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A Call to Worship (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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October 6, 2021 4:00 am

A Call to Worship (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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October 6, 2021 4:00 am

It’s appropriate to apply a sermon’s biblical lessons to your circumstances. But is that the intended focus and purpose of worship? Learn why Christians gather and what we’re called to do. Study Psalm 100 along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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Should the focus of a sermon, or our worship to God, be our relationship with Him, or His relationship with us?

It's a subtle, but not insignificant, distinction. And today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg teaches from Psalm 100 to explain why we gather together as Christians, and what it is we're called to do. Psalm 100. Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God, it is he who made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good, and his love endures forever. His faithfulness continues through all generations.

Amen. Well, our text this morning is one of the most familiar psalms in all of the book of Psalms. The Psalms are essentially the church's hymnbook throughout the years, and from the time of the Israelites in the temple all the way through the medieval church and right into today, God's people have been employing these poems, many of them set to music, in order to give voice to their laments, to their concerns, and also to their praise and to their adoration. The Hundredth Psalm, I think, became famous when, in the sixteenth century, a Scotsman who was a friend and contemporary of the reformer John Knox wrote the Hundredth Psalm in its metrical form.

And throughout at least the English-speaking world from the sixteenth century on, men and women have rejoiced to stand and sing with the opening phrase, All people that on earth do dwell. This psalm has been upon my mind for a month now. I was worshipping in a congregation in a small coastal town in the east of Scotland, and the opening praise that was given out was the Hundredth Psalm. I was standing on the front row and was quite unprepared for the volume and for the fervency of the praise that then emerged from the lips of the congregation behind me. There's scarcely two hundred people, and yet it seemed as if every one of them from the opening note immediately sang with great conviction the words of the Hundredth Psalm. And that notion, that experience, has stayed with me in the past month. As I've been in other places of worship, I found myself wondering whether I could explain what happened in that morning, simply in terms of the cultural impact of a Scottish congregation singing the metrical psalms—or whether, in actual fact, and far more likely, the fervency of the praise of that congregation was giving a signal of the depth of their understanding of the truth of who God is and what God has done.

In other words, that what was taking place was not a cultural expression, but it was, if you like, a spiritual or a theological expression that gave an indication, sent a signal, of what was going on in the heart of the congregation. That idea, that concept, was crystallized for me when this week I received a telephone call from the car dealership from where I purchased my car, and a lady said to me, Your car has sent us a signal. Well, I said, I didn't ask it to or tell it to.

No, she said, You don't have to. It just does it on its own. And it has sent us a signal indicating that it is in need.

And if you will bring it to us, we will meet that need. Well, I argued with her a little bit about that, only to discover that what she told me was accurate. I found it quite alarming, quite intriguing. And I thought, It's strange to have a car that's smarter than yourself. And then I thought, No, it's not so strange.

The congregation won't think that's strange at all—not in reference to me. But then I thought about how we do send signals, and how a congregation such as our own sends a signal that is happening, if you like, internally, that is then picked up externally, that will be expressive of something that is going on unseen, and yet something that is of significance. And I said, I wonder what kind of signal the congregation at Parkside is sending to the watching world, sending to itself—what are we sending, if you like, to God—when it comes to this issue of the gathering of God's people for the singing of God's praise? And so, with that in mind, I want to look with you at this hundredth psalm as a means of helping us consider just what that signal is. This psalm, along with the other psalms, does a number of things.

It, for example, provides an answer to those who ask us—usually our children—why it is that we attend on an occasion like this, why is it that we sing when we attend, and what it is that we sing, and how it is that we sing? The psalmist helps us to answer that. The psalmist also, in this psalm, challenges the preoccupations of the self-absorbed, challenges the notions that each of us is tempted to live with, that what's going on in the world is directly related to who I am, to what I am, to what I hope, what I dream, what I desire, and that when I come, for example, into a context such as this, then my absorption with myself will take everything that transpires and analyze it, absorb it, adopt it, provided it fits in with my expectations.

Because, after all, the whole world is about me. And thirdly, the psalm provides the direction that is necessary for the people of God gathering in the house of God to seek the face of God by turning together to the Word of God. Now, I mention that by way of introduction, not because those are my points for this morning, because they're not, but I leave them for your further consideration. I just have two main headings, and I want us to consider, first of all, what it is that we are called to do, and then, secondly, what it is that we need to know if we're going to do what we're called to do. So let's look at verses 1, 2, and 4 under the heading What We're Called to Do. Psalm 100 is very similar to Psalm 95. And if you turn to Psalm 95—it's just a couple of pages back in your Bible—you will notice the direct parallels that exist. The psalmist there writes, Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD, Let us shout aloud to the rock of our salvation. And it would appear that this psalm would have provided the proclamation for the festival gatherings of the people of God—their routine gatherings, but also their special gatherings. And as I looked at verses 1 and 2, it was almost as if the people of God were being assembled—the congregation, if you like, was being gathered as they were making their way. And not in cars, as we do now, but by means of foot, and perhaps calling out to one another as they anticipated their arrival at the sanctuary, at the place of God, at the place of his appointing.

