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Our Lives are the Music of Worship

 

Isaiah 1:10-17; Isaiah 6:1-13

 

Jim Davis

 

What imagines go through your mind when you hear the word worship? A formal gathering? Style of songs—traditional vs. contemporary. Instrumental music? Acapella singing (worship without the accompaniment of instruments)? Worship team? Praise team? Chorus? Congregational singing? Shall we lift our hands or clap our hands. Shall we use songbooks or a projector? Or maybe we stress each element of a worship assembly. Good sermon or bad sermon. Communion. Prayers.

 

Worship wars are going on all over the religious world. People walk into our traditional worship service and walk out because it’s not contemporary. Others walk in and walk out because they feel that casual dress is irreverent for those serving communion or leading the singing or even for those attending. In denominational churches some are upset when guitars or drums are introduced into the worship to replace the piano and organ. Surprisingly they get just as upset over changing instruments as we do over the instrument period. Others feel worship cannot take place unless a certain version of the Bible is used.

 

We may start believing that being Christians is solely governed by the practices of the formal assembly. Jesus descended into a religious world concerned about the rituals of worship. In fact, the rituals of worship became more important than the people. Jesus had to remind them that they were not created for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath was created for them. It is easy to lose sight of the purpose of worship assemblies.

 

Measuring one’s faithfulness to Christ by one’s faithfulness to the public assemblies is one sure way to misconstrue the purpose of worship. When we call the assembly a worship service, we may begin thinking this is the only place service to God is rendered.

 

I overheard a conversation about the preparation a church was making worship. I was eating out with my wife, Mary, when I overheard the conversation. We sat there eating as we listened to a Worship Minister talking to another minister on a cell phone about the choreography of the worship they were planning. They talked for twenty minutes or more solely on how to pull off one worship service they were planning. They spoke of the order, timing, the type of musical instruments, the Psalms and Scriptures to be read, and things I had never heard of in connection with a worship service.

 

Can’t Live Wrong and Worship Right

 

The worship assembly has become the focus of the churches of Christ throughout the nation. Much effort is expended in changing the style of worship. I am always amazed when people get upset over the slightest change in the order of worship. I am also amazed at how the activities of the assembly tend to overshadow the church's real mission.

 

We can have all the right elements of worship and be rejected by God.

 

Isaiah 1:10-14

10 Hear the word of the LORD,

you rulers of Sodom;

listen to the law of our God,

you people of Gomorrah!

11 "The multitude of your sacrifices—

what are they to me?" says the LORD.

"I have more than enough of burnt offerings,

of rams and the fat of fattened animals;

I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.

 

12 When you come to appear before me,

who has asked this of you,

this trampling of my courts?

13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!

Your incense is detestable to me.

New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—

I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

14 Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates.

They have become a burden to me;

I am weary of bearing them.

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even if you offer many prayers,

I will not listen.

 

Amazingly they were worshipping in the exact way God prescribed, burnt offerings, rams, fat of fattened animals, blood of bulls and goats. Yet, they were meaningless to God. They were merely trampling in God’s courts. God hated the New Moon festivals and their appointed feasts. He would not listen to their prayers. Why would God not listen?

 

Isaiah 1:15-17

15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,

I will hide my eyes from you;

even if you offer many prayers,

I will not listen.

Your hands are full of blood;

16 wash and make yourselves clean.

Take your evil deeds out of my sight!

Stop doing wrong,

17 learn to do right!

Seek justice,

encourage the oppressed.

Defend the cause of the fatherless,

plead the case of the widow. NIV

 

Israel’s formal worship service became a substitute for godly living. Isaiah instructed Israel to wash and make herself clean. Israel was instructed to quit her evil ways. Isaiah places godly living at the center of worship--notice that it was their lives that determined the quality of their worship. Pure worship of God is revealed in how we help the helpless—defending the fatherless and pleading the case of the widow. It hasn’t changed. Read James 1:27.

 

Christian living is at the heart of worship today.

 

Ephesians 5:15-21

15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Colossians 3:15-17

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NIV

 

The verses are about daily lifestyle changes that make worship a vibrant experience. Paul says, “Be very careful, then how you live---Do not get drunk on wine--- be filled with the Spirit—then speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” The gratitude of heart Paul speaks of comes from the filling and leading of the Holy Spirit that we experience in our daily lives. Lives being salvaged on a daily basis singing praises to our Lord Jesus Christ in a worship assembly make for a vibrant worship.

