The Focus of Worship

Steve Viars June 21, 2003

- In his book Real Life – Real Worship, author Tony Beckett says, One of the positive things happening in churches today is a renewed interest in and emphasis on worship.  One of the negative things happening in churches today is a renewed interest in and emphasis on worship.
- that pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it?
- One example of this dynamic occurred at the Soul Survivor Church in Watford, England.
- the church was a young congregation, and they were doing a good job reaching people in their community for Christ.
- if you know anything about England, you know that ministry there is very difficult—we actually send missionaries to England because the country is so cold to the things of God.
- but this church was getting it done, and they were known for their passionate, vibrant worship led by a young man named Matt Redman.
- but slowly the focus turned from the beauty of Christ to the abilities of the musicians.
- as Beckett put it, the people coming to the church had become “connoisseurs of praise instead of participants” in worship.
- in other words, they were there to see the show, and watch the performance, and hear the band instead of actively and passionately and corporately worship their God.
- so one day the pastor of the church announced...the band is banned.
- for a period of time they had vocal music with no accompaniment at all...so they could realign their focus.

- during that time, Redman wrote the following words to what is now a well-known worship song...
- When the music fades, all is stripped away, and I simply come.
- Longing just to bring, something that’s of worth, that will bless your heart.

- I’ll bring you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required.
- You search much deeper within, through the ways things appear; You’re looking into my heart.

- I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
- I’m sorry Lord, for the things I’ve made it.
- When it’s all about You.  All about You, Jesus.

- this summer we’re working together on a series entitled Passionately Pursuing our God in Worship and Music.
- this morning I’d like us to think about The Focus of Worship.
- because maybe Matt Redman isn’t the only one who needs to say... I’m sorry Lord, for the things I’ve made it. When it’s all about You.  All about You, Jesus.
- with that in mind, would you please open your Bible to Exodus chapter 11 – [page 48 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you].
- it might surprise you after that introduction that we would be going to the Old Testament.
- but let me remind you of an event that occurred after the resurrection of Christ when he met two disciples on the road to Emmaus who were downhearted after the crucifixion of the one they thought would be their Messiah...
- and of course at first they didn’t recognize Christ, but in the middle of the conversation he revealed Himself to them, and He said, Luke 24:25-27 - And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
- it’s not just the NT that’s about Christ...and its not just NT worship that’s about Christ...friends, the Scripture makes it clear, it’s all about Him.
- now, we’re going to be doing some things differently this morning...
- later in our service, we’re going to be celebrating the Lord’s table together, something we generally do on Sunday evenings...
- if you’re visiting with us today, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable with this...I’ll explain a little later that we practice open communion here where anyone who knows Christ is welcome to participate...and anyone who would prefer not to is welcome to enjoy other aspects of the service...
- obviously this means that our Bible study time will be a bit shorter...
- but to help us get as much as we can, we’re going to study the passage you just turned to in the middle of the message...the other passages from earlier in the book of Exodus will be on the screen to help us move more rapidly...of course feel free to follow along in your own Bible if your prefer.
- in a sentence, the point I’m trying to make to you this morning is – The focus of our worship should be on our sufficient Savior.
- not on what everybody’s wearing, not on the events scheduled for later in the afternoon, not on what’s for lunch, not on whether I liked the style of the music or whether I prefer pews to chairs...[repeat point]
- and let me remind you of a refrain from one of our well-known hymns...prone to wander, Lord, I feel it...prone to leave this God I love...
- isn’t it ironic that the place that temptation is sometimes strongest is a worship service in Christ’s church?

- the verses you just turned to are about the Passover Lamb.
- I realize that many of you have been studying the Bible for a long time, and you know exactly where that fits into the history of Israel...others would say, honestly, I don’t have a clue.
- either way, if, when Jesus was speaking to the disciples on the Emmaus Road, He began with Moses and all the prophets, and explained Himself in all the Scriptures, what might He have said?...see, what was...


