Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I came across this sermon in my archives today. It was from a series I did entitled, "What in the World is the Church Supposed to Be?" This was part one: "The Church Exists to Glorify God." I thought it might be worth posting...

The "church" of today has a tendancy to reinvent itself so that it might appeal to everyone. Recently a church humor magazine called, "The Door," recognizing this tendancy, facetiously announced the following newly formed churches:
Potluck Assembly; Little Bit O’ Bible Church; Church of the Big P. A.; The Short-Term Pastor Center; Theology-Free Church; Seldom United Church; New Wife Fellowship; Church of the Perpetual Building Program; Comfortable Pew Family Center; Clean Bathroom Bible Temple; Better Than the Rest Believer’s Fellowship; Legalist Bondage Assembly; The Two-or-More-But-Sometimes-Less-Depending -On-Who-Shows-Up Bible Church; Feelgood Fellowship; Twist-and-Shout Revival Center.

The "church" of today has lost its direction. Many don’t understand the purpose of the church. Others dismiss the church and its mission as old-fashioned and irrelevant. Still others, in a misguided attempt to appease the world, reinvent the church, much as Aaron fashioned a golden-calf to meet the demands of the people.

It is important to know what our purpose is. As a local assembly of born-again believers in Jesus Christ, for what purpose do we exist? To what end should we devote our energy and efforts? By what standard shall we evaluate whether or not our efforts are successful? If we fail to comprehend God’s purpose for us, we may expend a lot of energy but fail to accomplish God’s will for us.

We would be like the pilot who announced on the intercom system, "Ladies and gentlemen, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we have a tailwind and we are making excellent time. The bad news is that our instruments are down, and we have no idea where we are going." We need to know where we are going! And if we are just a few degrees off from the right course, we might find ourselves over time many miles off from our destination.

We are prone to design a church of our own making to meet our own fleshly desires. The false teacher is distinguished by his propensity to "entice by fleshly desires (2 Peter 2:18)," those he would lead astray. The Apostle Paul warned of a time that would come "when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires (2 Timothy 3:3)." In other words they will follow teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. Paul’s prediction has been fulfilled. The church in America is driven by the pragmatic desire to get results. And it will go to great lengths to get them.

The Los Angeles Times Magazine reported on one Lutheran church in Southern California that distributes flyers advertising their church service as "God’s Country Goodtime Hour." The flyers boldly promise "line dancing following worship." According to the magazine article, "the pastor is dancing, too, decked out in Wrangler boots and Levis." They dance to a band called the "Honkytonk Angels." Attendance at the church has been steadily rising.

I was once visiting my uncle, Pastor Frank Emrich of Valley Bible Church, when he showed me a flyer from a new church in their community--one of their stated goals on their flyer was "to awaken the princessa within you." We were joking about the flyer with one of the elders there at the church and he said,
"I don’t know what a princessa is but whatever she is I don’t think I want to awaken her."

Not too many years ago the Dalai Lama came to visit Portland. One newspaper editorial chastised the evangelical community that it didn’t get behind his visit. According to that author since the Dalai Lama preaches kindness, and peace, and other such virtues that we ought to be in favor of what he is trying to do. But there is a huge gap between the kindness that is generated by Eastern Mysticism and the kindness that is the fruit of the Spirit--both in the genuineness of that kindness and who is glorified in the practice of it. But that whole sad affair shows how little people understand "What in the World the Church is supposed to be."

Years ago, that great American Pastor, Henry Ironside warned,
"The Church of God has gone into the entertainment business! People must be amused, and as the church needs the people’s money, the church must, perforce, supply the demand and the craving! How else are godless hypocrites to be held together? How otherwise can the throngs of unconverted youths be attracted to the "service?"

It is not our prerogative to design the church. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the Church, not us. Colossians 1:18, "He is also the head of the body, the church." In Matthew 16:18 He declared, "I will build My church." The ultimate responsibility of the church and its leaders is to model a local church in accordance with the design that God has already laid out for us in the Scriptures.

