PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
Here in Mark 3, we find a lesson on how to worship God in the public assembly. Oddly enough, the Pharisees teach this lesson. Remember, the Pharisees often raised the ire of Christ’s rebuke. He called them “whitened graves, filled with dead men’s bones”; a “den of vipers”; and “hypocrites.” They were experts at looking and acting “religious” but they lived double-lives. They wanted recognition from the masses, vied for social acceptance, and even pillaged widows to enrich themselves. Jesus had every right to censure them as He did. But here’s the irony: these corrupt, hypocritical Pharisees model invaluable lessons for teaching today’s Christians how to worship.
Before I investigate how we can learn to worship from wicked men I want you to notice something about this passage. There’s a surreptitious lesson that Jesus illustrates from this scene regarding church attendance. It’s discovered in the first six words of Mark 3. Mark says: “Jesus entered again into a synagogue.” That word “again” reveals that Jesus frequented the House of Worship regularly. He attended corporate worship despite the presence of “hypocrites” and the very people that would crucify Him. Jesus shows us that there is no valid excuse for eliminating corporate worship.
Some people won’t come to church because they say, “there are too many hypocrites in the church.” Have you ever heard that excuse? Never let a hypocrite stand between you and God when it comes to attending church. If you do, the hypocrite will stand closer to God’s presence than you.
(Illustration) Sometime back I spoke to a perfectly healthy person that wouldn’t attend church. She said she could worship God at home. I asked her, “The Bible says God has ‘placed some in the Body to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.’” With that she couldn’t disagree. I then asked her to give me an account of who those apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers” were that God had placed in her one person church. She couldn’t!
Hebrews 10:25 says: “do not forsake assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” Christ, our Example, made it a point to attend the House of God; and so should we!
(Transition) That’s the lesson our righteous Lord teaches us about public worship. But now let’s investigate how we can learn to worship from wicked men. The first lesson the Pharisees teach us is this: Make Jesus Christ the center of your attention.
I. Make Jesus the Center of Your Attention
Verse two says the Pharisees “were watching Jesus to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath.” What an amazing disposition. The Pharisees hated Jesus! Their hearts were perverse. Their intentions toward Him were cruel. But despite their wickedness, they unblinkingly “watched Him.” And their riveting focus on Jesus teaches us to do the same.
Turn your thoughts inward for a moment. What has occupied your mind during this worship service? Has Christ been the object of your concentration? Or has business, or an unfinished task, or a messy house; or what’s for lunch? Unfortunately, our minds can become preoccupied and detracted from worshipping Christ.
(Illustration) I have to admit as your pastor that I’ve struggled with watching the clock so as not to keep you too long. I respect your time and the effort you place on worshipping here. But awhile back, a lady in the church rebuked me. She said: “Pastor, quit being so concerned about getting us out at 12:00 noon. It’s okay if our lunch burns”! Whoa! That’s a good sign when you have worshippers that feel that way. (By the way, I know this lady didn’t speak for everyone!)
Some people are more concerned about the clock striking 12:00 than the stirring of the Spirit sweeping over their soul. Which is more important: food for the stomach or food for the soul? When we come to God’s House we should do our best to focus on Christ and lay aside whatever distracts us from worshipping Christ.
(Illustration) Before his death, Dr. E.L. Terry preached a sermon he entitled, “Mouse Under the Chair.” He quoted a few lines from the poem:
“Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?”
“I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen.”
“Pussycat pussycat, what did you see there?”
“A frightened little mouse under her chair.”
Here was Dr. Terry’s point. That cat traveled many miles to see the Queen. It scampered from village to village avoiding the scowl of dogs and elements of nature. It was a long, grueling trip, but the feline finally reached London. With the castle in sight, the cat slowly slipped past the palace guards and found a secret perch. Finally the queen appeared, adorned with crown and costly garments. With regal fanfare she ascended to Britain’s throne. It was a glorious sight! But what did the cat see? Not the queen! The cat’s attention was held captive by “a frightened little mouse, under [the queen’s] chair”!
Folks, does this happen to us when we come to church? Do distractions dissuade our focus of the Lord Jesus Christ? I don’t ever want to miss what God has for me when I come to His House of Worship.
(Transition) Then these wicked Pharisees teach us something else about how we should approach public worship. They teach us that we should come with “great faith” toward God.
II. Worship God with Great Faith
If your Bible is still opened, look at verse two. Mark says, “They were watching Him to see if He would heal him on the Sabbath.” That’s incredible because the Pharisees hated Jesus! They tried to trap Him with His words, disprove His claims, and circumvent His ministry. But they never attempted to deny His miracle-working power. They may have attributed his power to Beelzebub, but they never denied that He had great power.
