“Make a Joyful Noise”
Intro: Leading worship in Rossville with laryngitis (Make a joyful noise)
With that said, we're going to read Psalm 100, because I want to talk about worship today. I'm excited to just talk with you about worship.
But, I want to talk about worship maybe in a different way or come at it from a different angle in a way that I think will be helpful and can have us leaving here with greater confidence about our worship.
We're going to read Psalm 100 together today, so if you have your bibles, get them out now or grab one in front of you, or just watch the screen. Read: Psalm 100
A Psalm for giving thanks. 1 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.
One of the things God has given me space to do, mainly by his calling on my life as a pastor, is the great joy of considering His good design and then to preach and teach that via His Word.
The reason I think that matters is a we have the greatest shot for deep joy and meaning in life when we consider, deliberate, and understand God’s truth.
Here's what I can say is universally true regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of cultural nuance.
Everywhere human beings exist in the world, here's what you'll see: humankind loves, celebrates, and shares. That is a universal human experience.
Not all are great at it, but as a whole, that is what we do. We can't help but do that, because we have been wired, and designed to do it.
If you go to the most technologically advanced city in the world, they will love, celebrate, and share.
If you go there and go to places with no electricity and very little systematized structure, you know what human beings are doing? They're loving, celebrating, and sharing.
When I say share, I don't mean, "Here, have my stuff." I mean trying to include others in what we love and celebrate. That's universally true.
You can't help but do this, because you have been designed by God to, what we call as Christians, worship. When we say we love, celebrate, and share, we're really just describing worship.
All human beings worship. What they worship varies, but that they worship does not, cannot vary. Even if you just consider how we operate as human beings at a base level.
We do this with movies. We do this with new devices. We do this with jobs. We can't help but do this.
Even if you're kind of a cynic and you're like, "I'm not going to do this," then all you're doing is loving, celebrating, and sharing you're not doing this. You can't get out of this.
You can't help but do this. This is how you've been created by God, and this is what we mean when we talk about worship.
I want to clear some things out of the way when we talk about worship. First, we have this idea that everybody worships.
I want to just point out that almost all of the pain in your life can probably be traced back to you worshiping the wrong thing.
I think I've said it at every funeral I've ever done. Where you place your hope is imperative to your joy.
What I mean by that is if you've banked your life on your spouse, your kids, your job, your bank account, those things cannot bear up under the weight of your worship.
They weren't meant or designed to hold it, so they'll betray you. They will create in you behavior patterns that go against God's good design for your life.
I just need to lay that before because we can't help but worship, many of us are worshiping the wrong thing.
In worshiping the wrong thing, ascribing value and worth to the wrong thing, what we're actually doing is sabotaging our ability to experience life and life to the full.
If you have church background, when I say worship, and if you even hear churches talk about worship, almost everybody thinks we're talking about the singing part of the service.
If I come out here and say, "Let's worship the Lord," almost everybody in here is going, "Let's sing." We just think about worship as though it is singing.
Here's the truth. It can be and very much is. In fact, God is serious about his people singing to him. Let me show you this.
Read: Psalm 33:3
3 Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Read: Psalm 96:1
1 Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Read: Isaiah 42:10
10 Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants.
Then the text goes on to talk about all of the places that God is active. Here's something to know. When the Bible talks about singing, it's important for us to think about it rightly.
Here's what I mean by that. God is not lacking in any way, so when God commands his people to sing, it's not because he's lacking but, rather, something in them needs to happen.
It is never true that God has had a really tough week and needs to hear from us to kind of re-energize his God-ness for the next week.
I could take all three of these verses out and plug in 70 more that command the people of God to sing. He wants something to happen in us. He's not lacking. He doesn't have tough days.
It's something in us he's trying to stir. If you really stop and think about singing, music is profoundly powerful. It can remind us. It can give us a sense of a different day.
But worship is not singing alone. In fact, to just categorize singing as worship really devalues and draws in what worship is meant to be.
