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Grace Fellowship Church

A Grateful and Acceptable Worship

A Grateful and Acceptable Worship

Hebrews 12:28-29

Grace Fellowship Church

February 15, 2009

Series 3 Sermon 70

 

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

 

Introduction

This week we have experienced in our church the great love that the Lord Jesus Christ called us to as many of you have stepped in to care for Heather and the kids.  But what you should also be aware of is the difficulty that can be experienced by a Christian at a moments notice.  Things seem to be going like they should and you end up in an ambulance going to the ER.  One of the truths that life teaches us quickly is that we are not really that much in control of our lives.  Our days are ordered and numbered by the Lord and in His sovereign will allows His children to experience pain and suffering in this world.  Some of you at points have had health scares.  Some of you have been or at some point will be given bad news.  Age creeps up on us and our bodies remind us of that.  And that leaves us with questions about God and His will for us.

 

What about when we suffer whether it is physical pain, emotional pain, and even spiritual pain?  How are we as believers to react in a proper biblical response to pain?  And pain in this life is a sure thing.  And as we learned in the first part of Hebrews 12 this pain is often for our discipline because the Lord loves us and those whom He has set His affection on will be disciplined for our good and His glory.  

 

One of my favorite passages in all of Scripture is not one that is quoted very often in our day.  But when times are tough and your faith is tested in the fires of adversity it is a passage that you can hold on to for help.  It is a passage that you can use for comfort and peace in the midst of sickness or suffering or pain or whatever you are walking through.  It is a passage that you can grab hold of when you are struggling to overcome sin and that struggle is causing you great discomfort and distress.  It is Philippians 1:29.  It says:

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake

 

What that says to us as believers is that we have been granted spiritual Siamese twins; faith and suffering.  These two items are inseparable in Scripture.  Faith in Christ will always equal suffering in this world.  The reason is that faith in Christ unto salvation is in direct conflict with this present evil age.  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12 this;

12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

 

The Lord Jesus told His disciples that in this world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer because He has overcome the world.  This was the message of 1st century Christianity.  This is the message of the New Testament.  This was the message that the early church not only heard but lived.  And somehow twenty centuries later that message has become twisted.  We are told the opposite of what Scripture tells us today. We are told that if we will simply pattern our lives after what Scripture says then we will have peace and comfort and God will bless us tremendously.  If we will have faith then He will always heal our bodies and make us disease free.  We are told that if we are not healthy and wealthy then God has not blessed us and God has not blessed us because we don’t have enough faith to reach and grab those blessings that somehow 21st century preachers believe are rightfully ours.  The problem with this message is that it is not what Scripture teaches. 

 

When the Lord Jesus said to His disciples that they would have tribulation in this world and that people would try to kill them because of the Gospel they did not confuse that with health and wealth at all.  When Paul wrote to Timothy from prison and told him that anyone who desired to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted he did not mean that the world would like him very much.  When the same apostle told the Philippians that not only had they been granted to believe in Christ Jesus unto salvation as a gift and that the other part of that gift was suffering for His name sake they did not misunderstand Paul to think that he was calling them to a life of comfort and ease.  But somehow people in our culture have twisted that all up.  I guarantee that if you were sitting in 99% of the churches in our area this morning you would hear a sermon that would conclude how God will make your problems go away and life will have meaning and purpose if you will just do something that He wants you to do. 

 

But my question is how do they come to this conclusion?  What Bible are they reading that says to be rich is a sign of the blessing of the Lord?  What Bible are they reading that says that someone with heart problems or cancer or some other illness just does not have enough faith?  What Bible are they reading that says the Christian brothers and sisters huddled in a small room somewhere in communist China this Lord’s day to worship because they fear for their safety are somehow less spiritual than us who worship in freedom?  What about the newly converted brother or sister that left Islam and now they fear the wrath of their relatives and former friends who desire to kill them because of their conversion? 

 

What does the Bible say about wealth?  Listen to the half brother of Jesus, the apostle James, from James 1:9-10.

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.

 

What does the Bible say about persecution?  The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 5:10-12:

10 "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 "Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 

What does the Bible say about suffering and affliction?  Paul told the Thessalonians in 2 Thessalonians 1:4-5 this:

4 therefore, we ourselves speak proudly of you among the churches of God for your perseverance and faith in the midst of all your persecutions and afflictions which you endure. 5 This is a plain indication of God's righteous judgment so that you will be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.

