Hello, and welcome to this teaching from Skip Heitzig, pastor of Calvary Albuquerque. We pray that God uses these messages to draw people into His love. And we're thankful to hear when that happens. If this message shines Jesus' love into your life, we'd like to know. Email us at email@example.com. And if you'd like to support this ministry financially, you can give online securely at calvaryabq.org/giving. In our series where lives are changed, we explain the foundation that makes us at Calvary who we are. An important component of that foundation is worship, expressing our adoration of Jesus through obedience to Him. Now let's mark our Bibles in Acts Chapter 2, and Revelation Chapters 4 and 5. As Skip begins the message, "We Pursue God through Worship." "
Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Acts Chapter 2. Acts Chapter 2, and Revelation Chapter 4 and 5. We're going to be ending up there, but we want to look at Acts 2 on our way to Revelation Chapter 4 and 5. So as you turn there, I'll ask you a question. You all know what a selfie is, right? Right? Everybody take selfies. But do you know that according to the Urban Dictionary, a selfie, technically, is a picture you take of yourself that you plan to upload onto a social networking service, like Facebook or Instagram? That's technically a selfie. You plan to upload it.
The reason I'm saying that is because we are told that 93 million selfies a day get posted. 93 million selfies a day get posted. Some have supposed that the very first selfie was done by the mythical Greek god named Narcissus. You know the story, obviously. He looked at his reflection in a pool of water, and he was so enamored with it, obsessed with it, that became the first selfie. He didn't have the technology to post it like we do, but he would have. Trust me. And that's even made its way into a little children's limerick. "There once was a nymph named Narcissus, who thought themselves very delicious. He stared like a fool at his face in a pool, and his folly today is still with us." And even though he's a mythological Greek god-- never really existed-- his folly today is still with us. We are told we live in a very narcissistic culture.
One news magazine I read said that 30% of all young people are narcissistic. And that figure has doubled from the last 30 years. I read the article and I thought, I disagree. I don't think it's young people that are narcissistic. I think it's all people that are narcissistic. I think we all have issues with loving ourselves, and worshipping ourselves, and making it all about ourselves. I saw an advertisement in the magazine "Psychology Today." It so struck me, I memorized it. The article said-- here's the words-- "I love me." And then it said, "I am not conceited. I am just a good friend to myself, and I like to do whatever makes me feel good." That was the advertisement.
There's a cure for that. It's called worship. Worship is one of the most self-less experiences and expressions you could ever be engaged in. Worship is all about shifting the focus. It's all about moving the spotlight off of ourselves, and onto another. So in a culture that says it's all about me, a worshipped culture says it's all about him. So the cure then for narcissism is theism. The antidote to the disease of self worship is sovereign worship, Savior worship. That's the cure. It is a self-less exercise.
Now I've actually turned Acts Chapter 2, and Revelation 4 and 5 for this reason. What I wanted to do is with one hand, reach backward to the early church, and reach forward to the eternal church in heaven, and examine their worship experience. Because we have a vision statement-- we've been pecking away at it the last few weeks-- that we are a fellowship of believers. We pursue the God that is passionately pursuing a lost world. We do it with one another, through worship by the Word to the world.
So let's examine worship in the early church, in the eternal church. And let's look at a few qualities of worship that will enhance our own worship. And let me give you the first quality, and then we'll look at it . Worship is a fundamental. It is fundamental. It is foundational. It is at the core of who we are, and what we express. Acts 2:47. First word right out of the chute-- praising God, and having favor with all the people, and the Lord added to the church daily those who were saved.
Now that last paragraph of the second chapter of Acts gives you, in short, all of the activities they were doing. But it is all summed up by verse 47. It could all be summed up in two planes, or two axes. There's a vertical, and a horizontal. The vertical axis says praising God. The horizontal axis, having favor with all the people. That sums up the life of the early church. So they were a group of people who work together in fellowship with one another, but all centered on praising God, worshipping God. They had a vertical focus in life. It was about Him.
