Series on WORSHIP AND PRAISE
(Message III of V)
by J. Spender (June 15th, 1997)
This series of messages was delivered in 1997, United States of America.
Permission to transcribe and to distribute these messages had been obtained from
the speaker who retains all rights to these messages.
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Open your Bibles, if you would, to 1 Kings 19. We’re going to read a little section this morning that I’ll refer to later on in the message but I thought it would be good to just begin the meeting by reading it. You may know that in chapter 18, God’s messenger Elijah had just had a serious confrontation with evil. And the forces of darkness in the worship of Baal had been overcome. A choice had been made. God had shown himself strong. And now in chapter 19, Elijah (after this confrontation) is, I think, a little depressed, and he’s running for his life. And he comes to Horeb and we pick up the story there in verse 9…
and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him,
and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant,
thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword;
and I, even I only, am left;
and they seek my life, to take it away.
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD.
And, behold, the LORD passed by,
and a great and strong wind rent the mountains,
and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD;
but the LORD was not in the wind:
and after the wind an earthquake;
but the LORD was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire;
but the LORD was not in the fire:
and after the fire A STILL SMALL VOICE.
13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it that he wrapped his face in his mantle,
and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.
And just down at verse 18, the Lord’s response to Elijah:
18 Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel,
all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal,
and every mouth which hath not kissed [or, worshipped] him.
Let’s just commit this time to the Lord.
Father, we are thankful for another opportunity to study together. We pray that the word may be rightly divided and that the Spirit of God would be at work. O, Lord, help us. This is a very great subject for us to think about this morning. And help us we pray that we could really open our hearts and understand Thy will for us as worshippers. We just commit this service to Thee and give thanks in the Lord Jesus’ Name. Amen.
POINT 6: PRACTICAL APPLICATION
You notice, on your outline, we have finished 5 points. And we’re going to look at point 6. That will take us the next 2 weeks and into the 3rd. Brother Dave has opened the way for me to be able to have 3 more Sundays (today and 2 more with you), and so we’d be able to take a nice pace and really get through all the material without a rush.
Today, we’re going to work on point 6: Practical Application. We’ve done some good work in the doctrine and the theory. Today we’re going to get into the practical application part. And you’ll see that there are 3 sections. The first one is
Part A: Evaluating Conditions Today
Let’s just spend a few moments and think honestly about what we’re faced with: this whole matter of worshipping God today. First of all, we could say that there’s certainly some things to be thankful about. We have some great things to be thankful for.
Some Things To Be Thankful For
i. The assemblies of God’s people understand something of WORSHIP.
The assemblies of God’s people understand something of WORSHIP. We can certainly be thankful for that. We understand what it is and why it is important. Now, years ago, I did a study on WORSHIP. And I was interested where in the Bible WORSHIP was mentioned most frequently. And I got out my concordance and I did some counting and I was very surprised at what I found. The 3 places where WORSHIP occurs most in the Bible: Revelation 13 (the Anti-Christ), Daniel 3 (Nebuchadnezzar, the Old Testament TYPE of the Anti-Christ), and right in the middle of them, John 4 (true worshippers WORSHIP in spirit and in truth).
So, this matter of WORSHIP is NOT a peripheral issue. It’s a central issue. This whole universe right now is all about WHO is going to be worshipped. Satan wants that more than your money or your time. He wants your heart. And God certainly does.
ii. The blessing of having the Lord Jesus Christ in our midst.
Another blessing we could say is the blessing of having the Lord Jesus Christ in our midst. We have a weekly time in the assembly where we get together. No man. No human being. No one of us. No clergyman. No minister stands in the center and says, “I’m the leader.” The Lord Jesus comes and He’s in the midst, and we sit around His table. That’s a blessing.
We have no professional clergy since there’s none in the Bible. By the way, please don’t say to people, “We have no pastor”. That is not true. And please don’t say that. When people ask, “Aren’t you the church without a pastor?” Tell them, “Oh! No! We have several! Men, women, young people … all have that spiritual gift. And our elders are all shepherds.” Tell them we’re most blessed. We have a plurality. Several. Not just one.
So … we have no professional clergy. Rather we have a functioning priesthood of believers. FUNCTIONING priesthood of the believers.
