Monday, 05 May 2008 07:35

Basics In True Christian Worship[2]

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What makes for true Bible-based, Christ-focused, Spirit-blessed Christian worship services? This is surely an important and relevant subject in our times. Nehemiah 8 gives us God-inspired direction on this question. Coming to this chapter we meet with a powerful worship service in a time of revival and covenant renewal with God. Looking at the first twelve verses of chapter 8 we can learn four basic details of true and blessed God-pleasing worship. A most powerful worship service we must not forget! That is our theme, and we saw last time the first two details of such a service, namely, then you are eager for Gods Word and you are exercised under Gods Word, convicted by it in a way that leads to confession of sin and repentance from sin. In Nehemiah 8:3 we read, the ears of all the people were attentive unto the book of the law. Then in verses 9 and 10 we learn the people wept and mourned under the Word, realizing their sins and sinfulness before the Lord their God.

Clearly, the Word penetrated their minds and hearts as they were all ears to it and had prayerfully looked forward to it and were humbly submissive to it. How we need Gods Word to come with such penetrating and piercing convicting power today too! Again, as I mentioned last time already, this is something sadly not taught and preached much in our times. But listen now and learn from Nehemiah 8 even, where there is true worship in line with and submission to Gods Word, people are exercised under Gods Word. You find the same very much in Acts 2 with Peters Pentecost sermon. In true worship with Gods Word faithfully proclaimed, then Gods Holy Spirit in sovereign grace makes it hit home to you in a way that you see yourself as so great a sinner indeed, deserving only in and of yourself the just wrath and eternal condemnation of God for all your evil sins and sinfulness. Have you been and are you exercised in guilt under Gods holy Word and righteous standards and just judgments? Being so exercised in conviction of sin is a real part of truly calling on the Lord for mercy and looking to Him to save also a sinner like you. While repentance must be distinguished from true faith, yet it is always associated with true faith. When there is revival and renewal of true religion then that shows in being eager for Gods Word, and being exercised under Gods Word. But thankfully, there is much more to say too.

We notice in our Scripture passage that with most powerful unforgettable worship there is also this reality, namely, being so encouraged

by the Word.

Doesnt that happen here in Nehemiah 8? In fact, we are told, as the people were weeping for their sins being under conviction, then the leaders say to them in verse 9, mourn not, nor weep for, this day is holy unto the LORD your God.[vs.10] What does this mean? Obviously the religious leaders then made plain to the people that while yes, there is reason for conviction of sin, they need to realize God is the God of mercy and grace. He is the God of salvation, and with Him there is blessed and full deliverance from all our sins and sinfulness. The LORD God has provided a way of salvation rich and free! With God, as revealed in the promised Messiah and as foretold in the Old Testament, is a multitude of loving-kindness and tender mercies. In the words of Psalm 130:3ff after the psalmist says, If thou, LORD shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? the next verse reads, But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.Let Israel hope in the LORD for with the LORD there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities. So, in such way we may be sure the people were calmed and comforted, indeed as Nehemiah 8:11 states, So the Levites stilled [quieted] all the people, saying, Hold your peace [be still], for the day is holy; neither be ye grieved.

You see here the word of salvation is spoken to the people and Gods gracious and bountiful provision for sinners to save us from our sins is proclaimed and pressed home to the people that they might set their hope on the Lord and be glad in the LORD through His mercy and grace and salvation accomplished by Him. The first day of the seventh month was to be a day of celebration in regards to Gods marvelous deeds of mercy and salvation for an undeserving people, even for as many as will trust and follow Him. So the people get told in those most beautiful comforting gospel words in the last part of verse 10, neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength. It is the joy of the LORD to provide a great, free, complete salvation and deliverance from all our sins and sinfulness which is found ultimately as revealed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of sinners, even for as many as trust and follow Him. This is the gospel truth as Paul expresses in Romans 6:23, truly, the wages of sin is death, but [truly too], the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is important to realize here our Scripture passage is not teaching that there is no reason or room for being exercised in conviction and sorrow for sin under Gods Word. Rather, the text is saying being exercised, convicted of sin, is never meant by God to be the end of the matter, but it is a means to an end. The end being that we might ever look to the Lord and His gospel in the promised Saviour, Jesus Christ! As John writes in I John 1:9, If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Had not the LORD God also so showed them His mercy and loving-kindness in bringing them back to the holy city, and in allowing for the temple to be rebuilt and now also the walls of the city rebuilt and fortified once again and also granting them once more to celebrate the Old Testament feasts including the day of atonement? God had been so good to them and showed them His mercy and grace. The LORD God delights in mercy, and judgment is His strange work, and though the rebellious will not escape His hand of righteous judgment, the Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, and with Him is full and free salvation for all who return to Him. Think here of Gods Word in Isaiah 55:7, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Do you see in this what is meant with the words in verse 10, neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength? The people were thus so encouraged by the word of grace.

