Sermon: To Be Entertained or To Worship?
Listen to the Sermon:
To Be Entertained or To Worship?
What do you expect from the assembly of the church?
Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • March 20, In the year of our Lord, 2016
When the church began, she was a simple worshiping community, who also edified it members, along with seeking new members through good works and preaching and teaching. That is how it was in America initially. Just like in the first century, the church became a powerful entity.
Success and acceptance by the world changed the way the church did things, back in the early centuries and today.
You could summarize the change in these ways: The church was upward and outward looking, now it is inward looking. It changed from wanting to please God to wanting to please self. It went from what God likes to what we like. This is why you rarely hear anyone in any church today ask if something is scriptural or whether the Lord approves of it, but you now hear people questioning what works. Or, What will bring in the most people?
Many people say that the church should have something for them. I always think two things: Why are you coming to receive only? What if I had the same expectation, You should have something for me. The church does not function like a restaurant that caters to our taste.
Should not our focus be what can I give? what can I do? What was the spirit of Jesus? Mark 10 has a statement from Jesus that should picture every disciple of His. Two of His disciples approached Him, “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask’” (Mark 10.35). Lord, drop what you are doing and meet our requests! This has been going on for a long time! Jesus showed His willingness to give, “And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’” (Mark 10.36). They told Him what they wanted, but He revealed to them that they did not know truly what they had asked of Him, for all things have to be as the Father wishes. They wanted positions of power and authority. Then Jesus explained His purpose in life, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10.45).
If our Master so lived, we also have to so live, for we follow Him and carry His name. We have to carry this way of thinking into our assembly, that we have not come to be served, but to serve.
Therefore, we have to re-educate ourselves into seeing that the assembling is worship, not fun and entertainment, the men up front are not entertainers, and the people in the pews are not an audience, but a congregation. We would do well not to use the word audience, but congregation. It is worship of God. It is worship, something that is holy; worship in holy array.
Who Is on the Stage and Who Is the Audience?
Our modern verbiage and seating arrangement creates an entertaining performer/audience to be entertained mentality. We have a “stage” up front with a microphone, and pews all arranged to face the entertaining performer.
Granted we need leaders in the assembly, and they have to locate in front of us so that we can watch them for what we should do.
However, we have to ask ourselves: Do we watch the performers upfront, waiting for them to entertain us? Or, Does someone watch us, waiting for us to worship Him?
In John 4, Jesus talked with a woman on religion, because she knew of the debate between the Samaritans and the Jews on the proper place of worship, but Jesus assured her that the time approached rapidly when the place of worship would change, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4.21–24). Nowhere in their conversation did either one of them think of the assembly as a time of entertainment. The assembly is not about us. It is about the Father! It is not about what makes us feel good. It is what makes the Father feel good. Do you see how we changed the flow of activity during the assembly?
We Assemble to Worship and to Edify
You do not read very far into the New Testament before you discover that the wise men arrived in Jerusalem to worship Jesus, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him’” (Matt 2.1–2). Later, they found Him, “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt 2.11). Of what did their worship consist? They bowed down before Him. Therefore, we bow our heads when praying. They presented gifts to Him. Therefore, we make a financial offering every first day of the week.
The Law said that no one should appear before God empty-handed. He does not want people who come to Him only for what they can get from Him, but He wants people who want to give to Him. Exodus 3 says that God would not allow the Israelites to leave Egypt empty-handed. Therefore, He had the right to tell them not to appear before Him empty-handed, “And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and it shall be, when you go, that you shall not go empty-handed” (Exo 3.21). “And none shall appear before Me empty-handed” (Exo 34.20).
Has not the Lord blessed Christians even more than He did the children of Israel? How then can we appear before Him expecting entertainment? Should we not want to worship Him? Should we not want to thank Him?
Hebrews 10 declares that we also assemble for the sake of one another. It is still not about me, but about you. I am here to build you up, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Heb 10.24–25).
Assemble to give to God your soul, your money, your adoration, your worship, your singing, your prayers, your memory, and to give to others present your consideration, your encouragement for them to love, your encouragement for them to do good works, your singing, your greetings, your life, and your presence, for in giving, we receive.
What You See the Church in the New Testament Doing
They sang. They prayed. They remembered the Lord. They gave their money. They listened to His word. Nowhere do you find an example, a teaching, or command for us to turn the service into a rock concert.
Psalm 95.1–7c – A Declaration on Worship
95.1–2 – Sing and Shout to the Lord
Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
See the flow of action in these opening words of Psalm 95. We sing to the Lord, shout to the Rock, coming before His presence with thanksgiving, and shouting to Him with psalms. If you want to continue the entertainment way of thinking: According to Psalm 95: Who sings? Who performs? Who is the audience?
95.3–5 – For These Reasons Worship the Lord
For the LORD is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
He is the great God above all gods. His hand holds the deep places of the Earth and the highest hills also. The sea belongs to Him just as the dry land does. Why then should we expect entertainment for ourselves? No, everything moves from us to Him in the assembly.
95.6 – Worship and Bow Down Before the Lord
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
We assemble to honor Him. He does not bow down or kneel before us.
95.7c – We Belong to Him
For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
This says it all, because the psalmist put us in our proper place. He is the Shepherd. We are the sheep. Therefore, the assembly is not about pleasing us or making us feel good, but we want to make Him feel good about us.
Revelation 14 shows an angel making a wonderful declaration of the Gospel, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev 14.7). The angel preached that we have two things to do: First, fear God and give Him the glory. Second, worship Him who made all natural creation. For Christians what the angel said, we find natural, logical for us to do. It bewilders us that other people do not want to worship the Creator.
Revelation 15 even presents a large number of people in heaven, questioning why anyone would not worship the Lord God Almighty,
“Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy.
For all nations shall come and worship before You,
For Your judgments have been manifested.”
Where do you find yourself in this matter of worship? Do you seek entertainment or do you seek to worship the Father? Do you see the huge difference in the two? One wants the action flowing towards man, the other wants the action flowing towards God. Are you here to give or to get? Do you know that we receive only by giving?