Fear and love embrace in worship

Now then, given the general content and affect and feel, the landscape of evangelical worship today, we have to ask ourselves the question, in the face of overwhelming biblical evidence: Where is the fear? Where is it?
…Where is the God who has appointed a day for His Son, Jesus, the Lamb, our Savior, to judge the whole world in righteousness?
Where is the Jesus who, when He returns, will have a sword coming out of His mouth to destroy His enemies?
Where is the God who cannot and will not tolerate sin?
Where is the One who is true, though all men are liars?
Where is the God before Whom all unrighteousness shuts its mouth?

We have a false view of conversion, as evidenced by our worship, by our preaching. We cannot bear the thought of a holy God. We cannot tolerate a mention of His law when we sing in praise of Him. If your whole standing with God depends on how well you can keep God’s love in view and God’s anger against sin out of your mind then you have a false hope, and Christian radio makes complete sense for you. If you cannot abide any thought of God’s law, of His holiness, of His justice, of His judgment, of His wrath—if these things terrify you so that you can’t bear the thought of them, if your whole goal in life is to avoid any thought of those things, if you come into worship with the idea, the expectation that you just need to be encouraged, that’s what you need, then you have not yet known what it is to be reconciled to God—to have peace with God—and you’re still in your sins.

The 2010 ClearNote Fellowship Conference was devoted to proclaiming the biblical truth that, in the godly, fear and love embrace. Here is Mr. Jody Killingworth’s sermon, Fear and Love Embrace in Worship.

(This is sermon 4 in a series; see also sermon 1, sermon 2, and sermon 3.)


Outline

Introduction: Fear and love embracing in worship
That is to say, in liturgy
1. That Fear and Love Ought to Embrace
1.1. Worship without love of God is meaningless
1.2. Worship without fear of God is also meaningless
2. How Frequently Today they do Not
3. Some Reasons Given as to Why Not
3.1. We have become opposed in principle to ever facing the holiness of God
3.2. A completely false understanding of what it means to be converted
4. How Fear and Love Embrace in Biblical Worship
5. Practical Applications for the Right Ordering of Public Worship Today

Introduction: Fear and love embracing in worship

My name is Jody Killingsworth. I’m a recent graduate of the Clearnote Pastors’ College, and I’m a trained musician—unordained at this point, but I lead worship here, I plan the worship services, help write and arrange music with these men—and I love the work, I love this church, I love serving the Lord and Christ’s bride, the Church.

It’s my assignment this afternoon to talk to you about how fear and love embrace in worship, and since “worship” is a pretty squirrely word that can be used in a lot of different ways to mean a lot of different things, I want to take just a moment to explain what I mean by it here.

It’s popular these days to emphasize the idea that worship is not something that can be limited to an hour on Sunday morning, it’s something that encompasses all of life, 24/7. Everybody’s eager today to remind us of that fact. And I wholeheartedly endorse it! Of course, we absolutely must not make the mistake of thinking that we can devote ourselves to the Lord on Sunday but that we don’t have to Monday through Saturday. As the psalmist has said,

I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

So surely, absolutely, we must devote ourselves to the Lord at all times. We must be always trusting Him and always praising Him, always seeking Him, always serving Him. We are to be always worshiping. And to limit these things to a kind of a religious hour that we keep on Sunday morning would make us all a bunch of class A hypocrites.

But while it’s important to acknowledge that truth about worship, that sense that we can use the word worship in, it’s important not to diminish the special significance of the Lord’s Day worship, Sunday worship.

God saves people not just from sin, but He also saves them to something: to the Church. He saves them to live in community with one another, to live in fellowship with other believers. And not in just some cosmic, mystical, abstract way, but in a real, you and me, warts and all, day by day kind of way. There are no lone ranger Christians. There are only Christians who are attached to the bride of Christ and love her. We are to be a community, we are to be a church—and at the center of our community is a time that God has ordained for us which we set aside every week to come together as believers and worship the Lord. And to refer to that time as worship is right for us to do. It’s a valid use of the word worship. That’s my point. And when I use the word ‘worship’ today, I’m more often than not going to be referring to what we do together on Sunday morning.