I.  The Focus of Worship with Moses. ?


- the first answer is...
A.  The sinfulness of man.
- you probably remember that the book of Exodus begins with God’s chosen people, Israel, being in bondage in the land of Egypt.
- and the first chapter tells us two very important facts...
1.  the Egyptians were murdering the sons of the Jewish people – Exodus 1:22
- the Pharaoh ordered that all male Jewish babies be thrown in the Nile River
2.  the Egyptians had enslaved the Jewish people and were treating them harshly – Exodus – Exodus 1:11-14
- and God’s word does not whitewash, or hide it when people behave sinfully...because it simply reveals the sinfulness of the human heart.
- the Bible also tells us that the Jewish people Exodus 2:23 - ...And the sons of Israel sighed because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry for help because of their bondage rose up to God.
- the focus of this story then turns to...
B.  God’s presence.
1.  He heard them – Exodus 2:24
Exodus 2:24 - So God heard their groaning...
2.  He providentially orchestrated the rescue of Moses – Exodus 2:1-10
- Moses’ mother hid him, and then eventually placed him in a basket in the river, and the baby was found and rescued by one of Pharaoh’s own daughters...and she named him Moses, which literally means “drawn out”
- this emphasis on God’s presence became very apparent when...
3.  He appeared to Moses – Exodus 3:2
- in what form?...in a burning bush
- and not only that...
4.  He spoke to Moses – Exodus 3:4
- which was so different than any of the pagan deities who were just idols of wood or stone...this God spoke...and He explains to Moses that He is going to use him to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt...
5.  He showed compassion – Exodus 3:9
Exodus 3:9 - Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.
6.  He promised His personal presence – Exodus 3:12
Exodus 3:12 - And He said, Certainly I will be with you...
- so there’s a focus on the sinfulness of man, but also on God’s presence...His personal interest in and involvement with people, and not only that...there’s an emphasis also on...
C.  God’s purity – Exodus 3:5
Exodus 3:5 - ...remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.
- which is a good argument, by the way, for the truthfulness of the Bible...
- because man-made gods are generally like the people who make them...but the God of the Bible is Holy, completely unlike human beings and separated from them.
- there’s also an emphasis on...
D.  God’s power – Exodus 4:2-9
- chapter 4 tells us about Moses’ rod that changed to a serpent, and his hand changing to leprosy and back again, and the water turned to blood...Moses is received a crash course in the awesome power of God...
E. God’s preeminence – Exodus 3:10-14
- when Moses said, who should I say has sent me, God’s answer was... Exodus 3:14 - God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’
- the self-existent God of the universe was speaking to Him...
- perhaps most importantly, there is an emphasis on...
F.  God’s provision.
- Exodus 3:7-8 - The LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey...
- you could summarize all of this with God’s message to Pharaoh through Moses – Let my people go! --- the God we worship is in the deliverance business.

- now, let’s fast-forward to the Passover.


II.  The Focus of Worship at the Passover.


A.  The preeminence of God in the first 9 plagues.
- each of the plagues was addressed directly at one of the pagan deities worshipped by the Egyptians...to try to communicate the supremacy of God and the importance in obeying and trusting Him alone.
- but Pharaoh hardened his heart...
- with that context in mind, please look at Exodus chapter 11..
- read Exodus 11:1, 4-5, 21-27

- now, friends, what is the focus on here?
B.  The purity of God in His judgment of sin.
- now, I realize that you might say, I don’t like reading about this kind of judgment.
- friends, that is why it was so important for us last week to study the holiness of God.
- the Egyptian culture had become so wicked that their harsh treatment of people like the Jews had become routine...including murder of their sons...
- and one of the laws God has built into His universe is, a person reaps...what he sows.
- remember also that God had clearly and repeatedly revealed Himself to these persons and they rejected His Word.
- also keep in mind that we believe that based on what King David would later say about his son who died at childbirth...”He can’t come to me but I will go to him” (II Sam. 12:23), that babies who die go heaven...
- and since that is true, this was actually an act of mercy because otherwise these children would have grown up in pagan homes and died in unbelief...
- so there is a sense in which there is grace even in God’s judgment because he will do whatever has to be done to draw people to Himself and shake them from their complacency...
- and ultimately, cultures that continually reject God are eventually judged severely by Him, and that is about to happen in even a larger way at the crossing of the Red Sea...another demonstration of His holiness...

