Experiencing God’s Presence: Transforming Your Worship Experience

Transcript from Ps. Mark Missenden’s sermon Fruitful Worship preached on the 28th April 2024.

Welcome to church. It’s great to see you here. You can take a seat.

My name is Mark and I’m one of the assistant pastors here at Hills Church, and it’s a privilege to continue this series on spiritual disciplines. I would agree with Adam that this has been a really important time for me, I think.

I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot and I think what Nathan said brought way back an introduction to this series that when we’re going through his spiritual disciplines it might seem like in the face on the face of it that we’re going to be learning a whole bunch of things new things that we can be doing you know know, in order to be holy like God as the Christ is holy. But actually, as we’re going through the spiritual disciplines, it’s kind of the opposite has been true in a way.

It’s actually less about doing for God and more about being with God. And that’s been a real revelation. I think it’s that makes this easier for us to, you know, to digest because we’re already busy, right? And I think what God is saying is just actually just rest in me Rather than doing for me and I’m going to invest in you and I’ll make you more like me And I think that’s a good thing, right? So Well, I just want to script already but we’ve gone through three Three phases, I suppose suppose, of spiritual disciplines.

We started looking at inward disciplines and that was prayer and study. And then we also studied those practices that focused on living out our faith in intangible ways, through actions and behaviours that reflect on the values of the kingdom of God. And these outward disciplines involve serving others and living with integrity and embodying the teaching.

teachings of Jesus Christ. And Pastor Beck and Kate looked at these practices through simplicity and solitude. And then last week, Pastor Adam began on the category of disciplines that have been titled corporate disciplines.

These are these ones that we practiced together. And Confession was where he started. And I’m going to continue continue with worship this morning and it’s a beautiful thing to participate in the shared spiritual experience of worship.

We’re going to learn a little bit more about it and you’ll be happy to know that this is a shorter sermon this morning because I thought actually a really great way to respond to a message about worship is to actually have an extended time of worship. And so, I don’t know, it just seemed logical to me. And you’re in for a real treat, because I’m going to sing most of the message today.

Totally joking, although that would have been, that would have been pretty cool. I kind of get a feeling that’s what King David might have done from time to time, just broken out and cracked out his harp, and I don’t know, started singing. We’ve learned to embark, to embark, that to embark on ground.

in these disciplines is not some pride filled endeavor to be holier than the person sitting next to me or us as a church to be holier than the church down the street sort of thing. No, actually, our key verse throughout this entire series has been from John chapter 15, verse four, where it says, “Remain in me.” and I will remain in you for a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. This series once again is less about striving and more about being with the Father.

The series is about less doing for God and more being with God and as we remain in him Him, that is when fruit that lasts is produced. And holiness is no doubt a product because we become like the one who were tethered to. We become like the one to whom we’re attached.

Can I pray again before we get into this morning? Lord Jesus, we seek your truth. truth this morning. Father as we as we just sit in that verse for a moment to remain in you then you will remain in us.

Father we ask that the truth would be revealed through the Spirit this morning. Father that as we we sit and listen, that it’s not Mark’s words, but Father, they would be your words. Lord, and if somehow I get it wrong, would you mediate? Lord, in our hearts and correct.

In Jesus’ name, amen. All right. some of us might have been coming to a church like this one for all their life, decades, and some might be coming to a church for the first time ever.

That’s happening increasingly often at Hills Church, which is pretty awesome. Some of us, many of us, somewhere in between. And I’ve heard heard many different explanations and definitions for this term we refer to as worship.

You know, I’ve heard Adam this morning, just mentioned this morning, you know, let’s come into a time of worship by giving of tithe. And we refer to it in song and as we sing praise, that can all be expressions of worship. But the word is worship.

can be a little bit ambiguous as we go through because there is actually a little bit more to it. We’re going to be focusing today firstly on worship as an attitude and then we’re going to look into expressions of worship as well. But I’d love to start with this definition of worship because it really struck me this week.

week. And it’s from William Temple, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury for a number of years throughout World War II. And he says, he defined worship in this way.

To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God. of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God. That’s really good.

And if I just paraphrase that for a moment, well, I think what he’s saying here is that through worship, our eyes are opened to what is right and wrong in the world through God’s eyes. Through worship, the truth of, of who God is and his promises to us are revealed. Through worship our imagination is purged, it’s emptied, and so that there we make room for his thoughts to enter and become our thoughts.

Through worship our mind is renewed. Through worship the walls of our heart become exposed to receive. his love, and his will becomes our will.

That’s pretty powerful. And for a corporate discipline, it really sounds personal, doesn’t it? But in my experience, this discipline is very personal, but in my experience has also been seen, that worship is magnified. when I meet here with all of you in my church.

And Martin Luther witnessed to this fact also when he said at home in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me. But in the church, when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through. Today, we’re going to approach this practice practice fairly pragmatically.

I’ve only preached maybe 10 times in my life and so I’m probably fairly new at this still but I’m finding that that’s working best for me. And so the three areas of this discipline we’re going to look at today are the priority of worship, preparation for worship and avenues into worship. You with me? me? All right.

