Let's suppose that this morning you and I worship with a group of Christians in the area where Jesus lived. We are actually stepping back in time to worship with a group of Christians just twenty years after Jesus was executed. In fact, there are a few men and women in this congregation who actually saw and heard Jesus when he lived.

For us, three circumstances make this Sunday morning worship strange and unusual. The first strange thing: Sunday is the day that begins their work week. Saturday is that country's religious day. For them, Sunday is the same thing Monday is to us. It's not a weekend day; it's the day to go back to work. Normal everyday life and normal work are occurring just like it would on Tuesday or Thursday. In fact, only Christians worship today; everyone else worshiped yesterday.

The second strange thing: there is no church building. These Christians do not own any property. Early Christians owned no buildings dedicated to Christian worship. If one of the Christian members owned a home with enough space in it for Christians to gather, this group will likely be meeting in that home. If the number of Christians were too many to meet in one home, they likely are meeting in several homes. If there isn't a home available, they just meet somewhere that they will not be disturbed.

The third strange thing: since today is a work day, all of them have to go to work. So they meet very early in the morning before work. This morning we are meeting with them before sunrise--that is the only time everyone is free to come. Everyone is dressed in his or her work clothes because they will walk from worship to their job. This helps us understand what Paul meant when he told the Christians in Corinth that when they assembled to take the Lord's Supper that they should wait on each other (1 Corinthians 11:33).

When we meet with this group, two things really impress us. (1) Everybody there wants to be there. (2) Worship is obviously important to each one of them.

From the collective information that we have about Christians at that time, as this group worships they take the Lord's Supper, they sing about Jesus Christ, and they charge each other with their moral responsibilities as Christians. "Don't cheat anyone. Don't steal anything. Don't engage in sexual sin. Don't deceive anybody. Be trustworthy." This sounds like the instructions written in the epistles. This was the kind of moral instruction that was given to a person wanting baptism, and it was the kind of moral commitment Christians were urged to remember.

  1. In the New Testament epistles are verses of some of the early songs Christians sang about Jesus.

    1. Ephesians 5:14 is probably one of those verses.
        "Awake, sleeper,
        And rise from the dead,
        And Christ will shine on you." (NASV)

    2. Philippians 2:6-11 is likely one of their songs.
        "Who, being in very nature God,
          did not consider equality with God
          something to be grasped,
        but made himself nothing,
          taking the very nature of a servant,
          being made in human likeness.
        And being found in appearance as a man,
          he humbled himself
          and become obedient to death--
          even death on a cross!
        Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
          and gave him the name that is above every name,
        that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
          in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
        and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
          to the glory of God the Father." (NIV)

    3. 1 Timothy 3:16 is likely another one.
        "He who was revealed in the flesh,
        Was vindicated in the Spirit,
        Beheld by angels,
        Proclaimed among nations,
        Believed on in the world,
        Taken up in glory." (NASV)

