Welcome! It’s great to have you all with us today. If you remember, we’ve been talking about worship and we looked in Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 2 where it tells us… “After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him” (Matthew 2:1-2).
So the Magi came to Jerusalem to worship him, to worship Christ, and so what we’ve been doing is looking at biblical expressions of worship; first we looked at lifting up hands, then worshiping with our gifts, and before Christmas, pouring out our hearts in worship. Today we’re going to begin in Matthew chapter 2 at verse 10, “When [the wise men] saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:10-11).
When they saw Jesus, “They bowed down and worshiped him” and today what I want to talk to you about is kneeling in the presence of God. Just like lifting our hands, giving generously, and pouring out our hearts in prayer; kneeling in worship pushes us out of our comfort zone. But as we examine God’s word we are going to see over and over examples of those kneeling before our mighty God.
Our main Scripture today comes from Psalm 95 and we’re going to read verses one through eight.
“Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the Great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Psalm 95:1-8).
Now in the past few decades there’s been an explosion of praise and worship music which has been good, because as believers we’re called to worship, but the renewed emphasis on worship music and the commercial success it has attained means that many people are missing the point, many people have found financial gain, and many believers are being entertained. However, Jesus said there is a right way and a wrong way to go about worship.
In John’s Gospel at chapter 4 Jesus said, “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23).
So as we finish up this series today, it’s crucial that we learn how to do it right. And you know, we’ve worked hard to make church interesting, we’ve focused on meeting felt needs, we’ve added media and drama to encourage people that God cares about the little details of our lives. And we always look for the opportunity to give people something to laugh about, but the result is we’re raising a generation that thinks church should be entertaining, that the church should make them feel good, the worship music should be geared toward their taste and preferences, the sermon should speak to their problems, and so Sunday morning is something that they do for themselves.
Now I’m not suggesting that we choose music that no one likes, or preach sermons that no one can relate to, but I would suggest that we remember that the point of worship, the purpose of gathering together as the Church, is not to feel good, but to please God. Psalm 95 shows us how to approach worship the right way, in a way that pleases God as it not only teaches us what it means to worship, but invites us to get involved. So my goal is to inspire you as you come to worship, not just at church, but that your whole life would be full of the worship of God, as you lift up your hands, as you bring your gifts, as you pour out your heart to him, and when you get down on your knees and maybe even on your face to worship him.
So today I want to consider the importance of our attitude in worship. That as we come to worship the desire of our hearts would be that there would be less of us and more of God. And this is important, because over the years I’ve been to some great worship services, but none of them were great because of the sound system, none of them were great because of the PowerPoint, or the worship team, or the preaching. They were great worship services because of the fact that God’s people gathered together in spirit and in truth, exalting the name of Jesus Christ, and he showed up in a big way. So this morning the primary purpose for being here is not to benefit you or me, but that together we should give glory to God. It’s not about you or me, but it’s all about Jesus. The real purpose of our being here is that we join with one another in lifting up the name of Jesus.
What better time than on this Christmas weekend as we think about the birth of Christ, that God so loved the world that he became one of us, you know, “God with us” that we should pause and reflect on our reasonable response to him in worship. Over the past weeks we have looked at different ways, different postures of worship, and in many ways throughout the Bible we see that the act of worship is a physical act. Especially throughout the Psalms we see dancing, kneeling, lifting of hands, and bowed heads, all emphasizing that worship includes physical participation. And that is important because we are physical beings and whatever we do with our body affects our soul. I’ve noticed that whenever I’m not spiritually connecting with God in worship, whenever I’m not spiritually engaged in worship, the physical act of taking a posture of worship such as lifting my hands or kneeling helps me to move in that direction. You see, whatever we do with our body makes a difference in our attitude. When you bow your head, bend your knees, offer your gifts, or lift your hands you’re physically engaged and participating in worship. You’re involved in what the Church is doing together, because worship is not a spectator sport. Worship is not something you watch people do, but you get involved and you participate.
This psalm shows us the importance of attitude as we come to worship and kneel before the Lord. The most important aspect of worship is the attitude you bring with you; so for the remainder of our time together I want to talk about the kind of attitude that’s conducive to pure unadulterated worship. The first one is this…
We find this illustrated in Mark’s Gospel in the 10th chapter. Now many of our Bibles have headings over the section informing us that this is about a rich man or a rich young ruler. This was a guy who had everything that we would think he needed and yet he was missing something and he knew it. So the Bible tells us in verse 17: "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to [Jesus] and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).
Now notice what this guy did. Number one, He ran up to Jesus. Number two, he fell on his knees before Jesus. And number three, he inquired of Jesus. Each one of those physical acts reveals an attitude of expectation. He came to Jesus in desperation, knowing that he had everything that everybody else wanted, but that he was missing what everybody needs. So he came running to Jesus and collapsed before him kneeling at his feet.
Some of you might be at that place in your life right now, you’re not 100% committed to following Jesus and you know it. You may believe in God, but you’re not a fully devoted follower of Jesus. And some of you may not even know what you believe, you’re questioning if there even is a God, could there be a God, and where does Jesus fit into that equation? And if that is you, I am so glad you’re here.
Here’s what the psalmist said in verse six and seven. “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker, for he is our God…” (Psalm 95:6-7).
You may have come this morning with the attitude of expectation, you’ve got some questions, and you might kneel and pray something like, "God, if you're really there, show me. If it's really you, reveal yourself to me." And let me assure you, when you come with an attitude of expectation get ready, because when you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.
