PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) We live in a unique sphere of our galaxy. The Milky Way spans 100 million light years. There are billions of suns, planets, and moons, but Earth’s uniqueness is it’s the galaxy’s only place containing just one drop of liquid water. Scientists tell us that there are huge bodies of ice in space and even vapors that surround planets, but earth is the only known place to have water in liquid form. That’s because there’s such a small difference between freezing and vaporous temperatures. Water freezes at 32 degrees and vaporizes at 212 degrees. It’s no accident that God, in His infinite wisdom, knew the perfect distance to position the earth from the sun.
In one sense, earth is a tiny oasis in this immense dusty and dry galaxy. At creation, Genesis 1:9 says God drew the land from the waters. And Peter confirmed this when he said: “by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water” (2PE 3:5).
When we think about an oasis we understand it’s a flourishing, fertile spot that appears in deserts or wastelands. It’s interesting that oases vary considerably in size, ranging from several square feet to huge oasis cities.
The largest oasis city in the world is in Tashkent, Russia with a population of over 2,000,000.
The Holy Land’s most notable oasis city is Damascus with a population over 1,000,000. It’s possible that Damascus is the oldest continuously occupied city in the world, because history reveals it was inhabited 2000 BC.
America’s premier oasis city is Palm Springs, California.
Think about the purpose of an oasis: It sustains life, refreshes, brings fruitfulness, and attracts life. All this is made possible for one reason: The presence of water. Without the life-giving nature of water there’s no oasis. And it’s interesting that water is one of Scripture’s significant metaphors for Christian worship:
John the Baptist initiated the coming of Christ and His Kingdom by a baptism with water (MAT 3:11).
Jesus associated worship with water when He said in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”
And then John the Revelator showed a picture of Heavenly worship taking place by “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, [flowing] from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
God has associated our worship experience with water. And that’s because worship is like an oasis in the world’s desert. It blesses, refreshes, and invigorates us deep down to the soul. In truth, there’s no such thing as boring worship! If worship is boring something is wrong with the worshiper not God.
(Illustration) Some time ago, a boy asked his mother the highest number to which she had counted. The mother couldn’t remember so she asked her son the highest number he had reached. Without hesitation, he said, “7475.” The mother said, “That’s fabulous, but why did you stop there?” Her son responded, “Because church ended!”
Let me reiterate, true worship isn’t boring. It may correct us or challenge us; it might be corrective and penetrate to the core of our soul; but if we permit it, worship will always enrich us!
(Transition) I want to use the word oasis as an acrostic to illustrate the purpose and enrichment that worship brings to Christians. First, let’s note that God ordained the worship experience.
I. God Ordained Worship
The act of worship originated with God. It was his grand design and serves as the chief purpose of men and angels. It does not matter how wondrously gifted a person may be, our ultimate purpose involves glorifying our Creator and Redeemer. Nothing is more important–nothing! I know that’s hard to understand because life is filled with demands:
- We have spouses and children to provide for
We have businesses to maintain, and;
We are tasked to fulfill schedules and obligated to appear at social events,
call to worship God remains our non—negotiable activity.
(Example) Look at it this way. The houses we live in have one primary purpose—they provide shelter. Architects design them in various shapes, sizes, and degrees of elegance. Some are formed with brick, others with wood, and others with plaster. In some parts of the planet houses are matted together with mud. But regardless of their constituency, a house is worthless if it can’t provide shelter.
And when it comes to God’s creative purpose for this tabernacle of flesh, we need to understand this: God has blessed men with various talents, degrees of intelligence, and shades of skin. According to Acts 17, God has situated people-groups at precise locations on the globe. But regardless of who we are or where we live, our preeminent purpose is to worship God. That’s what Peter meant when he said: “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9-10).
Throughout the Bible, God calls man to worship Him. But what is worship? Can you define it?
(Definition) One Hebrew word for worship describes it as “bowing, either by bending the knee or lying prostrate.” Another Hebrew word for worship has its etymology connected with kissing. (I know that gets some people excited, especially the teenagers, but let me explain.) In ancient times people kissed rulers, and even the earth, to express reverence. Kissing was considered an act of worship. That means bowing, prostrating one’s self, and kissing have a common denominator: they are deliberate acts of reverence. They are purposed gestures. In other words, worship is something we do intentionally not accidentally! This is what God has ordained for us!
1. When we publicly gather at church it’s a deliberate act, and it’s worship.
2. When we pray, (3) praise God, or (4) read the Scriptures it’s something we purposely do, and it’s worship.
5. When we are baptized, (6) take communion, (7) give offerings, or (8) testify of Christ, it’s worship.
I just listed eight ways that worship occurs. And these eight activities can be summed up by putting it this way: When we purposely obey God’s written Word we are worshiping him. I’ve never known anyone to accidentally get baptized or pay their tithes, or take Communion. They may have done these things insincerely, but they didn’t do them accidentally.
(Application) This means, worshiping God is anything we deliberately do in “spirit and truth” that ascribes worth to God. Again, this is what we were created to intentionally do! We are created to exalt the One, true and holy Creator. And when we fulfill our destiny to worship, it becomes an oasis that refreshes us and honors God. God designed worship to water our soul with a refreshing that cannot come any other way.
