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Worship 101


Yesterday I began a four week series at First Baptist Church on the subject of worship. In my preparation, I was reminded of Elmer Towns’ famous observation that the first murder in the Bible occurred over a dispute concerning worship (cf. Genesis 4:1-9). As I reflected on the story of Cain and Abel, I thought about how deeply we think and feel about worship. God too, for that matter!

The first sermon was titled “Worship 101” and was taken from Exodus 20. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t that where we find the 10 Commandments?” You are correct. Perhaps a little background will help you see the method to my logic. For 400 years the Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians. God saw their suffering and heard their cries and sent Moses to emancipate them from Pharaoh’s grip. There are plagues and the Passover, then the Exodus. Israel loaded up and moved out of town. The climactic end to their flight occurred as they passed through the Red Sea and stood on the shoreline while God folded the waters over Pharaoh’s army like a blanket.

Israel moved to the base to Mt. Sinai and set up camp. Moses went up the mountain to meet with God who gave him the Law. The first four commands are not just a list of rules. They are commands that are designed to help us know how to appropriately relate to God and to one another. These commands informed Israel as to how they were to worship.

Consider for example the prologue. “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2, NLT). The 10 Commandments represent God’s first words to the Israelites following their deliverance from slavery. As a redeemed people, their first priority was to learn how to worship God. Here’s the point: Worship is based on our redemption in Christ. The God who speaks is the God who saves, and He saves us so we might worship him. John MacArthur calls worship, “The ultimate priority of the Christian life.” We worship because of God’s saving grace.

Several years ago we permitted my daughter to get a dog. She was interested in a “rescue dog,” and surveyed the adoption listings from several area shelters. She found a Golden Retriever that she thought would be a good prospect, so we made an appointment to visit the shelter. When we arrived, the keeper introduced us to the dog who barely paid any attention to us. He just ran mad circles around the fenced in yard. While he ran round and round, another Golden came over and sat before us. “He’s a new intake,” the woman remarked. “Haven’t had time to put him on the website yet.” “Is he available?” we asked.

As the keeper told us his story, the dog that we would come to know and love as Jackson sat trembling before us. “We’ll take this one.” Rescue dogs can be a mess, and Jackson has been no exception. He’s chewed up countless shoes and two good pieces of furniture. We discovered that he was blind in one eye and had contracted Addison’s disease, both from suspected blunt force trauma from his previous owner. He takes two medications daily to regulate his Addison’s and believe it or not, depression. But he follows me around the house, regardless of where I go. If I’m at the table, he’s there. If I move to the couch, he’s there. If we sleep with our bedroom door closed, he lays across the threshold. I’d like to think that in some way Jackson behaves this way because he understands he’s been rescued and has been afforded a life that he never dreamed was possible.

That’s the first lesson in worship. We worship because we have been redeemed by Christ. He rescued us, and our worship is our appropriate response to God’s saving grace. If we don’t get that part down, much of what follows is meaningless.

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