  2. When you, as a Christian, think about worshiping, what are your basic thoughts about worship?
    1. Let's begin with your personal view of worship--what is your personal view of worship?
      1. Which of these three views of worship are most like your personal view of worship?
      2. Worship is:
        1. An obligation that each Christian must fulfill.
        2. A command that each Christian must obey.
        3. A spiritual opportunity created by a privilege.
      3. If worship is basically an obligation, why should anyone who is not a Christian be interested in Christian worship because of your sense of obligation?
        1. Have you ever been religiously attracted to someone else's obligation?
        2. "Why do you worship on Sunday?" "It's just something I have to do."
        3. "Why do you go every Sunday? " "I was always taught that is what I had to do."
        4. "I really don't understand why you are so religious." "It's my obligation."
        5. "Oh, well, I understand--when can I go with you?"
      4. If worship is primarily a command, is worshiping a matter of bowing before divine power?
        1. "God is powerful, and He said do it."
        2. "You don't have to understand it or to like it--you just have to do it, so we do it."
        3. Is that the essence of worship?
      5. This is my view of worship: worship is a spiritual opportunity created by the privilege of having salvation in Jesus and being God's child.
        1. It is the opportunity to join my spiritual family as we thank God for salvation.
        2. It is the opportunity to publicly renew my commitment to Christ.
        3. It is the opportunity to publicly affirm my faith and my hope.
    2. Do you think worship is:
      1. A mechanical, formal, prescribed procedure that a Christian must perform as he meets with other Christians on Sunday?
        1. It does not involve what you feel or what you think, only what you do.
        2. It is based on specific formalities to be done exactly in the proper procedure.
        3. If you just do what you are supposed to do and do it exactly as you are supposed to do it, God is satisfied and you have done your duty.
      2. A commitment to a movement or a church?
        1. You are committed to the restoration movement, so everything about worship must be prescribed by the restoration movement.
        2. You are committed to the Church of Christ, so worship must done the way the Church of Christ does it.
        3. It is not unusual for me to hear someone explain, "This is the Church of Christ way of doing it," or "That is Church of Christ," and that is the total explanation and understanding.
      3. A biblical fellowship experience with other Christians and with God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit?
        1. I am encouraging and being encouraged by every other Christian who has been baptized into Christ.
        2. I am affirming that we are brothers and sisters together in Christ.
        3. I am rejoicing in the fact that God has accepted me as His own.
        4. I am declaring my faith in the resurrection and return of Jesus.
        5. Thus, as I worship with fellow Christians, I am renewing and strengthening the bond between us and between myself and God.
      4. Worship occurs when:
        1. "My body is seated on a pew in a church building when the congregation assemblies."
          1. "What I do while I am there is not important."
          2. "What I think about while I am there is not important."
          3. "What I feel while I am there is not important."
          4. "All that is important is physically being there."
        2. "When I pay attention to the sermon."
          1. "The real heart and core of worship is the sermon."
          2. "If I don't go to sleep, if I pay attention, and if I remember something that the preacher said, then I have worshiped."
        3. "When I physically take communion."
          1. "No matter what I am thinking or what I am doing,
          2. "If I swallow a little piece of the bread,
          3. "If I swallow a small swallow of grape juice,
          4. "I have worshiped."
        4. "When my heart and mind talk to God--when I sing, when I pray, when I commune, when I contribute, when I listen to the sermon, when I greet my brothers and sisters."

  3. Why do you attend worship assemblies on Sunday morning? I am truly thrilled that you do, and I don't want you to give me the answer to that question, but I do want you to answer yourself.
    1. Which of these following answers would you give yourself?
      1. "I would feel guilty if I did not come."
      2. "I don't want to go to hell, and I am afraid that I would if I did not come."
      3. "I am doing my duty."
      4. "I want to give my life the right balance, and that must include some worship."
      5. "It is important to my marriage."
      6. "It is important to my children."
      7. "There is some good in all of those answers, but all those answers are inadequate."
    2. If these kind of reasons are your reasons for worshiping God, then you are missing one of the greatest joys and blessings that God offers us.
      1. Worship to praise the God who forgives you of all sin because He loves you and is filled with mercy--to show genuine gratitude to someone who loves you is rich and fulfilling.
      2. Worship to thank Jesus Christ for dying on the cross so that you will not have to die without salvation and spend an eternity separated from God.
      3. Worship to declare your faith in the resurrection and return of Jesus Christ.
      4. Worship to affirm your sense of family with every person who is in Jesus Christ.
      5. When we learn and experience the deeper meaning and value of worship, there is joy, encouragement, strength, and renewal.
        1. Consider a simple illustration.
        2. You can marry for security, to have kids, and to escape living alone and have a marriage that is somewhere between miserable and bearable.
        3. Or you can marry to build a companionship based on love and respect and discover one of the greatest joys and blessings God gave us.
        4. The same thing is true with worship.

    This world pounds on each of us every day. Evil is constantly looking for ways to invade our lives, to create guilt, and to cause us pain and suffering. Everything in our lives is under attack. If it is just "me" against the world, "me" will lose.

    We do not worship an arrogant God who has to have His ego stroked. Worship is for our personal benefit. It is to strengthen and renew us. When we personally do not worship when we come together, we are the loser, not God.

    We just celebrated the 4th of July. This is a national holiday dedicated to grateful remembrance of the birth of this nation and to reflecting on all the blessings we have because this country exists. But for many Americans, the 4th of July has nothing to do with remembering or reflecting. Instead, the 4th of July is a free day, a fun day, a family day, a food day, and a fireworks day. None of those things are bad, but they all miss the point.

    It is so easy for the same thing to happen with worship. We can attend and never worship. We can come for many reasons that completely miss the point. Worship, and when you worship, please, don't miss the point. Please, don't miss the blessings.

    David Chadwell

    West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
    Morning Sermon, 6 July 1997

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