Worship for the Twenty-First Century: The Way Forward, Part 3

(Note: You can read the earlier installments in this series here and here.)

Thirdly, I believe authentic worship will also advance the Lord’s glory. In Revelation 5:8-14 you find another aspect of worship. Sometimes in our modern context, it alone is described as worship. Sometime, people will say, “Well, we’re going to worship (sing), and then we will hear the preaching.” That is theologically incorrect. Preaching, in my judgment based upon Scripture, is the high point of worship. It is the pinnacle of worship. But authentic worship will involve not only the preaching of the Word, but the singing of the Word as well. In Revelation 5:8-14 there are three wonderful hymns sung to the praise of the Lamb. There are three observations I would make from these 3 hymns.

First, worship means that we take the gospel to the nations. Verse 8, “Now when He, (that is the Lamb, the Son, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah) had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders, they fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp (the instrument of praise), and golden bowls full of incense which are the prayers of the saints.” You want additional components of authentic worship? There they are: praise & prayer. “And they begin to sing a new song” (new in kind, a new quality kind of song.) Here is how they sing in heaven. “You are worthy.” You should be worshipped. Why? Why can He do all this? “For you were slain, and you have redeemed us to God.” How? “By Your blood.” Now, here is the key for this particular observation. From where has He redeemed us? “Out of every tribe, every tongue, every people, and every nation.” In other words, it is not possible to authentically worship this God and not take His gospel to the nations. Missions, a missionary spirit, is a natural out-growth of authentic, Biblical worship. Worship of a sovereign God, worship of the great Christ that we love, and worship that will indeed seek to advance the glory of God to the ends of the earth is authentic worship. In the process, He makes us kings and priests to our God. And we look forward to a day when we reign on the earth. Worship means taking the gospel to the nations.

Second, worship means learning a lesson from the angels. Verse 11 says, “I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders. The number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” We do not need to count angels. Based upon the Bible, and especially Hebrews 1, we do not need to worship angels. That is idolatry. But we can learn a lesson from the angels. And what we can learn is a lesson in authentic worship by what they do. They sang with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” To do what? To receive a seven-fold blessing. “To receive power and riches and wisdom and strength.” We cannot give God any of those four things. He has all power. He has all the riches. He has all the wisdom and He has all the strength. However, we can give him the last 3 things. We can give him honor. We can give him glory. And we can indeed bless His name.

We learn a valuable lesson from the angels. But third, worship also means joining all of creation in humble adoration. Look at verse 13-14: “Every creature which is in heaven, on the earth, under the earth, such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard them saying ‘blessing and honor, glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne.” There is the sovereign God, the Father. “And to the Lamb forever.” There is the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ. Now, look at verse 14. It all comes together. Then the four living creatures said “Amen.” So be it. “And the twenty-four elders fell down and they worshipped him,” and some texts read “they worshipped Him who lives forever, and ever.”

Tonight, we have with us guests from Great Britain. We have guests from the United States, and we have guests, of course, from Canada. This is a special night. Convocation. We are beginning a new school year. We are recognizing and congratulating graduates. Imagine with me for just a moment, that we have invited the most important dignitary, the most important official in Toronto to come and be here tonight, and that person had agreed to join us. The mayor comes. Open those doors. That person walks down this aisle. I would say to you, even though I do not even know who it is, it would be right for me to quickly ask all of you to stand and to honor the person who is the mayor of this city. You may not agree with this person’s politics. That does not really matter. The office of mayor deserves respect.

Now, let us take it a step further. Perhaps we really had some inside connections. And so those from across the ocean, they were able to arrange things, and we were able to either get (it was our choice) Tony Blair or the Queen of England. They agreed to join us tonight for this time of celebration. That would be pretty impressive.

Or maybe my good friend Mark Dever, who lives in Washington, D.C. was able to work his magic. You did not know this, but he and George Bush, they are tight. And so Mark just shares with George, and Laura, “Hey, I’m going up to Toronto, going to be a part of a convocation at the Toronto Bible College & Seminary. Why don’t you join us?” “Well, I’d be glad to,” he says! So, secret service arrives and doors open. Here comes Mark’s good friend, George Bush, walking down the aisle. Now, you might not like George Bush. But he is the President of the United State of America, and it would be right to honor him.

Well, then, take it one step further. Your Prime Minister, the Prime Minister of Canada, hears about all of this, receives an invitation, and lo and behold, he agrees to come as well. Doors open and down he walks. I would say to all of us, whether you like the person’s politics or not, it would be right to stand, it would be right even to applaud in honor of the office that that person, that each of these persons, occupies.

However, in stark contrast, if in the next few moments, those doors were to open, and suddenly walking down that aisle and standing here before us was the Lord Jesus Christ, to stand would be so inadequate. To applaud would almost be arrogant. You see, the only rightful response would be worship. It would be to do what we read in verse 14, “they fell down and they worshipped Him who lives forever and ever.” There is authentic worship.

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