The Wonder of Worship – Part 2

Last week, we begun a two-part series entitled “The Wonder of Worship.” We discovered that God is a holy, holy, holy God. He deserves our worship. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9 it says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words, which I command you today, shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The key to the heart of true worship is to love our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our strength. Our desire to worship should be like our desire to eat. If the need for food goes unmet, we feel pain. When we go for an extended time without eating, the body shrinks—which for some of us is not a bad thing. But, when we go for an extended time without worshiping and we shrink spiritually, that’s a disaster. God made us for worship. God created you and me for Himself. When we are not fulfilling that drive, or when we worship that drive to worship something other than God, we shrink and become spiritually anemic.

We discovered last week that there are all kinds of definitions of worship out there. We looked that the fact that the entire service as we gather here on Sunday morning is worship. We will take a look at that in a few moments. But true worship is giving God the honor and praise that He deserves. It’s giving Him the worth that He is deserving of. Let’s look at 1 Chronicles 16:28-29:

Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,

Give to the Lord glory and strength.

Give to the Lord the glory due His name;

Bring an offering, and come before Him.

Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

The Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches us, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Our primary purpose in worship is to glorify God. The focus of Christian worship cannot be human experience, entertainment, or anything except Jesus—His life, death, and resurrection. Let me say it again, our chief purpose is to glorify God. That is my intent as your pastor. When we gather together on Sunday morning I intend to focus on God and not man. So in worship we glorify God and there is a second aspect of worship and that is to enjoy God forever. Like I said last week, when we gather together week after week for worship, we are practicing for heaven. If we can’t worship Him for an hour on Sunday, what are we going to do when that’s all we’ll do for the rest of eternity? There should be joy as we come to worship Him. Especially when we remember what he has done for us. James tells us that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of Lights. We don’t have anything that He didn’t give us. The scriptures tell us that we were enemies of God, but God through Christ made a way to become friends of God. The cross is the great equalizer. God in his mercy gave us a way out of our sins through Jesus Christ. When we remember that, we can’t help but praise him. Proper worship carries us into God’s holy presence, where He alone offers us hope, purpose and meaning. Without the joy aspect of worship, it becomes drudgery. We wonder, why do I come? (More on that later)

How does this fit with the I Chronicles verse? Who is to worship? The families of the people or as its translated else ware, the families of the nations are to worship him. The nations are to worship him. And how are we suppose to do it? We are to give the Lord glory and strength; we are to give the Lord the glory due his name.

Last week I told you I was going to give you some specific ways we can worship him. But I also want to walk with you through the worship folder and see how this all falls into place with the scriptures.

At the very top of the page you see the name of the church and the date. After that you see something that says, “Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost.” Did you know that there was something called the church year? Those who come from “high church” traditions would know what I’m talking about. The cool thing about the church year is that its entire focus is on Christ. It begins with Advent, then continues through Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter and then Pentecost. While at college in Indiana and while in New York, I developed an appreciation for some “high church” elements, especially when they are explained as to why they are done. I will probably never be a “lectionary preacher”, that is I will probably never follow the set readings that go with the church year, but from time to time during the church year we will focus on the theme of that season.

The next thing in your worship folder is the welcome. This gives me as your pastor a chance to welcome everyone. Paul says to greet one another with a holy kiss. This is our 21st century version of that. We could even add the handshake portion if we wanted.

Following the welcome is the Call to Worship – Isaiah 2:3 says, “Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law,

Songs of Worship — Psalm 81:1 — Sing aloud to God our strength; Make a joyful shout to the God of Jacob.

Psalm 96:1-4 — Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.

Worship is more than music, however, I believe that a well planned and executed music portion of the worship service, opens hearts to the Word. Last week, I mentioned that we are not aware that worship has changed throughout the centuries. It has changed and will continue to change (that is the method will) however, one thing will not change; the message will not change. You will continue to see a blend of new and old in our services. As I mentioned last week, there are some OLD hymns that I would like to teach you as well as some of the best of the new songs and hymns. That doesn’t mean we’ll stop singing the great gospel songs as well. I plan to use responsive readings and creeds. All of these elements blended together create a link to the past and build a bridge to the future.

Invocation – This is so much more than an opening prayer, but an invitation for God to come and dwell among us.

