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Where Does God go to Church?

Hebrews 12:18-29

 

“For you have not come to what could be touched, to a blazing fire, to darkness, gloom, and storm, [19] to the blast of a trumpet, and the sound of words. (Those who heard it begged that not another word be spoken to them, [20] for they could not bear what was commanded: And if even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned! [21] And the appearance was so terrifying that Moses said, I am terrified and trembling.) [22] Instead, you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, [23] to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the judge of all, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, [24] to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant), and to the sprinkled blood, which says better things than the [blood] of Abel. [25] See that you do not reject the One who speaks; for if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven. [26] His voice shook the earth at that time, but now He has promised, Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven. [27] Now this expression, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what is not shaken might remain. [28] Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe; [29] for our God is a consuming fire.” (HCSB) 

 In a recent study of 727 randomly selected adults who identified themselves as “Christians,” 601 senior pastors, and 69 worship leaders, pollster George Barna found that one in three adult regular attendees reported they had never experienced God’s presence while in a church. Two in three were not able to describe to the survey-takers what worship is. Less than half of the participants reported worship was a top priority in their lives, and only one in four described worship as something people do for God.

 The most alarming thing to me about this data is the number of people who’ve never experienced God’s presence in a Worship service.  Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst."  (NASB)  If God doesn’t attend a church, it must be because the people aren’t coming in His name.

 Barna says, “Americans make worship services a self-centered activity. Of the reasons given to researchers on why they go to church, 47 percent were self-focused, 29 percent were God-focused, and 2 percent had no focus at all.” Barna adds, “We view ourselves first and foremost as consumers, Americans are always looking for a deal, or what’s in it for them.”
(http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 No wonder they aren’t experiencing God, they aren’t coming to encounter Him, they’re coming for other reasons.  In his book, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for new Generations, Dan Kimball cites a journalist who was writing about a Christian concert he attended. The headlines said, “Christapalooza: 20,000 Christians convene…God doesn’t show.” In the article he writes, “I have a difficult time locating any similarities between what Jesus says and does, and what the people—in particular the organizers—[at this festival] said and did…Jesus is a beacon of righteousness who leads the way through a dark world to eternal peace, love, and eternal salvation; the Jesus of [the festival] is a blue-light special, pointing you to the quick fix of a righteous bargain in the shopping mall of endless consumption.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)  As far as this reporter was concerned, The Christapalooza was more about religious marketing then it was about worship. 

 The purpose of a worship service is to worship God.  Not selling something.  Not meeting someone.  Not hanging out with your friends.  Not promoting a ministry you’re involved in.  We’ve gathered today to encounter God, and if we do it in His name, He will show up.  If we don’t, He won’t.

 Our text says, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us hold on to grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe; [29] for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb 12:28-29)

 How can we approach what we are doing today with a casual attitude?  I’m not offended by casual dress to a worship service; come dressed however you feel comfortable.  But I am offended by a casual attitude. You can come dressed in your Sunday best and still have an inappropriate attitude in your heart.  1 Samuel 16:7b says, “God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (NCV)  God knows our hearts. 

 A comforting thought.

 A troubling thought. 

 But really, what difference does it make what I think.  We should all be concerned with what God thinks.  How does God feel about his creation refusing to worship Him?

 In his book, The Air I Breath:  Worship As a Way of Life, Louie Giglio writes, “There’s a war raging for our worship, and it’s been raging since before there was time.

 Even before the earth was formed, one of God’s highest angels bolted from His presence, refusing to join the ranks of the true worshipers, refusing to exalt God above all.  The account records that in a flash Satan fell like lightning from heaven.  Exalting himself more than God, Satan was banned from His presence.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 Is it possible that the same thing is happening to consumer-driven, what’s-in-it-for-me church attendees?  Did they fail to assemble in His name and as a result, have they been banned from the presence of God?  If so, then with the Psalmist David they should cry out, “Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me. [12] Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; And uphold me with a willing spirit. [13] Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; And sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalms 51:11-13 ASV)

 David’s sin had separated him from the presence of God and he cried out for restoration to take place.  He longed to walk with God through the day and encounter Him as he worshiped.  The scripture says, “Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name; The upright will dwell in Your presence.” (Psalms 140:13 NASB) 

 The writer of Hebrews gives us two choices as to how we enter into the presence of God.  We can enter it in worship or we can enter it in judgment.  We can experience the joy of worship or the terror of the judgment of the consuming fire of God.  In that great Day of Judgment, He will say, “Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,” (Psalms 6:8a NASB77).  But if we choose to approach Him in worship we will experience the joy of the Lord.  Psalms 16:11 says, “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” (NASB)

 The writer of Hebrews tells us to approach the presence of God “with reverence and awe” in this text.  During his remarks after President Bush nominated him to replace Justice O'Connor on the United States Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito said. “The Supreme Court is an institution that I have long held in reverence.”  Later, he commented, “I argued my first case before the Supreme Court in 1982, and I still vividly recall that day. I remember the sense of awe that I felt when I stepped up to the lectern. . .” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

 He holds the court in reverence and standing at the lectern he had a sense of awe.  Those are the same feelings we should experience as we stand before a Holy God ready to bring Him praise, adoration and worship.  We approach the throne with reverence and awe, we also do it boldly (Heb 4:16) because of the completed work of Jesus.

 The Lord alone is worthy of our worship. Let me share with you a portion of a sermon preached by S. M. Lockridge entitled, “That’s my King.”

 The choice is yours.  You can approach worship opportunities with a consumer-driven, what’s-in-it-for-me attitude and discover judgment.  Or you can gather in His name, approaching His throne with reverence, awe and boldness and discover the fullness of joy.

 God does attend our church, just as He attends all churches where the people gather in His name.
 

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