A note on WORSHIP vs. Public Leading
By the way, don’t confuse WORSHIP and LEADING.
WORSHIP is for ALL. God hears silent and audible prayers and WORSHIP just as well as out loud. He has no trouble hearing the expressions of the heart.
Public leading is for the men. That’s a different reason. That’s for us. That’s not for God. SO don’t confuse those two.
iii. The growing interest in PRAISE today.
Another thing to be thankful for is the growing interest in PRAISE today. There’s more interest in beautiful choruses and songs (we’ve been singing a few of them) being written. I hope you enjoy the old and the new. Sometimes I wonder about people who can only enjoy the new.
So we have a lot to be thankful for as we evaluate what’s going on today.
Some Things To Be Concerned About
We have some things to be concerned about too in the world. And I’ll just mention a few of them today.
By the way, I just want to say, I am addressing this message today, in fact, ALL of these messages, to those who love the assemblies, who are concerned to be a blessing, to pray, to work, and to help. And if anyone is here with a bitter spirit, I’m sure there isn’t, but I just say this: but if anyone is here in bitterness against the New Testament type of gathering and meeting, nothing I can say is going to help you. If your heart is out there somewhere in the world, you probably should take your body there too. It’s NOT a request that anybody leave, but it’s better to go where your convictions are than to be in a place where you can be miserable and make those around you miserable. Really, we have a lot to be thankful for. And we should be here with a thankful spirit.
But what are some of the things that concern us?
Well, WORSHIP is being affected in Christendom in the world today.
Reverence, bowing down, bowing before the Lord in our hearts, the whole idea of adoration … these things are being lost today.
The leading of the Holy Spirit in worship in many places is being rejected as unworkable. I’ve been in places where the worship service is printed in the bulletin. No opportunity for the Spirit of God to lead. Many places where they designate worship leaders. “Well, the men aren’t participating, so we’ll designate worship leaders.”
Brothers and sisters, if our hearts are cold, repentance is better than gimmicks. Right? Repentance is the way back. Ask the Lord to warm up our hearts and give us a love for Him. We don’t need gimmicks to solve the problems.
You know, in some places … the book with the guidelines for sisters, limitations that God places on them, in order that the men may learn how to lead and be good leaders? These things are rejected.
PRAISE is another thing that’s affected today. Instead of PRAISE being a spiritual response from the heart, it becomes high-powered entertainment.
I don’t want to be critical this morning, but some of you have watched TV and news reports, and you know that in some of the so-called “charismatic groups”, the excesses of the emotions going wild. The flesh is on display. There’s drama and dances and uncontrollable laughter and all this sort of thing. It’s really a shame. It’s really a shame. When the world looks at that, they say, “Well, this is what Christianity is coming to.”
And apostle Paul speaks about a situation in 1 Corinthians where an individual comes into the assembly and is faced with confusion and he concludes, “You people are raving lunatics.”
Some of you had these experiences: going to places and saying, “I was so frightened, I ran out of there”. I remember one reporter from a Connecticut newspaper who was sent to cover a church service in the city of Bridgeport, and he said, “I’m sorry. I was unable to fulfill my responsibility. I left because I felt my life was in danger from the bedlam that was going on.” So-called “church”.
Hopefully that sort of thing is not in the assembly. But we could see what’s happening in Christendom today. And these things, the influence of them is felt is Christian assemblies everywhere. So we need to be very careful.
A note on HONESTLY facing our shortcomings..
By the way, I think there’s a difference between HONESTLY facing our shortcomings, being willing to admit that in some ways we need to improve … there’s a difference between that and being down on the assembly. Let’s not be down on the assembly, but let’s thank God for giving us a church home.
If you were here at the first meeting this morning I will have to say, and I’ve been in the assembly now for well 50-some years since I was born, that it’ll be hard to find a sweeter time around the Lord’s table than we had this morning. Not perfect. But if you’re going out of here, looking for a better place, well, you’re going to have a long road ahead.
Let’s move on to the next part of our outline,
Part B: Some Frequently Asked Questions.