In fact, we see in Romans 12:1 that we are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, because that is our spiritual act of worship.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 we read that whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we're to do it to the glory of God or in worshiping God.
The expanse of worship encompasses the entirety of our lives, especially as Christians who now have rightly defined worship of God's goodness and grace.
Because that's way too big, here's what I want to do. I want to talk about worship in regard to what's going on in a very particular space.
I want to talk about worship in the gathering. What's going on when the people of God gather together. What's happening there?
Throughout the Scriptures, God has been very serious about His people coming together with words of warning, words of admonishment, words of encouragement.
Read: Leviticus 8:1-5
1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Take Aaron and his sons with him, and the garments and the anointing oil and the bull of the sin offering and the two rams and the basket of unleavened bread. 3 And assemble all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” 4 And Moses did as the Lord commanded him, and the congregation was assembled at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 5 And Moses said to the congregation, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded to be done.”
Read: Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Read: Colossians 3:16
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
We see this not just here but throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Scriptures show God is up to something in the corporate gathering that He's not up to when it's you by yourself.
The whole idea that you can love God and not love, not participate in the life of the body… There's no category for that in the Scriptures.
He has put us in a very imperfect community for His glory and our good, and he's up to something in the gathering that's for the benefit of our lives.
Chapter 3 of Colossians is about how spiritual formation occurs. That wasn't just given to you for your quiet time. That was read aloud in the assembly, proclaimed aloud in the assembly of the saints.
I could literally take every text I just read and throw them away and plug in 10 more about the importance of the gathering, about God's zeal about the gathering.
The reality is that when we gather together, God is not just present but he is active. In the reading of the Word of God, in the singing of the Word of God.
It’s in the praying of God's people together, in the confessing of our sins corporately, in the crying out to God that occurs when we're together.
This is when we God is at work shaping, molding, and moving in us, whether we get some kind of spiritual high or not.
If that's true, then when we gather, it's not merely about what we bring to God but, rather, what God is doing among us.
If you think the weight of worship is on you and not God's activity, that opens the door for all kinds of legalism that doesn't please the heart of God.
Psalm 51 says, "The broken and contrite in spirit I will never despise." God loves the mourner, the broken one, the one who doesn't have enough strength to smile anymore or raise their hands.
If we are a church who only promotes and unbelievable emotional experience, the brother and sister who are exhausted and heartbroken have no space in worship.
This is my whole argument wrapped up in a sentence. Worship in the gathering is receiving God's action in faith and gratitude through the work of the Spirit.
That's what happens when we gather. What worship looks like when we gather is that we believe by faith that God is working on and in us as the body of Christ.
We know as we've come in that we will not waste our time today. The God of the universe is working on us. He's transforming us. He's changing us.
There will be seasons in which we can actually feel that. We'll be able to feel, have emotions, have affection stirred, that the very God of the universe is working on us.
He's moving. He's shaping. Yet the truth of God's Word is that whether you feel it or not, it's happening. Illus: Have a youth come up. Do you see this? They are growing.
You can stare at your kid all day long, 24/7, for months and you will never see them grow. Try it. Test me on this. It's going to be awkward, but just stare at them.
You can blink, but don't do more than a blink. You can do that for months and months and months, and you would never notice that they've grown.
It's like all of a sudden they were two inches taller, and it's like, "What in the world happened?" Am I right?
Here is the thing. You may not see it. You may not fully understand it. This is how we grow spiritually. God is actively working in us.
I've come in today because the God of glory is going to work on me. Maybe I'm going to get to feel that, maybe I'm not, but he will work on me.
Listen family, He will transform me. Even if I don’t think it’s happening because I could not get riled up, He is moving me closer to Jesus, whether I feel it or not.
By faith, I'm believing that He who began the good work in me will be faithful to complete it. One of the ways he has ordained to complete me is as I gather together with his people.
This is what God is after when he tells the nation of Israel to gather, to celebrate, to think about His name. It's not that they're bringing something to Him that He lacks.
