Another time and another place I was in college. I was sitting outside the lecture hall where my Old Testament class was supposed to meet. As I was sitting there, probably reading, the professor came and sat down. This professor was also a pastor. We started a conversation and I commented on the church I attended and something going on and he responded, “Worship wars.” I don’t know where the conversation went from there, all I remember is “worship wars.” I had never heard that phrase before. I am not criticizing what he called it, but I will be critical that it happens. We can have wars about many things, but not worship. Maybe part of the problem is that we worship the wrong things. We may worship our food, or our car, or even the past and miss the future.
I like to eat and I once received email that may make it easier for me to eat with a good conscience: this is only part of it.
HEALTH QUESTION & ANSWERS with Dr. Kenmiester:
Q: I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it…don’t waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that’s like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.
Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.
Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.
Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can’t think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain…good!
Q: Aren’t fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!!! These days, foods are fried in vegetable oil. In fact, they’re permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?
Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.
Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO! Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It’s the best feel-good food around!
Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, then explain whales to me.
Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! ‘Round’ is a shape!
Now, certainly that is humorous, but we do put food in front of God, right. Worship is our response to what we desire most. What do we most desire? We can follow the trail of our time, energy and money and then find out what we worship.
If our understanding of worship is off to begin with, then it will follow that we will have wars about worship.
I want to come back to this after we read the passage. Let’s read Rev. 4:1-11 and talk about Worship in Heaven.
Our Theme is that in Heaven we see unashamed worship of God. This is unashamed exaltation of Jesus Christ.
Our Application is that we also worship God now as unashamed believers exalting Jesus.
Read Rev. 4:1-11:
After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.”
Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
- Let’s briefly look at this passage in order to gain some understanding.
- When I was a kid my parents took me to see Mount Rushmoore and I really was not that amazed or that shocked. It was a cloudy day and it just did not strike me.
- A few years later my parents took me to see the Grand Canyon and wow! That is all I can see. The Grand Canyon is amazing! I went there a few years later and it was the same reaction on my part. When I see the Grand Canyon, I am reminded of how little I am and how Great God is.
- But, even before that, I was going into third grade and we went to Myrtle Beach and I saw the ocean for the first time. I love, absolutely love looking out on the ocean. The ocean reminded me of how great God is and how big the world is.
- I remember being a child going into a planetarium at the Dayton Museum of Natural History. “Radical” was an adjective that I recently had learned. The person leading the show was showing us all the galaxies and where earth is and I said, “Radical” in a way that everyone could hear. Then the man leading the show said, “Is that the word these days?” “Radical” is a good word, but “awesome” is the best word. Seeing how big outer space is shows our awesome creator.
- We are little God is not just big, but amazing.
- In this text John is trying to describe the indescribable.
- Verse 1 is the beginning of this vision. John says that there was a door and a voice like a trumpet said “Come up here so that I can show you what must happen after these things.”
- In verse 2 John is “immediately” “in the Spirit.” This could mean that he was in the Holy Spirit, or Spirit just is a spiritual state.
- So, it appears what he is describing in this passage is similar to Revelation 21:9 so it is possible that John is seeing the New Jerusalem right here and then he particularizes the New Jerusalem in chapter 21.
- So, he describes a beautiful throne room with all kinds of jewels. Then he describes 24 thrones with elders on the thrones. The elders had crowns. I like the belief that the elders are reflecting all believers. For example, in Rev. 3:11 Jesus said not to let them take your crown. In Rev. 1:6 we are called a Kingdom of Priests. In the Old Testament there were 24 priests. 24 was an important number in Judaism. 1 Chronicles 24 we have a listing of the 24 orders of priests. The beginning of Luke’s Gospel we see Zechariah’s vision and we see Abijah was one of the 24 priests.
- Verse 5 references flashes of lightning and thunder. These are always signs of God’s presence. God is in the middle of this throne room. Remember what I said, John is trying to describe the indescribable. There is more in here but let’s skip to verses 8-11.
- There are four living creatures that never rest. They are contantly worshipping the Lord.“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”
- Up until now we have talked about the setting and Who was at the setting and that is God. God’s presence was with them. Now, the response to the setting is worship.
- Look they say “Holy” how many times. Anyone, share how many times we see the adjective “Holy.” Three times. In Jewish language they could not say “holiest” so they would say something three times and that meant “most holy.” They are saying that God is most holy. He is the holiest. He Is Lord, He is God, He is most powerful or almighty.
- He is eternal.
- Then, whenever they gave glory, honor and thanks to God, the elders would throw themselves down. Wow!
