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Concerning Worship (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
July 14, 2022 4:00 am

Concerning Worship (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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July 14, 2022 4:00 am

Genuine worship involves more than simply putting on your Sunday best and sitting in a church pew; it demands a proper perspective and preparation. Discover what that involves and how it will change your worship, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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To genuinely worship God involves more than putting on your Sunday best and sitting in a church pew. It demands having a proper perspective and proper preparation. So what does that proper perspective involve, and how should we prepare for worship?

We'll find out today on Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is continuing our study in the book of Ecclesiastes. O God our Father, with our Bibles open on our laps, we earnestly desire that you would be our teacher.

We are in desperate need of your help in speaking and listening and in responding properly. And so to you we look. In Jesus' name.

Amen. The preacher, the pundit, has been going down various avenues, and here in the opening section of chapter 5, it's as though he has paused down some of these dead-end streets and cast his glance on the worshiping throngs. And as he observes the comings and goings of the crowds to the place of worship, and as he apparently sits in on some of their activities, it becomes apparent to him that all is not well.

That unreality is not simply the precinct of the unbelieving population, but that unreality can so easily and quickly pervade those who profess faith. And the people that he's observing in their ins and outs and activities seem to have forgotten where they are and at the same time what they're doing. The target, I think, that he has in mind is the individual who comes fairly routinely to participate in worship, the kind of person who likes a number of the songs, taps along to the tunes, moans about the ones that he doesn't like, listens with half an ear, never really remembers anything, and certainly never gets down to doing what he had felt he ought to do when, in a surge of emotion, there was something stirring in his heart concerning the Bible.

The individual has largely not forgotten where he is and who he is but has completely misplaced any notion of who God is. And it is to this individual that the writer speaks. Now he's dealing with the then, and we're living in the now, and one of the questions when we study the Bible is, how do we make the then apply to the now?

How do we understand the application of this? Well, first we need to understand the then. The then is probably Solomon's temple, a magnificent structure, lavish in its decorations, awe-inspiring in its size, majestic in its grandeur. And as a result of that, the crowds coming to attendance in praise at that place would be dwarfed by the structure itself. And as a result of that, just in the sheer physicality of it, they would find that their gaze was turned from the earth upward to heaven, from time to eternity, and from themselves to God.

And that is the picture that he has in mind as he writes these words. Well, you see, that's obviously thousands of years away and thousands of miles away from where we sit now, or even from the average context of contemporary worship this morning, without doubt. Contemporary architecture, unlike the great cathedrals and massive buildings of an early era, contemporary architecture tends to be very horizontal.

It tends to keep our gaze on this plane rather than lift our eyes upwards. Our own church building contributes in part to that, I don't think by design, but certainly by default. The reason that architecture has gone this way is largely because we want to think not of a God who is transcendent but of a God who is down here beside us. Not of a God who holds us to account in the face of his law, but rather a God who has begun to see things the way we see things. A God who is not uncomfortable to behold, but a God who is actually very comfortable for us. And as a result of that, we turn praise and worship inside out.

And our whole experience begins with ourselves—how I am feeling and what I am hoping for and what I desire to get out of this opportunity—and then ends with ourselves as we walk away, giving points for content, for length, for humor, for a variety of other things, all directly related to who I am. Now, that's a tragic mistake. And to the extent that buildings contribute to that, we have also made a mistake. But of course, buildings are not ultimately important. Where we gather is secondary to what is happening when we gather. And therefore, when we think of the application of Ecclesiastes 5, we should think of it in relationship to Ephesians chapter 2. Not just Ephesians chapter 2, but certainly Ephesians 2 and verse 19 and following.

And if you want to turn to it, then you can anchor this in your mind, but I'm going to read it for you in any case. We could turn to a number of verses, but we're staying just here for point of application. Ephesians 2.19, consequently, he says, You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. So notice immediately that the building that is being described here is spiritual rather than physical. In a physical building, there would be a cornerstone set in its rightful place. Here, says Paul, Jesus himself is the cornerstone. And in him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. So back in Ecclesiastes 5, in the days of the solemn temple, in the days of the worship of Jerusalem and Zion, all of the emphasis was on this physical building. But now he says, verse 22, In him, in Christ, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Okay? So while architecture is not unimportant, it is not the most significant thing. Because what God has chosen to do now is to send his Spirit to dwell amongst his people, and it is the family which makes a house a home.

But we understand that from our own families, don't we? Or from visiting famous homes of famous historical families. For example, the Vanderbilts. Is it in Asheville, North Carolina? Magnificent structure. You go around it, you put the earphones on, and the voice tells you, And in this room, this is where Mr. Vanderbilt did this, and he did that, and this was his study, and so on. And it's quite fascinating, but it's lifeless. And I find myself walking around saying, If only Vanderbilt was here!

If only we could actually see it happen! Sure, it is a magnificent structure, but it is the family that makes the house a home. Now, that is how you need to understand, loved ones, what happens when we come together and worship. This is not a holy space.

