Today on Insight for Living. From height to depth, our God is greater.
And someone that awesome, that great is deserving of some time of silent praise, and vocal praise, and melodious praise, and shouting praise. All across the country, and even the world, congregations find a variety of ways to express their love for God. Worship is the centerpiece of the local church.
Welcome to Insight for Living. Today and tomorrow, Chuck Swindoll presents the final message in his classic teaching series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life. In this final study, we'll examine an issue that's defined and sometimes divided church families. And yet, there's nothing sweeter than a congregation who, together in unison, worships the living God. Chuck titled today's message, Worship, Let it Shine, Let it Shine.
It happened in Canada in 1961. A group of ministers had gathered for a special series of meetings. They had invited one of their favorite preachers. Not a man who was impressive physically or that eloquent, as far as that is concerned, but a man who knew and walked closely with God. From 1928 to 1959, he had pastored what you and I may call a rather, well, inconspicuous church in Southside Chicago. Southside Alliance was his church.
And for those 31 years, he had become, it seemed to some, a bit of a conscience for the evangelical church. Aiden Wilson Tozer. He preferred simply A.W. Tozer.
And as soon as you hear the name, you know they were in for a treat. Allow me to digress for a moment and address the man. I never ever had the privilege of knowing A.W.
Tozer, but I think I have read, if not everything, almost everything he has written. And I'll tell you, he has a way of puncturing and pushing and exposing and penetrating life as it really is, and bringing us close to God. I never had the privilege of sitting in his congregation, but I have talked to those who did. And they said he made you about as comfortable as sitting on a coat hanger. He wasn't a man to comfort, in fact, to many, he was a crotchety sort of fellow. But you see, he walked to a different drumbeat and he listened to a different voice than the world around him, so he wasn't ashamed to be called a prophet. I never personally heard him preach, but I've listened to tapes, and I know that there was not a time that the man didn't pour over what he said with prayer and with diligent study in the book. He wasn't the kind of prophet who heard voices in the middle of the night and tried to make pictures out of clouds during the day. He wasn't a wild-eyed fanatic. That kind of person is really not of much use to the church. But when he spoke, lives were affected.
I was reading in Warren Wiersby's work, Walking with the Giants, and as he spoke of Tozer, he said, to listen to Tozer preach was as safe as opening the door of a blast furnace. Now back to the story. There he stood, announcing his subject, and had I been one of the ministers, I would perhaps have been a little surprised at the one he chose.
It was worship. I mean, after all, that's our craft. That's like talking to a group of auto mechanics about mechanics.
That's like talking to a group of musicians about music. But how much there was to learn, how long lasting those messages have become. They have been put into a booklet and still available today, as are to this day most of his works. One line remains important to me as I again read that little booklet. Tozer said, worship is the missing jewel of the evangelical church. Even though decades have passed since Tozer said that, I'm afraid the jewel in most places is still lost. And the tragedy is there aren't many that seem to be looking for it.
I think that's amazing. In a day in which we are able to find the contents of an ancient tomb and dig up the remains as well as the possessions of an ancient king, Tutankhamen. In a day in which we are able to find a ship that is two miles deep in an ocean in the North Atlantic and plan ways to bring it to the surface, though it has been there since April of 1912. In a day in which we are able to locate and expose and bring to trial every Nazi from Hitler's army. We still find the missing jewel lost.
Stop and think. You travel, many of you much more than I. You've been to other churches as I have. You have found and I made a list of them. Evangelistic churches, beautiful churches, small and lovely churches, even quaint churches. You have been in teaching churches, growing churches, dying churches, busy, renewal churches, denominational churches, independent churches. Yes, even those who call themselves New Testament churches. But chances are good you can count on one hand with fingers left over the churches you were in that were worshipping churches. I don't mean by that simply that things lost control and everyone sort of went wild.
I don't mean that. I mean a place where there was balance. A solid message from the Scriptures and yet a beautiful blend of music that addressed the living God whom you came to meet with. And along with that appropriate times of silence and well-placed words, freedom from cliches, no inane side comments to misdirect your attention and to turn you back to the things of this world. Places where you came into the presence of the living God and he grabbed you and he didn't let you go.
You still remember them, don't you? Places where you truly could worship the king all glorious above. Where you truly could gratefully sing his power and his love. Where you weren't ashamed to lift your head as you sang our shield and defender, the ancient of days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise. Places where you could relive the words of Wesley from the 17th from the 18th century where you could be lost in wonder and love and praise. That's a worshipping church.
Where are they? I confess to you 10 years after Tozer made that statement I found myself in Fullerton beginning a ministry at the Evangelical Free Church. And not really knowing what it was it seemed that drew me here, I now look back and realize I found in this place the building blocks to cultivate a theology of worship. I never announced that agenda. I didn't have anyone to turn back to and ask them how they did it.
