Summary: Discover the essentials of worshipping together as a church in this potent message from the book of Malachi.
Well, we are on Day #36 in our 40 Days of Community, and we’ve been talking about all the ways we’re better together. Remember some of our themes – reaching out as “partners”, growing as “batteries,” serving like “slaves” (after all, you’re just a “doulos”) … we’ve been learning a lot and putting lots of it into practice. Each week I hear about so many cool ways you all have impacting our community, and I just want to thank you for being an open-armed church.
This week we look at what it means to worship together. Now I realize we just came out of a series on the subject of worship from the Psalms, but I also know that if there is one topic that’s hot in the church today, it is the arena of worship. Someone this week even called it the “Worship Wars.” So it’ll do us good to gain even more biblical insight and perspective on this important subject.
By the way, I’d encourage you to check our new Web site, www.firstfamilyministries.com, not only for past messages from our recent series “Worship 101,” but also for a BONUS MESSAGE I put on there this week strictly about worship. It’s called “Traits of a True Worshipper,” and I really think it would help many of us as we strive to become the kind of worshippers God is seeking.
However, I want you to know I’m concerned mainly today about what makes worship work well when we’re together. Let’s be honest – in this room this morning there are as many preferences and styles – ‘worship wishes’ as I call them – as there are people. But I want to cut through most of that and bring to light some essentials that are required if we’re going to experience worship together. To do this, I want to refer to a situation in the Old Testament book of Malachi that God has led me to and bring out three contrasts they were dealing with. First, let me give you some background…
The children of Israel had been freed from captivity and were back in the land, but their revival didn’t last very long. They again fell away into idolatry, and God sent Malachi as his messenger to warn them and prod them back towards the right kind of living. In particular, the priests had gone astray in their leading of worship, and so the people also were wandering…going astray and worshipping wrongly. Whenever they would gather to offer sacrifices, it was done wrongly from the top down. It is in this context of incorrect and false worship, starting with the leadership and trickling down to the people, that we find this prophet’s inspired words:
[Read and comment on Malachi 1:6-14; 3:6-15]
The three contrasts that are highlighted in these verses show us what God values when it comes to worshipping together. Let’s take a look at them for few minutes.
CONTRAST #1: INSIDE vs OUTSIDE (Malachi 1:9-10… “useless fires”)
[The deadly game of PRETENSE] When you are more concerned about looking right instead of being right, you’re playing a deadly game. Don’t believe me? Just look around at all the debt piling up on your friends so that they can have the right car, the right home, the right look…and when we say right, we mean “right” according to the Jones! But before long the Jones either file bankruptcy or get divorced, so that’s not a standard you want to use. There’s just got to be more to life than pretending, don’t you agree?
Unfortunately, pretense was part of everyday life for the priests and their people. They kept on doing and going and serving, but no heart. It was all a show. There was no honesty, no authenticity, no genuineness. But worship without authenticity is ceremonial.
This brings me to ask you a question…
Key Question: “Am I being less than completely honest with God and others?” If so, you’re more involved in a ritual when we gather than a relationship.
You see, this highlights what is a key ingredient in worship as a community: AUTHENTICITY. Look at what other biblical writers have said about authenticity:
• Psalm 51:16,17 … “broken spirit … contrite heart”
• 1 John 1:8-10 … “walking in the light”
When there is no honesty, there is no community. No worshipping together. Trust not only takes time, it takes truth. And we’re all depending on you to be honest with God every Sunday so that the community here can grow and flourish. What can you do?
• Pray before you come and/or on your way (watch out for the magical parking lot!)
• Give an honest answer (not brutal, but honest)
• Reject the fear of rejection and rest in the love of God.