That is to say, in liturgy

But there is another word that we could substitute for worship that I’m a little afraid to use, because it’s a dirty word with a lot of us: it’s the word liturgy. Why would I say that liturgy is a dirty word? Well, because soon as I say liturgy, most evangelicals today are going to roll their eyes and respond with something like, “Dude, that’s religion, and Christianity’s not a religion, it’s a relationship!” We don’t like this word liturgy, because it reminds us of some field trip that we might have taken one Christmas Eve to a Roman Catholic mass—it reminds us of smells and bells, of cold, lifeless, graceless, empty religion. But trust me, ‘liturgy’ is a good word. It’s a word that we ought to be using. All it means is service, or more literally, the work people do together publicly. And in this sense, every church has a liturgy! Every church has the things it does together when it comes together to worship God. Every church has to make decisions about what it’s going to do, how it’s going to order its service, what are the important elements, what are the ingredients of worship, and how they’re going to be put together. Just as it’s essential when baking a good loaf of bread to have precisely the right ingredients and to put them together in just the right way and to bake it at just the right temperature, so with worship it is important that we make sure and have the right ingredients—the right elements—and that we order them in the right God-honoring, logical way. And in order to know how to do that we have to consult the recipe book, God’s Word, the Bible. And so today it’s not my objective so much to show how fear and love embrace in this sort of 24/7 worship sense of the word, but how they are to embrace in liturgy, in the time in which we come together as believers on Sunday before the Lord.

So had I written this sermon maybe three hundred years ago, the title of it might have read something like this:

A DIſCOURſE on the ſubject of Fear and Love Embracing in the Corporate Worſhip of God’s People; That Fear and Love Ought to Embrace; How Frequently Today they do Not; ſome Reaſons Given as to Why Not; How Fear and Love Embrace in Biblical Worſhip (with an Expoſition of the ſixth Chapter of Iſaiah); and Concluding with ſome Practical Applications and Directions for the Right Ordering of Publick Worſhip Today.

1. That Fear and Love Ought to Embrace

1.1. Worship without love of God is meaningless

Now first of all, I’m going to take it as a universally accepted agreed-upon principle that when we come together to worship the Lord that we ought to love Him, and that we ought to express love for Him when we worship. I mean, if there was ever a “duh” thing to say today, it’s that. For me to spend more than even just a few moments establishing that point would be very tedious, because who’s going to argue with it? We know that the first and greatest commandment is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart and all our soul and all our mind and all our strength; it’s the first and greatest duty that we have. And combined with love for neighbor, this is how we fulfill the whole law of God. And so to say that when we come together to worship the Lord that we ought to love Him is not really to say very much—it’s assumed, it’s a truism, something that is self-evidently and obviously right. In our common understanding of worship today, worship and love for God are synonymous—they’re completely bound up together in an inseparable way. To try and worship God without expressing love for Him? That’s ridiculous. Just try to imagine removing from all of the language of our worship words of love and adoration. What would we have left? What would we say—and would we call that worship? Worship is so much the exercise of the love of God that if you take love away from worship, you render it absolutely silly and meaningless. And this is something I’m very confident that we all understand and agree on.

1.2. Worship without fear of God is also meaningless

But what I’m not confident that we all understand or agree on, what some of us might be shocked and maybe even disturbed to hear, is that numerous times throughout Scripture we are commanded, as an act of worship, to fear God. Just as worship and love go together, so do worship and fear. Biblically speaking, worship is so much the exercise of the fear of the Lord that if you take fear out of worship, you render it meaningless. That’s what the Bible says.

Let me take a few moments to demonstrate how frequently we are exhorted in Scripture, as an act of worship, to fear God.

Deuteronomy 6:13,

“You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name.”

Deuteronomy 10:12,

“Now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways…and to serve [Him]…”

Joshua 24:14,

“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”

1 Samuel 12:24,

“fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.

2 Kings 17:36,

Him you shall fear, and to Him you shall bow yourselves down, and to Him you shall sacrifice.