 

The Bible says that wealth and ease of life are deceitful.  And by the way, contrary to what is being sold on so called Christian television today, God does allow His children to become sick and history tells us that He does allow them to die.  I think of Job who the Bible calls a blameless and upright man who suffered greatly in his life.  Job had done nothing against the Lord that would warrant such treatment.  He simply was granted not only to believe but also to suffer for His name’s sake. 

 

The Lord Himself initiates the conversation with Satan about Job.  “Have you considered My servant, Job?”  Job loses his children, his flocks, his servants, and his health and what does he do?  Job 1:20 tells us.

20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped.

 

You see Job understood something that 1st century AD Christians understand and that is something that we 21st century Christians need to wrap our minds and our hearts around as well.  God does allow His children to suffer and be tested and have discomfort on this earth.  There are many reasons for this and only a few that we are aware of.  I think one of the most important reasons the Lord allows us to suffer here on earth is to cause us to long for Heaven.  If life on earth were perfect why would we desire to depart and be with the Lord?  There are other reasons as well but I think that is the most important reason for our passage this morning. 

 

Context

We just wrapped up several months in Hebrews chapter 10 through 12 as the writer of Hebrews taught us what real biblical, saving faith looks like.  It is a faith that does not shrink back in times of suffering.  It is a faith that is tested in the fires of adversity and is rooted in the bedrock of God’s innerent Word.  Real faith is also refined as the Lord disciplines His people as we saw in the first few verses of chapter 12.  And the Christians who read this letter we call Hebrews for the first time understood perfectly well what difficulty and suffering is and so do some of you. 

 

Some of you have suffered from unbelieving family members.  You know the pain of a loved one who is not a believer and is hostile to the Gospel and you have been reviled and hated and mistreated.  Some of you live with physical pain and medical problems that you have prayed that the Lord would take away and He has not done so.  Some of you know the pain of rebellious children.  There are all kinds of ways that the Lord allows His people to endure hardship to teach them to be holy and faithful. 

 

Now I know that some of you at this point are thinking that this can’t be fair if it is true?  Why would God allow the people that He has redeemed and He loves to have to endure heartache and pain and persecution?  Why would HE let the Chinese Christian have to hide in order to worship?  Why would he let the former Muslim die by the sword of a former friend or relative? 

 

I don’t have all the answers.  But a better question would be why the Lord Jesus while He walked this earth not only left the eternal glories of Heaven but was homeless?  Why was He who knew no sin under the constant threat of death at the hands of evil men?  Why was the One who had all the correct answers about life and godliness called a sinner and a glutton and a wine bibber?  Why would God the Father allow God the Son to endure such hardship?  I want you to listen to Hebrews 2:10-11.

10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.

 

So if the Lord Jesus who is the sanctifier suffered then it is fitting for those who are being sanctified to learn obedience through what we suffer as well. 

 

You see a misdiagnosis of the Christian life will leave you scratching your head in difficult times.  When things do not go your way then you will be quick to question the Lord and wonder if He has forsaken you.   If you listen long enough to the American version of Christianity which is a false Christianity then you will quickly come to believe that any sickness, any suffering, any pain, any persecution, and any financial difficulty is brought on by either a lack of faith or an attack of Satan or that God has somehow abandoned you. 

 

But God has a running history of men and women who have been found faithful who suffered.  Abel is murdered by his brother Cain.  Noah has to spend 120 years being jeered and mocked as he builds an Ark that will save him and his family.  Abraham lives as an immigrant fearing for his life as he followed the Lord.  Moses suffered as he led a stiff necked hard hearted group of people from Egyptian bondage.  Oh, and remember that he spent forty years of his life tending his father in laws sheep in the middle of the wilderness when he knew that he was the deliverer of Israel.  I have already mentioned Job.  The prophets were reviled and murdered because they proclaimed the Word of the Lord to wicked kings and queens.  The Lord Jesus was crucified.  Paul the apostle was beheaded and spent a lot of time in prison.  Tradition tells us that Peter was crucified upside down.  Most of the original twelve disciples were martyred.  John spent many of his days on the prison island of Patmos not in Maui.  And then if you read church history you will learn of men and women who endured lifetimes of suffering and pain as they served the Lord.  Men like Martin Luther and John Calvin suffered not only threats to their lives but also intense physical pain as well.  The missionary Amy Carmichael spent many years in bed with physical pain and suffering.  The hymn writer William Cowper who penned the hymn, “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” suffered much of his life with mental torment. 

