sins were a prison holding you on death row? Sin is a tyrant. It has enormous power and an enormous penalty - death. We who were captives have been freed. We have been liberated by Christ. Here John uses the same word here that is used of Paul who was "unbound" from chains (Acts 22:30). We have been freed from the chains of sin! Sin no longer has any power over us to condemn us to eternal death. It does has practical problems for us, but it does not enslave us, it does not have the ability to sentence us to an eternal punishment. We now have a glorious freedom that the Psalmist spoke of in typological terms

Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,

Bound in affliction and irons –

Because they rebelled against the words of God,

And despised the counsel of the Most High,

Therefore he brought down their heart with labor;

They fell down, and there was none to help.

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble,

And he saved them out of their distresses.

He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,

And broke their chains in pieces.

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for his goodness,

And for his wonderful works to the children of men!

For he has broken the gates of bronze,

And cut the bars of iron in two. (Ps. 107:10-16)

Oh beloved, praise Jesus Christ today for He has freed us!

Oh beloved, praise Jesus Christ today for He has freed us!

But how? How has he freed us from this seemingly all-powerful tyrant, sin? "By his blood!" Christ's blood shed for us on the cross is the means of securing our glorious freedom. For we know that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22). This is why from the time God slew animals to make coverings for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:22), through all the types and shadows of the Old Covenant ceremonial religion there was blood, blood, blood! In order for one life to live, another had to be sacrificed.

But all the blood that flowed like a mighty river from the altar, all the sacrifices with their putrid smell of burning flesh, did not atone for one sin. As Scripture says, "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:4). Then why were they offered? Were any saved under the Old Covenant? Yes, they were saved Christ – by their faith looking forward to the promised One who "entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:12).

It is finished! The Old Covenant priests could not forgive sins, and certainly we cannot by our own offerings of self-righteousness do the same. Rest this morning in Christ's spotless blood. Rest in his perfect merit. Rest in his justifying work alone. Here is where your forgiveness is found! Oh beloved, praise Jesus Christ today for he has demonstrated his love and give us freedom by shedding his own blood for you.

Praise for What He's Made Us

But there's more! Jesus has not only done things for us, but he also has done something to us, making us a kingdom and priests to serve God. He's made us his kingdom. Understand this. Is the land of Palestine the kingdom? Is this world the kingdom? Is America the kingdom? The kingdom is made up of people, not land.  The kingdom is made up of faces, not borders. Even in the Old Covenant God's purpose for Israel was that they would be His kingdom. In Exodus 19:6 God said to them, "And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." But this never fully came to pass as they broke his covenant repeatedly. But we are the fulfillment of Israel's intended purpose. Notice that in Exodus 19:6 the words are in the future tense, "you shall be;" but here in Revelation we read a perfect past tense "he has made us." We are that "chosen race," that "royal priesthood," that "holy nation" (1 Pet. 2:9). We are the domain in which Christ our king dwells. Oh beloved, praise Jesus Christ today for he has made you his kingdom on earth!

And he's also made us his priests. Our text says we are priests "to his God and Father." The grammar speaks of possession: we belong to God, we are his treasured possession (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9). And remember that in the Old Covenant all the tribes were allotted land in the Promised Land, except one - the Levites - who were the line of the priests. Their inheritance was Yahweh himself and to serve in his tabernacle. The LORD called them his own.

The glory of the New Covenant is that we all are now priests to serve our Father. We all can come "with confidence…to the throne of grace" (Heb. 4:16). We all can enter into the holy of holies through the "new and living way" (Heb. 10:20). We all have free access to His grace (Rom. 5:2). What a truth for us to believe! We who have been freed from the enslaving power of sin are freed unto the service of the Lord. This means that you as a Christian are not freed to be "antinomian," that is, living against the law, free to do anything we want. Instead John says that we have been freed from serving sin that we might be free to serve Christ. This is the irony. We were slaves of sin, but now we are slaves of Christ, serving him as priests. And it is here, in service to Christ that we find our true freedom. We are freed from our sins, not from the responsibility to serve the Lord who created us in the beginning and has recreated us in Christ.

So what do we do as priests? We bring the "sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name" (Heb. 13:15). We no longer bring Old Covenant offerings but praise which drips from our lips. As priests we bring to God the fulfillment of the burning incense in the temple. When David prayed, "Let my prayer be counted as incense before you" (Ps. 141:2), he was anticipating our day. He looked forward to the day in which the continual burning of the incense in the tabernacle, and later temple, would be found in the prayers of the church. You don't believe me? Then hear what John says later in Revelation 5:8: "And when he [Christ] had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Because this is so, let us pray with the Psalmist, "O LORD open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise" (Ps. 51:19; NKJV). Pray continually, pray without ceasing, praise him from the rising of the sun to its going down! So let us lift up our hearts to him, as a new line of purified Levites to "bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD" (Mal. 3:3). Oh praise Jesus Christ today for he has made you his worshipping priests!

The Content of our Doxology

Finally, after laying out what Christ has done – and this is only the tip of the iceberg - John launches into his doxology: "to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen."

Oh redeemed of the Lord, give Christ glory! Give him the honor! Give him the praise! He has redeemed us from the slavery of our sins. He has redeemed us from the power of the devil. He has redeemed us from this perverse and wicked generation. He alone gets the praise. To Christ alone be the glory!

Oh kingdom of Christ, give him the dominion! Give him the power! Give him the might! For He alone had and has the power to loose the chains of dead sinners. He alone has the strength of Samson to break the shackles which our wayward hearts and minds under the power of sin laid upon us. He alone reigns from heaven above for he is an awe-some God!

Oh priests of the Most High God, give him your offerings of righteousness "from this time forth and forevermore" (Ps. 113:2). Never let his praise cease! Never let your tongue stop from declaring the wonders of grace and power in Christ. Never let your lips have a break from extolling him to this world.

The content of our doxology is that Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone is the Lamb worthy of our praise, and adoration, and blessing, and thanksgiving, and honor, and glory, both now and forevermore - and let God's kingdom of priests say, "Amen!"

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Daniel R. Hyde, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2004, Rev. Daniel R. Hyde

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