And what I mean by priority of worship is that what is the precedence for worship or the prerequisite for worship? Or if I’m looking for a definition that doesn’t start with P, it’s like, what’s God looking for in His people as we come, you know, as we come into worship? What is He looking for in us? In one of the worlds, I’m biased because I’m a fan of Jesus Christ, but in one of the world’s most famous conversations of all time, Jesus meets a woman at the world outside in Samaria. And after this moment where he effectively tells things about this woman that no one could possibly know but herself, she says, “Sir,” the woman said, “You must be a person.” prophet for those reasons.” And so, tell me, why is it that you Jews insist Jerusalem is the only place of worship? While we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Jerusalem where our ancestors worshiped, and Jesus replied, “Believe me, dear woman. The time is coming when it will no longer matter whether you worship the Father in this mountain or in Jerusalem.” You Samaritans know very little.

little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about Him. For salvation comes through the Jews. And Jesus is, of course, referring to Himself.

And He continues in that vein. But the time is coming indeed. It is here now, as He stands before her, when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship Him that way. True worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

The Father is looking for those who will worship this way. For God is Spirit. So those who worship Him must also must worship in spirit and in truth.

In Exodus, God gives Moses the instruction, and Jesus is sort of referring to this moment, by the way, because there’s confusion between Samaritans and the Jews. What do we do, and why do you do what you do, and there’s confusion, right? In Exodus, God has given Moses instruction to the Israelites on how to worship, on where to worship, on when to worship, on where to worship, on where to worship, on where to worship, on where to worship, Much of it involves consecration of the priests to ensure that they are right in the eyes of the Lord and can even enter the temple and it’s and this chapter 29 have a read of it it’s it’s very instruction heavy and it’s in the any wonder that their views differed the Samaritans and the Jews. In Hebrews chapter 10 verses 9 to 12 Jesus addresses this confusion again when he says look I have come to do your will and then the writer of Hebrews explains he cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect for God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time.

No longer the priests need to go through this instruction heavy process of consecration. Until the old covenant, sorry, under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. But our high priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good.

good for all time. And then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Jesus simplifies it in this conversation.

And one very clear symbol is that upon Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday, the veil of the temple is torn into, meaning that through Christ’s sacrifice, we are consecrated through the embodied. of Christ. This means that through Jesus our ability to worship God is now unrestricted meaning that we can have an audience with him at any occasion and I wanted to preface this message because that’s really important for us.

As we come into worship we recognize that Jesus made a way and it makes it and that means it’s we’re now able. So to truly worship means to worship the Father in spirit and in truth, Jesus said to this woman. So if true worship is worshiping in spirit and in truth, what is worshiping in spirit and in truth? According to Him, it’s important to know.

And when I enter heaven, I’d love for Jesus to say this about me. I’d love for Him to say this about us. You guys, Hills Church, true worshipers, true worshipers.

Your worship truly pleased the Father. How good would it be to hear that? Jesus alludes to the answers to this question. What is worshiping in spirit and in truth when he spoke to Nicodemus and later on also with his disciples? In talking with Nicodemus in John chapter three, he says, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the spirit.

Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases, you hear it sound.” but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it’s going.

So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. It is when we are born again that we receive the Spirit. And as God is Spirit, as it says in that verse in John, only those who can truly worship God and Spirit are those who have been born again.

Only those who commit and surrender to Jesus, this is who God is looking for. There are a few ideas for what Jesus meant when he says worship in truth and a number of them are, he’s referring to himself. You know, when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth,” and the life,” when we worship in spirit and in truth, there’s some thinking that actually we worship in Jesus’ name, in the truth.

The other school of thought is a literal one. That to worship in truth is to have a faith, a faith, a faith, a faith, a faith. faith of belief that what you sing and how you worship and what you say to God is true.

You believe it. The declarations that we make in Scripture are actually indeed true. And this is the priority of worship.

When we say that we love you, Lord, is that the truth of our heart? Do we love Him with all of our mind, with all of our body, with all of our strength? So as we move into preparation, what is your preparation for worship? Instead it could be what is your posture? I’m sticking on this P thing today for some reason. but what is your posture as you come in to worship? How do we approach our times of worship? And I mentioned it before that as I was researching this week that corporate worship services and what corporate services, sorry, look like through the ages. And as I came to that chapter in Exodus and I’m reading about it, and after it goes into great detail of how priests should be consecrated and all of those things.

things, and the alts prepared for worship, those chapters in Exodus 29, verse 42 and 43 read, “For the generations to come, this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of the meeting before the Lord.” And of course, we’ve heard now that Jesus was that offering once for all time. However, this remains true, “There I will meet you and speak to you, there also will I meet the Israelites.” and the place will be consecrated by my glory. And so several times a year the Israelites gathered at several key times throughout the year with an expectancy that as they gathered together in worship they would be met by and they would hear from their God.

We’ll call this holy expectancy. Once again, in that conversation with the Samaritan woman at the world, Jesus clarifies the intimacy that we can now have with God through Jesus. But one thing remains the same, that when you worship in spirit and in truth, there, God will meet you and he will speak to you, and what’s more, God will speak to us as a church and meet with us and speak with us as a church.