2 Kings 17 again,

“But the LORD your God you shall fear…”

And here are a number of lines from the book of Psalms, the divinely inspired hymnbook of God’s people. Psalm 2,

Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.

That’s the NASB, but the King James says worship the LORD with fear.

Psalm 22,

You who fear the LORD, praise Him;
All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him,
And stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.

Psalm 22:25,

From You comes my praise in the great assembly;
I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.

Psalm 66,

Come and hear, all who fear God,
And I will tell of what He has done for my soul.

Psalm 118,

let those who fear the LORD say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

A liturgical statement that God’s people are to say together. God’s people: those who fear Him.

And my favorite, Psalm 130:3-4,

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.

And this just goes on and on, as Stephen has already done for us, he’s taken it into the New Testament. It’s not just an Old Testament thing that is done away with in Jesus Christ, but even explicitly tied to worship in the New Testament, is the fear of the Lord as well.

Two examples from the early church, recorded in Acts, Acts 2:42 says that

They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. [And] everyone kept feeling a sense of awe…

Which again, doesn’t quite capture it. The King James translates it better,

Fear came upon every soul…

And one more from Acts 9,

So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.

These are just some of the many, many instances where we are explicitly commanded by God, as an act of worship, to fear Him.

2. How Frequently Today they do Not

Now then, given the general content and affect and feel, the landscape of evangelical worship today, we have to ask ourselves the question, in the face of overwhelming biblical evidence: Where is the fear? Where is it?
Where is the God whose voice shakes the wilderness?
Where is the God who dwells in inapproachable light?
Where is the God who is three times holy?
Where is the God who dwells in the highest heavens and does whatever He pleases?
Where is the God who sat in judgment at the Flood?
The God who sits sovereign over worldwide catastrophe?
Where is that God?
Where is the God who removes kings and establishes kings?
Where is the God of justice?
Where is the God of vengeance?

Psalm 94, a psalm that our brothers in Toledo have set to music:

O LORD, God of vengeance,
God of vengeance, shine forth!

We have a song about Jesus shining—it doesn’t mention His vengeance, does it? “Shine forth in vengeance.”

Where is the God who scatters the proud? (That’s what sweet little Mary said when the news came that she would be giving birth to the Messiah. “He’s a God who scatters the proud.”)
Where is the Judge of all the earth?

Psalm 7,

God is a righteous judge,
And a God who has indignation every day.
If a man does not repent,
He will sharpen His sword;
He has bent His bow and made it ready.

Where has that God gone?

Where is the God who has appointed a day for His Son, Jesus, the Lamb, our Savior, to judge the whole world in righteousness?
Where is the Jesus who, when He returns, will have a sword coming out of His mouth to destroy His enemies?
Where is the God who cannot and will not tolerate sin?
Where is the One who is true, though all men are liars?
Where is the God before Whom all unrighteousness shuts its mouth?

We sing about grace all the time, and we should. But where is the grace of Psalm 130, “there is forgiveness with You, Lord, that You may be feared”?

Where are the people who know the grace of God and are moved by it to fear Him?
Where are the people who tremble in God’s presence?
Where is the worship that reveals the secrets of hearts?
Where is worship that would indicate that there are any secrets in our hearts?
Where are the people who offer to God an acceptable service, with reverence and awe, knowing that He is a consuming fire?
Where are these things today? Where is this God?

He’s not there! That God left our services a long time ago.

3. Some Reasons Given as to Why Not

Who here knows what a “word cloud” is? It looks like a big mess of words in different colors and sizes. A word cloud is when you take a bunch of text from somewhere and you dump it into a word cloud generator online and out comes this piece of art that is useful. And it shows you what words in your text were most used and the frequency of their use is sort of indicated relatively by the size of the type. And what I’ve done out of curiosity recently was take the top thirty worship songs from 2010—the most used worship songs in America this year—and I imported the lyrics of those songs into a word cloud generator to see what I could learn. And if these thirty songs are an indication of the content of evangelical worship in our country today (and I believe that they are), then let me say that there is a conspicuous absence of the fear of the Lord in our worship.