Now having read that, let's fast forward to Revelation Chapter 4. Revelation Chapter 4. Let's get a snapshot of the eternal church in heaven around the throne. Revelation 4. I'm going to look at verse 2 to begin. "Immediately, I was in the Spirit and behold, a throne set in heaven. And one sat on the throne, and he who sat there was like a jasper and sardine stone in appearance. There was a rainbow around the throne. In appearance is an emerald. Around the throne were 24 thrones, and on the thrones, I saw 24 elders sitting clothed in white robes. And they had crowns of gold on their heads. And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices. Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God. Before the throne, there was a sea of glass like crystal. And in the midst of the throne and around the throne, were for living creatures, full of eyes in front and in back."
Verse 8. "The four living creatures, each having six wings were full of eyes, around and within, and they do not rest day or night saying, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.' Whenever the living creatures give glory, and honor, and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the the 24 elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and and worship Him who lives forever and ever. And cast their crowns before the throne saying, 'You are worthy, oh, Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power, for You created all things, and by Your will, they exist, and were created.'"
It's pretty straightforward really. God is the being of central interest. He is the One who is sitting on the throne, and all of the activity of worship is designed to focus on Him. Now here's what I want you to think of. There is one activity that you do now on earth that you will also do in heaven. You can't say that about many activities. Worship is one of the activities you do now, and you will do after you die, and when you get to heaven. You can't say that about evangelism. You won't be leading anyone to Christ, right? Everybody in heaven will already know Christ. You won't be discipling people. You will be teaching people, or praying for sick people, but you will worship. So the early church was praising God, and in heaven, they were worshiping God. So worship then is fundamental to who we are historically, and ultimately.
Let me give you a second principle. Worship is intellectual. It involves the mind, thinking about truths about God. Revelation 4:8. "The four living creatures, each having six wings were full of eyes, around and within. They do not rest day or night saying, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, who is to come." They're making a declaration about God's character. He is eternal in His nature. He was, and is, and is to come. Go down to verse 11. They're saying, "You are worthy, oh, Lord, to receive glory, and honor, and power. For you created all things, and by Your will they exist, and were created." Now in heaven, they're making a declaration about God's action. He created all things. He sustains all things.
So worship is an intelligent response to God. It involves the mind. As we think, we muse about God's character, as well as God's activity. Why is this important? Because worship is not working yourself into an emotional frenzy, like the ancient pagans used to do. It definitely involves the mind. Like Paul said in Romans, "I beseech you, brothers, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies, a living sacrifice, wholly and acceptable to God, which is your--" Do you know that? "Which is your reasonable service." It's OK. You can participate. "Which is your reasonable service." So we are engaging our minds over the great theological issues of who God is, and what God has done. So then our theology should inform, and form, our hymnology. What we know should inform what we say, and what we sing.
There's a great book-- in fact, it's the best book I've ever read on the subject of heaven-- and it is entitled, incidentally, "Heaven," by Randy Alcorn. It's the best book I've ever read on the subject of heaven. In that book, he said something that stuck out to me. He said, "At times throughout the day, as I work in my office, I find myself on my knees, thanking God for His goodness. When I eat a meal with my wife, or talk with a friend, or take the dog out for a walk, I worship God for His goodness." Here's the sentence I want to zero in on. He said, "The world is full of praise prompters, and heaven will overflow with them."
It's that little phrase, praise prompters, that got my attention. That somehow, God's action is what prompts my reaction of praise. I take the dogs out for a walk, and I notice the fall colors. And I go, "Oh, Lord, thank You for Your creative genius." I hear about God's work in a person's life. "Oh, thank You, Lord, for answering prayer." These are praise prompters. There is a reaction of praise to the action of who God is, and what he has done.
That's why Jesus said in Mark Chapter 12, "You are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength." We need to dispense with the idea that worship is somehow mindless, and that we have to get pumped up to do it, and come up to a certain level. Remember the apostle Paul spoke about those who have a zeal for God that is not according to knowledge. They have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. Now it's great when you have a zealous believer who has the knowledge of God with that. That's wonderful. But if you have zeal without knowledge, that's just like a fire going off.