 

So what do you do when you like those who have been found faithful find yourself in great pain and difficulty?  Do you listen to the false prophets of the Americanized church and blame everything on the devil or your own lack of faith? Do you blame God and wonder why He has forsaken you? 

 

I think this morning the reason that the Holy Spirit of God has placed Hebrews 12:28-29 right where it is, is so we will get the right picture of why we worship the Lord.  We don’t just worship the Lord in what seems to be victorious times.  We are called to worship at all times in all situations no matter the difficulty of that situation. 

 

Look with me at Hebrews 12:28-29.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

 

PNP

From our text this morning I want you to see the two correct reactions to the amazing truth that God has provided through Christ a kingdom for His people. 

 

1.  We are to be grateful for the kingdom that cannot be shaken.

2.  We are to offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. 

 

Purpose

My purpose for preaching this passage is to show us all that we are to not react as spoiled children to our temporal circumstances but rather we need to know how we are to react to a glorious heavenly reality of an unshakeable kingdom. 

 

RPNP

So look with me at these two correct reactions to the amazing truth that God has provided through Christ a kingdom for His people. 

 

1.  We are to be grateful for the kingdom that cannot be shaken.

Notice verse 28.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken..

 

Notice the first word of the verse, therefore.  The writer is now with one word reminding us of all that he has told us so far.  As Christians we have been given the great prophet, the great High Priest, and the great King in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Everything in Christ is far better than any earthly kingdom could ever be.  And that Kingdom is coming.  We were told of the examples of faith in Hebrews 11 of those who did not desire an earthly city but rather were seeking the City that is God’s City.  And like wise we are not seeking an earthly kingdom but something of greater and eternal worth is taking place.  Look at verse 28 again.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken

 

We are, present tense, receiving a kingdom and it is a kingdom that can not be shaken.  Unlike the kingdoms of the world that will one day soon be shaken loose.  Look at verses 26 and 27.

26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

 

The only thing that will remain is the Kingdom of God.  All other things will be shaken away.  So this Kingdom that we are right now receiving is what we are to be grateful for.  And by the way, when the writer says “Let us be grateful,” it is a command for all of us.  Some of your translations may say, “Let us have grace” but that was a first century saying for being thankful.  Plus we have great things to be thankful for.  We have been given this kingdom as a gift.  Look at verse 28 again.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken

 

This kingdom is one that is secured by the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is our kingdom as God has given us the faith to trust in Christ alone for that Kingdom.  It is enacted on the better promises of the New Covenant that was and is eternally secured by the infinite value of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

So the first way that we as believers are to react to the amazing truth that God has provided through Christ a kingdom for His people is to be grateful.  This is an attitude of thanksgiving to the Lord for all that He has done. 

 

But how many times do we show our ungratefulness?  How many times do we grumble and complain about the situation that we are in?  How many times have we counted our heartaches and our discomforts instead of our blessings? 

 

We complain if the inside air temperature is not regulated properly according to our comfort.  We complain if the steak that we get to eat is not prepared just so.  We complain if the ice in our drink has watered down the flavor.   When we spend our time complaining as those who will inherit eternal life we have taken our eyes off the Lord and this coming Kingdom and placed them squarely on our temporal circumstances.  And when we do that we are not living out this command. 

 

How many of you on a daily basis break this command?  How many of you can’t see past your present circumstances to look ahead to that city of God that is coming upon us quickly?  This is very easy for us as finite humans to do but let’s call it what it is and that is sin.  It is sin that must be repented of.  Grumbling and complaining is saying to God that He might be sovereign but He is definitely not good enough to us.  What we are saying is that eternal life and membership in the Body of Christ, and participation in worship of the most powerful and majestic Being in the universe is not good enough for us.  We need all of that and we want everything else our way also.  We are not nearly as concerned about being conformed to the image of Christ. 

 

Which brings us to our second point which has to do with worship.  Our second point is:     

 

2.  We are to offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. 

Look at verse 28 again. 