Why would I say that? Well, in the thirty most popular worship songs today, these words were most prominent:
I was the most used word, appearing 132 times. The word my was the next most used word, 97 times. Now, they’re just personal pronouns, and they appear even in our hymns and in the psalms a lot too. So that’s not really an indication of anything necessarily. God was used next, 84 times; Lord the next, 38 times; then in the 30s are the words come, heart, us, sing; in the 20s are glorious, Savior, free, alive, and grace.

Some important words do appear, but only infrequently in these songs: Holy was used 14 times—I thought that was surprising and good; sin was used 8 times; throne was used 5 times; justice was used 3 times; stains I thought was a good word, used once; trembles was used; thunder was used once.

Some words appear, but only in a general, vague kind of over-and-done-with, “I kind of remember that and it’s great” sort of way: Sin was used 8 times, as I said, always past tense. And it was like, “You saved us from our sins, it’s wonderful, hallelujah.” That’s good, and true. But it was never used in the present tense; there were never actual sins referenced. I also went through the texts to see how fear was used: every time it was completely general, except once, and it was a right use of “fear”, which was used only I think four times. And it was a Psalm 130 use of “fear”! And the way that one made an appearance was, that verse of Amazing Grace was quoted in the song: “‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…” If there’s ever a safe moment to talk about it it’s in Amazing Grace, you know?

Some words, given the biblical evidence that I read to you about the fear of the Lord, ought to have been found there but were not: wrath—no appearances. Vengeance, hell—no appearances. Crush, guilt, blood—(That [blood] might have snuck into my texts—don’t quote me on that one. I’d have to go back and look—that surprises me to say it.) How about sovereign? How about traitor? How ’bout wretched? Roar? How about ruined? Satan? Judge? Sinai? unprepared, doom, threaten, unavailing, awful?
How about silent? There was silence in heaven. How about repentance? Or iniquity? Destruction? Or how about law? No uses of the word law in the top 30 worship songs today. Instead, only an endless mantra of grace, grace, grace, grace, love, love, love, love, me, Jesus, grace, grace, grace, love, love, love.

And that’s just the words. What do you think these 30 songs sound like? Well if you’ve listened to Christian radio, you know what these sound like: it’s crescendo after crescendo, from strength to strength, modulation after modulation, major key after major key; sentimentality, it’s pristine, it’s clean, it’s “Every day, in every way the world is getting better and better.” It’s “positive and encouraging”—that’s how the radio station refers to itself: “Positive and encouraging radio.” That’s what it sounds like—it sounds like what it is, the absence of all risk, of all danger, the absence of any fear.

The god presented to us in these top 30 worship songs, sonically and lyrically is a safe god, a tame god, a god who is very near, who is very approachable. A god who is very familiar, very embraceable, very peaceable, very positive and encouraging, very loving, very much a god who is for me. Not a God who is for Himself in any way, but who exists for me. He’s wonderful, he’s great, he’s awesome, and especially because of how he loves me. And that is pretty much what worship in evangelical churches has become. And maybe not all of you realize that. Maybe many of you young people grew up in this church, or in a reformed church. Maybe you didn’t grow up with choruses.

Remember that whole thing, hymns and choruses? What I grew up with were gospel songbooks, we didn’t even have a hymnal, and so we sort of avoided the whole thing—they’re still singing from the gospel songbooks. But this is what it is. What you hear on the radio is what people sing in churches every Sunday. And it is what it is: it’s safe and clean, and it’s completely void of the fear of the Lord. There’s no risk in knowing Him, there’s no risk in coming into His presence, it’s just like we waltz in, we flip on the switch and we’re right there with Jesus, and it’s wonderful, and we’re forgiven, and there we are.

