To start this morning’s message, I want to quote from an “old” hymn. Most of you have heard these words before and yet not recognize that they were from one of the oldest hymns to Christ that we have on record. In fact, several times during the apostle Paul’s writings, he refers to hymns of the ancient church. Another one of these passages is found in Philippians 2 from which I read a segment last week. The hymn fragments we are going to read this morning comes from Colossians 1:
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body. He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
This morning we want to examine who we worship. From the very beginning of this service we have been asking the question, “Who is this King?” “Do you know Him?” Paul makes it very clear in his language – we have heard it from the old hymns of the church and the new hymns of the church. We heard it pronounced through the gospel songs and through the newer expressions of contemporary worship that we often call choruses. When we conclude our service today, we will sing another old hymn called, “Jesus Shall Reign.” It’s new to you, but it is another great hymn of the church and on the reign of Christ and it was penned by Isaac Watts who is also known for When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, I Sing the Mighty Power of God, and O God Our Help in Ages Past.
I’ve named this sermon, “A Royal Waste of Time.” I want to ask some questions and I want you to consider this morning, “Why do we gather here?” What is the purpose of our gathering here? Is is to see one another? Is it for encouragement? Is it to put a lift in our spirit? Is it for us? Who is worship for anyway?
Let me say up front, yes, I know that I’m meddling. You’ve heard me say before that music is only one aspect of worship. There is prayer, and reading God’s Word – there is the worship aspect of us giving our offerings and there is the proclaiming of God’s Word. I told you last week of a wonderful time of worship we had while at FLAME – a time of worship that was powerful and yet not a note was played on any instrument – not a note was sung by any voice. This is probably some of the worship that is described in heaven as they shouted or they said. One of the important aspects of that time of worship was that we waited. We are told in Revelation that at times even in heaven we will wait. Have you ever waited in worship in holy expectation of what God was going to do? It is an amazing place to be. One of the places where God has done that in this congregation since we have been here is on Sunday nights. I always love when God “shows up.” Now the reality is that God is always here – He is here on Sunday morning – He is here on Sunday evening – He is here on Wednesday nights – He is here whenever there are believers present. I’ve felt that presence while worshiping, or praying or even preparing a sermon. I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite places is God’s house – his sanctuary. Like I said, the reality is that God is always here, but there are special times, when his presence is felt even more and it’s more than an emotional response. Sometimes I think we are afraid of emotion. We have reacted strongly against abuses of the past, but there are times that God is here (at least as we feel it) more than others. Keith Drury calls it a move of God. Some of you have been here to experience those moves of God and they are wonderful times. I say all that because I feel that sometimes we are in too much of a hurry to worship. Why does this happen? Sometimes we forget who it is that we are worshiping. We not coming here simply to sing a few nice songs, pray a little prayer, and hear three points and a poem. No there is so much more to worship and really – it’s not about us! It is all about Jesus – It is all about this wonderful King we worship. When we realize who it is we worship, it become much easier to spend time with Him. Last week I mentioned that when we realize what God has brought us from – that He has brought us from being wretched sinners to marvelous life in Christ — As Paul writes; 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. – we should be thankful – and that should want to make us praise Him and worship Him.
Let’s go back to our scripture this morning: Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. Think about that for a moment. We will look at this more in the coming season of Advent. Christ – who was and is and always will be – God – came to earth as a baby – he was incarnate – he came in the flesh – to dwell among his own creation – because he was here in the flesh – we have a better idea of what God is like. This passage makes it very clear that God and Jesus were together in the creation of the world. Jesus is the supreme over all creation – that means in other words – He is the ultimate ruler – He is King – He is the King of all Kings – He is the Lord of All Lords – and when we realize that – we must worship Him – just like subjects to a king bow before a king – we must (for we have no other choice) bow before King Jesus. To paraphrase the old Fram oil filter commercial – You can pay him now – or you can pay him later. The Philippians passage that I referred to last week ends this way: “Because of this (Christ’s humility and ultimate death on the cross) God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
I don’t know about you, but when I look at these passages so far, I see that worship is more than an hour on Sunday – It is something that we should want to do all the time. It’s interesting to see what people (including many Christians) will put in front of being in the Lord’s House on Sunday. Sometimes I really wish we could get rid of the order of worship in the bulletin, because it becomes a checklist of what we need to finish. May I suggest that worship isn’t a checklist that we need to finish – in reality we should never finish worshiping our God and our Savior, Jesus Christ and that attitude doesn’t exist in the scriptures. Remember that this God – that this Jesus made everything that is visible and even the things that are invisible. This is the God we worship.
God even placed Jesus Christ at the head of the church. I know some pastors who think they are the head of the church. I know laypeople who think they are the head of the church. Both of them are dead wrong – The head of the church is Christ. We are his body – can you imagine if the rest of the body didn’t want to go along with the head in the physical sense – the same thing happens in the church – when the church separates itself from the head – the head is Christ – not the congregation – not the ministry leadership team – not the pastor – not the district superintendent – not the District Board of Administration – not the General Superintendents – not the General Board of Administration and not even the General Conference – Christ is the head and all of this structure simply follows Christ. And I say all that as a Wesleyan pastor and someone who loves the Wesleyan Church and what it stands for – I am proud to be a Wesleyan pastor and I wouldn’t want to be a pastor in any other denomination and I wouldn’t want to pastor a non-denominational church either – It is my desire as your pastor to follow Christ – to be in submission to Christ – That is my desire as your pastor for you, the congregation – to be in submission to Christ – as it says in Ephesians, then we should even be in submission to each other – the pastor to the congregation – the pastor to the board – the board to the congregation – the board to the pastor – the congregation to the pastor and the congregation to the board – not only do I submit to the local congregation, but I submit to the denomination I call home. Now isn’t that a refreshing change of pace.
When you think about it – it really does come down to the attitude that Jesus had of humility and submission – that is how he became great – it wasn’t himself – he didn’t exalt himself – he was exalted by God the Father. Why does Christ deserve to be worshiped?
Christ is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
When we look at all of this, we see that worship is not a waste of time as some would like to think, but worship is a natural response to what God has done for us and who He is and He is coming to reign the whole earth – not just a part. All Hail King Jesus! As we conclude this morning – I want to teach you this wonderful Isaac Watts hymn – Jesus Shall Reign – I want you to listen to the words – If you know the melody, the words will be on the screen and you can sing along – but most important – I want you to concentrate on the words and what they mean about this wonderful King of kings, about this wonderful Lord of lords, about this wonderful God of gods that we serve.