- That is humility. Dr. Mulholland of Asburyt Theological Seminary shared:
- We are not a bowing culture. When Dr. Mulholland enters the room the students do not bow to him, but when he taught in Korea when he came in they would bow and if a student came in late they would bow. Bowing acknowledges God as God.
- Worship is allowing God to be God. Not just praising God and saying God you are God, but allowing God to be God.
- Next, these elders did not simply fall down. They offer their crowns before the throne. This is surrender. They cast their crowns. The crown represents role, authority. The Elders, who represent us, are surrendering their rule of their relationship to God, to God. Are we allowing God to be God on His terms or our terms. Casting crowns allows God to be God on His terms. John uses the present tense, they “are casting.” They are continually casting crowns. Our relationship with God is a love relationship which means we are free to say “no.” This means that we continually offer our authority and power before God and surrender and say, “You are Lord and I am not.”
- Lastly, they worship as well.“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”
- Some applications:
- Who is worthy to be worshipped? God.
- Who created all things? God.
- Your will they were and were created.
- John is seeing who we are and who all creation is, what all creation is.
- John is seeing that we existed in the heart of God’s love before we were created.
- Ephesians 1:3: Paul notes that our lives are immersed in blessings. Verse 4: God chose us before the foundation of the world. “chose” this means to speak forth. Genesis 1: God spoke forth creation. We were in the heart of God before we were created, before anything created. There was no emergency in Heaven when we were conceived, maybe in our mother’s life.
- Psalm 139
- By God’s hand we existed and were created.
- We are not accidents.
- The only response is self sacrificial worship. The only response is worship in humility.
- The only response is to join the elders, which we may be in that group anyways and say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.”
- How can we let the devil make us fight over worship?
- Look at this picture of the throne room of God. Does it not move you to worship?
- 6:10-12 says that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… (My paraphrase)
- The devil wants to do everything he can to take our attention off of God.
- As church leaders it is critical that we try our best to exalt Jesus in the worship service.
- As Christians it is important that you try your best to focus on Jesus and make it about Him.
- The devil wants you to focus on what is not right.
- The devil wants you to focus on your own preferences, whatever they may be and that is not at all to say they are no important.
- Listen, preferences are important. We all have them. We all have certain desires that effect how we worship. That is okay. Without those desires there is no way we would even begin worship individually or collectively.
- Think about it:
- Do you like drums? That is a preference and that is okay.
- Do you like guitar? That is a preference and it is okay.
- Do you like piano? That is preference and it is okay.
- Do you like organ? That is a preference and it is okay.
- Do you like Air Conditioning in the sanctuary and what temperature? Preference.
- What type of lighting do you want?
- What color carpet?
- These also effect worship.
- What is not okay is treating preferences equal to Scripture and that leads to worship wars. The worship wars are all about preferences.
- Sometimes we make these preferences into idols, but then we are in idolatry. If we can’t worship without___________ fill in the blank, then what are we worshipping instead of who are we worshipping.
- Churches die over preferences.
- People stay away from churches because they are so burnt out over preference wars.
- I get them and I am burnt out by them. There are a number of complaints I get that are about why something is somewhere and it must be there, but rarely or almost never is it a Biblical issue.
- I really wish that the concerns would be about Biblical issues because those must really be taken care of.
- How can we miss Jesus and let anything get in the way of worship?
James MacDonald writes:
“Nothing brings glory down in church as quickly and as powerfully as when God’s people unashamedly adore God’s great Son, Jesus Christ. Not just a few enthusiasts in the front row when the service starts but a room packed to the walls with fired-up Christians. Not simply testimony to personal benefit resulting from gospel belief but passionate ascription of worth to the God of the gospel. When that happens, an unbeliever coming in will “worship God and declare that God is really among you.” A whole body of believers worshipping with their whole beings can expect to get the only thing we have to offer this world: “Is it not in [God’s] going with us … that we are distinct … from every other people on the face of the earth?” All church activities that dilute, diminish, or detract from worship destroy Verticality, deny the priority of doxology, and forfeit what Vertical Church is all about—glory.”
Excerpt From: James Macdonald. “Vertical Church.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/hePBG.l
Jesus is greater than food. Food will keep you alive and yet kill you, but Jesus gives you eternity.
Jesus is greater than the organ, the piano, the drums, the guitar, the church building itself. I did not come here to worship you, this building or any other instrument, so I cannot allow the use of anything or the absence of anything to keep me from worship. I must address it as it is, it is the devil keeping me from worshipping God.
What about you?
What is keeping you from worship?
When you look at this passage about the throne room of God, does it compel you to worship?
Let’s unashamedly worship Him now.