 

The emphasis of every passage we have read this morning is that the quality of our worship is determined by the quality of our lives. Lives experiencing God’s salvation on a daily basis have a great impact as we gather to worship God. Heartfelt music comes from hearts that have sensed the presence of God in their daily activities.

 

People are impacted through worship services when our lives impact worship. We are moved to open our hearts to the music as others have opened their hearts to God’s presence. This kind of music opens hearts to feel and believe what is said. Singing without the accompaniment of instruments has an even greater impact upon hearts as each person is moved to sing what is felt in their hearts. This kind of worship makes an audience more receptive to the preaching.

 

Imagine bringing friends who initially just sit there and listen. But then they pick up a book and begin to mouth the words of a particular song that appeals to them. The do this because they have heard you sing. Then the words of the song begin to impact their thinking as they vocalize the words in song. Keep in mind that the rebellion of the 1960s was heavily promoted through songs promoting rebellion. Songs have an impact upon our thinking.

 

I watched a little boy, Kevin, during our Wednesday evening Bible study as we were singing. You could tell that he was new to church gatherings. I noticed him trying to sing along as Jarred led a song. He was having difficulty, but those kids who were singing impacted him. He was trying to look up and follow Jarred, but he didn’t know the words and he got out of sync as he looked down on the book to see the words. He was persuaded to sing because all the other kids were singing. It is great to see others moved through a worship service.

 

Restoring God’s Rhythm to Life

 

The sweetest music of worship comes from lives in rhythm with God. Life has rhythm. Spring. Summer. Fall. Winter. Our bodies seem to get in rhythm with the seasons. We are just as delighted to see the first snow as we are over the first flower of spring. By the time the first flower of spring shoots up, you are just as ready to change your rhythm from the dreariness of winter to the vibrancy of spring.

 

In Florida we one major change in seasons—it’s hurricane season. We fall into a certain rhythm when hurricane season arrives, although it is not a rhythm we like. When those hurricanes get really, really close, we seem to get more in rhythm with God’s way for our lives. We become more concerned about life than things. We become very generous with our neighbors. We start looking out for one another. We share more.

 

The Israelites in Isaiah’s time were suffering from spiritual arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is when the electronic timing of heart muscle is not in step with God’s timing. Life in Israel was out of sync with their proclamations in worship.

 

God rejected Israel’s worship saying:

 

Amos 5:23-24

23 Away with the noise of your songs!

I will not listen to the music of your harps.

24 But let justice roll on like a river,

righteousness like a never-failing stream! NIV

 

True worship takes place when lives are in rhythm with God. We get in rhythm with God’s love---we love him because he first loved us. We get our hearts in tune with God as we strive to love him with all our hearts, mind and soul because he has invested his very being into our existence. We become a living sacrifice for Christ as we allow him to becoming the purpose for which we live. Jesus came to put us in tune with God.

 

Many wonder if they can ever restore God’s rhythm to their lives. Many may try restoring God’s rhythm to their lives by their faithful church attendance. They may think simply worshipping God each week puts them in good standing with God. God’s cure for arrhythmia is a heart transplant. It is his way of bringing the world back into rhythm. He did it for Isaiah. Isaiah relates how God brought him back in rhythm with God’s plan for his life.

 

Isaiah 6:1-13

6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

 

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;

the whole earth is full of his glory."

 

4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

 

5 "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

 

6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

 

There is no way you can enter into God’s presence without coming to terms with his holiness and your sinfulness.  When the angel proclaimed “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” Isaiah cried out “Woe to me!” Isaiah was fully aware his life was out of step with God. He was also guilty of the sins of Israel. Isaiah knew he could not stand before this holy, holy, holy God feeling his life was in rhythm with God.  He became fully aware of his need for atonement, forgiveness—the removal of his guilt.

 

It’s impossible to come to grips with worshipping God without coming to grips with our sinfulness. There is no way the world can get in sync with God without acknowledging her sinfulness. Noah’s generation was swept away because of their sinfulness. Sodom and Gomorrah were swept away because of their sinfulness. The Bible portrays the rise and fall of nations due to their sinfulness. This continues to be the cause of the nations swept away in darkness.

 

There is no way one can stand in the presence of the holy, holy, holy Lord God Almighty and deny their sinfulness. To do so is disastrous.

 

1 John 1:5-2:2

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

 

8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

 

1 John 2

2:1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. NIV

 

God is willing to provide the very thing we need to put our lives in rhythm with him. The angel flew with a hot coal in his hand touching Isaiah’s lip as he proclaimed that his guilt had been taken away. God’s willingness to make Isaiah holy motivated him to serve and worship God.