3.1. We have become opposed in principle to ever facing the holiness of God

Worship has become about reminding ourselves of how much God loves us, so that thoughts of God and His holiness will not cause us any pain or torment. It’s a liturgical and sonic morphine. The reason why worship is like this today is because we as modern evangelicals have become opposed in principle to ever facing the holiness of God, to ever facing the implications that it has for our lives. Modern evangelical worship is designed to protect us from that kind of God, and to protect God from people who might, if we’re not careful, have a nasty thought about Him or be offended by His character. And we have a number of sophisticated ways that we go about doing this protecting. We say, “Tut, tut, tut! 1 John 4:18, ‘Perfect love casts out all fear.’ Tut, tut, tut!” We say, “Well when the Bible tells us to fear God, what it really means is not fear but respect.” I heard that a lot, growing up. We say, “God doesn’t love like we love, see, He loves perfectly and completely. God’s love is agape love, it’s unconditional. And what that means is that He loves me and accepts me just how I am.” We say, “People in the Old Testament were saved by keeping the law, but people in the New Testament, us, we’re saved by grace.” As if the New Testament God beat up on the Old Testament God or something. We say, “Jesus said, ‘I did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through Me the world might be saved.'”

Now maybe you find those kinds of arguments hard to believe, that people would say those things—I’ve said those things. I grew up thinking those thoughts, being taught those things. These kinds of things are said and argued every day in America by Christians. This is what our worship is. It’s designed to protect us from a holy God.

But behind all of these arguments lies a very serious and fundamental error. Behind these propositions lies a dangerously flawed assumption, a foundational problem. Statements like these point to a completely false understanding of what it means to be converted—of what it means to be saved. When we say things like that, when we think thoughts like that, we reveal the fact that we do not know what it is to be converted.

3.2. A completely false understanding of what it means to be converted

Listen carefully to this, I’m going to read you something written by a pastor in New England in the 1800s during the time of the Second Great Awakening, when revival camp meetings and revivalist preachers were drawing huge crowds and thousands of people were coming forward to the altars to get salvation. The problem with the statistics though, everybody recognized, was that only very few of these converts demonstrated any real change of heart, any real life change. And addressing this whole question of what it means to be truly converted, a wise pastor in New England said these words—and these words explain evangelical worship today completely. He says,

The manner in which people obtain a false hope is generally this: they first believe that God is reconciled to them, and then are reconciled to him on that account; but if they thought that God was [somehow] still displeased with, and determined to punish them, they would find their enmity to him revive. On the contrary, the Christian is reconciled because he sees the holiness of the law which he has broken, and God’s justice in punishing him; he takes part with God against himself, cordially submits to him, and this when he expects condemnation. He is reconciled because he is pleased with the character of God; the false convert because he hopes God is pleased with him.

I’ve hardly read a more revealing paragraph in my life about the state of things, making sense of evangelicalism today. We have a false view of conversion, as evidenced by our worship, by our preaching. We cannot bear the thought of a holy God. We cannot tolerate a mention of His law when we sing in praise of Him. If your whole standing with God depends on how well you can keep God’s love in view and God’s anger against sin out of your mind then you have a false hope, and Christian radio makes complete sense for you. If you cannot abide any thought of God’s law, of His holiness, of His justice, of His judgment, of His wrath—if these things terrify you so that you can’t bear the thought of them; if your whole goal in life is to avoid any thought of those things; if you come into worship with the idea, the expectation that you just need to be encouraged, that’s what you need; then you have not yet known what it is to be reconciled to God—to have peace with God—and you’re still in your sins.

I want to read that quote again to you. False converts

…first believe that God is reconciled to them, and then [they] are reconciled to him on that account; but if they thought…

for any moment, that God was somehow

…still displeased with, and determined to punish them, they would find their enmity to him revive.

Christian worship today. No mention of the fear of God, no mention of the law of God, no concept of His holiness. Because if so, we would find our enmity with God revive.

…On the contrary, the Christian is reconciled because he sees the holiness of the law which he has broken, and God’s justice in punishing him; he takes part with God against himself, cordially submits to him, and this when he expects condemnation. He is reconciled because he is pleased with the character of God; the false convert because he hopes God is pleased with him.