It's that He's accomplishing something in their togetherness that He designed to not accomplish when they're off on their own.
It has been said that no man can have God as his Father who does not have the church as his mother. Something divine is happening in this space.
Where the Word is preached and read aloud, God is speaking to us. When we read through Psalm 100 earlier, God was speaking to us.
It happens every time we come together. It happens in Communion. It happens in baptism. It happens in song. It happens in the reading of God's Word.
It happens in the preaching of God's Word. It happens as we gather. God has been at work. He has been chiseling. He has been sanding. He has been moving us forward.
That happens every time we come together. Worship is not what I bring; it's what God is up to.
Okay, but what do you do with the hundreds and hundreds of texts in the Bible that talk about shouting to God, singing to God, clapping, bowing, even dancing?
If you remember back to our little working definition, that worship in the gathering is receiving God's action in faith and gratitude through the work of the Spirit.
We come into the gathering, and by faith, not by emotion, although there's nothing wrong with emotions in line with truth…
In fact, it's a good thing to want to be emotionally stirred by God. Don't hear me saying in any way that's a negative or shouldn't be asked for or not be desired. Those are good gifts of God.
But as we gather by faith, we believe that God has not abandoned us, that He is working on us, that He is changing us, that He is moving us more and more and more toward looking like Jesus.
Then in that gratitude, things start to overflow out of that gratitude. Theologians tend to call these things postures of praise. Out of the overflow of that gratitude, we sing loudly.
We shout. We clap. We bow down. We stand up. We dance. The same worship service might have someone rejoicing, shouting, and clapping and someone sitting, mourning, and weeping.
It's not that that's what worship is like and one day this weeper will join the dancer but that the Lord sees both their hearts and says, "This is worship."
I think we have been stunted by a desire for the spectacular. I don't know what it is about us, but we want spectacular. Yet it's in the ordinary graces of day-to-day life that God most shapes us.
I don't want to neglect the ordinary graces of God that by faith I acknowledge that He's at work, that He's moving, that He's doing something. I by faith believe that.
One of the great privileges and pains of pastoral ministry is that we see brokenness on a scale that most of us just watch on the news.
As we get distance from loss, from brokenness, it's not that the pain is all gone but that we begin to see and understand that God is for us, that he is working on us, and he is working in all things.
This is a right understanding of worship. It's not what I'm bringing. All I have is the brokenness and confusion of my own heart, but God is active. God is at work. God is making a way.
God is accomplishing something in me. It makes worship something God is up to and not something I have to bring or manufacture. That's really freeing.
What I'm trying to free you from here is the idea that you have to perform in worship. No, we come in as we are and by faith believe that God is working, and then let the gratitude of our hearts pull us from there.
If we're singing a song and that resonates with you and you want to sing more loudly and you want to raise your hands, then go get it.
If you're just exhausted… You know the Lord is good, but you're just tired. Then sit. It's not like God is going, "After all I've done… You're just going to sit there like that after all I've done?"
That's not what's happening. The broken and contrite spirit He will never despise. God sees the heart. You cannot perform for the one who actually knows what's going on.
We can perform to one another. "How are you doing?" "Man, I'm doing great, brother." You can't do that with the Lord.
You can put on a show for the Christian sitting next to you and raise your hand, even do that thing where you tap your chest to the worship song, but you will never fool God that way.
The best way we can worship is honestly. All of this is rooted in the reality that God has been working on us. The God of the universe has been working on us.
C.S. Lewis says, "I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation."
Lewis' argument is that joy isn't fully experienced until it's shared. This is why we're talking about our teams, or this new movie, or this new device, or this new house.
You're just like, "I need to tell someone. Someone needs to know this." This is Lewis' argument. It's why we're always talking about the things we love.
God has been at work in you, and that's awesome, whether you feel it or not. Let’s consummate it today and tell others about it and Worship our King. Let's pray.