This is not a special structure in and of itself. Any holiness that attaches to the place comes and leaves with the presence of the holy ones—namely, those who have been set apart in God's service. So the family is what makes this place what it is. That is why the place would become special to us in our reflection and in our anticipation—not because of the special nature of the structure but because of the unique nature of what takes place within the structure.

In the same way that a home eventually becomes simply an address, we can drive past the end of the street. We used to live there. It was very important to us while we were there, but it has no significance to us at all now.

It is possessed by someone else, it is indwelt by someone else, and so we move away from it, actually, quite thankfully and happily. And in the same, we find ourselves in this building. This building means nothing to me as a building, except I'm thankful that it provides shelter.

It doesn't ring my bell, float my boat, or do anything for me at all. The only significance that attaches to this place is because you're here and because we're here together. Take all of you away from here.

I wouldn't come here. It's the family that makes the house a home. So Ecclesiastes 5, the picture of the Solomon temple, Ephesians chapter 2 allows us to get a grasp of what we're dealing with today. Now, in light of that, we can then observe the instruction carefully. Four words, four statements will help us get through this little section of the text. The first one is the opening phrase of the chapter, guard your steps. Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. For the preacher, he's thinking of Solomon's temple. For us, we're thinking in particular terms—those of us who are the Parkside family—about our gathering here, not only in this room but definitely in this room, regularly and purposefully in this space.

And to guard our steps demands a certain perspective in our approach to the occasion. And I'm going to give you just a number of verses here. I don't want you to turn them up.

I'll give you the reference, in case you wish to note them, for further study. The first is Nehemiah 10 verse 39, where the people in that day said, We will not neglect the house of our God. They made a promise, We're not going to neglect the house of our God. And what that meant for them was their giving, that the house of God would be sustained, their participation in worship, that they may have a testimony within that place, the gathering of their families, that they may hear the voice of God through the Word of God, and so on. They said, We're not going to neglect the house of God. And when you or I come to the perspective where that is a hallmark for us, where that is, if you like, a foundational principle, then we will work everything in relationship to time, finance, and future in light of that principle. Good morning, it is the Lord's day. What have we decided as a family? We will not neglect the house of God. That means our participation in worship, that means our involvement with the family, that means our offerings of praise, and so on, if we have determined that that is a fixed point. If, until we come to that fixed point, then we awaken on the Lord's day, Sunday, and we say to ourselves, Now I wonder what I shall do today. There is an opportunity for me to do this and to do that. I have a friend calling me. I have the responsibilities and so on.

What will I do? Unless you have as a fixed point, and whatever else I do, I'm not neglecting my place in the house of God, then of course, your whole life will be up for grabs. Secondly, from Psalm 27 and verse 4, One thing I ask of the LORD, and this is what I seek, says the psalmist, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life.

He says, I want to be here. I want to be where the action is. I want to be where God is.

I want to be where God's people are. And this is his perspective. And of course, it is a unique perspective, because the perspective of the average person is, I don't want to go there.

You couldn't drag me there with chains. The people who are unchanged by the power of Christ feel very much the same way, constantly looking at their watch, constantly checking when the ordeal will be over, constantly making plans in their minds for how they can get out and get on. It's a different perspective, this, isn't it? If I could only ask one thing of the Lord, he says, this is what I would ask, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Psalm 84, he says the same thing.

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD. My flesh and my heart cry out for the living God.

Now, you notice the point. Why does he crave the courts of the living God? Because in the courts he meets the living God. You see, that's the significance of gathering together in worship, because God has pledged to be with his people when they gather in worship. Therefore, we can sing, I love thy place, O God, wherein thy glory dwells.

Now, uniquely here, but expressly here. And then he makes the staggering statement. Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere. That's a staggering statistic, isn't it? It's a great proportion.

One to a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. What a statement! I would rather open than close the doors. I'd rather be the janitor in the place where God's glory dwells than set up my stall in the arena of godlessness.

Why? He answers the question. For the LORD God is a sun and shield. The LORD bestows honor and favor.

No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. Out here there's only dishonor and blame. In here there is honor. Out there there is only darkness.

In here, he says, there is light. That's why I'd rather be opening and closing the doors in the church building than spend a thousand days in the tents of wickedness. It's quite a perspective, isn't it? I'm challenged by it. Now, perspective is crucial in guarding your steps. If our perspective is wrong, then everything else is wrong. To guard our steps involves us making preparation for that involvement.

Making preparation for that involvement. And I make no apology for going down some well-worn paths with you, because we need this word of reminder. And the first word of reminder is this, that dead ladies don't sing. Dead ladies don't sing. And neither do dead men.

And you know that if you've been around them. Some of you are involved in the funeral business, and you know this. When those people are set within those little places, the one thing you can be assured of is that you won't come in there and hear them all singing, because they're dead. And dead people don't sing. And people who are spiritually dead don't sing, because they have nothing to sing about. I'm talking about singing the praise of God. Dead people don't sing, My God, how wonderful thou art! Thy majesty, how bright! Dead people don't actually think about his love, think about his goodness, think about his grace.

