Sunday Worship

In that time we gather for worship, it becomes a holy place where a holy people assemble and the court of our holy God descends among us. We are before the throne of God. Our congregational singing, our music made by singers and choirs, the words of scripture read and prayers offered and sermons preached are done to please God, for they are done in his court before his throne. When we worship God in his holy presence, there are no bad singers or readers or sermons. It is not about style or the kind of music we sing. It is all about God. We are there to glorify and honor God.

Worship is God’s great visitation. God comes upon us. In that kind of worship, the experience is transformative. We leave a little different than when we arrived because we have been in God’s presence. It is not an experience manufactured by the manipulations of music leaders or skillful pastors. It is what happens when we seek our holy God.

If you come to church looking entrainment, you probably will not find it. But if you come ready to be in God’s presence and to express your love and honor to him, not only will you find God, you will find your soul lifted up. You will find that God’s glory touches you like a pat on the head or a touch on the shoulder and the words, you did well, I’m glad you came, well done good and faithful servant. Then he sends us away filled with the Spirit who guides us as we live before him.

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

John 3:16-21

We are ruins who walk among ruins. Our spiritual world is a smoldering heap of broken lives, broken dreams that stand like destroyed buildings in an apocalyptic landscape. We are like piles of moldering ashes. We are ruined by our own natures and our slavery to our darkness and rejection of God. We are slaves to our self-importance, to sex, to greed and materialism, to selfishness, to the glittering trinkets that the dark powers throw at us to grab our attention. As our darkness grows, our separation from God grows. Our hatred and resentment of God grows. And we will blame God, everyone we know, for our darkness, for our sorrow, for our ruin and we never understand that we only have ourselves to blame, and no one else.

We look at the decline of Christianity and we blame it on the president. We blame it on denominational leaders. We blame it on pastors. We blame it on anyone we can find. But the fact is the blame must begin with each one of us. We are in the darkness. We feed it, we eat it, and we wallow in it.

I am coming to hate Facebook because it tells me things I did not want to know. I see Christians, members of this church, holding up their beers and their cocktails and expressing joy and enthusiasm that they never ever expressed for God. I see Christians bragging about the immoral things they do instead of bragging about the things they do for God. I see them sharing their Sunday fun and activities instead of worship and fellowship with God’s people.

We are corrupt from within and without. We are not truthful about ourselves much less about others. We let the darkness that we are supposed to repent of run loose in our souls. But we smile and sing, O, how I love Jesus.

We are no better or not worse than those who have gone on before us. We just have so much more opportunity to explore and indulge the darkness.

Philosophers and theologians have noted through the years the contradiction that we human beings are. We try so hard to be beastly, to live like the animals with the same instinctive appetites at work. We try hard to be like the wild beasts. And at the same time, we sing beautiful music. We write beautiful words and do great things. We soar to the peaks of achievement. What a confused mess we are. We know the contradictions. We feel our divided soul. We are ruins who walk among the ruins. Why are we like this?

It has to do with the way we were made. Genesis says that we were made in the image of God. Something important, something beautiful, something creative, something holy runs in our veins. Yet, with our fallen nature, it creates in us this nightmarish hodgepodge of hypocrisy, and neuroses, narcissism, self-centeredness, and total hatred and rejection of God. Yet God loves us.
Considering our state, our dark achievements, it is the most shocking, the most surprising idea every verbalized, God Loves US! Psalm 8 tells us that God, not only does God take notice of us, but that he made us just a little lower than God. We know things and will experience things that the angels can never know. We will judge the angels according to Paul. We are uniquely made. But our fall is great. We were made for the greatest of things, an understanding that our utter darkness covers up.

The idea that God loves us that he notices us that he is mindful of us, is so deep and profound that it should run through our minds in every thought! Why does God love us? Why does God pay us any attention? How is it possible? Because he intentionally made us in him image, he made us a little lower than God. God made up for the purpose of living in a relationship to him and to rule his world. We were made for a holy and divine purpose. It is all the more sorrowful as we stand as ruins among the ruins.

It is outrageous that even in our darkened horrible condition, God has loved us. God expressed His love for us by giving us his only begotten son. This word only begotten is a special word. It means that there is only one like him. He is unique. And God gave him to us and for us. Within the fellowship of the Holy Trinity, there is a perfect relation between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Within the perfect relationship abides perfect love. That Love compelled God to give his son, his only unique son. So God the Son became flesh, the person of Jesus who died for us so that we might be reclaimed from our darkness!

God does what he does so that all who believe in Him will have eternal life. Jesus said that He must be lifted up. He was referring to the cross. You might very well ask the question how is that love? The answer is because Jesus is our substitute. You and I are the ones who deserved to die a criminal’s death, we are guilty, but Jesus died in our place. Deep down inside we know that we are sinners separated from God and we know that we deserve hell. But the Bible tells us that He who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf. He took the sins of you and me and made them His. He was nailed to the cross so that we might have eternal life. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. The outstretched arms of Christ on the cross are the open arms of love to the world.

All who believe have eternal life. When He says, believe, it is not belief at a distance. It the kind of belief that repents of sin, confesses Jesus and as Savior and Lord. Believing is the kind of faith that gives itself totally to the things of Christ.

But note verse 18, it is a warning. Those who do not believe are judged already. If you do not take God up on his incomprehensible offer, then you live in judgment. You cannot claim to be right with God if you have not placed your faith in Christ. This is the judgment, Light came into the world and people loved the darkness rather than light. They like the ruins, they like the ashes, they hate God.

Each one of us feels the pressure of judgment. We know we stand guilty before God. But, the Word tells us that those who come to Jesus by faith are not judged, but forgiven. Those who do not come by faith in Christ are judged already. In other words, if you have placed your faith in Christ, eternity already runs through your veins and even now God is making you ready to live forever with Him. Even now God is restoring you as sons and daughters of God.
There is an album by Steven Curtis Chapman that is so hard to listen to. It was written after his beautiful adopted daughter was accidentally run over by his son. She died. The emotions of the songs are so powerful. The title song is Beauty Will Rise. These are some of the words:

But buried deep beneath
All our broken dreams
we have this hope:

Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
and we will dance among the ruins
We will see Him with our own eyes
Out of these ashes… beauty will rise
For we know, joy is coming in the morning…
in the morning, beauty will rise (Steven Curtis Chapman)

For the love of God, we are raised from the ashes, from our ruin, to become the glory that reflects the Love of God.
God’s love is like the stars in the sky. It is unmeasurable. But, His love can be yours. All of God’s treasures can be yours, if you trust in the Son. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”