Summary: Authentic worship is accompanied and evidenced by a love-induced “Fear of the Lord.”
WORSHIP & WONDER
Sermon Objective: Authentic worship is accompanied and evidenced by a love-induced “Fear of the Lord.”
The Pagan makes his way from his home to the shrine. It is time for his obligation … to offer incense and pay homage to his god … an idol encircled by candles and food. The worshiper proceeds with fear and trepidation … with great concern than he not offend or anger the god. The incense is intended as prayers to appease his god’s wrath and coerce the god into extending a blessing for prosperity, health, or wellbeing. The worshipper is fully aware that the overture is conditional and the one being worshiped is fickle. Yet, he hopes, prays, and sacrifices; hoping somehow to receive the coveted blessing.
The Christian makes his way from his home to the chapel. It is the set time for worship. He enters to find an altar at which he may pray. He also approaches the opportunity with a sense of sobriety and acute awareness of God’s presence. But there the similarities between the pagan and the Christian cease. The Christian comes not with a sense of terror and dread but with a deep sense of awe, wonder, love, and submission. He offers his prayers not to a god he must manipulate but to a God that has revealed himself as creator; loving and longing for relationship. He approaches his God in worship; not to manipulate or try and gain a hearing but with an intense gratitude because God shall supply all his needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). He approaches with an ever growing grasp that the worshiper is accepted fully by the work of another, Jesus Christ, and not the worshipers own acts of piety. Superstition has been cast aside in lieu of authentic love for the One he serves.
In both cases the word to describe the approach of worship is fear. One has a sense of dread and terror which always accompanies a religion without covenant and grace. The other fear is marked by holy reverence that flows from covenant and grace.
“The Revelation of John” is written to the church and for the church. It is designed, as all Scripture is, to disclose God to us, reveal the multifaceted character of Jesus Christ, and illustrate how we as followers are to interact with God through Christ. Throughout the book there are these moments of highlight; “interludes” that bring us to the apex. In these literary moments we see God enthroned on high and we discover the Church’s appropriate response to Him. Later, that response will be prayer, even further in the book it will be witness … but our first “moment” begins with worship. This is appropriate since genuine worship requires an accurate understanding of God and all other expressions of faith flow from it.
So Revelation 4 and 5 give us a glimpse of worship. More than a glimpse, actually, it may be the fullest, most complete window into worship that we have in the Scriptures.
We discovered a few weeks ago a few “superficial” or “topical” elements that accompany worship. Namely:
1. We aren’t the center of attention – God is (4:1-5)
2. Our world isn’t the center of existence – The Kingdom of God is (4:6-9)
3. We relinquish control and surrender to divine authority (4:10-11)
We have already looked at the primacy of sovereignty too. We discovered that the acknowledgement of God’s lordship is essential if we are to “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).
AND NOW WE TURN TO ANOTHER UNDERLYING ELEMENT OF AUTHENTIC WORSHIP. WE WILL EXPLORE: “THE FEAR OF THE LORD.”
It is not mentioned in so many words in chapter 4 … but it is most definitely present. “The fear of the Lord” is an ever-present component of worship throughout the Scriptures; Old and New Testaments; including “The Revelation” as well.
• Rev. 14:7 – “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
• Rev. 15:4 – “Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
• Rev. 19: 5 – “Then a voice came from the throne, saying: ‘Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!’”
TERROR IS REMOVED
It is sometimes misunderstood or not fully understood. Some are inclined to think that fear is “dread, or terror” … that we are to be afraid when we are in the presence of God. Granted, there is a sense of which we are afraid; God’s presence alone is enough to evoke fear, but that is not God’s intention. In fact, God faithfully and consistently calms His people’s fears. Again, in both the Old and New Testaments God removes the sense of terror from before His people. By my count, God calms the terror of his followers with the words “do not be afraid” at least 27 times in the Bible.