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 

What I want you to notice first under point two is that we are to offer to God acceptable service or worship.  I started off this sermon by talking about how as Christians we are called not only to faith in Christ but also to suffer for His sake.  Therefore worship is not contingent upon outward circumstances.  The proper response to God when we are healthy and have plenty and are not suffering is worship.  But the proper response to God when we are not healthy and we are in need of things and when we are suffering is worship as well.  

 

We just read a few weeks ago the first chapter of James.  “Brothers, count it all joy when you encounter various trials.”  Why? Because the trial of your faith produces perseverance so the understanding that God is acting upon you in a trial should bring about gratefulness and worship.  I want you to understand the folks that were reading verse 28 for the first time.

 

Were they a group of people who had everything going for them?  Did they have plenty and were in great health and walked around in freedom?  Turn back to Hebrews 10:32-34.

32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.

 

These are people who had experienced the depth of human depravity first hand as they suffered under those who hated them simply because they were Christians.  And now they are commanded to be grateful and to offer acceptable worship to God because of the Kingdom that has been given to them.

 

I want you to notice second that my translation says that we are to offer to God acceptable worship.  Your translation may say “whereby we may serve God acceptably” or something like that.  Look at verse 28 again.

and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 

There are two key words here we need to first focus in on.  The first is service or worship.  But worship in verse 28 has with it a very important adjective.  It is the word acceptable.  That is the second word.  By the writer using these two words together we must understand that there is such a thing as unacceptable worship. 

 

When the Lord Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well He told her this.  “Those who worship must worship in spirit and in truth.”   The right spirit is in gratitude and thankfulness in humble obedience to the Lord because He is the Lord and God of all.  That is how we approach the Lord in worship.  The second thing the Lord Jesus said about worship is that it is to be done in truth as well.  I don’t think anyone in here would disagree that worship should be done according to Scripture. 

 

But we truly have a cultural problem in many churches today.  I would be so bold to say that many who go to church in our area if asked what biblical worship is could only tell you what their tradition says.  There are those who have the idea that anything goes in worship.  God desires to be worshipped so we worship how we are comfortable according to our personalities.  And for the most part that is how people choose which church they will attend today.  Or they choose a church based on how they were brought up and what tradition they were brought up in.  I would even go so far to say that if you asked every pastor in the three county area if their church practices biblical worship they would say yes.  But that would not be true.  I would say that most churches have some elements of biblical worship in their services but there are things that happen in a worship service that are not at all biblical.  They may be done in somewhat of a correct spirit but definitely not according to truth.  There is the opposite problem as well.  Many things are done according to the truth but definitely not in the right spirit.  You find these places cold and dead.  They have the liturgy but no one there really cares. 

 

So we need to understand that worship directed toward the Lord is acceptable worship but acceptable worship is governed by the Bible and done in the right spirit of gratefulness and two other words in verse 28.  Look at the verse again.

and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 

Let me deal just briefly with this aspect of biblical worship which is reverence and awe.  Your translation may say reverence and godly fear.  When we gather together on the Lord’s Day for worship there is celebration.  We are all happy to see one another again and to meet new brothers and sisters in the Lord.  It is a joyous time when we are together and this is the way the Lord has intended it to be.  We don’t walk in here with our heads down as if we are some how ultra humble.  The Lord is pleased when brethren dwell together and the joy of the Lord is there.  And His promise is that He is in our midst.  That should bring us greater joy.  The Lord’s Day is a small snapshot of what the glories of Heaven will be like as the redeemed from all time enjoy eternal fellowship and eternal worship in the presence of the Lord forever.  We get one day a week now but in eternity we will do this all the time.  But there has to be in the midst of joy and celebration the understanding of who we are coming before.  We are approaching in worship the most powerful and perfect Being in all the universe.  It is He who has spoken everything into existence and it is He who has called out His new creation in Christ called the church.  And He who created all things also created worship and commands us that we are to worship Him. 

 

The problem that we have is that we like everything about God to fit nicely in our understanding.  But God is not able to be held in our finite understanding.  He is all powerful.  He is all knowing.  He is all good.  He is indescribable.  He is a God of love and He is a God of wrath.  And if we learn nothing at all from the Old Testament but this He is a jealous God who not only commands that His creatures worship Him but also do so in an acceptable manner.  The reverence and awe is further driven home when the writer pens verse 29.  Look at it with me. 