(Transition) So first, worship is ordained of God. It’s your reason for being. The second letter in our Oasis acrostic is, ‘a’. Worship is not only ordained of God, it’s an experience of awe.
II. Worship Involves Awe
Hebrews 12:28 29 says: “since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, (29) for our “God is a consuming fire.” To really understand how to worship God in “reverence and awe” we need to consider this Scripture’s context. And Hebrews points back to Mount Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments. When Moses ascended Sinai to secure the Commandments God wanted Israel to witness the drama. So He called them to the mountain to observe, firsthand, the power of His presence.
An ominous thick cloud enveloped the mountain.
Fire and lightning leaped out from its summit.
A gale-force wind swept around the mountain.
And when God spoke from the mountain the earth literally shook!
The Bible says even Moses trembled with fear.
There was a reason God displayed Himself like this.
He wanted Israel to understand He wasn’t some puny Mediterranean god shaped by human hands. He wanted them to know He was no fragile idol that could be toppled from its perch.
The real God can shake the earth.
He can walk in the fire.
He can stand calmly in class-five winds.
When the real God speaks, creation reels and falls to its knees. That’s the God of Israel!
God wanted Israel to remember these things when they worshiped Him. He wanted them to stand in “reverence and awe” and understand He is an uncommon God that is sovereign, majestic, and omnipotent. And that’s what He wants us to do. We must never lose sight of God’s greatness.
The Bible describes Him as being invisible, yet larger than the universe.
His voice is quiet and tender; yet it’s strong enough to crack apart the cedars.
He dwells beyond the constellations, yet He controls every activity of earth.
He is our loving Savior that pardons our sins, but He is also the fearful Judge to whom all men will give account.
God is to be reverenced, respected, and awed! We need to live with holy reverence toward God. The Bible calls this “the fear of the Lord.” And Proverbs 9:10 says: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” When you live this way, I can assure you that it will become a delightsome and refreshing experience! How do I know that? Because the Bible says it was for Christ, our Example. Isaiah 11:3 says: “He will delight in the fear of the LORD.” Christ delighted in “the fear of the Lord.”
He knew His Father was the awesome God of all creation, so He sought to always do His will—and He was delighted by worshiping God obediently!
(Transition) Worship is ordained of God and involves awe, but thirdly, the next letter in our oasis acrostic is, ‘S’. Worship involves sincerity.
III. Worship Involves Sincerity
Anything God commands should be done correctly—especially worship. That’s what Jesus told the Samaritan woman. True worship is executed “in spirit and truth”—honestly and sincerely. Is that how you worship God?
(Illustration) Years ago I read the story of a young man that wanted to work at a zoo. And he was immediately hired when he applied for employment. But there was a problem. The zoo’s gorilla had died and its replacement hadn’t arrived. Since bus-loads of school children were scheduled for tours that week, the young man was asked to wear a gorilla costume and play the part. He figured he could last a week so he arrived the next morning, outfitted himself, and began roaming his territory next to the lions. The kids came and he entertained them by eating bananas, lurching along the hillside, and swinging on limbs. All of the sudden he looked to the back of the corral where a lion had passed through an unlocked gate. It was coming straight toward him. Without hesitation he panicked and began yelling for help as onlookers stood near. And his cries intensified when the lion prowled closer. Finally, the lion pinned him against the wall and with his hot breath panting in the man’s face the lion opened his mouth and said: “If you don’t hush we’ll both lose our jobs.”
A person may entertain the crowds wearing a costume, but nobody will please God in worship if they wear a religious costume. You have to be honest and sincere and worship God “in spirit and truth.”
(Example) Several years ago a friend told me of his struggle to approach God with pure, honest worship. The conversation went something like this: “Sometimes I’m angry with how life treats me. I have unmet needs, some of my bills are unpaid; and I’m struggling with disappointments. Here I am trying to worship but I’m battling anger, hurt, and confusion and I feel like a phony.”
We all have our set of problems and frustrations we bring to the House of Worship. God knows you better than you know yourself. And he wants you to be honest with Him. If you hurt tell Him. If you’re mad at Him tell Him. He can handle it. You can’t wait for things to smooth out to worship because you’ll always wrestle with life’s mysteries and misfortune. But on the other side of our confusion there is our confidence we have in God.
And our confidence in Him tells us we can trust God regardless of how mixed up life gets because He has steadfast, unfailing love for us.
Our confidence in Him tells us He loves us with an everlasting and unfailing love and “if God is for us who can be against us?”
It’s alright to acknowledge your confusion as long as you trust God! The fact is, we will never decipher some mysteries or make sense of every circumstance. Romans 11:33 says: “God’s ways are past finding out.” But what we can do is understand that He has never “left or forsaken” anybody and He will never “leave nor forsake” us either!