I could find no book that addressed my concern. I didn't know of a church that was doing what I wanted to do. I didn't go out and find a few people to add to our staff who were experts in worship.
Had I known of such I probably would not have hired them. Because I didn't want experts, I didn't want professionals. I wanted God at the risk of sounding terribly pious here. I wanted God to shape the theology of worship as he hadn't any other place I had ever been. I didn't want to lose the blow of a strong word from God's book every time I preached. So I didn't want to bow to the God of worship or to the music that would bring me to such a place. I wanted to come to the Lord himself. I didn't want worship to be the God, that's what I'm trying to say. I wanted God to be God and the only vehicle I knew to bring us to him at least in corporate gatherings was worship.
Some of our people have been with us all through those years. You remember when we began doing some spontaneous singing acapella. Now it seems so important but those days, at least the beginning of them, so many were afraid we were going charismatic.
God bless you. I am not charismatic. We are not a charismatic church but we can learn from our charismatic friends. You trusted me. You were flexible enough to say let's do that. In fact you even got so comfortable with it when we didn't do it you chided me saying where is that acapella singing we've learned to love? And along with that we began to dovetail the Lord's table into a worship setting. And we began to make music far more significant as it would tie together with the printed page of God's book and with the spoken word called a sermon. We began to weave into it pastoral prayers and we began to bring the arts to the place where they belong as a statement of worship. And all through the process of time along with you I was learning. We made some mistakes and we shall in the future.
But you were willing to use a term from the football field we were willing to flex. We were willing to shift and adapt and alter and change and give up and add to until we began to shape and we are in the process of shaping a theology of worship. And all I ask is that no one ever write a book on it.
That's all I ask. One of the worst things it seems we can do is put it in a book and then package it and market it. Because what works in Fullerton may not work anywhere else nor should it necessarily. We're not trying to stamp out little Fullerton churches all around the country. We haven't a corner on God's truth nor a full understanding of what is involved in worship. All we know is we love our God. We want to express to him our praise and our adoration freely.
We want to be lost in it. I have found that it's impossible to lead a group of people in something that is not a part of me personally. So I had to cultivate a private worship without talking about it, without spelling it out, without even confessing to the struggles of it. And I had to add to my time of prayer singing and to my walk with God those quiet moments and even in the pressured times I had to work out a way for worship to fit. I think I have found something of the answer thanks to his book and thanks to the people of this church. Tucked away in the hymn book of our Bible, right in the core of it, Psalm 95, is a grand statement of invitation. I'd like you to turn to it and just for a few moments relive what you read from these lines of Psalm 95. Maybe our problem is worship is too elusive. I've struggled with this message more hours than I ever want to confess.
Only the men closest to me will tell you how much. I didn't want to overstate and yet I didn't want to understate. I wanted to do a fair job in the scriptures and yet I didn't want to make it mechanical. I didn't want to give you steps, five steps to worship. I didn't want to package it so that you could walk out and give it to someone else in transferable concepts.
I'm not interested in that. I wanted you to catch it like the Scottish people say, some things are better felt than tilt. So I want you to feel what it's about. I want the emotions to enter into this passage and if there are engineers listening, please, please, don't take it literally. Take it symbolically. And if you have any ability to do that, listen to your wife. Your wife will help you. She will help you get the feel of this passage.
There are more wives who are poets than husbands, I'm convinced. Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord. Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving. Let us shout joyfully to him with songs. Why? Why should I do that?
Why take that invitation? Because the Lord is a great God and a great King above all gods in whose hand are, watch it, are the depths of the earth. The peaks of the mountains are his also. The Psalmist pauses to give us that little illustration to show us the size of our God.
To the deepest place on earth, which would be in the bottom of some sea, to the highest peak in the Himalayas would be the highest spot. From height to depth, our God is greater and someone that awesome, that great is deserving of some time of silent praise and vocal praise and melodious praise and shouting praise. Our God is great. He is above all gods, greater than the depths and the heights, verse five, the sea is his, for it was he who made it.
His hands formed the dry land. Isn't that great? Have you been on the sea lately?
Have you looked at it lately? I will never forget when I was in the middle of the Pacific. Our troopship seemed so enormous when it was docked at San Diego. But the farther out to sea we got, the smaller we became until finally in the middle of the sea, we looked like a broken matchstick and the swells 30 to 40 feet high. And the water was black, just as black as the ace of spades. And the skies were cloudy and the wind was blowing and the bow of the ship would drive into the swell and the water would cover the deck of the ship. My prayer life was enhanced on that ship. It was on the ship I found Psalm 139. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there thy hand is with me and thy right hand shall hold me.
Why? Because the sea is his. He made it. None of it intimidates him. There is no swell that causes our God to suck in his breath in fear. There is no depth that causes him to lift his eyebrows with amazement.
He made it. The vast sea is his, the land he's formed with his hands. Verse 6, so therefore, come on, come, worship our God, bow down to him. As best I'm able to find in my study, the most basic of meanings of worship is the thought of being on one's face. And if you want to be in a position of abject submission, place your palms down on the ground.