And I’m going to use this week and next week to deal with two questions. And before I take them up, I’d just like to tell you why they’re in the outline. Over the years, I’ve heard people make statements or asked questions about the breaking of bread meeting and the praise in the assemblies. And the questions are always of course a little different. Well, if I can boil them all down and condense them all down into two root questions, they really come out to be something like what I have here on your outline …
The first one that we hear so often, and I’ve heard for many years, and I know you have too: Why does the breaking of bread meeting sometimes seem gloomy or dead? Ever heard that said? Or did you ever say it? It’s a valid question. Let’s not be defensive. Let’s admit it. That’s a valid question.
And the other one: Why isn’t there a PRAISE time in the assembly? Some place I could bring my friends to, and make them feel comfortable.
FAQ 1: Why Does The Breaking Of Bread Meeting Sometimes Seem Gloomy Or Dead?
Let’s look today at that first question: WHY DOES THE BREAKING OF BREAD MEETING SOMETIMES SEEM GLOOMY OR DEAD? Now, that may be worded in a negative way, and I don’t want it to be a negative service. But I do want us to think about, when we apply practically what we’re learning, sometimes we have to face up to what the criticisms are, and we have to ask some hard questions and look in the scriptures.
May I ask you a question.
By the way, I have a note here and I should say this: Why does the breaking of bread meeting sometimes seem gloomy or dead? It may be!
It may be. OR it may just APPEAR that way to you. Appearances can be deceiving. In the next couple of weeks I’m going to make 10 suggestions of things that we can do. Constructive ideas we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.
But let me just ask you a question: Did you ever consider the problems that are associated with trying to get a large number of people … from diverse backgrounds who all have human hearts, crying kids, busy schedules, just coming in from 6 days in a corrupt society, to raise together on Sunday morning, come into the same place at the same time, … to suddenly shift gear and WORSHIP?
Well, that’s not a small task by any means. Many of you participate in that each Sunday.
Let’s consider some of the problems that MAY cause a breaking of bread meeting to BE, or to SEEM, gloomy and dead. And you can see that we’re also going to be suggesting the ways that that will not happen.
I want to suggest 3 problems there could be, and I ask you to really not to think of someone else, but think of your own heart before the Lord as we take up these 3 things.
No. 1: There may be a problem of the heart.
We need to start there because worship has to do with the heart. There may be a problem in the heart. Now, what sort of a problem?
There might be sin in my life. If there is sin in my life, I’m not going to be able to WORSHIP God. I’m going to be out of fellowship. That’s going to affect the WORSHIP.
Or perhaps there is a lack of preparation of my heart. I mentioned to someone this morning, one of the things I enjoyed about the first meeting today is if you noticed, most of the brothers who spoke prefaced what they said by saying, “This week /During the week, I was enjoying” this or that. That tells us that there was preparation going on during the week. Sometimes we come together, and brothers will say, “As I was looking through my Bible just sitting here now …”, or “That last hymn we sang reminded me of …” … there’s nothing wrong with that. But I’m saying it really makes a sweet time when people come in with hearts that’s prepared.
And perhaps if there’s a lack of preparation, the meeting is going to seem dead. And if there’s enough people who are not prepared, it will be dead!
We were reading last week in Deuteronomy 26: you remember how the Israelite was to bring a basket and in his basket was something with which to WORSHIP the Lord. And I want to challenge each one of us that we think about whether we come with the attitude, “Here’s something I’ve brought for you Lord”, or “I didn’t get anything out of it.” See the difference?
I’ve heard people say that. “I don’t come to the first meeting because I don’t get anything out of it.” Folks, you need to understand what you’re here for: you’re NOT here to GET, you’re here to GIVE!!! And if you came with an empty basket, it’s going to seem a disappointment to you. You’re NOT here to GET, you’re here to GIVE.
WORSHIP is giving to God.
In Deuteronomy 26, the Lord said, “When you come into the land …” Why did He say that? You know, we’re traveling through the desert and we can’t grow anything in the desert. So there’s really nothing for God in the desert. But, some day, He says, when you come into the land …
And Christian, if you’re in a desert right now in your Christian life, hang on, go through it, keep your eyes on the Lord … but you know, not a lot grows in the desert. Some Christians seem to live in the desert. And when they come before the Lord, what’s in the basket? “Well nothing Lord. All I’ve been in is the desert this week.” The Lord says, “Move along, follow me, I want to lead you to the promised land where you can have a harvest, and then you’ll have something for me, some words of worship and some praise.”
