Worship. We are a nation of worshippers who live in a world full of worshippers. The Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines ?worship? as ?worthiness, respect, reverence paid to a divine being, an act of expressing such reverence, or extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem.? When you heard me mention the word ?worship? you probably thought that I was talking about the worship of God, but I was merely describing what I see taking place in our society and around the world. When you understand the definition of ?worship? as ?extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem? then you can look at the actions and expressions of people in all kinds of settings and understand what is taking place. Let me give you a few examples.
Tonight there will be thousands of people filling a stadium in Detroit, Michigan to watch the Super Bowl. They will paint their faces, put on their team colors, and arrive at the stadium hours in advance of the kick-off just for an opportunity to watch their team. While the game is going on they will lift their voices and their hands in praise to those on the field. Now, don?t get me wrong, not all of those in the stadium will be worshippers, some are merely folks who will enjoy a good football game, but if you?ve ever been to an athletic event of any kind then you know as well as I do that there will be worshippers present.
On any given night people flock to arenas and concert halls to fill the ?pews? and watch Kanye West, System of a Down, Toby Keith, Eminem, or The All-American Rejects. If the concert was broadcast over television and you turned down the sound and simply watched the actions of those in the crowd you would think they were at church, participating in a worship service. There are more hands lifted in the air at the Ford Center than in all of the churches in Oklahoma City. They close their eyes and sing the songs of the faithful, they shed tears of joy, and ?shout to the lords? of our culture.
I?m not one of those wild-eye religious fanatics that thinks we should ban all of these activities, but I do believe we should pay attention because we can learn so much about the human condition from these activities. William Jennings Bryan once wrote,
Man is a religious being; the heart instinctively seeks for a God. Whether he worships on the banks of the Ganges, prays with his face upturned to the sun, kneels toward Mecca or, regarding all space as a temple, communes with the heavenly Father according to the Christian creed, man is essentially devout. (William Jennings Bryan, 1860-1925.)
We are wired for worship. There is an emptiness and restless in our souls that cries out for something to fill it. That vacuum will be filled. It may be filled with the adoration of our favorite team, our favorite music icon, the pursuit of the perfect golf shot, the ecstasy of sexual fulfillment, the escape of climbing into the bottom of a bottle or being filled with the latest drug that promises to lift us up out of the pit of despair, or having our name on the list of ?Fortune? magazines ?100 Wealthiest Americans? list, but we will fill the vacuum with some ?thing? or someone. Peter Heitt wrote,
We are what we worship. If you asked Paul, “Who are you?” He’d say, “It’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives within me.” When we worship anything other than God we commit idolatry. None of our idols are ultimately able to define us and fulfill us. Only God the creator can do that, only He is worthy of worship. Only He is good enough to define us, direct us, and orient us. As Pascal writes, “There’s a God-shaped vacuum inside each one of us.” There is an altar to an unknown God in every heart. Augustine says our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee. (Peter Heitt, Christmas On Mars Hill, 1994)
This is not a new phenomenon of our day. We can go back, way back in God?s Word, and see that the human heart, since the Fall, has frantically searched for something to fill the emptiness that is so pervasive. In Exodus 20:2-3, God told Moses,
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3You shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2-3 NIV)
While Moses was on Mount Sinai meeting with God, the Israelites were growing anxious and restless down at the base of the mountain. They became so anxious that they decided that they could wait no longer. In Exodus 32:1-8 we read,
1When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ?Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don?t know what has happened to him.? 2Aaron answered them, ?Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.? 3So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ?These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.? 5When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ?Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.? 6So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry. 7Then the LORD said to Moses, ?Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. 8They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ?These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.? (Exodus 32:1-8 NIV)
Nothing has changed has it? We are the restless Israelites of the modern-day. We don?t want to wait on God, to do things God?s way, we want it our way, and we want it now. In the words of that great American theologian from the 60?s, Jim Morrison, ?We want the world and we want it now!? We will worship and adore whatever will promise us instant gratification. We will bow our knee to anyone or anything that promises momentary relief from the emptiness and restlessness that we feel in our souls. The emptiness inside us, the restless of our souls, is not our only problem. Another real problem we face is our vulnerability and the vast number of people, and supposed pleasures, that are more than willing to consume us. They can?t deliver. They have never been able to deliver. They will only destroy our soul and leave us more empty than we were before we chose to bow down to them.
As we turn to our next study of Revelation this morning we can gain a clear line of sight to the only One who is worthy of our worship. If you will remember from our last study the question was raised, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2 NIV) Not one was found. There was no one worthy. None who were of capable of meeting the standard set by God except for One?the Lamb of God. When the Lamb comes forth to take the scroll, unlock the seals, and reveal God?s plan for all of history, all of creation breaks out in glorious praise. Let?s read together beginning in verse 7.
7 He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 11Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Revelation 5:7-14 NIV)
As we take a look at ?The Worship of the Lamb? this morning I want us to focus our time on two important truths shared in this Scripture. First of all, I want us to examine why we are to worship the Lamb of God. If we are wired to worship why shouldn?t we be allowed to worship anyone or anything that gives us a sense of peace, joy, and fulfillment? Why is it imperative that we focus our worship on Jesus, the Lamb of God?
I?ve already addressed the fact that all people are wired to worship and that we are active participants in worship. Many claim to be unbelievers, but that doesn?t exempt them from the fact that they are worshippers. Worship is a good thing. Worship is from the hand of God, the gift of God, given to His creation to express our gratitude and exalt His glory. Our predicament, because of the Fall, is that we have this innate drive to worship without a relationship with Almighty God. Sin has separated us from God and apart from a relationship with God we are travelers without a map or compass. Because of this predicament we are sure to get things wrong.