He said in Proverbs chapter 8, “I love those who love me and those who seek me find me” (Proverbs 8:17).
Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God said in chapter 29, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:13-14).
Others of you, you may be a follower of Jesus, you may not have questions, but you may need to come to worship with an attitude of obedience.
You see, the rich young ruler asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied in verse 19, “You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'" "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy." Jesus looked at him and loved him (Jesus looked at him and knew his heart, he knew that his wealth was a stumbling block; that it was an idol, a god, and so Jesus said). "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Mark 10:19-22).
Some of you, like the rich young ruler, need to come and kneel with an attitude of obedience, because even as followers of Jesus, every now and then we do things that really break the heart of God, hurting ourselves, and hurting other people. And this time of year with all the gatherings of friends and family seems to make the good times really good and the hard times really hard. If you’ve done something that hurt God or hurt someone you love or maybe they have hurt you and you struggle to forgive; the holidays just seem to magnify the weight of sin. And so some of you right now are smiling on the outside but you’re grieving on the inside, because you’ve done something to hurt someone that you love deeply.
There’s a powerful illustration in Luke’s Gospel in the fifth chapter, where Jesus had been preaching beside the lake. Because of the people crowding around him he asked one of the fishermen, a man named Simon Peter, to let him teach the people from his boat. Luke tells us in verse four, after Jesus had finished speaking he asked Simon Peter to go fishing. He said, “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:1-8).
When Simon Peter realized what had happened what did he do? He "fell at Jesus’ knees" and watch his attitude. He said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). He says, "I'm disobedient. I’m too much of a sinner to even be around you." And so there's an acknowledgment of his unworthiness to be in the presence of God as he calls him Lord. But, here's the beautiful thing. Jesus never turns away a sinner who admits how bad they are. And so we need to come with an attitude of obedience, as the psalmist said in verse seven and eight, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” You see, here’s the good news. The Bible teaches us that when you confess your sins, our God is faithful and just and will forgive you your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8).
In the song O Holy Night there's a verse that says "fall on your knees." And so we come to worship bowing down in worship, kneeling before the Lord, with an attitude of expectation, because expectation is based on faith and faith is the foundation of our relationship with God. Richard Foster said, “Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship.” That’s the goal as we come to worship, to get to the point of obedience to the will of God. Worship begins with expectancy saying, “Yes, Lord,” and concludes with, "Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10).
You might fall to your knees and say, "God, I've done something wrong, will you forgive me?" And in that moment you will experience the grace of God, and you may even want to stay on your knees for a little while to worship the one who graciously forgives you. Some of you, you're going to want to kneel with an attitude of expectancy. Some of you, you're going to want to kneel with an attitude of obedience. And then number three…
Maybe for the first time in your life, or maybe in a particular area where you haven’t let go because you want to control it, you're going to kneel with an attitude of submission. You know, God has been reaching out to you for years and you won't surrender to his plan for you, a plan which is far better than your own plan. And so some of you, you need to surrender… to put on an attitude of submission… like Jesus.
The same Jesus that we celebrate. The same Jesus born of a virgin in a manger. The same Jesus being God in the flesh, knowing he was born to die, knowing what was coming ahead, yet he never sinned, never rebelled against the will of God. He knew the agony that he would face becoming sin, taking our sin upon himself, everything we’ve ever done wrong, that’s what he became, and so much so that God the Father turned away from him. Jesus faced the terror of dying on the cross without the presence of his Father who had sustained him through everything. Jesus knew and understood that this was coming and this is what he did in that moment.
Luke chapter 22, verse 41, “[Jesus] withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond [his disciples], knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:41-42).
Isn’t that amazing? Did you see what the Son of God did? He knelt down and he prayed. He got down on his knees and he prayed a prayer of surrender. He said, "Father, not my will but yours be done." And some of you, that’s what you need to pray today. "Not my will, but your will be done. I surrender." You may have looked at other believers and asked, “How do you do it?" You know, "How do you keep going in the health crisis, the lack of employment, maybe a child or a spouse that’s running wild, how do you do it?"
Here’s what Jesus did, “He knelt down and prayed”. Kneeling to pray is what gives you the strength to stand. Some of you, it’s time to lift up holy hands before God, to bring your gifts, and to pour out your hearts. Maybe for you it’s a new worshipful attitude as the psalmist said in verses 6-7, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.” You see, bowing and kneeling reflect an attitude of submission. It’s an attitude that says, “You are the Lord our maker. You are our God and we’re your people. You’re in charge. I belong to you. I surrender to your leadership in my life.”
We can’t truly worship without an attitude of submission, because worship is the act of putting God in his place, and putting ourselves in our place. He is the Lord of all who is worthy to be praised. You and I we’re just one of the sheep and without him we’re nothing. Coming to worship with attitude of submission says, “Not my will Lord, but yours be done in everything.”
Now, here is the bottom line. You can kneel now or you can kneel later, but you are going to kneel to Jesus Christ. You are going to kneel to him. You can kneel to him today with expectation, you can kneel to him in obedience, and you can kneel to him in submission, or one day when it’s not your choice you’re going to kneel. Here is what the Bible teaches us in Philippians chapter 2, verses 8 through 11: "Being found in appearance as a man, [Jesus] humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11).
As we come to know who God is, our only reasonable response is to bow down and worship him. Our God is that good. As we close I want to give you the chance to bow down and worship him. As we close, let’s reflect in prayer, because some of you recognize you may never have knelt before God in worship before. As we close in worship let’s all pray together.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
December 27, 2015