- but friends, the primary focus here, and of course the reason this event is remembered as the Passover...is because of...
C.  The provision of God by passing over those covered with the blood of the lamb.
- and NT theology just comes into clear focus...
- Hebrews 9:22 - ...without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
- Romans 6:23 - For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- and when Jewish persons would celebrate the Passover year after year, their focus would not be on their own righteousness, or on a god they had manufactured in their own minds...
- but on the holy, powerful, self-existent God of the universe who had revealed Himself to them...and revealed on the one hand their sinfulness and inability to please Him in and of themselves...but on the other hand...the sacrificial lamb, whose shed blood could be appropriated by faith to deliver them and set them free.
- these same themes became evident when God instructed His people how to formally worship Him in the Tabernacle...


III.  The Focus of Worship in the Tabernacle.


- the tent itself was called the tent of meeting, demonstrating the God would be physically present with His people...in the outer court was...
A.  The altar of burnt offering.
B.  The bronze laver.
- again emphasizing God’s purity and the need for cleansing and the possibility of forgiveness.
- then, in the holy place...
C.  Table of showbread.
- where twelve loaves of bread were placed, reminding the twelve tribes that God was their sustenance.
D.  Golden lampstand.
- signifying that God was their light.
E.  Altar of incense
- reminding them of the beauty and privilege of the presence of God that exhilarated all of their senses.
- then in the Holy of Holies...
F.  Ark of the covenant.
- which inside contained the law that had been broken.
- and above contained the cherubim, signifying the special presence of God.
- and in-between...the mercy seat...where once a year the high priest would sprinkle blood  from the sacrificial animal...
- because the only way people who had broken the law could be reconciled to the holy God of heaven...was through the shed blood of God’s sacrifice.

- and of course it is easy to see how that pictured in so many ways our coming Savior.
- John Frame -Therefore, all the tabernacle and temple furniture speak of Christ (Heb. 9:1-5).  The altar of burnt offering speaks of His sacrifice of Himself.  The basin...speaks of Christ as the priest who is perfectly clean, free from any defilement, and who cleanses His people.  The lampstand represents Christ as the light of the world.  The bread of the Presence and the manna...present Christ as the one who feeds His people.  The altar of incense and Aaron’s rod represent Christ as the priest whose prayers for his people always ascend to the Father’s throne.  The Most Holy Place was opened to us at the death of Christ, when the veil of the temple was torn in two.  Through Christ, we enter boldly (Heb. 10:19-25).  The ark, God’s throne in Israel, represents Jesus as “God with us,” Immanuel.  The tablets of the law speak of Christ as God’s eternal Word.

- this background enriches what we know about Jesus Christ...
- John the Baptist said, John 1:29 - ...Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
- John 6:35 - ...I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.
- in the book of Revelation, the future scene in heaven shows a group of angels... Revelation 5:12 - saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

- The point is, whether in a cryptic, or seminal fashion in the OT, or in the full-blown revelation of the cross and the empty tomb---the focus of our worship should always be on our sufficient Savior...
- John Frame – Clearly, then, Christian worship should be full of Christ.  We come to the Father only by him (John 14:6).  In worship we look to Him as our all-sufficient Lord and Savior.  Christ must be inescapably prominent and pervasive in every occasion of Christian worship.

- Friend, I’m asking you this morning to think about how easy it is to have the wrong focus in worship.
- if you don’t know the Lord, we would invite you, during the quietness of this moment to place your faith and trust in Him.
- if you’re not quite ready to make that decision but want to talk more about it...decide right now that you’re going to speak to one of us, or e-mail us or call us and set up an appointment this week...
- Believing friend...what about your focus during times of worship?...
- I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about You, all about You, Jesus.
- I’m sorry Lord, for the things I’ve made it...When it’s all about You.

- Pray

- Trey – Heart of Worship

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video