29 for our God is a consuming fire.

This should bring back all of the images from the Bible where God Himself consumed those who would worship him incorrectly.  Think of the two sons of Aaron Nadab and Abihu whom the Lord killed in the tabernacle for offering strange fire in their incense pans.  The fire did not come from the right place and the Lord struck both men dead and commanded Aaron not even to mourn for them.  The Lord’s words are striking.  Those that come near will regard the Lord as holy.  Think of Uzzah as the Ark of the Covenant was being brought back to Israel and David was leading the march.  The oxcart that the ark was on tipped and Uzzah who knew the command of God that the ark was not to be touched simply reached out his hand and steadied the ark and the Lord killed him on the spot.  He will be obeyed and regarded as holy.  Think of the New Testament and how the people were worshipping with reverence and fear and giving of their own possessions as people had need.  Anninias and Saphirra lie to the Holy Spirit and are struck down dead at the feet of the apostles.  The Lord is a consuming fire and those that approach Him in worship must do so in reverence and fear. 

 

So what is acceptable worship that is done in reverence and fear?  Let me give you a basic rundown because a few months ago I did a three part series on biblical worship.  The first thing I want you to understand is that we are to worship according to the commands of God and not according to our own desires or imaginations.  Sin has effected our whole being so the Lord has instructed us on the how to of acceptable worship. This is the hardest thing to get across to people.  We worship how Scripture teaches us to worship and we do not add anything to it.  I want you to listen to Deuteronomy 12:28-32.

28 "Be careful to listen to all these words which I command you, so that it may be well with you and your sons after you forever, for you will be doing what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.
29 "When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?' 31 "You shall not behave thus toward the LORD your God, for every abominable act which the LORD hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
32 "Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.

 

So Scripture is our guide book for worship and we need to go there.  So let me quickly give you a New Testament run down for how we are to worship. 

 

All acceptable worship is given to God through the mediator the Lord Jesus Christ.  Listen to 1 Timothy 2:5.

5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

 

God accepts worship done only in the name of Christ.  We come before Him in the name of Christ understanding that Christ is our mediator.  When we come before Him we are to pray.  Prayer is part of the corporate worship of God.  Listen to 1 Timothy 2:1-2.

1 First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority , so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity

 

There are even guidelines for what is acceptable to pray for and what is not. The Lord Jesus even taught us how to pray.   

 

Then there is time in worship for the Word of God.  In the worship of God the words of God are to be read and understood.  Listen to 1 Timothy 4:13.

13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching.

 

God speaks in the worship of Himself.  He does so as we read the Scriptures and teach the Scriptures as well.  Listen to 2 Timothy 4:2.

2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.

 

For those of you who are relatively new to our congregation this is why we preach systematically through books of the Bible.  So long as the preacher is saying what the Word of God says the Lord is speaking to His people.  He is instructing us.  He is changing us into the image of the Lord Jesus.

 

Here is a good rule of biblical worship.  It is focused on God, mediated through Jesus Christ, and done according to the Word of God.  There are no pagan influences on it and we are to add nothing nor are we to take away from it.  In acceptable worship we pray the Word of God, we read the Word of God, we preach and hear the Word of God, we taste and see the Word of God through the ordinances of baptism and the Lord Supper, and we sing the Word of God.  Turn over to Colossians 3:16. 

16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 

This is why we don’t just sing anything in worship.  We are to sing to the Lord in reverence and awe what He has told us about Himself.  This is why we read and sing a Psalm every week.  We sing hymns and spiritual songs that are driven by what the Word of God teaches and not the latest church fad.  If a song does not inspire reverence and awe for the Lord then it should not be sung no matter how much you enjoy the tune. 

 

And we are to do all this with thankfulness and gratefulness for the Kingdom that is being given to us that are in Christ Jesus the Lord.  Anything else is not worship and is only man centered.  Worship that is acceptable to God is focused on Him and done according to how God has commanded it.

 

I think most of the worship battles today center around selfish desires and likes and dislikes and not about what is biblical and what is not. 

 

Read our passage one more time with me this morning.  Hebrews 12:28-29.

28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

 

Let’s pray. 

 

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