John Calvin once wrote concerning this,
"We may not adopt any device which seems to fit ourselves, but look to the injunctions of him who alone is entitled to prescribe. Therefore, if we would have Him approve our worship, this rule, which he everywhere enforces with the utmost strictness, must be carefully observed..." God disapproves of all modes of worship not expressly sanctioned by his word."

The bottom line--We need to endeavor to understand the purpose of the church as it has been prescribed for us in the Word of God!

The Bible speaks of three main purposes of the church. There are others of course, but these three are the main ones: to glorify God; to edify the body of believers; to evangelize the Lost. These are the three main purposes. All of church ministry should relate to at least one of these three. Now of these three, the first is the preeminent goal of the church. The ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God. It does this through the edification of believers and the evangelism of the Lost, but ultimately it exists to glorify God.

The Purpose of the Church is to Glorify God

We have been taught that man exists for the purpose of glorifying God. The Westminister Shorter Catechism asks the question: "What is the chief end of man?" The answer given?: "To glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Man exists to glorify God, that is the purpose for which he was created.

Since the fall of man, sin has prevented men from fulfilling that God-given purpose. God is deserving of honor and thanksgiving, but because of sin "even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks (Romans 1:21)." Because of sin, the tragic reality is that, "there is none who seeks for God (Romans 3:11)."

It is impossible for the unsaved man, the natural man to worship God. According to John 4:24 it is necessary that "those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The unsaved man is dead spiritually (Ephesians 2:1); he does not accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14); indeed he is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). How can an enemy of God worship God? He can’t! It is impossible! He must be born-again.

One of the fallacies behind the seeker friendly movement of our day is its endeavor to construct a worship service that is attractive to the unsaved. The song service is a performance by a "worship team" designed to minister to the emotions. The length of time devoted to the preaching of the Word of God is minimized (2 Timothy 4:2). Offensive terms like "sin" and "death" and "hell" are avoided. The focus of the sermons is not the whole counsel of God’s word but selected self-help topics that are less-offensive. All in an attempt to make the service palatable to the unsaved. That approach fails to realize that a worship service is not for the unsaved, but for the saved. What the unsaved person needs is not a change in church atmosphere, but a change in heart.

Ron Owens, "In so much of what is happening today, we have performers on the stage and spectators in the pew. Many people today go to church to see what they can get rather than what they can give, not understanding that there is no such thing as worship without giving. I’m not talking about something in the offering plate. That’s a part of it, an outward expression of what’s in the heart, but today people come to get rather than to give." Why is that? Because we’ve lost sense of what worship is. Worship is not something that we create or invent. It is not something that we do for somebody else. True worship is the overflow of a redeemed and Spirit-filled heart. Worship is what born-again believers do as the acknowledge the worth of God both by their lips and by their service to Him.

God wants to make true worshippers out of the unsaved, but He’s the one who has to do that, we can’t. How does God do that? The prophet Isaiah had a vision and at once realized the dilemma that each man faces. In his vision he saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted. He saw angels surrounding the throne and calling out to one another, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory." At once Isaiah is confronted with his own sinfulness and cries out, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts." It is interesting to note the focal point of Isaiah’s concern. He was concerned about his lips. Why? Because God was revealed to Isaiah in His glory; and the angels were doing what any intellectual and responsible creature would do--they were worshipping God with their lips. Isaiah realized that he and his people had failed to use their lips for what they were intended for. Isaiah faced the dilemma that every sinner faces--because of sin we fail to worship God as we should.

God did not abandon Isaiah in his woeful state. He sent one of the seraphim, with a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips. The altar is of course symbolic of the atonement for sin that would one day be provided by the Savior Jesus Christ. The seraphim told Isaiah, "Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven." Isaiah’s was cleansed and changed and equipped to worship. God called out, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I, send me!" God transformed Isaiah from a self-conscious sinner into a true worshipper, through the sacrifice He provided. God delights in doing that.