So worship is fundamental. Worship is intellectual. Here's a third quality Worship is physical. That is, the body that God gave you physically, he wants you to use as part of your worship expression to Him. Chapter 4 of Revelation. Look down at verse 10. "The 24 elders fall down before Him." No, they didn't fall down because it was slippery in heaven. "They fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever. And cast their crowns before the throne saying, 'You are worthy.'" Go down to Chapter 5, or over to Chapter 5, or flipping your iPad to Chapter 5, whatever it might be.
Revelation 5:8. "Now when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the lamb, each having a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Do you get the picture? They are awestruck. And they, using their bodies, bow in worship, as if subjects to a royal king would do in an ancient courtroom. That is appropriate. God is in the room, and we bow. By the way, when you read your Old Testament, and you read about worship in the Old Testament, though there are several Hebrew words all translated into the English word worship in the Old Testament, there's one most often used. It's the Hebrew word "shachah," which means to get down, to do obeisance to, to fall down, or to bow.
Psalm 95:6. "Come, let us worship, and bow down." That is, I am going to use a physical expression because of who I am talking to. God isn't just worth it. He is supremely worth it. That's the idea of worship. So we use our bodies. It's physical. And by the way, bowing is only one form. The Bible speaks of other forms. The raising of one's hands. I've got to be honest with you. The first time I was in a service where people raised their hands, right after I came to the Lord, I felt uncomfortable. In fact, I looked around, and I said, these people are really goofy. They're a little unhinged. It wasn't what I did. I just wasn't one of those people raising their hands. What, are you putting your antennas up, or what is this?
And then I read the Scripture, how it speaks about the lifting of the hands. And the seminal text is found in I Timothy, Chapter 2:8. Paul writes, "Whenever you assemble, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God." But then I really understood it when I saw a child with a parent. And now I see it as a grandparent. Before second service, I was with my granddaughter, Katie. And when she saw me, you know what she did? She wasn't praising me, by the way. You know what this means when a child does this? It means, "pick me up." It means, "Draw me close to you. I want to get into your intimate reality. I want your presence more than just me down here, and you up there. Pick me up."
As adults, we may not do that to people, but we do this to people. We put out a hand. That's a sign of welcome. We shake their hand, or we give them an embrace. Or how about this one? Remember in the movies when the police would say, "Come out with your hands up?" Why? Because when your hands are up, you can't do anything else. That's why. "Come out with your hands up." So how about looking at the raising your hands like a child? Lord, draw me close to you. I want your intimate presence. I'm welcoming you into my space, and my hands are up. I can't do anything else. I'm not texting. I'm not emailing. It's all about you. The raising of the hands in worship.
Then the Bible speaks about the lifting of one's eyes in worship, which is funny because we usually think we have to do this. But in the Bible, it's the lifting up the eyes. Your expectation is from heaven. The Bible also speaks interestingly about the expression of dancing. Don't worry. I won't get carried away. But Psalm 149:3. "Let them praise His name with the dance." This last year when I went to a church service in Hawaii, the band had Hawaiian music going. They were playing Hawaiian music, and a group of worshippers doing a sanctified version of the hula. Don't ask me to demonstrate. But it was quite engaging and beautiful how in that culture, they were using the dance to worship God.
By the way, guess what? Closing your eyes and folding your hands-- not in the Bible. Not in the Bible. All those other physical expressions are, but that one isn't. I'm not saying it's bad. I'm just saying it doesn't make God's top five list of what He likes. That's all. It's just not on the pages of Scripture, but those are. You see, in the West, here in the West, in the States-- England is far worse than we-- but here in the States, we have guarded so carefully against any physical expression and worship, except for one that we think is acceptable. And that is sitting down. And I think it's because we feel comfortable when we do. But these are appropriate expressions of worship.