So, no. 1: if our hearts are not right, the breaking of bread meeting can seem gloomy or dead. And of course, that’s a PERSONAL MATTER BEFORE GOD, isn’t it? Each one of us has a responsibility to come before the Lord and make sure we’re not out of fellowship and we are prepared. And if we’re not, it’s going to affect the meeting.
No. 2: There may be a problem of the mind.
A second problem that can arise is a problem of the mind. Not only problem in the heart, but a problem of the mind. You know, Paul, the apostle, so often says, “I would not have you be ignorant.” Don’t want ignorance! The word of God comes in and brings truth.
What are some of the things that we could be ignorant about?
Ignorance about the NATURE of WORSHIP
One, some people are ignorant of the NATURE OF WORSHIP. Really, what is WORSHIP? They’ve never learnt. They’ve never been taught. They’re ignorant about the nature of worship.
May I say here this morning … and I do believe there are young believers, young Christians who really need to hear this said, and I pray that it’ll be impressed upon your hearts. Never forget it. … The DISTINCTION between WORSHIP and PRAISE is NOT the distinction between two emotions, SAD and HAPPY.
Now, you get that? The distinction between WORSHIP and PRAISE is NOT the distinction between two emotions, SAD and HAPPY. We need to learn that. The distinction between WORSHIP and PRAISE is the difference between the ADORATION OF A PERSON and the COMMENDATION OF THAT PERSON for the works they have done.
So, adoration and commendation … that’s the distinction. We need time to adore the Lord. And we need time to commend Him, or to PRAISE Him, and thank Him. Both are very important.
I want to read you a little story now. I know that you folks in Cheshire have already heard this story, or many of you have, in fact I saw a sheet that was circulating around with it. You can take a rest. You can doze if you want. And for the visitors who are here, and those who have never not read the sheet or heard the story, I’m going to read the story out of A.P. Gibbs book on WORSHIP. Brother Gibbs can really make a point, and I like this little story. It’s about a dog. He says,
Let us use an illustration to clarify this point. [In other words, “what is the nature of worship?”]
We will suppose that a man, warmly clad, ventures into a blustery and bitterly cold night. The temperature is below zero. The streets are practically deserted. Presently he sees a poor, neglected, shivering, and half-starved cur [or dog] sheltering behind a telephone pole from the biting wind. Some cruel boys have tied a can to its tail, and it had been kicked from post to post until now it is almost at the end of its tether. It will never survive a night like this on the streets.
The man pauses and looks the dog over. What a pitiful sight it is. Thin. Miserable. Frightened. Homeless. Hungry. And on its last legs. His compassion is stirred, and on the impulse of the moment, he stoops down, reaches out his hand and calls the dog.
Suspicious at first, for the dog has good reasons for distrust in mankind, it gradually approaches, until at length it comes under his hand. The man pats it on the head, strokes it, all the while speaking kindly words. Then after removing the string and the can from its tail he lifts it up, opens his overcoat, pops it in, and carries it back to his home.
When he enters his home, he says to his wife, “I found the poor, starving dog on the streets. It will surely die tonight unless it finds a home. Please put a sack in a corner of the kitchen, and we’ll take care of it for at least tonight.”
Accordingly, the dog is gently placed on the sack, and a delicious bowl of hot bread and milk is given, followed by some scraps from the evening meal. For the first time in many days, the dog wags his tail in gratitude for this unusual kindness.
The next morning it greets its benefactors with another friendly wag of its tail. And they decide to give it a permanent home.
A month passes by and what a wonderful change it produces in that dog. As he offered good food and proper care, one would scarcely recognize the fine looking animal as that miserable starving cur four weeks ago.
One evening, as the man is sitting in his easy chair, with one hand hanging over the arm of the chair, he suddenly feels something warm and wet on his hand. Glancing down, he sees the dog looking up at him with adoring eyes as again and again it licks the hand of the one to whom it owes everything.
The dog had not come into the home to beg for a bone or even to be patted. It wanted nothing from its owner but the privilege of sitting in his presence so that he might look up at him with rapt adoring eyes and every now and then to enjoy the privilege of licking the hand of the one to whom it loved above all others.
This is worship.