Now listen. This kind of cordial submission to God, this kind of taking side with God against ourselves, this kind of being able to tolerate His law—I mean, how are you going to explain Psalm 119: how can you love God’s law? This loving God’s law is not natural to man. Man is not able to do it! I am not able to make you do it, I’m not able to facilitate these feelings for you, you’re not able to manufacture them, nothing I can do in worship, no key changes, nothing I can do can bring you to that place, can make that possible for you, where you cordially submit yourself and take side with God against yourself. You’re not able to do it, it’s not in your nature.

What do I mean it’s not in your nature? What does the Bible say that we are by nature? The Bible says that by nature we are children of wrath, haters of God. By nature we’re proud; by nature we’re enemies of God; by nature we’re blind and deaf and deceived. And we’re blind and deaf and deceived in very specific ways—not just general, but specific. And God must make us alive. He must make us new. And God is in the business of doing this! He’s in the business of making new creations out of men, taking blind, deaf enemies and making them alive, making them new. But He’s not in the business of doing this because we snap our fingers, because we play the right chords, because we say the right things. He’s not in the business of doing this because we can say to Him, “Jump,” and He asks us, “How high?” He’s in the business of doing this for His own good pleasure. That’s the God we’ve come to worship.

And if you’re sitting here this weekend having the coals of your heart stirred up by the preaching of God’s Word, if you feel the burden of your sin, if you’re overcome by the holiness and the righteousness of God, then worship the Lord, because He’s doing a miracle in your heart. He’s making all things new. Worship God, and agree with His judgments, agree with His law. Confess your sin to Him. Cast yourself upon Him and plead for His mercy. “You, Lord, are righteous when You judge,” as David said. “You’re righteous when You judge me, and I love you for that.”

The Lord has infinitely large storehouses of mercy and compassion to pour out on you, mercy like you wouldn’t believe, mercy like even the songs on the Christian radio as they say it over and over and over again cannot begin to express. Mercy and grace. The Lord is longsuffering and patient and kind. He will not always strive with man.

But you can’t have His leniency, you can’t have His mercy, you can’t have His compassion, His grace, His forgiveness, until you plead “Guilty as charged, Your Honor.” We will never be able to tolerate the mention of fear in our worship until fear and love embrace in our hearts—until we’ve become Christians! And if that happens, which is done by the power of God, then we will have the fear of the Lord, and we will love it, and we will crave it, and we will be filled with the desire to rehearse it together with other Christians every week.

4. How Fear and Love Embrace in Biblical Worship

So what about this rehearsing with other Christians? What about our liturgy? What about the stuff that we do when we come together on a Sunday morning?

What are we to do? Practically speaking, what do we do with fear and love? How do we make those things embrace for us? How are we to instruct our hearts? How are we to facilitate the fear of the Lord? Where in the Bible do we look for an example of what we should do together when we worship? Well there’s lots of places to look.

Well what I want us to do is look at one place this this afternoon, and that’s Isaiah chapter 6. What I want us to see from this passage is an example of worship. I want us to look at the logical flow of how worship is to lead us:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said…

“Then”– notice the word then. Important word. Three times it says “then”.

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said…

“Then”–four times!

Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!” He said, “Go…”

And He tells him what to say when he goes.

There’s an order here! A very, very, very important order. It’s a logical order, a gospel logic here. Where does it begin? It begins with a vision of the Lord high and exalted, separate, holy, totally other than you and me, perfect. That’s where it begins. It begins with incredible beings crying out to one another that He is holy—it begins with God’s transcendence, and it does that work because of all that I’ve said previously—because that is who God is. And then what happens?

Verse 5,

Then I said…

After seeing this vision of God’s holiness, of His character, of His transcendence, “Then I said…”—and this is the natural response, if we do see God in that way, this is what we say:

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips…”

Then, then we know our sin, when we come before a holy God. We see our sin, we’re exposed, we confess it.

After we’ve confessed our sin, then what happens (and only then what happens)? Then God sends the gospel to us. He touches the burning coal of the cross of Jesus Christ to our hearts and He cleanses us from our sin that we’ve confessed to Him.