And if verses 1 and 2 would represent the procession, then verse 4 would be representative of the arrival. Once they had arrived, the invitation was then given to enter the gates in a particular way and to secure the opportunity provided to give thanks to God. Now, under that first heading of what we're called to do, let us just notice, first of all, that we need be in no doubt concerning the focus—where it is, if you like, the emphasis lies, or to whom we are looking.

You will notice that God the Lord predominates throughout the entire psalm. Shout for joy, focus to the Lord. Worship the Lord.

Come before him. Know that the Lord, it is he, his gates, thanks to him, his name. So it is impossible to read these simplified verses without acknowledging the fact that the focus, if you like, the preoccupation of the people of God, when they gather, is to be to him. And we used to sing years ago, as a congregation, a little repetitive song, we are gathering together unto him.

And it is unto him that the gathering of the people must be. This, of course, is very, very important, isn't it? Because if our focus is off, everything is off. When we conduct weddings as pastors, I think we always give the same instruction to the congregation, and particularly to the wedding party—the girls, the bridesmaids, and the groomsmen—they're always asking, Where should my hands be, and where am I supposed to be looking? And I always say the same thing.

The rule of thumb is simple. If you don't know where to look, look at the bride. And if you're not looking at the bride, look at the person who's speaking. So look at the bride and look at the one who's speaking. The only distinction in that is for the bride.

She's allowed to look at the bridegroom. And when you think in terms of the gathering of God's people—if you like, if the sight lines of the people of God were to be drawn, the sight lines would be drawn away from ourselves, away from any human preoccupation, and we'd be drawn up to God. How would we meet God? Where would we meet God? Well, we meet him as he reveals himself to us. How does he reveal himself to us? In the wonders of creation. In the person of his Son.

In the truth of the Bible. But our focus is there. Or to change the picture, go to the golf tee, where you're taking a lesson.

And as you hit golf balls and your teacher comes alongside you, one of the questions they will inevitably ask you is this. What's your target? What's your target? They want to know where you're aiming. They'll be able to tell, then, when you tell them where you're aiming, whether your alignment is on or it is off. And when we come to an event such as this, when we gather among the people of God, our alignment, our focus, is absolutely essential. And, loved ones, when my focus is on me and my needs and my emotions and how I'm doing and what I'm afraid of and what's happening in my finances and where I'm going in my life, there's not a song written that will be able to shake us from those inevitable preoccupations. The only way is for our focus, then, to be aligned in God himself.

Focus. Secondly, exuberance. Exuberance. Shout for joy.

Psalm 95, the same thing. Shout to the Lord. Now, you may say, Well, we don't want any shouting in here.

Well, we don't want any strange shouting. But a little exuberance wouldn't be too bad, would it? A little sense of excitement, a little sense of anticipation, a little buzz amongst the congregation, the way that you might have before attendance upon a Shakespeare play, or a Hollywood musical, or the arrival of one of your favorite singers, or the anticipation that is represented in arriving at a golf course a solid one hour before you play, because you simply want to luxuriate in the anticipation of what is represented in that moment when you begin those eighteen holes.

Oh, sure! You can show up late if you choose. You can arrive with a moment to go if you want. But I wager that if you love the game and everything else is equal, you will be there in very good time, and you will not simply be talking to yourself and drinking tea.

You will be already getting in the groove, so that when play begins, we are already warmed up to go. Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth! Actually, the word that is used here in Latin, jubilati deo, is found in the Anglican Prayer Book.

The hundredth Psalm was included in the Anglican Prayer Book in the sixteenth century. And it is the word that would be used for the celebration of the arrival of a sovereign, of a king, who takes his place in the capital of the nation or who sits upon his throne. And the people, in acknowledgment of his arrival, would shout out in exhalation and in praise.

It is, if you like, the British Three Cheers. It is the hip-hip hooray that is represented in the gathering of the people of God. And this exuberance is marked, you will notice, by joy. By joy. By joyfulness. By gladness.