The church is made up of such people. Those who have been born-again; made to be new creatures in Christ, those who have a heart to worship. These are the one’s who constitute the true church. Perhaps at this point in our study it would be helpful to define what we mean by the word "church." The Greek word translated "church" in our English translations is "ekklesia," from which we get the word "ecclesiastical." It means "to call out of." It was used among the Greeks of a body of citizens gathered to discuss the affairs of state. It was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in reference to the "gathering" of Israel. In the New Testament it is used of the church. It is in fact used two ways in referring to the church. It is used to refer to what we commonly call the "universal church." The universal church is the whole company of the redeemed throughout the present era. It is so used in Ephesians 1:22, "the church, which is His body." Here it refers to all of the born-again believers in this dispensation throughout the entire world. The term is also used in reference to the local church. The local church is an assembly of the redeemed in a given location, for example "at Antioch, in the church that was there (Acts 13:1)." In either case the church consists of the redeemed, those who through the Spirit have been baptized into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13).

These individuals have been called out of darkness to be true worshippers of God. I like the way that Peter puts it in 1 Peter 2:9. We, who constitute the church, are those who have been "called out of." What have we been called out of, and what have we been called out of to? 1 Peter 2:9 answers that question. "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. For you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God." This passage tells us exactly what has happened. Once we were not a people. Once we were in darkness. Once we were without God and without hope in the world. Once we didn’t recognize and couldn’t recognize the glory of God. But God has called us out of darkness. By the Spirit of God He caused us to be born again. He opened our eyes to the gospel and the truth concerning Himself. He has made us into a people--A chosen race, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a people belonging to God. For what purpose. That we might glorify Him. That we might acknowledge His Glory. That we might do what we were created to do.

Look with me at Ephesians chapter one because this chapter is perhaps the most important in Scripture in defining the supreme purpose of the church. In this chapter Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus regarding their position in Christ. He reminds them how they were chosen, predestined, adopted; how they were redeemed by Christ’s blood; how they have gained an inheritance; and how they have been sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise. In this context Paul repeats three times one little phrase, "to the praise of His glory (verses 6,12, and 15--in verse 6 it is "to the praise of the glory of His grace.")." God’s work in our behalf in salvation was for a specific purpose, signified by the world "to" in each of these verses.

God’s glory is His splendor, His beauty, His majesty. It is the essential nature of God. It is what the angels saw in Isaiah’s vision. It is the "excellencies of Him" mentioned in 1 Peter 2. Notice that in one of the three reference in Ephesians the grace of God is singled out. It refers there to the "glory of His grace." There specific reference is given to the splendor and beauty of God’s amazing grace that is a part of His character and has been demonstrated to sinners in their salvation.

The church exists to glorify God. And it glorifies Him by its mere existence. According to Ephesians 3:10 the church is on display before all of creation as a testimony to the wisdom and grace of God. Every believer is a testimony to the grace of God. We are like trophies in God’s eternal trophy room. My Dad has a trophy shelf in his den. On that shelf he has some trophies. One of them is for a 299 game he once bowled. Those trophies are a testimony to my Dad’s bowling prowess. Anyone who walks into my Father’s den and looks at those trophies will recognize my Dad’s ability to bowl well. God has an eternal trophy case that is set before the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. God’s grace is on display in that trophy case. Every sinner saved by grace testifies to the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ is full of grace. John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." When He saved me His grace was manifested in my life. I was lost in sin; helpless; unable to do anything to merit my salvation. God made known to me the truth of the gospel. That Jesus Christ died for my sins and that by heart-level faith in Him I could be saved. I trusted in Him. He saved me. The fact that I can stand before you today with any ability to understand or communicate or practice the Word of God in my life is a testimony to grace of God. It is no different for those of you who have been born again. The fullness of God’s grace is revealed in God’s desire and ability to save rebel sinners and transform them into true worshippers. Every born again believer in this assembly is an eternal testimony to all of creation of the glory of God’s grace.

Martyn Lloyd Jones,
"This is the way in which we should be thinking of our salvation. Does it fill us with a sense of wonder and praise and amazement? Do we realize that we have been called to "the praise of the glory of His grace?" As the chief element in sin is that we do not give to God the glory that is due to His Name, so the chief thing about salvation should be that it brings us to a realization of the glory of God."

A. W. Tozer, "Why did Christ come? Why was He conceived? Why was He born? Why was He crucified? Why did He rise again? Why is He now at the right hand of the Father? The answer to all these questions is, "In order that He might make worshippers out of rebels; in order that He might restore us again to the place of worship we knew when we were first created."