So worship is fundamental, it's intellectual, and it's physical. Let me give you another quality. Worship is musical. Revelation 5:8. Do you notice? Is there an instrument somewhere to be found in verse 8? Ah, there is. It says, "When they had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and 24 elders fell down before the lamb, each having a harp." Now I will tell you, that does not excite me. Because we all have an image in our heads of, oh, yeah, we're going to go to heaven, sit on a cloud, play a harp. No thanks. Right? A harp was a trapezoidal instrument that was picked up, and played with the hand, usually by strumming or by plucking. So I found it interesting when I read this verse in the amplified Bible, it says, "Each one having a harp," and then in parentheses, "That is a loot, or a guitar," close parenthesis.
Now when I read that, I leaned in, and I thought, OK, heaven is sounding a little cooler. A guitar, I can do. I can hang with that. And if it's an electric guitar, well, then it truly is an amplified Bible I guess. But music has always been a part of God's people. Always. In the Old Testament, when they move the Ark, there was a band that accompanied them. When they went to battle on some occasions, the musicians were out in full force. In the Temple on feast days and festivals, musicians were brought in. Music, and the expression of music in worship has always been a part of God's people. In Psalm 150, David writes, "Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet. Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes. Praise Him with loud cymbals and with clashing cymbals."
I've never understood how some churches are against musical instruments in worship. I can only surmise that they'll be very surprised when they find what heaven is going to be like. Here we read of an instrument in heaven. I've told you before about Martin Luther's view of music. I've done it on many occasions. He was the great reformer who wanted to bring fresh music into the church. And I've quoted certain things he said, but, perhaps, you've not heard this. Martin Luther said, "Next to theology, I give to music the highest place and honor. Music is the art of the profits. It is the only art that can calm the agitations of the soul, and it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." But then he said, "The devil flees before the sound of God-centered music. Almost as much as he does before the Word of God. I would allow no man to preach or teach God's people without a proper knowledge of the use in the power of sacred song."
So worship is fundamental, intellectual, physical, and it's musical. Another principle is that worship is vocal. God's people sing. We have always sung. It's part of who we are, and what we express. Look at Revelation 5:9. It says, "And they sang a new song, saying, 'You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals. For you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood, out of every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. And you have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall rain on the earth.'" I don't know how the melody goes, but I will one day. They sang. Notice it says that. It doesn't say, and they listened to others sing, or and they leaned in and said to one another, "My, isn't the choir wonderful in this worship anthem in heaven?" No, they sang. They sang.
I was reading this week an article about the benefits of singing. Do you know there are physical, as well as emotional benefits when a person sings? One is posture. If you want to stand up straighter, if you have a problem doing this and your mom always said to stand up, one of the cures for is as being a singer. Because you have to sing by standing up straight to project, and get the diaphragm and the lungs going. So posture, it'll help your posture.
Number two, it will help your circulation. It's good for me because I poor circulation, especially in the winter. My hands are cold until after Easter. So the more you sing, the better you circulate. And then mental alertness was a third thing this article said it will benefit. So I suppose if you want to be a straight-standing, blood-bumping, smarter person, be a singer. It's very helpful to you. But even more than that, it will help you spiritually. It will improve your life spiritual that improves your faith. Let me explain. When you sing, you obey. When you sing, you obey. Because the Bible says, "Sing unto the Lord." And when you do that, you obey God.
Number two. When you sing, you implant truth. Have you ever been in a place where you go, what is that verse? What is that? What book is that? Where is it? I can't remember what it says. But I'll tell you what. If you commit that truth in a song-- and so many of the great worship songs have those Biblical truths in them-- those lyrics will come up. That's how our minds work. That associated with music, singing it implants it in your heart.