Not by gloom. Reverence is not gloom. Reverence and joy and thankfulness are not opposites. There is that which is flippant and superficial and exuberant and largely irrelevant, and there is that which is reverential and awesome and joyful and thankful, which is the enthusiastic expression of a life in touch with God. And the psalmist says, as you come to the place of God, he says, when you gather in the sanctuary of God, make sure that you do so in such a way that there is an exuberance about your approach. Now, again, we need to acknowledge that unless this begins with God and who he is, we have no hope here. That's why sometimes we sing the song when the cares of life seem overwhelming—because they do, don't they?—and my heart is sinking down. I'm gonna—gonna—I'm going to—I am gonna lift my hands to the one who helps me, to the one who bears my crown.

So this is not some sort of emotional hype. This is actually a progression of thought which acknowledges who I am and where I am and sets the circumstances of my life and experience within the far greater context of who God is and what he has done. And the people of God have been confronted with this throughout all of the ages. Remember, in Nehemiah, and in chapter 8, when they bring out the book of the law, and the teaching comes from the book of the law, and the people begin to weep under the instruction of the Bible, the leader says to the people, Don't go home crying, he says.

Go home and enjoy choice food and choice drink. Because, remember, the joy of the Lord is your strength. The joy of the Lord. When Paul writes to the Philippians in the context of Roman persecution, in the tyranny of all of the onslaught against them, he says to them, Rejoice in the LORD. And again I say, Rejoice.

You see how vastly different this is from that which just starts with ourselves? It is to be found in the nature of this joyful expression—not only joyful but thankful. Thankful.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving. God loves it when we say, Thank you. You say, Well, I don't have much to say thank you for. Pardon?

I didn't hear that, did I? Well, when upon life's billows I am tempest tossed, when I am discouraged, thinking all is lost, then I'll count my many blessings, I'll name them one by one, and then it will surprise me what the Lord has done. Thankful for the gift of this day. Thankful for the gift of this place. Thankful for the gift of these people. Thankful for the provision of God's Word.

That's just a start. Come, ye thankful people, come. Raise the song. And then, thirdly, under this first heading, you will notice the extent of this praise. Its focus is in the Lord, its exuberance is undeniable, and it is not, somehow or another, limited. It is not simply joyful and thankful, but you will notice it is universal. Shout for joy to the Lord all the earth.

So it's never an isolated thing. No, because there is no nation in the world that is exempt from this. There is no nation in the world that is excluded from this. Jehovah Yahweh is not a tribal deity of Israel, but he is the sovereign ruler over the whole earth. If you turn back just one page, you see that in Psalm 98. He draws this out in terms of the doctrine of creation. Verse 7 says the psalmist, Let the sea resound in everything in it, the world and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing for joy, let them sing before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth. Now, you see, this is why it is vitally important that we are students of the Bible, that we submit to the instruction of the Bible, so that we get our heads and our hearts recalibrated on a daily basis because of so much that comes against us that is actually countermanding, undermining these essential biblical truths.

And the extent to which this is happening is quite undeniable. Therefore, what I have to do, what we have to do, is make sure that our minds are brought onto the tutelage of the Bible. The call of scripture is for us to offer to God exuberant, God-focused worship.

You're listening to Truth for Life with Alistair Begg. That's part one of a message titled, A Call to Worship. So the question is, can we worship wherever we are, whenever we feel close to God, like in the privacy of our home or watching church on livestream instead of attending in person? Does church membership really matter? Author and Pastor Sinclair Ferguson explains why active participation in a local church does matter in a book titled, Devoted to God's Church, Core Values for Christian Fellowship. Private time alone with God is undeniably vital, but belonging to a local church family is also essential.

It's not an optional extra for believers. When you read the book, Devoted to God's Church, you'll find out what each of us is called to as engaged participating members in a local church. You'll also discover the hallmarks that should be evident in every Christian church, like teaching that is based on the Bible, corporate worship, communion together. Find out why each of us is called to serve within the local church and to support the mission of the church.

There will always be differences between churches as far as personality or procedures go, but it's important to keep the main things central and fundamental. In the book, Devoted to God's Church, author Sinclair Ferguson looks at those main things without getting sidetracked by the controversies surrounding any particular element or procedure. Request your copy of Devoted to God's Church today. You'll find it in the mobile app or online at truthforlife.org slash donate. I'm Bob Lapine. I hope you can join us tomorrow for the conclusion of today's message when we'll find out why it is dead people don't sing. You'll hear what you need to know to worship joyfully and thankfully. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-13 14:26:44 / 2023-08-13 14:34:40 / 8

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