Prayer Psalm 95:6 – Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

Ephesians 6:18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—

Worship Through GivingDeuteronomy 26:10 – and now, behold, I have brought the first fruits of the land which you, O Lord, have given me.’ “Then you shall set it before the Lord your God, and worship before the Lord your God.

1 Chronicles 16:2929 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

Ministry in Music

Worship through the Word – Micah 4:2

Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,

To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

Benediction – A prayer of blessing and of protection that God will go with you as you leave this place of worship

You see if done properly, everything points to God and not to man. God encourages us to worship corporately. I know we are a highly individualistic society, but we are told, “[do] not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We’ve covered quite a few practical ways that we can worship him, but are there other ways as well?

I think we’ve talked at this at length already – we can worship God through singing.

Psalm 150:6 —Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!

We can speak it

Psalm 35:28 – And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long.

Hearing you praise and worship God with your mouth is of great encouragement. We are not only commanded to worship God with singing, but also with our speaking.

A surprising one is found in Psalm 100:1 – Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! – There are several great examples of how shouting becomes of offering to the Lord. Look at the story of the battle of Jericho. When God’s people obey and shout in God’s name that even full cities will fall in his name. We need to get excited about what God is doing in our live.

We can worship him through clapping – Psalm 47:1 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!

We can worship God through other ways that are mentioned in the God’s Word. What are they? Lifting our hands (Dr. Guy’s daddy illustration) weeping, bowing, dancing, falling on our faces (prostrate) and others.

So What???

What are the benefits of worship; who benefits?

  1. Most importantly – God does – sometimes I think we forget that God created us and he created worship. He created us to worship Him. The Garden of Eden was the original house of worship. God wanted to have a relationship with someone and he chose us.
  2. Others attending worship with us – Ephesians 5:19-21 – Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

  1. We do – this is the experiential element. How many times have you come to church out of duty, but because you were obedient, God worked in a miraculous way in your life? God can work simply in our obedience to Him. We can benefit from worship.

Think of worship as a divine theatrical event. God is the audience, the people on the platform are the prompters off stage helping the performers. You in the congregation are the performers. What a load it takes off my feeble mind, when I remember that what we do on the platform is for God. What you do in the pew is not for my benefit, but for God. God is our audience of One.

The Wonder of Worship – Part 1

For the last several weeks, we have looked at the subject of ecclesiology, which is the study of the church. In October, we are going to be celebrating Heaven month. What is heaven month you ask? Heaven month is a month-long emphasis on evangelism. Some of you know that the emphasis in the Shenandoah District this year is evangelism. Each October for the last several years, The Wesleyan Church has held either a salvation Sunday or Heaven Sunday. Currently it is just a weeklong emphasis, but here at Preston Wesleyan Church, it will be the entire month of October. The theme of our Heaven Month is “Come to the Waters.” The sermons during the entire month will be focused on one of the purposes of the church and that is evangelism. Depending on whom you ask there are at least five purposes of the church. What are they? They are worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, ministry service, and I’ll add prayer. Everything we do revolves around these purposes. Most of what we looked at over the last six weeks revolved around those purposes. A church is effective in advancing the kingdom of God when it is performing all of its purposes in a balanced fashion. Most of us know what happens when a wheel becomes unbalanced. It makes for a difficult trip. Our church must be balanced in its approach to ministry. That being said, October is Heaven Month and I will be preaching Gospel messages. It will be an opportunity to bring friends and family to hear the gospel so that they can make a decision for Christ. I hope that you take advantage of this during the five weeks of October.

What I want to do today and next week is take an in depth look at another one of these purposes and that is worship. This morning we sit in a service called a worship service. In most churches the morning worship service is the pinnacle of the week. Most of you can probably remember a time when Sunday School was the best attended event of the week. I think it’s right that this time is the best attended service, we as believers in Christ are called to worship Him. What does it mean to worship?

The dictionary definition looks like this:

WORSHIP — reverent devotion and allegiance pledged to God; the rituals or ceremonies by which this reverence is expressed. The English word “worship” comes from the Old English word “worthship,” a word that denotes the worthiness of the one receiving the special honor or devotion.