It is like giving a child a can full of gasoline. Gasoline is a good thing. If you have gas you can do many constructive and productive things, but if you do not know what you are doing then you can bring about destruction rather than production and even lose your life. And so it is with worship. We have been given this drive, but if we don?t know how we are to express our affection, gratitude, and adoration then we can end up worshipping something or someone that can eventually destroy us.
We are to worship the Lamb of God. Why? That?s a great question. Take a look at Revelation 5:9 and we will find our answer.
9 And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Revelation 5:9 NIV)
The Lamb of God, Jesus our Savior, is worthy of our worship because He was slain, He died on our behalf for our redemption, for our forgiveness. This is not a one time declaration of Scripture?it is a constant theme repeated over and over again.
There are many who are able to move us, many who have stirred within us feelings of joy, excitement, and release. There have been great entertainers, speakers, athletes, and leaders who have been able to ?wow? us with their talent, charisma, and charm, but there has never been one who has been able to free us from the bondage of sin?until Jesus.
The Bible teaches that we are dying, not just a physical death, but we are wasting away in every sense of the word because of our sin. Paul wrote,
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NIV)
Did you notice that? The just payment for our sin is the death and dullness of our souls that we are experiencing, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus! Why is this eternal, abundant life available only through a relationship with Jesus? Once again, He has paid the price for your sin and mine, a price that none of us could ever pay, a check we could never write. Hebrews 9:22 says, ?there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.?
It is not enough to dismiss our sin, it?s not enough to pretend it doesn?t exist, that it is somebody else?s fault, or to have our friends tell us that it really isn?t any big deal?our sin is killing us and we need the forgiveness that only God can deliver. He has delivered your forgiveness and mine, not because of our goodness, but because of the death and glorious resurrection of the Lamb who was slain! In the opening chapter of Revelation we hear the constant battle cry of the redeemed! Read along with me beginning in verse 4.
4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father– to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:4-6 NIV)
In Revelation 7 we read about a sea of souls from every tribe, nation, and language that are singing praises to God and to the Lamb. When the elder asks, ?Who are these folks?? we read the answer in Revelation 7:14.
14 I answered, “Sir, you know.” And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14 NIV)
They have been cleansed by the ?blood of the Lamb!? Hallelujah! In Revelation 12 we read about the defeat of Satan. How did the saints overcome him? Let?s read and find out.
10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. 11 They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (Revelation 12:10-11 NIV)
They overcame him by the ?blood of the Lamb? and ?the Word of their testimony!? This is the central teaching of God?s Word my friend. By Jesus? death upon Calvary?s cross you and I have been freed from the shackles of sin, we have been given the keys to the Kingdom of God, and we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus our Lord!
Remember what we read in Hebrews, ?there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.? In the Old Testament the priest made sacrifices on the behalf of the people for the forgiveness of their sins, but when Jesus came He was both the Priest and the perfect, final sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews tells us,
11 When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! 15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance– now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:11-15 NIV)
There is power in the blood! There is forgiveness in the blood! There is the peace and joy that we?ve all been longing for awaiting those who will have their hearts and souls cleansed by the precious blood of the Lamb!
Let?s move on before we run out of time this morning. The last lesson I want us to learn from our Scripture this morning is the universal scope of the worship of the Lamb. I want you to notice something about our Scripture for today.
In verse 8, we see the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before the Lamb in worship. In verse 11, we read about the voices of ?many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand? singing to the Lamb. In verse 13, the sound of ?every living creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them singing.? What did you notice? Did you hear the volume growing? Did you see the crowd expanding? Did you notice that what started as a few praising the Lamb ended up with the entire creation praising the glory and majesty of the One who alone is worthy?
What were they singing? Are they singing the most downloaded song at the iTunes Music Store? The latest hit by Mariah Carey, Beyonce & Slim Thug, or The Killers? Hardly. They aren?t singing about the angst of their lives, lost love, or glorying in their ?Grillz??they are singing about the glory, honor, and power of the Lamb! They?re singing,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
They break out in joyful, exuberant praise as the angels and every mouth in all of creation belts out,
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
It is the Lamb that we?ve been longing for my friends! It is the Lamb who has taken away the guilt, the shame, and the just punishment that comes to people like me who have lived their life in defiance of Almighty God. He has taken it away. He has taken our pain and replaced it with peace. He has taken our shame and replaced it with songs of praise. He has taken our guilt and declared us innocent. He has taken our brokenness and declared us righteous. He has done it all and He alone is worthy to be praised.
No wonder all of creation breaks out in joyful adoration of the Lamb! Notice that there are people from every tribe, language, and nation that are singing praises to the Lamb. This is a picture that is totally foreign to the modern-day, homogeneous Church in America. This is a picture of all ethnicities, all nationalities, together, singing praises to the Lamb of God. Today, the American church looks like the First Church of the Clones, but this is not the picture we are given in Revelation. The modern-day Church is unable to bring the diversity of humanity together. Let?s face it, there is animosity between the races, there?s animosity between the classes, and you can?t force what people don?t want. Even though we read in God?s Word that ?in Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, male or female, slave or free, but all are one in Christ Jesus? we just can?t seem to bring them together, but the Lamb will. One day the Lamb will.
I get the question all of the time, ?How are you all able to bring all of those different kinds of people together?? The answer is quite simple, some may say, simplistic??It is the Lamb. When we get our eyes off of one another and our differences and we focus on the precious Lamb of God then we begin to see one another more clearly.?
What will we do this morning? Will we bow down and worship the Lamb of God or will we continue to turn away from the One who taken our punishment upon Himself? Will we yield to God?s will or will we continue to stiffen our necks and do whatever feels right to us? I want to encourage you this morning to lift your voice and cry out to the Lamb of God. Invite Him into your heart and bow before His glorious throne.