And, I suppose, that one could say that the more you can identify with that poor dog and see the way you were in life before the Lord reached you, the more you would like to sit at his feet and be thankful to Him.
So, it’s possible then for a person to be ignorant of the nature of worship. And I can only think … here’s another lesser illustration … about how sad a marriage would be if a husband or a wife just told their spouse, “I love you for all the things you do for me.” The person would soon wonder, “Do you love me for who I am or it’s only for what you can get out of me?” It’s a sad relationship you know.
I wonder … is your love for the Lord Jesus just because of what’s He’s done for you, or is it also you’re loving Him or you’re learning to love Him just for who He is? He’s good. A good God.
Ignorance HOW WORSHIP is produced
Another problem of the mind can be ignorance how worship is produced.
Let me spend a minute on that. If you have the outline, I’d like to ask you to take it out. Turn it over, and on the back you’ll see a little chart that is blank, and we’re going to take a moment and fill it in. A little exercise that I’ve used for years, and I think it’s helpful to make a point that needs to be made: WHERE DOES WORSHIP COME FROM? How is it produced?
Early Church Meeting
Focus of Attention
This little chart is really a study of a verse in Acts 2:42. I think it says that at the top of your page.
And on the left hand column, under the words Early Church Meeting I want you to just jot down the 4 things that are mentioned in Acts 2:42. You don’t have to look it up, I’ll give them to you: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer. That’s going down that column (that first column on the left), the early church met for teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer.
Now, obviously, the early church did a lot of other things besides these. And the book of Acts tells us many of the things that they were engaged in. But if you could sum up the responsibility of a local church in their meetings, these 4 things really give us a well-rounded picture of the meetings of the early church.
By the way, you’ll notice that evangelism is not mentioned. Because evangelism did not take place in a church. It takes place in the world where the lost people are. Some thing that we’re really beginning to open our eyes to today.
But teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer: those are 4 ingredients of a healthy church. Now, I want to say that if you’re a Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus, you cannot afford to miss any of those four. You can’t just go to one meeting and pick and choose. Those 4 things are ingredients for a healthy, Christian growing relationship with the Lord.
So let’s take them one by one and trace them across and fill in those blanks. Let’s begin with teaching first.
You notice the next column has to do with the focus of attention. When we’re in a teaching meeting, what are we focusing on? Well, of course, the word to write there is scripture. When we’re in a teaching meeting, we’re focusing on the word of God. Scripture.
And what is the result? The result is … well, you tell me … John 8:32 … you shall know the truth, the truth shall make you … what? Free. So the result of focusing on the word of God is FREEDOM.
So we hear the gospel, and we are freed from our sins, we become saved, and then we hear the word of God taught, and we are free from the power of sin everyday in our life. And we enter into freedom as Christians. God made us free people through His word.
Secondly, fellowship. When we’re in a time of fellowship, where’s the focus of out attention there? Well, it’s other people. One another. Just put down people/others. We’re focusing on our brothers and sisters. We’re getting together with them, talking with them, enjoying them, sharing together the good things of God.
And what is the result of that? Very interesting. The result of that according to Ephesians 4:16 is the growth of the church. Growth:
… … … maketh increase of the body … … …
… the building up of the body. So, growth comes from fellowship in the church.
Let’s skip the third one on the breaking of bread for just a second, and let’s do the bottom one: prayer. When we’re in a prayer meeting what are we focusing on? What are we thinking about? Or paying attention to? Well, obviously, we’re focusing on our needs. Our needs. Put that down.
And what’s the result? And what’s the result? Obviously, answered prayer. When we pray to God about our needs, God answers and we have answered prayer.
John 14:14: If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. I will answer.
James 4:2 … … … ye have not, because ye ask not.
So… answered prayer.
Breaking of Bread…
Now, I left the 3rd one for last because this is the one pertinent to our study today: breaking of bread. When we come together, the focus of our attention is on? Jesus! The Lord! We focus on the Lord.
And what is the result? WORSHIP! Matt 28:17 … when they saw him, they worshipped him: …
Early Church Meeting
Focus of Attention
Freedom (John 8:32)
People / Others
Growth (Ephesians 4:16)
Breaking of bread
Worship (Matthew 28:17)
Answered prayer (John 14:14; James 4:2)
Now, if you’ve got that all filled in, take a look at it and just think about something that I think is very interesting.