It would probably come as no surprise that this idea of worship has become highly controversial. One of the reasons is because worship so many times today is equated with music. Why? Because music connects with our emotions. Remember a few weeks ago I made this statement, “They just don’t play good music anymore.” This is because most of us consider good music, the music we listened to as teenagers and young adults. But I think we make a great mistake when we consider music the only part of worship. I’ve heard this said when referring to the music portion of the service, “Wasn’t the worship wonderful today, and the preaching was good too.” I know that is an exaggeration, but those kind of statements are being made about worship. Last week I sang a song titled, “The Heart of Worship.” The song was written out of a personal experience of the writer. The musical style and worship band was taking the front seat, so the wise pastor said for the next few weeks, we will sing with only our voices, remember what true worship is really about. Eventually the church added back in the instruments, but it really brings home the point that worship is so much more than a song or singing. It is the heart of everything we do.

Let me share a brief excerpt from a book entitled, “The Wonder of Worship.”

“Teaching university students the subject of worship for a half-dozen years has brought me several realizations. First, I’ve learned how little the average person knows about our worship history—the roots of our current worship practices. Worship to many of my students (almost all of whom come from conservative evangelical churches) is a contemporary experience largely cut off from its roots. Many assume that the church has always worshiped in about the same way up to the 1980s and that recent innovations were the first time worship has ever shifted styles. To my delight, these same students light up when they discover the rich history of worship streams feeding into the present. Following a reading in class, one girl burst out in astonishment, “Why, they’ve always changed worship!” Knowing our roots of worship brings perspective and maturity to planning and leading worship.”

So worship has always changed and will probably continue to change until the Lord returns. What I want to take a look at today is what worship is. One of the most profound worship passages in the scriptures is in Isaiah 6.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.

So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth with it, and said:

“Behold, this has touched your lips; Your iniquity is taken away, And your sin purged.”

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:

“Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?”

Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

As we can see here, worship has very little to do with singing. If we take a look at some of the great worship passages in the book of Revelation, we will see that while worship involves singing, many times in the scriptures it doesn’t.

In John 4:21-24, Jesus says to the woman at the well, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

What happened to the prophet Isaiah when he sensed the glory of God? First of all let’s take a look at what he experienced.

I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

This must have been a frightening sight in and of itself. But the angels starting crying out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory.” You notice that the angels weren’t singing, they were crying out, they could have been shouting. But what did they shout? Holy, holy, holy. The Hebrew language does not have developed punctuation like our English language does. One of the ways that something was emphasized was by repetition. No other word in the entire Bible is repeated in this manner. Holy is the only word treated like this. God is holy, holy, holy. That is his character. We worship a holy, holy, holy God. No wonder Isaiah was struck with a sense of awe. This same sequence of words is repeated in the book of Revelation, which while it is known for its prophecy, I see it also as a great book of worship. I encourage you to look at some of the “hymn” fragments in the book of Revelation.

Revelation 4:8

8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”

Revelation 5:9-13

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll,

And to open its seals;

For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood

Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;

And we shall reign on the earth.”

11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice:

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain

To receive power and riches and wisdom,

And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power

Be to Him who sits on the throne,

And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Are you capturing a sense of the awe of God this morning? We need to capture it just as the prophet Isaiah caught the awe of God. What happened after or while the heavenly host sang. And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. Let me tell you about the closest I’ve gotten to this on earth. While we lived in Indiana, my music professor invited us to attend their church’s Christmas musical. It was a spectacle beyond comprehension. The musical told the gospel story from the point of the angels. The choir was dressed up like angels and told the story of Jesus. In addition to this there were the visuals, a huge sound system, a fairly sophisticated lighting system for ten years ago in the church and fog machines. At the point of the crucifixion of Jesus, there was quite a bit of smoke, loud sub-woofer rumblings, and lots of flashing lights. I literally felt like I was Isaiah, with the building shaking and the building filled with fog. I was amazed. I’m sure Isaiah’s experience was even more terrifying when he met up with a holy, holy, holy God. He could barely speak. Again, I am not arguing for emotionalism that has to be rebuilt every week. I’m not talking about an emotional high that’s worked up by singing and prayer and all the other trappings. I’m simply talking about capturing a vision of the holy, holy, holy God and that will light up our worship world. First of all we will understand who we are. We are humans. We are God’s creation. We are not God. It puts it all in perspective. He made us; we didn’t make him.