The Eternal Purpose of the Church is to glorify God

The church exists to glorify God and it exists to glorify God eternally. In the book of Revelation we are given a preview of what we will be doing in heaven in the presence of God. This is of course after the rapture. All of the redeemed will surround the throne. What is it that the church will be doing on that day? In Revelation chapter four and five we see the church, symbolized by the twenty-four elders, before the throne and before the Lamb, worshipping God.

The worship of God is initiated by the four living creature who do not cease to say, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and and who is and who is to come (Revelation 4:8).

The twenty four elders join in. "And when the living creature given glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, "Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created (Revelation 4:9-11)."

The four living creature and the twenty four elders prostrate themselves before the throne in worship. They sing a new song, "Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break its seals; for Thou wast slain, and didst purchase for God with Thy blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. And Thou hast made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth." The church glorifies the Lamb, acknowledging His work on the cross to purchase for God a kingdom and priests (Revelation 5:9-10)."

The church is joined by myriads of angels who join in the choir, saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing (Revelation 5:12)."

The choir grows even larger, "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen." And the elders fell down and worshipped (Revelation 5:13-14)."

To glorify God is the eternal purpose of God for us. As it says in the hymn, "When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun."

The Present Purpose of the Church is to Glorify God

In the meantime we have choir practice. We all need it. We need to know God better. We need to see God as Isaiah saw Him. To the degree that the true nature of God and His works are unveiled to us we will find ourselves better able to declare His praises. Hebrews 13:15, "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."

We need to look to Christ. A. W. Tozer,
"Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshippers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become "unity" conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive to closer fellowship."

What’s the point? Do you want to improve your capacity to worship? The key is not some external change in music or atmosphere. We don’t need aroma therapy candles. What we need is a renewed focus on Jesus Christ. That is where worship comes from. We need to kneel at the foot of the cross. We need to recall our lost condition. Our impending doom. We need to see Jesus there. Nailed on a cross for our sins. Driven by the love of a God so full of grace that He would give His only begotten to redeem sinners. We need to be awestruck by the Holiness of a God that would so punish His only begotten. We need to overwhelmed by the Lamb of God, so innocent and pure, and yet mercilessly slaughtered for guitly sinners. We need to see Jesus. And we need to see Him risen from the dead. Interceding for us at the Father’s right hand. Returning some day for us, transporting us to His presence where we will forever delight in singing His praises. We need to see Jesus! In the words of another hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace; Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise."

Practically speaking what this means is that we need to go to the word of God and allow the Spirit of God to communicate the truth of God to our hearts. To the degree that we are in the Word of God we will be awestruck by the person of God. Two key texts in the NT speak on this aspect of worship. Worship is not something that we conjur up. It is not somekind of emotional experience. Worship is the work of the Spirit of God through the Word of God in the heart of the believer. Ephesians 5:18, "But be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father." Colossians 3:16, "Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." Worship is the product of the Spirit of God applying the Word of God to the heart of the believer.

There is one other matter we need to discuss. The church’s purpose is to glorify God. It is it’s eternal purpose. It is it’s present purpose. It is something we do with our lips. It is also something we do with our lives. Worship is something much more than what we do on Sunday mornings. We call this a worship service, and so it is, but we are making a mistake if we draw a distinction between what happens here during this hour and what happens in the next. I like to say that in the Christian life it is not just what happens on Sunday morning that matters, but what happens on Monday morning, and Monday afternoon, and Tuesday, etc. It’s what happens in the marriage and in the family, and on the job, and in our relationships with each other.

We glorify God by the lives that we live. 1 Peter 2:12, "Keep you behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation." We glorify God by our changed lives. God expects us to change. We are to be different. A lot of people wonder why the church is so ineffective in this present age. And then they conjur up all kinds of newfangled schemes and approaches to ministry because the church of today is so ineffective. You know what the answer is? The church needs revival. It needs to fall in love again with Jesus Christ. We need to worship Jesus with sincerity of heart and according to the truth revealed concerning Him in His Holy Word.

Romans 15:5, "Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus; that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Pastor Jerry

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