If you look at that far right column going down – the things that are results – you don’t anywhere in the bible where the Lord commands us to have these things. He never says, “I command you to have freedom. I command you to have growth in your church. I command you to have worship. I command you to have answered prayer.” There’s no command to tell us that we are to have answered prayer.
The commands are for these things here: study the word of God, have fellowship with one another, break bread, and pray. That’s the commands! So the commands are given to the Christians. And if you focus on the right thing, these results are inevitable.
And all of that means to us that WORSHIP is a result. It is the inevitable result of giving a look at the Lord.
And of course we already knew that, didn’t we? Because if He came in here this morning through the door to us, we would do just what John did in the book of Revelation: we would fall down before Him, and we would worship. And so this should not be a surprise.
Well, thank you for going through that little exercise. I hope it helps.
Problems of the mind… … ignorance of how worship is produced…
Why did we go through that? We’re looking at problems of the mind. There can be ignorance of how worship is produced. So tell me now. Let’s review.
Where does worship come from? How is it produced? It is produced in the heart of the believer when they see the Lord. Not with the eyes in your head, but with the eyes of faith.
And sometimes when we’re at the meeting on Sunday morning, we sing a verse from a hymn in the black book (hymn 144): Amidst us our Beloved stands. Listen to this 3rd verse:
We see the signs but see not Him
Oh may His love the scales displace
And bid us see Him face to face.
Why did he write that? Because sometimes our eyes are defiled and dim. We see the bread and the wine, but we see not Him. Oh may His love those scales displace and bid us see Him face to face.
That’s what brings forth worship from the heart. And I want to tell you, there is NO (!) … NO (!) substitute, no gimmick, by which you can manufacture artificially, worship. If you don’t enjoy the presence of the Lord, your heart will remain cold, and the breaking of bread meeting will seem gloomy and dead. Guaranteed.
So what’s the need then? Well, the need is instead of inventing things, get back to the Lord and say, “Lord, I need to have my heart warmed up. I need to enjoy and see my Lord once again.”
No. 3: There may be problems of our poor restless flesh.
So there can be problems of the heart, problems of the mind, and then finally, there can be problems of our poor restless flesh.
A note on the old nature…
And we all have it. Now, when you got saved, God did not take away the old nature, contrary to the teaching of some people today, that’s not true. You have a new man, you have a new nature, but you also have the old sinful nature that you had, and that you’re going to keep until some day when you go to heaven and be with the Lord.
Last night we were at the funeral for brother Herb McCaully. The memorial. There was one brother who’s not troubled with the old nature any more. Gone. As with all our loved ones are now with the Lord. That problem is solved.
Please DON’T listen to the teaching that says when you’re saved, your old nature disappears. If anybody tells you that, just ask his wife and you’ll get corrected quickly.
The problems of our restless flesh…
Now, what about the problems of our restless flesh?
Think about it. When we come to worship the Lord, it’s a time to bow. A time to be humble. A time to be reverent. And you know, the flesh does NOT like that. It does not like bowing. It HATES it. The fear of the Lord is at an all time low today among many Christians.
Another thing – when we come together, it’s a time of remembrance. A time when you can contemplate and think about the Lord Jesus. Not about just what He’s done for you – that’s important. But think about Him. He says, “Remember ME. This do in remembrance of ME.” It’s a time of remembrance.
Folks, we live in a self-centered, experience-oriented, TV fast-paced action day. And that message is pumped into our homes all week long: “Silence and contemplation is erred. Noise and activity and speed is good.”
A note on amuse…
In fact, many people don’t realize that the word amuse (like we get the word an amusement park) … amuse is just simply the old English word to muse … or to think about … with an “a” in front of it which means “not”. Amuse is NOT TO THINK.
People want to be amused so that they don’t have to think about things like life and death. Why am I here? Where am I going? And Satan is glad to feed them amusements all week long, all during their lives. And to sit down for 5 minutes and close their eyes and ask themselves some questions about “Why am I here? And where am I going? And where am I going to spend eternity?” Satan says, “You can’t do that now.” And amusements … things to keep you from thinking are right at hand.