The heart and wonder of worship is all about God. As we leave here this morning I want you to think about this. What is your view of God? Is He simply someone who created this whole world and then left us to fend for ourselves? Is He watching us, to quote Bette Midler, from a distance, not caring who we are? He is God. He is Almighty. He is the Mighty King. He is the Lord of Creation. He is worthy of worship. He is worthy of giving Him worth. He is worthy of assigning Him some value. When we capture this, it makes it easy to worship God. When we capture this, words may sometimes fail us; we may say as Isaiah said, “I am unworthy, cleanse me, Oh God.” God is God, he is worthy of our worship. As we are going to take a look next week, there are many ways to worship God. We often concentrate just on the singing, but I want to look at practical ways that we can worship God in spirit and in truth. Will you make it your desire this week to discover who God is and truly worship Him? Read through the Psalms; capture the heart of those who wrote the Psalms (they are the Hebrews songbook) Take a look at the book of Revelation, especially chapters 4-7; capture the essence of the worship of heaven. See if it matches your worship. As we close this morning, let’s sing that great hymn of the church “Holy, holy, holy.”

Be The Church

What would you be willing to do for $10,000,000? Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following:
  • Would abandon their entire family (25%)
  • Would abandon their church (25%)
  • Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
  • Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
  • Would leave their spouses (16%)
  • Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
  • Would kill a stranger (7%)
  • Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

It seems pretty amazing to us that many American could so easily be swayed by $10 million dollars. I’m sure that for some it wouldn’t even need to be $1 million. The crisis that I see here is a crisis of integrity. For some they can be had with a price. Is it that way in the church? Does the church live a life of integrity?

Let me share some findings from Christian pollster George Barna:

§ Churches and parachurch ministries have made divorce a widely-discussed matter in the past two decades. Yet, a majority of born again adults do not believe that divorce is a sin (excluding cases in which adultery is involved).

§ For the typical adult in America, the number of movies they watch during the year is greater than the number of worship services they attend.

§ Adherents of non-Christian faiths are twice as likely as born again Christians to engage in fasting for religious purposes.

§ Born again adults who have been married are just as likely as non-born-again adults who have been married to eventually become divorced

§ Faith has had a limited affect on people’s behavior, whether related to moral convictions and practices, relational activities, lifestyle choices or economic practices

§ Just half of all Protestant Senior Pastors (51%) meet the criteria for having a biblical worldview. The criteria are believing that God is the all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today; that Jesus Christ never sinned; that Satan is real; that salvation is received through faith in Christ, not by good deeds; that every follower of Christ has a responsibility to share their faith with non-believers; that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; that absolute moral truth exists; and that absolute moral truth is described in the Bible.

§ A mere 7% of born again adults tithed last year.

§ Born again Christians and adults who attend Christian churches are more likely than atheists, agnostics, and adherents of non-Christian faiths to buy lottery tickets.

§ Half of all adults are so satisfied with their spiritual life that there is nothing at all they wish to change or improve in the future. Another one-quarter listed changes that were quite general or not personally challenging.

§ Most Americans do not accept the notion that they are engaged in a spiritual battle. This is fueled by the widespread rejection of the notion that Satan is real, that salvation is by faith alone, and by the common acceptance of the idea that there are multiple paths to salvation. This also partially explains why only half of all self-described “Christians” are not “absolutely committed” to the Christian faith.

Barna states, “People’s religious beliefs change very little, if at all, after the age of 12, but the way in which they apply those beliefs to their lifestyle and societal situations, and the degree to which they allow their faith to affect their behavior, is constantly shifting.”

This morning we conclude a five week series titled, “Five Things James Would Say to the Church.” We are going to start in James 2:14. What have we discovered so far?

  1. Submit to God; Resist the devil; Draw near to God; Repent and confess, humble yourself before God.
  2. Get Back to Your Roots
  3. We Exist in a Community of Faith
  4. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

This morning James would tell us to be the church. What do I mean? We are going to take a look at it in three parts

First, let’s take a look at James 2:14-25:

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If the Wesleyan Church is going to be the church, we need to have Be a Church of Action. James makes the claim that it is impossible to be a Christian and not put your faith into action. If were to widen that to the church, it’s impossible to be the church and not be a church of action. Some of you wonder why I emphasize missions the way I do. This is part of the church in action. I said last week, we can’t go everywhere, but we can be a part of the kingdom work everywhere in the world through missions. This is faith in action. This is the church in action. This is part of being the church. This is why we need to be involved in our community. Remember this from what I read earlier, the common acceptance of the idea that there are multiple paths to salvation. This is part of the culture we live in. The culture says there are multiple paths to salvation; that my truth is just as correct as your truth. It says a lot for our witness when we can work together with churches of other denominations, even when we disagree on non-essentials. We the community sees us working together with other believers, it increases our witness. This is faith in action. This is the church in action. We need to be a church that does what it says it believes. James says that faith and actions work together. He goes on to say that Abraham’s faith is made complete by offering his son Isaac. Our faith as a church is made complete by our actions.