Get in the prone position on your face before God and lay there. Verse 7, we are his people. We are the people of his pasture. We are the sheep of his hand. He is our God. In worship, we connect.
I have that in quotes. We connect with the living Lord. We don't watch something happen, we participate.
It isn't like going to a ball game and seeing 22 men knock themselves out on the field. It's coming to a place in one's life, either alone or with a few or with many, where one connects with the living God. The best definition I've come up with, and perhaps the one with least words, is a human response to a divine revelation. God has said something and I respond to it. God is doing things and I respond to him. It is response. The response may be absolutely silent.
The response may be the loudest voice. It may be the majestic strains of an organ. Just yesterday, sitting in our worship center and listening to strains from this organ, I connected like a river glorious is God's perfect peace. I relived it.
I felt it. At that moment, I was lost in the wonder and praise of my God. The amazing thing about worship is you don't care what anybody else thinks. You could care less what someone else thinks about your lifting of hands or looking up or silent awe.
It seems like everything else is blocked out because you have been touched by God. Dr. Sidney Juran sat in coffee shops all over the world and watched people. That was his experiment. He counted the times that people touched each other during an hour span.
He kept a record of his observations. In Puerto Rico, there were 180 touches an hour in this coffee shop. In France, it was reduced to 110 an hour. When he came to America, it dropped amazingly to twice an hour.
In England, not even once. Oh, he should have gone to Italy. I often say to people, Italians don't simply embrace you, they frisk you. They're all over you. Those Italian meals, they're the greatest things in the world.
Food's flying, words are flying, arms are flying, and it's sort of a survival of the fittest. They're touching all over, even pinching at times. Italians touch.
I wonder how many Italian churches worship. You see, it isn't simply touching one another, though there's nothing wrong with that. It's this resistance to anyone touching me. I don't want someone to touch me. I don't want someone to probe in my personal areas. I have that blocked off.
I'll open it when I'm ready. But you see, in worship, there is no place that is free from his touch. Resistance pushes him away. And so worship is an active response to God whereby I declare his worth in an intimate manner. I've made a few comments in my notes as to its significance and purpose, and I've gathered together a number of the Psalms.
In fact, one of them is Psalm 91, if you go back a few Psalms. And once again, not to be taken literally, look at the man in worship. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Now he's being touched by God. I will say to my Jehovah God, I will say to Yahweh, my refuge, my fortress, my God, I trust you.
That's the idea. He's dialoguing with God. Where is he dialoguing? In the shelter, under the shadow. Verse 4, covered with wings.
Not feathery wings. It isn't literal. It's poetry.
It's symbolism. God is all about me and tucked away under his care like a mother hen. He pulls me in and he covers me. And I talk to him and he talks to me.
What happens when that connection occurs? Whether it's in a gathering of thousands or when I'm alone in a closet with him or when I am with a few, what happens? Well, it magnifies my God. That's one of the major significances and purposes. My God is magnified. It enlarges my horizons. Never do I leave worship with limited horizons. My horizons are enlarged. Third, it eclipses my fears, those things that gnaw at me and eat at me.
I forget them. It eclipses my fears. It changes my perspectives.
It's remarkable. An attitude on Friday is so different on a Tuesday because sandwiched between a Friday and a Tuesday is a worship service in which my whole perspective changes. Worship is an integral part of the Christian life. As Chuck Swindoll said, worship expands our horizons.
It eclipses our fears and it alters our attitudes. There's much more he's going to show us on this important topic, so please keep listening to Insight for Living. Chuck titled today's message, Worship, Let It Shine, Let It Shine. Did you know that every sermon you hear on Insight for Living is paired with Chuck's online study notes? We call these free resources, Searching the Scriptures Studies.
To take advantage of this helpful tool, just go to insightworld.org slash studies. Chuck's positive outlook has become a hallmark of his life's work. In fact, several years ago, he shared some biblical wisdom in a way that's become widely quoted. Chuck was preaching about the virtue of developing a godly perspective. In his message on attitudes, he said this, I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react. Chuck went on to say that all of us are on a journey, but when it comes right down to it, we're the only ones who can choose how we will react to what life throws at us. And you can request a copy by getting in touch with us today. Chuck's new book is called Life is 10% What Happens to You and 90% How You React.
To purchase a copy right now, go to insight.org slash store. You often hear me say that Insight for Living is a nonprofit ministry solely supported by the voluntary contributions from listeners like you. And your gift, no matter the size, truly makes a difference. As God prompts you to give a donation, please follow his leading. To give a donation today, give us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can give online at insight.org slash donate.
I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll concludes his classic series, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, next time on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Worship, Let it Shine, Let it Shine, was copyrighted in 1985, 1987, 2005, and 2011. And the sound recording was copyrighted in 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
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