Dead people think about themselves, think about their love, think about how they're doing, think about how they manage to get on and get through. But when the Spirit of God comes and makes a person new, and when they become spiritually alive, then they sing. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 34, I think.

It can't be my favorite verse if I just forgot the reference. I get mixed up between Psalm 37 4 and Psalm 34. Yeah, it's Psalm 34.

Psalm 37 4 is, Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 34 3 is, Glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. Glorify the Lord with me and let us exalt his name together. So when we come into the context of worship, that's essentially what we're saying to one another. Here we are, glorify the Lord with me and let's exalt his name together. What are we doing? This is what we're doing.

And this is what we've been preparing to do. We need to be spiritually alive, we need to be spiritually assisted, not full of wine, but full of the Spirit of God. And then when filled with the Spirit of God, he says in Ephesians 5 18, then we sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and we make melody in our hearts. So the preparation is actually the preparation of God within us. Number one, to make us spiritually alive.

He'll do that for you today. Number two, to spiritually assist you. He promises that to you in his Word. And number three, to be spiritually active, to be committed to it. Colossians 3, letting the Word of Christ dwell in me richly. So that we are making preparation for the event, thoughtfully, cautiously, thankfully, expectantly, and more than anything else, perhaps joyfully.

I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord. It's not as important that you're decked out as it is that you're tuned in. In other words, make sure that when you're waking up in the morning, you get tuned in whether you get decked out or not, whatever decked out is, okay? So whether you shaved or whether you primped or crimped or whatever you did, any of those verbs, the real issue is, have you tuned in, have you fessed up, and have you bowed down? Have you tuned in, fessed up, and bowed down? Do you think that you can spend all of Saturday on yourself and idol pursuits, go to bed late with your head full of nonsense, waking up slovenly, drag yourself finally into this building, and discover that as a result of somebody reading two verses from the book of Psalms, hey, presto, you just became a Spirit-filled worshiper?

If you think that, you need to think again. Preparation is absolutely crucial in the process. And the way we spend our waking moments on the Lord's Day sets the stall for the day.

So this morning, as I drove here, and earlier this morning, I was listening to my friend from Scotland reading Philippians 3, as it turned out, and beginning to preach on Philippians 3. Why? So that I might prepare. So that I might prepare.

I can't press a button any more than you. If I am carrying a glass full of water and you bump into me, what spills out is water, right? If it's a glass of coke and you bump into me, what spills out is coke? And when you and I bump into one another, what spills out is what's in. It's about preparation.

It's about guarding our steps. Engulfing terms is about alignment. It's about setup. It's about how you approach what you're about to do.

Now let me read from another Bible, Dave Pelz's short game Bible, for those of you who doubt this. Listen to what he says about alignment. He says, in golf vocabulary, my terms—setup, alignment, aim, body alignment, and address—are all related to the same thing. In every game of golf, if you align your body improperly, your instincts will subconsciously make swing compensations intended to hit the shot in the desired direction. Aim correctly, he says, and it's easier to make good swings. Because from a good position, good swings cause good results. Aim poorly, and a good swing will hit a bad shot.

So you'll have to make compensations to produce the desired results. So when you and I don't guard our steps, when we don't take the proper address, when we don't stand up to the thing properly, then we will be forced to make compensations all the way down the swing plane in order to affect the desired results. So in other words, it's very, very important to guard your steps.

As Alistair Begg said, it's more important for us to be tuned in than to be decked out. We're listening to Truth for Life. Alistair Begg is explaining why it's essential that we guard our steps when we go into the house of God. If you've been enjoying this fast-paced study through the book of Ecclesiastes, but you'd like to explore the important lessons of this book in the Bible a little further, we want to encourage you to request the book, Living Life Backward, How Ecclesiastes Teaches Us to Live in Light of the End.

Many of us prefer to put on blinders when it comes to facing the reality of death. The author of this book, however, shows us how to use the certainty of death to shape the way we live now. In this book, you'll learn how to live wisely, generously, and joyfully as you focus on trusting and glorifying God. Tomorrow is the last day we're offering the book, Living Life Backward, though, so be sure to request your copy when you give a donation to Truth for Life.

Just click the image you see in the mobile app or visit our website, slash donate. Now admittedly, the study of Ecclesiastes can be difficult for the teacher as well as the listener. It's tempting to skip over some of the harder to understand or the discouraging parts, like when the preacher declares that every pursuit in life is meaningless. Our mission at Truth for Life is to teach God's Word without adding to it or taking away from it. It's teaching that you can trust to be true and, as the Bible says, to make you wise for salvation. You can find out more about our mission at Truth for Life when you visit I'm Bob Lapine. If you ever found yourself just going through the motions of worship but your heart's just not engaged, join us tomorrow to jumpstart your faith and learn what is often at the core of mechanical worship. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-25 00:57:09 / 2023-03-25 01:05:55 / 9

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