And then third, when you sing, you testify. You are giving a verbal, vocal testimony to people around you. When I lived in Huntington Beach, California, I would pull my guitar out oftentimes in the afternoon or evening, and I'd sing worship songs, just for my own benefit, my own comfort, and just to be with the Lord. But I didn't know I had a neighbor listening to those songs that were out with a family most every night. But after awhile, my neighbor came and said, "You know, I've been listening to your music every night for months. You're singing words that I don't hear during the day. You're singing about Jesus a lot." And he said, "I want to talk to Jesus." I thought, that's interesting. It was my testimony in song-- however poorly executed, and maybe he just wanted to shut me up-- but he came over, and wanted to talk about the Lord.
So when you sing, you obey God, you implant the truth, and you bring a testimony to others. Something else in that verse, what kind of song did they sing? It says they sang a new song that is one they had never song before. Now this concept of singing new songs unto God appears no less than nine times in Scripture. "Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord a new song." And yet, some of us resist new songs.
Our worship team right out of the chute today, began with a brand new song they just started singing today. And though you were all very good at engaging, some people just go, oh, not another new song. I just learned the last batch of new songs. Can't we just sing all the old hymns? Well, yes, we can, and yes, we do. And our worship team is always good about weaving into their set one of the old hymns. There's no theology like some of those old songs. But if that's all you sing, you are making an indictment against yourself. Do you know that? What you're saying is that I will not sing any songs that aren't newer than 400 years. What you're basically saying is that God once moved powerfully 400 years ago, but He's just not doing it anymore today. When you sing a new song, you're saying, here's a fresh expression because God is still alive, and still at work, and still moving. And you are testifying of God in the present tense, not the past tense.
Now-- I appreciate that, clap, clap, clap, clap-- but well, go ahead. Just go ahead. I don't want to squelch that.
In fact, going ahead, do it again. No, I'm just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding. Just kidding. Now do you realize when those old hymns were written, the day they were written, you know what they were? A new song. And those new songs, 400, 500, 600 years ago, they weren't always accepted. Again, I told you before about Martin Luther, who thought, I want to liven up church music, and bring in new forms of worship. And here's why. Martin Luther said, the stuff that we sing in our churches-- his words-- is such a rotten, lifeless stuff. That's the great reformer talking about the songs of his day, and he thought, we need to bring in some new songs.
There's a book out where two authors have done us a great service. One is Elmer Towns. I knew he was a professor at Liberty University. And Ed Stetzer, a friend of mine I know. He works with LifeWay Publishing. And they wrote this book, and in the book, they're outlining in part of this book the complaints throughout church history against new forms of singing and worship throughout the ages. You might be surprised. It's humorous. You might be surprised as to when these complaints were leveled. Here's one complaint. Get rid of that flute at church, and throw out the trumpet too. What do you think we are? Pagans? That complaint came from 200 AD. Because up to that point, instrumental music was associated with debauchery, paganism, prostitution. They didn't want musical instruments in the church up until about 200 AD.
Another complaint. Hymns to God with rhythm and marching? How worldly can we get? That comes from 300 AD. When Ambrose of Milan, who was one of the first people to introduce into the church hymn singing that actually had rhythm to it, beat to it, and sometimes a company with marching, created a stir. Another complaint. It's too loud, and the music drowns out the words. That was actually written yesterday. No. That came from the 1400s. The 1400s, 600 years ago. Because what was happening is that music was becoming more complex. And because of the Gothic architecture and new music, Gothic music was being introduced at that time into the churches, and it prompted much criticism.
And finally is this complaint. Now they're putting spiritual words to theater songs that everybody knows. And that, of course, comes from Martin Luther. In the 1500s, Martin Luther decided he would get theater songs and bar songs, and take them out of those settings, and bring them into the church. Because everybody knew the melodies, he knew that. That'd be like taking a Ben Harper or a John Mayer song, throwing it into the church, and adding a few Christian words to it, and it becomes our new hymn. And you know that that upset a lot of people.
Worship is vocal, and worship is musical. Back in 1742, John Wesley wrote something he called, "The Five Rules of Singing in Churches." I'm not going to give them all to you. I'll give you just the first one. Five rules of singing in churches. This is what he said. "Rule number one. Sing all." That is, everybody sing. "Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If this is a cross for you to bear, then take it up, and you will find a blessing." Ladies and gentleman, of all of the people on this planet, we ought to be the singers. We have something to sing about. We've been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. We are on the way to heaven. We can't sing about that?