So who came here this morning expecting to hear from God? Who came here expecting him to meet with us and speak with us in your worship? How does it change? How does that change your posture as you come? come? Sometimes we refer to the sermon as the part of the service where we’re going to receive the Word of God. But that, according to the Word of God, puts a limitation on how your Father would like to meet with you and speak with you today. today.

Worship should be regarded as a spiritual discipline because it provides a structured way of living and behaving, positioning us before God to enable him to transform us. So what avenues exist for us to come into true worship with that holy expectancy that we’re actually going to hear from? from and and meet with God I’ll give a few but I’m gonna focus on one today You could take a walk around your neighborhood or a local park And admire creation and give God praise for it That is a way you could read scripture aloud memorize scripture sing a song of praise you could love others Practically and you could pray through a Psalm Psalm and in all things and in all these things, sorry, approach with an attitude that God is going to meet you in them and speak with you. Be ready for that.

My focus avenue this morning though is gathering together in worship and I’m going to say as a pastor be here regularly on a Sunday. My grandfather was an old Methodist minister and Martin Orenger said to me once, one thing that he used to say to him when he was away and that he would come back from time to time and he goes, oh, it’s great to see you. It’s not the same when you’re not here.

And it’s true, it’s not. It’s not the same when you’re not here. We all form an important part of the body of Christ.

And it’s not the same when one is missing. Isaac Pennington says that, “When people are gathered for genuine worship, “they are like a heap of fresh and burning coals, “warming one another. “As a great strength and freshness and vigor “of life flows into all.” all.

That’s pretty cool. A single log might not keep a fire going for long but when several logs are combined, even if they’re not the best quality, they can create a significant blaze. Proverbs 27 17 states that iron sharpens iron and so even individuals who who may not seem impressive can support and encourage each other if they’re willing to make the effort.

I think that’s encouraging for us as a church, for each of us individually, because I think we all have our own hangups, you know, or all have something, a voice in our own head going, oh man, it might even worthy enough to be here in this church, you know? Yep. Yep. So even if you’re not feeling up to it, come.

Even if the previous worship experiences have been disheartening or unfulfilling, come. Come with prayer, with anticipation and with the hope of experiencing God’s transformation in your very midst. midst because he said he was gonna meet with us and speak with us.

We’re gonna finish the service a little differently today and we’re gonna enter into an extended time of worship. And I would like to invite the worship team up. And before I go on, I wanna preface this by saying that physical worship is not to be manipulated in any way.

So simply respond as you feel led this morning. As we finish with these few songs, there are a few ways to respond and maybe you’ve never met God before. Maybe you’re not born again, maybe God hasn’t given birth to the spirit inside of you.

And so we’re going to pray that prayer. And if you would like to respond, if God, if you’re feeling God is drawing you to him this morning, then you should respond. We’re also going to pray for those those who long for us as a church to hear from God this morning.

Praying to be wholly expectant this morning. Longing to hear what it is that he wants to say to you and to us this morning. And so can I invite you to say stand and as we sing It’s trying to think of ways To declare to God this morning.

I was thinking Maybe I can just invite everyone to come forward, you know Just as an act of obedience and saying yeah, we want to hear from you. That’s a very high school camp thing to do. That’s what we would do.

But I want to encourage you this morning to receive from the Lord. Let him know, maybe even just pray to him that, God, maybe my heart is not open to receive from you this morning. And so as an act, I just encourage you just, hold out your hands as you do that as you sing ready to receive what it is that the Lord wants to say to you this morning can we pray Lord Jesus for those of us that are not in your kingdom.

We’ve never made that commitment to you to say that I’m denying myself and even though I don’t 100 % know what that means, I know that that you love me and I know that you’re drawing me to yourself and I’m getting a sense this morning that I need to come back. If that is you, you can pray this prayer with me. Lord Jesus, I admit that I have sinned.

I have fallen short and I recognize that the consequence and the wages of this sin is death and disconnection from you for all time. But God I believe that you paid for my sin through your death on the cross and I also believe that you rose again and paved the way for us, for me to be in relationship with you. And so God, I am confessing right now that you are Lord and I call upon your name for salvation.

Lord would you be a part of my life. life today creating me a clean heart and give birth to a spirit within me to be able to talk with you to be able to connect with you Lord to give new meaning to my life I pray these things your name for those who for the rest of us Lord we want to hear from you God maybe sometimes we come into our worship services and it’s early and we’re tired and we’re not feeling it but God, we know that worship is not for the comfortable, it’s for the bold. God, it’s for those who are ready to hear from you, meet with you, speak with you and be changed by you.

That is a bold move. God, worship is not for the complacent, it’s for those who want to see your kingdom come. And maybe our heart’s not been quite right.

Right when we’ve come in and some Sunday mornings Maybe our hearts not been quite right father when we’re living our life and we want it. We want it to change Father renew our minds Lord through your spirit speak with us speak with us in Jesus name we pray amen. Come on.

Let’s sing Let’s give him praise. Let’s worship him in spirit and truth this morning. What do you? you say? Come on

Watch the full sermon here