And while we’re talking about sincere worship let’s make one more observation. Don’t cover your sin! Confess it. David said: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, God will not hear me.” If you’ve sinned, confess it to Christ and accept His cleansing. The Prophet Micah said God “delights in mercy.” And when you confess your sins you will delight in God’s forgiveness! You’ll worship Him with joy and rejuvenation!
(Transition) Worship not only involves sincerity, fourthly, it involves identification. God wants to identify with His people.
IV. Worship Involves Identification
(Example) Imagine something for a moment. What if you had lived during Old Testament days when King Solomon governed Israel? Further, let’s suppose you personally knew Solomon and he gave you the opportunity to meet with him on a regular basis. I know this is all hypothesis but let’s imagine this had been true. Would you want others to know you could be identified with Solomon, the king of Israel? The obvious answer is, “Yes”! It would be an honor to personally identify with one of Israel’s greatest kings.
Do you realize that worship is the primary way Believers identify with God? It is our connection with Him. From the beginning of time, God has sought to develop a relationship with man and fellowship with him. Moreover, the practice of worship makes this connection possible. For example:
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob associated with God at altars.
When God identified with Old Testament Israel He met them at the Tabernacle and the Temple.
God instituted a specific day for worship called the Sabbath for His people to identify with Him. Then He called for them to identify with Him at those seven annual worship festivals: Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles.
And in the New Testament the Holy Spirit continued the emphasis. Believers met at the Temple, in Synagogues, in houses, the public squares, and even prisons.
Here is what God wants you to understand about all this: God uses your worship to distinguish you as belonging to Him. It’s His way of scripting His signature upon your life. We are so unworthy of our Lord becoming like us and dying on the cross for our sins. Why would the perfect, pure Lord of Heaven want to take upon Himself flesh and identify with crooks, prostitutes, thieves, and even worse? He identified with us and died for our sins because He wanted to redeem us. And when we worship Him it testifies that we are willing to identify with the most wonderful, loving, forgiving, compassionate, and gracious God imaginable.
(Transition) There’s another benefit of identifying with God through worship. It reminds us of who we are and what our destiny is.
(Illustration) When Arnold Schwarzenegger was campaigning to become California’s Governator in October of 2003 I heard his wife Maria Shriver say this about Arnold: “He doesn’t care how people ridicule him; whether they belittle his bulging muscles or his thick Austrian accent. He remains confident for two reasons: One, he knows who he is and, two, he knows where he’s going.” I don’t know Arnold’s spiritual condition or anything about his personal relationship with Christ. That’s for God to handle. But let’s not miss his wife’s statement: “he knows who he is and where he’s going.” When I heard that, I instantly knew that’s what worship does for Christians. People that faithfully worship the Lord know they are an heir of Almighty God and their destiny is to spend eternity with Him in Heaven. True worship keeps us on track!
Remember, once again the words of the apostle: “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
(Illustration) Awhile back I read a humorous story about Albert Einstein. He was the twentieth century’s foremost scientist but Einstein tended to have an absentminded nature as well. He would often mismatch his clothes or forget to comb his hair. One day Einstein traveled by train for a speaking engagement. After boarding the conductor checked for tickets and when he came to Einstein he was already engrossed in his work. Einstein turned his jacket and briefcase inside out looking for his ticket but to no avail. He had misplaced it. The conductor said, “It’s alright Dr. Einstein, we all know you, I’m sure you bought a ticket. There’s no problem.” But a few moments later the conductor looked back and Einstein was on his hands and knees still searching for the ticket. The conductor walked back, “Dr. Einstein, don’t worry about it. I know you who you are.” Einstein looked up and said, “I know who I am also, the problem is, I don’t know where I’m going.”
Do you see what worship does? It is a spiritual compass that keeps us pointed toward our heavenly destination where we will worship Him before His glorious throne.
(Transition) Worship involves obedience, awe, sincerity, identification, and fifthly, satisfaction.
V. Worship Brings Satisfaction
This final point actually summarizes the entire oasis of worship experience. If our ultimate purpose in life is to worship God, then true worship should satisfy us like an oasis satisfies a weary desert traveler. One of my favorite designations the Bible assigns to the Israelites that wandered forty years in the wilderness is in Acts 7:38. Luke calls them “the assembly in the desert.” I love that phrase, “the assembly in the desert,” because it not only described Israel it describes the church. How could anyone survive without water in the desert? And yet God supplied water for both Israel and their livestock for four decades! David said in Psalm 105:41, “He opened the rock, and water gushed out; like a river it flowed in the desert.” A miraculous river of water coursed its way through the wilderness during Israel’s desert experience!
And Christ is with the church today—the assembly in the world’s desert—as a River of Life, to sustain, bless, and refresh it. Don’t you feel refreshed after a good worship experience? When the early Believers worshiped the Bible says they rejoiced, they gladdened, they were healed, delivered, and blessed.
I love gathering with Believers to worship. And I especially enjoy Pentecostal worship: audible praise, vibrant singing, uplifted hands, and exercising spiritual gifts. It’s a thrilling experience and that’s the way God intended it.
Isaiah 43:19-20 says: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. (20) . . . I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen.”
Isaiah 44:3 says: “For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.”
Have you experienced the oasis of worship?