So worship is fundamental to who we are. It is intellectual. It involves the mind. It is physical. It works with our physical expressions with our bodies. It is musical. It is vocal. I'll close with this last tidbit. Worship is emotional. It's not just emotional, just like it's not just intellectual, but it involves your emotions. Revelation 5:11. "I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne. The living creatures, and the elders, and the number of them was 10,000 times 10,000, and thousands of thousands." A hundred million plus, plus. "Saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, blessing, and every creature which is in heaven, and on, earth and under the earth. Such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the lamb forever and ever.' And the four living creatures said, Amen, and the 24 elders fell down and worshipped Him who lives forever and ever."
Did you notice in verse 12 that they sang with a loud voice? I just want that to sink in. They sing-- I don't know how you sing-- but they sang with a loud voice. That was important. They sang with a loud voice. In Greek, it's phone megale. Phone is voice. Megale is loud. Mega voice, that's what it means, a mega voice. Now the volume was due to the great number of people, 100 million plus thousands, upon thousands. So just the sheer number of beings singing, plus the intensity, I believe, the fervor with which they were singing. I just don't, after reading this, picture anybody in heaven halfheartedly slouching over, their heart's not in it, languishing going, "Praise God from whom--" I don't I just don't see that. I mean, there is an appreciation of who God is, and what He has done. And they are all in, and they sing with a loud voice.
Now I have a theory based on this. My theory is this. When revival comes to the human heart, renewal comes to the human voice. When revival comes to the human heart, renewal comes to the human. You can't help, but sing. This comes just naturally, to sing with a loud voice. Jesus said, "You are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength." When you sing, sing like you mean it. Put your heart into it.
Isn't it funny how we, in our culture, we permit people to get emotionally at weddings, and funerals, and sporting events, but God forbid that you should do that in church. They'll think I'm a fanatic. They already do when you jump at a Lobo game, and go nuts because you scored something. So we're talking about ascribing worth to the most noble being in the universe. And sometimes we think, well that has to be carefully contained. You know what? The great Bishop Moule once said, "I'd rather tone down a fanatic, than resurrect a corpse." Give me fanatics all day long. I can disciple them. I can tone them back. I can pull them back, but resurrecting corpses? Can't do that. Won't do that.
Have you ever seen somebody win something, like in a lottery? They show the film of, we're going to knock on their door. We're going to knock on their door, open the door, we're going to tell them they've won the lottery, they're going to open the check for, whatever, Publishing Clearinghouse. Here's $15 million. Have you ever, ever once seen them open the check and go, "Oh, thank you very much. We really, heh, appreciate it." What? I'd slap them. Are you kidding? Nobody does that. There are so excited. Well, guess what? You're not going to hell. You're going to heaven. All your sins are forgiven. God holds nothing to your account. It's all in Christ.
Years ago, I remember getting a check-- not from the lottery, I don't do that-- it was from the government. It was tax season. They were giving me a refund. I knew I was getting some money back. I didn't know I was getting this much back. I opened that check, and I saw the amount, and literally, I was in my apartment, and I started dancing. I started going, "Woo! Yeah!" Started moving around. Just so glad there weren't cellphones back then to capture that. I was just so into it. And as I was kind of dancing around my apartment, it was like the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "You don't act that excited when you read My Word, or you worship Me. But when the government makes you a promise, the government makes you a promise. You get so excited." Listen, we're rehearsing for heaven. Let's push out the selfie culture, and bring in the sovereign culture of worship. This is the living God that we worship. Thank you, Father.
Worship doesn't just mean singing praise songs. Worship also means living in obedience to the Lord every day in everything we do. How do you express your adoration of Jesus? Let us know. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. And just a reminder, you can give financially to this work at calvaryabq.org/giving. Thank you for listening to this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Albuquerque.