 

God sent Christ to make you holy through your belief in him. All you have to do for Christ to begin salvaging your life is to accept his gift of holiness. The angel made Isaiah holy, and Christ makes us holy.

 

Our death with Christ in baptism for the purpose of accepting the life of Christ assures us of God’s gift of holiness, and Christ ongoing work to keep us holy and blameless.

 

Ephesians 1:3-4

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. NIV

 

Ephesians 5:25-27

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. NIV

 

Isaiah’s vision of God’s holiness made him cry out, “Woe is me! For I am a man of unclean lips . . .” Our worship and praise of God must come from grateful hearts made holy by the sacrifice of Christ. Communion is served here every week as a reminder of the holiness of God, and of our need to avail ourselves of Christ’s gift of holiness for each of us. Christ’s atonement stands us in God’s presence in perfect harmony with God and with one another.

 

Discovering Our Holy Mission

 

Isaiah not only discovered God’s holiness, he also discovered God’s holy calling for his life. There is no way you can truly discover God’s holiness without discovering his mission for your life. If we are striving to live holy lives—lives set apart for God’s purposes, our lives must live out his purpose—his mission.

 

Isaiah 6:8-13

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"

 

And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"

 

9 He said, "Go and tell this people:

 

"'Be ever hearing, but never understanding;

be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'

10 Make the heart of this people calloused;

make their ears dull and close their eyes.

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

hear with their ears,

understand with their hearts,

and turn and be healed."

 

11 Then I said, "For how long, O Lord?"

 

And he answered:

 

"Until the cities lie ruined

and without inhabitant,

until the houses are left deserted

and the fields ruined and ravaged,

12 until the LORD has sent everyone far away

and the land is utterly forsaken.

13 And though a tenth remains in the land,

it will again be laid waste.

But as the terebinth and oak

leave stumps when they are cut down,

so the holy seed will be the stump in the land." NIV

 

The prophet has an amazing encounter with the living God. First, God's character is revealed: God is high, lifted up, and holy, holy, holy. The prophet's response is exactly right: "Woe to me, I am ruined!" But God graciously reveals more. He is loving and merciful. This is revealed by atoning action and explanatory speech. Isaiah's response, again, is the right one: He humbly receives God's grace and believes God's word. Finally, God's work and will are revealed as the Lord himself asks, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" Isaiah faithfully responds: "Here am I. Send me!"

 

“As we read this account, we are reminded of Romans 12:1—"in view of God's mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices." Indeed, the Isaiah passage provides a wonderful example of a pattern that could, and perhaps should, mark all of our worship gatherings. First, we are reminded of God's awesome and holy character. In light of this, we are moved to humble confession. Next, we are reminded of how God has intervened on behalf of us sinners, by sending his Son to be an atoning sacrifice for us. This good news we humbly receive and believe. Finally, God charges us to be engaged in his ongoing work in this broken and defiant world. We respond by offering our lives afresh for his service.” (Gary A. Parrett, 9.5 Thesis on Worship, Christianity Today,  http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2005/002/24.38.html.)

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Worship and magnify our holy God. The angels surrounding the throne in Isaiah’s vision called out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:4). God invites you into his holy presence. God’s holiness is available to every sinner. God is willing to wash away every sin.

 

A sheep rancher in the remote mountains of Idaho found that his violin was out of tune, and, try as he would, he was unable to make the instrument sound the way it should. A frequent listener to a radio station in California, he wrote the station concerning his problem, asking these good people at a certain hour and minute on a certain day to strike the right note for him. This they did: stopping everything else, silencing all other sounds for a moment, they struck that note. In his shepherd's hut in the distant mountains, the shepherd heard that sound, and from that single note he put his instrument into tune again.

 

God has given us Christ to get our lives in tune with him. It’s the only way to begin a life that worships God in spirit and in truth.

  

 

Bible Study Questions

 

  1. What imagines run through your mind when you hear the word worship?

  2. Briefly discuss some of the worship ways you have seen among God’s people?

  3. Why is it a mistake to measure one’s faithfulness to God by one’s faithfulness to attend each worship service?

  4. How may the form of public worship overshadow the real purpose of worship?

  5. What is at the heart of worshiping God in spirit and in truth?

 

Ephesians 5:15-21

15 Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Colossians 3:15-17

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. NIV

 

  1. In Isaiah 1:10-17, why was God displeased with Israel’s worship?

  2. How do the words of a song impact one’s heart?

  3. What three things did God do for Isaiah to put his life back in rhythm with him?

 

 

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