The second part of being the church is in the area of speech. Let’s continue in James 3:1-12:

1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[f] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

The second part of being the church is integrity of speech. I really think the word speaks for itself this morning. How many have ever said, “I wish I could take that back.” Isn’t the power of words amazing? I know just this week; I’ve said things to my family that I have had to apologize for. We’ve heard it in scripture, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” James is getting back to this double-mindedness issue. If our heart isn’t right, then it’s going to show in our words. One of the issues the church (the church universal) is fighting is in the area of hypocrisy. Do we say one thing and do another. Do we say one thing when we are with one group of people and another when we are with another group? James tells us that we can’t do it. (But we do it anyway) He says that it just should not be. We should praise God one minute and curse our brothers the next. How can we do this?

We need to (as James has reminded us) to control our tongues. We need to have integrity in our speech. This is part of keeping our whole bodies in check.

So to be the church, we need to be a people of action who have integrity in our speech. Is there anything else? Let’s take one more look at James 3:13-18:

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

If we are to be the church, we should be a people of action who have our speech under control, AND be wise. James says in chapter one, “He who lacks wisdom should ask for it.” He now tells us how to acquire that wisdom. A church that is seeking to build the kingdom of God should be:

  • peace-loving
  • considerate
  • submissive
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruit
  • impartial
  • sincere

James finishes off the section by saying, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” My prayer is that Preston Wesleyan will be about the business of building the Kingdom of God. We have just begun the part of our journey entitled Preston Wesleyan Church. Each one of us is called to build the kingdom of God, not just the pastor but each one of us. Let’s review the five things we’ve learned over the past five weeks.

1. Submit to God and draw near to Him. Live of life of confession and repentance and He will life you up.

2. Get back to your roots; Take care of the less fortunate and keep yourselves from being corrupted by the world.

3. Be a community of faith; pray, sing, anoint, and confess to one another. In the process, be apart of the greater community of faith.

4. Simplify, simplify, and simplify in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

5. Be the church that God has called you to be by being a church of action, in integrity of speech and a church of wisdom through being peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial, and sincere.

If you follow these, Preston Wesleyan Church will be the church that God wants it to be. Will you endeavor to follow His lead?

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

Let me give you some startling statistics:

  • People today are on average four-and-a-halftimes richer than their great-grandparents at the turn of the century.
  • Percentage of college freshmen who reported thinking it is essential to be well off financially:
    • 1967: 44% 1987: 76%
  • Median size of a new house built in the U.S.:
    • 1949: 1,100 sq ft. In 1993: 2,060 sq ft
  • Number of Americans with two or more homes: 10 million, yet there are a minimum of 300,000 homeless Americans.
  • Year in which the number of shopping centers in the U.S. surpassed the number of high schools: 1987
  • Average time spent shopping per week is 6 hours, yet the time spent playing with children per week is 40 minutes
  • The waste generated each year in the U.S. would fill a convoy of 10-ton garbage trucks 145,000 miles long — over half-way to the moon.
  • Amount of motor oil sent to landfills or poured down drains in the U. S. each year: 180 million gallons — the equivalent of 16 Exxon Valdez spills
  • Percentage of Americans who say they have achieved the American Dream:
    • Those earning less than $15,000 a year: 5%
    • Those earning more than $50,000 a year: 6%
  • Highest income group in U.S.: doctors and doctors comprise the highest proportion of professions with unhappy people.
  • Percentage of Americans who would like:
    • to “slow down and live a more relaxed life”: 69%
    • a “more exciting, faster-paced life”: 19%
  • Percentage of the world’s population comprised of Americans: 5% yet, 30% of the world’s resources are consumed by Americans: 30%
  • Percentage of fossil fuel used annually that is consumed by the U.S.: 25%
  • Percentage of all humans who own a car: 8% yet 89% of American households who own one or more cars is 89%
  • Average annual income of the:
    • 3.3 billion people in the global “middle class”: $700-7,500
    • 1.1 billion people in the global “consumer class”: over $7,500 and it takes home 64% of the world’s income.
  • Percentage of disposable personal income in U.S. allotted to savings: 4.2% and 83% is spent on personal debt
  • Percentage of American workers ages 25-49 who believe that keeping up with the Joneses does anything for the keepers-up: 2%
  • Percentage of American workers ages 25-49 who would like to see a return to a simpler society with less emphasis on material wealth: 75%

What does this have to do with the church? More specifically, what does this have to do with The Wesleyan Church? And even more so, what does this have to do with us?

