First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday ~ August 23, 2020)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7; 1 Peter 5:5-7
There's a story about a man who, leaving church one Sunday, complained about the music. “I didn't like the hymns you chose today,” he said. The Pastor simply replied, “That's OK; we weren't singing them for you.” The Pastor may have been too blunt, but he made a good point. In our consumer-oriented world, we sometimes think church services are just for us; but we aren’t spectators attending a show—we’re participants in the greatest and most uplifting enterprise in the universe – worshiping God.
Though we are blessed in doing it, our worship is not for ourselves, but for God. We are praising God for His power, His glory, His majesty, His wisdom, His holiness, His goodness and His grace. The late William Temple (1881-1944), archbishop of Canterbury, put it well in his often quoted definition of worship: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, and to devote the will to the purpose of God.”
Worship has always been so central and so vital to the people of God. I am glad that the Preacher dealt with the topic of worship in Ecclesiastes 5. As I mentioned last week, in Ecclesiastes 5, the Preacher takes our eyes off the vanities of this life to what is enduring and lasting, to worship. It’s a shift from the temporary to the eternal; from what is meaningless to what is purposeful. No vanity in worship.
So in chapter 5, the Preacher gives us some valuable advice as when we come to worship. How can we make the most out of our worship experience? How can we allow God to transform our lives as we encounter Him in worship? God wants us to be refreshed, renewed, and energized when we come to worship Him. In Ecclesiastes 5:1-7, the Preacher offers four important ways to enhance the quality of our worship; four ways to make the most out of our worship. Last Sunday, we covered a couple thoughts and this morning, I will underscore two more ideas.
First: Get Ready to Meet God
We should never forget that the destination of worship is to meet God. When you come to worship, be ready to meet God. “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God,” the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes 5:1. This means we approach God with care; we are on holy ground. We are in the presence of the Most High. We come hungry. We come willing. We come expecting God to speak to us.
Second: Listen to God
The Preacher offers a second advice. It has to do with listening to God. In Ecclesiastes 5:1 he says, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God; to draw near to listen is better than the sacrifice offered by fools.” Often times, the Prophets warned the people of Israel for not listening. “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” God wants us to listen to Him. When we come to worship, be ready to hear God’s voice; more importantly, be ready to follow where God leads.
Third: Humble Yourself Before God
The Preacher says, when you come to worship, remember to approach God with humility. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says, “God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” The Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:5-6, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” To see God reigning in power, wisdom, and love produces only one response: humility and worship. We bow before Him. We fall before Him.
“God is in heaven and you are on earth,” says the Preacher. In actuality, this is a statement of perspective, not distance. One of the great benefits of gaining a proper perspective of God is that we not only gain a view of the throne of God, we gain a view from the throne of God. Once we have entered into God’s presence, we look down on our world from His perspective. We find that what we thought was a mountain was a molehill. What seemed great and mighty in the world’s eyes turns out to be small and insignificant in God’s eyes. On the other hand, when we thought we were weak, we became strong because we were in the presence of God. Or, what we thought was foolish actually became wise from God’s vantage point.
Fourth: Fulfill Your Vows
A vow is a serious promise, a covenant made to God or to others. It was a common way of making a commitment in ancient times as it is in our own culture today. We make promises and we are expected to keep them. In Ecclesiastes 5:4, the Preacher says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay fulfilling it; for he has no pleasure in fools. Fulfill what you vow.” In the Middle Eastern culture, a person will die before bringing shame on himself or herself with a broken vow.
God is big on fulfilling vows. God’s nature is righteousness and truth. God always honors His Word. God never breaks a promise. Here these great words from the book of Numbers 23:19 “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” And because God is faithful toward His promises, He expects the same of His people.
When we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, we made vows to the Almighty God. We made a vow to seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness. We made vows to gather together with the Body of Christ for worship, Bible study, prayer, and fellowship. We made vows to support the mission and ministry of our local congregations through the using of our time, talents and financial giving. We made vows to be Christ’s ambassadors in the world carrying His light and love to the world. We made a vow to take our faith seriously. Have we kept these vows?
Friends, worship should be one of the most uplifting experiences. It should be the highlight of our week. In Ecclesiastes 5, the Preacher says, in worship we meet the Almighty God, we get to listen to His voice directly speaking to us, in humbling ourselves before God, we are lifted up gaining a new perspective from the throne of God, and eventually, we learn how to fulfill our vows, our commitments to God. That’s way I value our time together. Worship is a marvelous adventure into the presence of the God of the universe. It is a wonder-filled ride into a new dimension of life. I hope and pray that we will never take this opportunity for granted, but every time we come, we come with anticipation to be transformed to the likeness of Christ. Amen.
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