And then we hear the Lord asking the question, “Who will I send? Who will go from here and communicate My words to the world?” And then we respond to Him, “I will go.”

5. Practical Applications for the Right Ordering of Public Worship Today

There’s a logical flow here, that it should instruct how we come before the Lord together, how we do our work every week. And my goal in closing is just to briefly explain what we’re going to do tomorrow—what we do every week, in some form or another. That takes us through this progression. It’s something that we do and we don’t think about it, we don’t really realize what’s going on. Here’s a bulletin. Tomorrow we are going to do the work of worshipping the Lord. Tomorrow, the liturgy, the form, the order is going to facilitate the fear of God and the love of God embracing together. Let me just talk through it real quick, so that when you come to it your mind is alert, you know what’s happening, you’re able to walk with Isaiah though his vision.

We’re going to begin with a statement from Scripture tomorrow: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come” from Revelation. A statement of God’s transcendence. We’re going to sing a song of God’s transcendence following that. A vision of God’s separateness, and it contains an appeal for God’s help. “The Voice of the Lord”: Voce Dominum. His voice shakes the wilderness, the voice of the Lord is powerful, His voice sustains the universe—these are visions of God’s transcendence, of His power, of His might.

Then we have a call to worship: it’s responsive, I’ll say something and you say something, it’s from Scripture: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts!” You respond, “The whole earth is full of His glory.” And then later on, from Isaiah, I say,

Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion…

And we move into a time of response to God’s holiness, of His transcendence. We confess our sins. We’re going to sing a song that’s going to lead us through specific ways we’ve sinned. “We Have Not Known Thee As We Ought” is the title, and that’s just one of the headings of one of the verses. We’ve not known Thee, We’ve not loved Thee, We’ve not served Thee, We’ve not feared Thee; and then “When will we serve Thee as we ought?” is the last question asked.

And then, one of our elders is going to lead us in a prayer of confession, specific like Isaiah’s was specific. I have unclean lips! I don’t know what the elder will confess. He knows us, he knows the day in which we live, he knows our general condition, and he’s going to lead us in how he feels led to confess our sins to God—specific sins! And then we’re going to hear God’s assurance of His pardon for our sin, for those who truly repent. And then we’re going to sing a song where we remind ourselves of how sure that is. It’s called “His Final Word.” It’s a new song, we sang it a couple weeks ago. And it’s based on one of the last statements that Jesus made on the cross. He said “It is finished.”

Then we have a Scripture lesson where we hear from God. It’s the centerpiece of all of our worship, all of our life together: God’s Word. And we’re going to enter then into a time of hearing God speak, where all of these things that we’ll have confessed will be delivered to us in a much more perfect way through preaching. The Scripture lesson is Psalm 103, a psalm that’s been referenced all weekend. Fear and love embrace in psalm 103. Then we present to the Lord His tithes and our offerings, and we have Psalm 130 sung to us. Fear and love embrace in Psalm 130: “If you keep a record of sins, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with you, therefore You are feared.”

Then we have our sermon. It looks like the title is “Set your minds on things above,” Revelation 19, the text where Jesus is seen to return in power and wrath with the sword coming out of His mouth—that text—Colossians also.

And then, we hear the question resonating rhetorically in our head after all of this: “Who can I send? Who will go?” We can’t worship forever. This is not the time for constant, continual worship. This is a time for coming together, getting away from the cares of the world tomorrow, Sunday, retreating for an hour to practice for eternity. But in this life, we must return to the world, and return with a mission, and God asks, “Who can I send?” And we say, “Send, send me, I will go.” And we sing a song that sends us out with Jesus Himself as our Leader, as our Captain: “Lead On, O King Eternal.” The day of march has come. And then we’re done! We have a benediction, God sends us forth in peace.

There’s a gospel logic that is necessary in the worship of God’s people.

Would you pray with me, that as we come to do that work tomorrow His truth would reign, that He would be glorified, that He would be honored, that fear and love would work together in our hearts in a powerful way tomorrow. Let’s pray.

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