It probably comes as no surprise that we live in a consumer mentality culture. The statistic regarding personal debt leads us to believe that. This is a very personal sermon in that over the past few weeks, we have begun packing. Matter of fact, we are well on our way. However, I realized this; I am a rich man. I can’t believe how much stuff we own. I can’t believe how much stuff we’ve saved. I can’t believe how much stuff we’ve given away and thrown out in the past few weeks. Perhaps if you were to take a personal inventory this morning, you would find yourself in a place like we are. Perhaps, you would ask yourself this question, “Do I really need all this stuff?” The fourth thing that I believe James would tell the Wesleyan Church and its congregations is to simplify, simplify, simplify. We really have much more than we can really use.

What does James tell us regarding this? Let’s take a look at James chapter 5.

1Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. 2Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.

One of the things that you will find out if you look carefully at the book of James is the incredible parallels to the teachings of Jesus in the gospels. This should come as no surprise if we accept that the writer James is Jesus’ half-brother. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at another very familiar passage that happens in Luke:

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

19“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’[b]

21“All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.

22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. 24Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

26Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”

27Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”

28Peter said to him, “We have left all we had to follow you!”

29“I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”

These two passages should be disturbing to us in 21st Century America and even more disturbing to 21st Century American Wesleyan Christians. We in America have been greatly blessed by God, if we believe what James says: 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.You’ve heard me say this before, everything that we have belongs to God and is from God and we have been greatly blessed. Unfortunately, we have taken that great blessing and kept it to ourselves. As I was researching this message, I saw a statistic that defies logic. The less someone has, the more likely they are willing to give to charity and charitable organizations. The more money someone has lessens their chances that they will be a charitable giver.

This has really hit home with me lately. I was thinking about the statistic that 83% of the average American’s disposable income is spent taking care of debt. It’s no better when we consider our national debt. A baby born today will be responsible for $15,000 of that debt. We cannot continue to spend and spend and spend.

I take James’ and Jesus’ words seriously here. Jesus says it will be difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, not that there is anything wrong with riches or the pursuit. What is your desire for riches? Is it a desire to accumulate riches for yourself or is it a desire to gain all you have, save all you have, so that you can give all you have for the sake of the gospel. We are responsible for this generation. Obviously we can’t reach them all so we send missionaries and workers to reach places we can’t. If we are in debt up to our eyeballs or just keep accumulating things how does that advance the Kingdom of God.

Listen to this thought about the rich, young ruler:

No matter how much wealth he had, he could not—ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone, If he was rich, then what am I?

John Wesley was a man of great wealth, yet died a poor man, not because he squandered it all away, like the prodigal son, but he earned all he could and he saved all he could and then GAVE AWAY everything he earned to advance the Kingdom of God.

What can we do? Is there any hope for us? Yes, there is. I have made some personal decisions over the past few months. I realize that there are things that I can do without. I realize that there are things that our family can do without. As I told you earlier, over the past few weeks, we have given away a tremendous amount of stuff. We’ve given it away to various organizations, almost all was given away here in our community. I am making it my goal to simplify, simplify, simplify so that I am not burdened by things or by the lack of money to build and advance the Kingdom of God.

What am I challenging you with this morning? I want to challenge you to take a look around you. How can you simplify your life? Maybe you need to de-clutter your house. Maybe you need to get rid of some things, so that you can advance the kingdom of God. Maybe you need to simplify your time. Maybe there are things you need to get rid of time-wise so that you advance the kingdom of God. Perhaps, God is challenging you to get out of debt so you can advance the Kingdom of God. I challenge you to SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY, SIMPLIFY.

What are some practical ways we can do this?

  • Don’t start collecting things
  • Say no to spending
  • Give things away
  • Have a garage sale – we are having a church garage sale this weekend, perhaps you could simplify. The great thing is that all the proceeds received will go to Global Partners (what you used to know as Wesleyan World Missions)
  • Get rid of leftovers from your last move
  • Plan a backpacking trek
  • Begin downsizing