And because these Pharisees knew that Jesus could heal, raise the dead, and even stem the rage of nature they came to the House of Worship expecting Christ to perform miracles. Once again, these wicked men teach us how to approach God in worship. That is, with hearts filled with faith!
Folks, the Bible makes it clear: “Our God is an awesome God”! He is God of miracles! Why shouldn’t we expect God to do supernatural things in our midst? The Bible says:
“I am the Lord God your God that heals you.”
Isaiah 53 says: “By His stripes, we are healed.”
Luke says: “He sent His Word and healed them.”
Peter said: “Jesus went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed of the devil.”
If the Bible says it, let’s believe it!
Christians should maintain a hopeful spirit of expectancy when they enter the House of Worship. When a spirit of expectancy arises, the Lord will appear in might! Examine your faith before you enter God’s House and expect God to move. The reason some people never get anything out of church is because they don’t come expecting to receive anything.
(Illustration) When I was in Bible College a young lady named, Lorenda injured her foot. It was swollen to the point that her shoe would not fit. Nevertheless, she wanted to attend a Sunday evening church service so a friend and I chauffeured her. But Lorenda expected something remarkable to transpire that night. She believed God was going to heal her foot! What did she do? She wore one shoe (on her uninjured foot) and she carried the other shoe in her hand! She literally went to church expecting the Lord to heal her foot! And He did! She walked out normally. You see, if you believe God wants to answer your prayer, it’s okay to act like it!
(Transition) The third point the Pharisees make about public worship is this. They teach us to remain silent when shown the error of our ways.
III. Remain Silent when God Reveals the Error of our Ways
Look at verse four: “And Jesus said to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent.” Christ spoke with such wisdom and authority that His adversaries could not counter His claims. The truth of God’s Word spoken in God’s house silenced their recrimination. (Yes, these were the wicked, scheming men that left the synagogue and planned Christ’s crucifixion. But while they were in the house of worship they didn’t counter Christ’s claims.)
Here’s what I want you to understand: Christians should humbly accept the truth of God’s Word without argument. We should willingly comply. And always remember: God’s commands and precepts are written for your benefit. His commands are not grievous; He isn’t trying to prevent you from living a happy life. He is trying to enrich your life.
I love what the apostle said in 1 John 5:3: “this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” Here’s what the Apostle is saying: “The test of your love for God involves your willingness to keep His commandments.” If you exhibit wholehearted obedience toward God then you have magnanimous love for God. The true test of love is based on obeying your Lord. Now, can you say “Yes” to whatever God requests? If so, you are a true disciple of Christ.
(Transition) These are ways we can learn to worship from wicked men. But I also want to mention how New Testament Believers worshiped God.
IV. Worshiping New Testament Style
As a Pentecostal, I have chosen to worship God in a manner that allows the free-flowing of the Holy Spirit. I believe in a worship experience that’s vibrant, expressive, and joyful; yet one that is orderly. This is my personal conviction as it regards worship. Yet, there are deeply devoted Christians that choose a different pattern of worship than do Pentecostals. Notwithstanding, there is a mandate for worship that must never be compromised. Let me explain:
There exists within the construct of worship what I call fixed elements of worship and flexible elements of worship. The inflexible, fixed elements of Christian worship are: the undiminished exaltation of Jesus Christ as Lord, Savior, and King; the declaration of God’s written Word as His only infallible source of truth available to man; prayer; and praise.
Conversely, there are flexible elements of worship that transcend congregational, denominational, or cultural applications. Pentecostals consider the passionate, charismatic worship exhibited in the New Testament as the prototype for today. We invite the demonstration of spiritual gifts, “signs and wonders,” and the glory of God to manifest. It’s alright if the sovereign intrusion of the Holy Spirit rearranges the order of worship—He’s supposed to be in charge!
The reason the Apostle Paul called for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon the church is because he understood the needs of men (1 Corinthians 14:1). He wanted God’s glory to permeate corporate worship so that outsiders could declare: “God is certainly among you” (1 Corinthians 14:25, NASU).
That’s why we should never treat the church as a secular or natural institution. The church is supernatural in every respect. It was supernaturally birthed on the Day of Pentecost and God intended it to continue its function with supernatural empowerment. How else can man’s ills be contravened? While I believe churches should be “seeker friendly,” the most seeker-friendly churches in the world are those that make the power of the Holy Spirit available to hurting people.
And how can we secure the presence of the Holy Spirit in worship? It’s guaranteed when we worship Him according to the New Testament pattern of worship. Jesus said in John 4, “They that worship me must do so in spirit and in truth.” That’s total sincerity of heart!
Remember, three things result when Christians worship God “in spirit and in truth”: (1) Worship will glorify Jesus Christ, the true God and Savior of man; (2) Worship will provide access into God’s presence; and (3) Worship will elicit the manifestation of God’s goodness. Let us seek to protect a Biblical pattern of worshipping God and His Son Jesus Christ.