1 Kings 19…
Remember the scripture we read at the beginning of the meeting at 1 Kings 19? Wouldn’t you loved to have been there when God passed by and there was a wind that rent the mountains and the rocks? Must have been quite a storm. Must have been very impressive to see God pass by and a storm that was so violent, that it ripped up the mountains. The scripture is very clear: GOD WAS NOT IN THE STORM.
Then after that passed by, there was an earthquake. If you’ve ever been in an earthquake, you know it’s a frightening thing. When the one thing that seems stable all your life is suddenly not stable anymore. Elijah endured, after the storm, an earthquake, and again the scripture says: THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE EARTHQUAKE.
Then after the earthquake, there was a fire. I don’t know whether it was a little flame or a big forest fire. I’d imagine that if it was like the first two, it’s a BIG fire. That must again be very impressive to stand there and see that flame sweep about and devour the forest. But again the scripture says: THE LORD WAS NOT IN THE FIRE.
If you wanted something impressive. If you wanted something amazing and astonishing, and something that would appeal to the flesh, what more could you want than a storm followed by an earthquake, followed by a forest fire? And the Lord WAS NOT in any of them.
And after that, there was a STILL SMALL VOICE.
Where had Elijah just been the day before? He had been doing battle with the forces of darkness and God did send some of those amazing demonstrations of His power. You know, that can become addictive to people. “Oh, did you see the fire come down from heaven burning things up?! Wasn’t that spectacular!?” And our sinful human hearts can get addicted to that.
You watch it all week long: speed, blinding light, noise, suspense, action…. Then we come to church. Where’s the speed? Where’s the noise? Where’s the light and the action? I think I’ll find a new church.
Where was the Lord? A still small voice.
Now sometimes on Monday night we sing our favorite hymn out of this book (286, right?) … Peace, Perfect Peace. What does it say? The blood of Jesus WHISPERS peace within – not “shouts”, not “screams”. WHISPERS.
A lot of people today are missing the still small voice, a whisper, because they’re all occupied with the storm, the earthquake, and the fire. They need to have their senses dazzled.
Now I’m not criticizing any of those things. They have their time and they have their place.
But I’d to challenge you this morning. You have 6 days – Monday through Friday – and really if you think of it, Monday through Saturday, and all the rest of Sunday – and you can rejoice up a storm. You can praise God. You can dance around the house and sing. You can just clap and do all that you want to do to exalt the Lord. We have an hour – ONE hour – where we can be in His presence and quiet our hearts.
Let me quote one more piece from another hymn (171) : Oh my Savior crucified. A beautiful hymn. One that we sing. 5 verses but just let me read the last one …
Contrite should my spirit be,
Rest and holiness there find
Fashioned like my Savior’s mind.
I thought of the word contrite. “ Yet in sight of Calvary contrite should my spirit be.” I remembered Isaiah used that word and I looked it up. Isaiah 57:15, the Lord says, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him that has a contrite spirit. Isaiah 66:2 again, He says, “This is the one that I will pay attention to. This is the person that I will regard – the person with a contrite heart.”
So I want to appeal to all of us this morning. We have a restless flesh. And if that is allowed to arise, again by comparison, the breaking of bread meeting can seem dead or gloomy.
Like to close by asking you to turn with me to a verse in John 14. It was a custom back in those days when they celebrated the Passover for the children at the meal to ask the father questions. These were prearranged questions and they serve to bring out the truths of the convictions of the people of Israel of that day.
And the Lord Jesus, before He went to the cross, is here with His children so to speak, His little ones, His disciples that He loved and who loved Him, and following that same pattern, they are asking Him questions.
There are 4 questions that are recorded at the end of chapter 13 and chapter 14. I just want you to notice the 4th and final question that was asked Him. To me, it was the most hard-hitting one of them all. It’s found in verse 22, Judas (NOT Judas Iscariot) but the other disciple who had that name, said to Him. …
Jesus had been saying, “I’m leaving. I’m going to go away. And you cannot come right now.” And Judas says, “Lord, you’ve told us that we’re going to have some sense of your presence. We’re going to see you. And my question is: How are WE going to see you and yet you’re not going to be seen by the world? How will you reveal yourself to us and hide yourself from the world? How is this possible?”
Well, look at the answer the Lord gave him in verse 23:
and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him,
and make our abode with him.