Again, let us learn that this gospel encouragement is so much part of true Christian worship that has such impact by Gods grace and Holy Spirit. Gods Word is a gospel word for a guilty people, a word of redemption for a repentant people, a word of salvation for a sinful people, a word of deliverance for a depraved people, a word of welcome to a wicked people, even for all who confess their sins and will trust in the salvation of the Lord through Jesus Christ the Saviour. Do you care about and know of this encouragement through the Word in the worship services, and is it that which also makes the worship service so special and blessed every time again? Is the joy of the Lord also your strength in view of so great a gospel as made known in the crucified and risen Saviour, Jesus Christ? Are you too glorying in the Triune God as revealed in the Saviour, Jesus Christ?

The aim of every worship service should be that we find in Him all our comfort and hope and joy and peace and confidence. If already in Nehemiahs time the people could be quieted and calmed, so comforted and encouraged by the gospel still from the Old Testament perspective, how can it be that anyone now will not be comforted and encouraged by the good news of salvation through Christ today? No one is excluded from the gospel offer from Gods side and He calls to all to come to Him. Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.[Matthew 11:28] Yes, proclaims Isaiah in Gods Name, Come now, and let us reason together saith the LORD: Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.[ Isaiah 1:18]

What a worship service Nehemiah 8 tells us about. A worship service where the people were eager to hear Gods Word, and they were exercised by Gods Word, and so encouraged through Gods Word, and notice lastly, it was a service that resulted in such enthusiasm in Gods way. The Word was so blessed, we read, that the people in gratitude lived in joyful hearty service to God and His praise. This comes out in verse 12. And all the people went their way to eat, and to drink, and to send portions, and to make great mirth [to rejoice greatly], because they had understood the words that were declared unto them. It is clear from this what motivated them in true gratitude and service to God and others was the gospel message really. They saw what great things God had done for them and was doing for them and yet would do for them according to all His gospel promises, and in spite of how undeserving they were in themselves, and they were overwhelmed in thankful devotion and love to God and their neighbor. They made portions for others in need, giving food and other needed help and rejoiced themselves in the goodness and mercy of the Lord, having a festive time together. We know too from verse 13 that the next day the leaders of the homes, the fathers, especially went for a special seminar with Ezra and the Levites to be further instructed in Gods Word so also to lead their families truly in the way of Gods Word. What we see here is that in true worship the purpose and God-honoring result also is that people be equipped and motivated and enthusiastic to live for God and for good. This surely happened by Gods grace and Spirit as a result of the special worship service that first day of the seventh month in Nehemiahs time.

A powerful worship service we must not forget. Nehemiah 8 tells us about it and shows us such a service. My prayer is that you too, my friend, may know of and attend regularly such Christian worship services. Is it what you desire and will pray for as well? For worship services where you are eager for Gods Word to be read and proclaimed, where you are exercised under Gods Word in humble conviction of sin, where you are so encouraged by Gods Word and the gospel of grace through Jesus Christ, and services where you leave not as you came, but equipped and enthused once, and again and again, in the way of true Christian gratitude in praise to God and for your neighbors good? Even so, Lord, in our confusing and apostate times, grant Holy Spirit revival, we pray, and bless us with most powerful worship services that we just cannot forget and that we keep looking forward to and that we attract others by and welcome others too, and that are a foretaste of heaven. So again, as in Nehemiahs time, prosper Zion in Thy grace, we pray, for Jesus sake, Amen!

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