Sermons & Sunday Schools

A Christian’s Acceptable Worship

Full Transcript:

I trust you all had a good holiday and had plenty of turkey or ham to eat. It’s always a good time to get together with family and friends. This morning, we are continuing in Hebrews 13. So take your Bibles and turn there and let’s look at this passage.

Now I’m getting into the area of the practicality of the Christian race and walk. Today we are going to be looking at the Christian’s acceptable worship. What exactly is acceptable to God when it comes to our worship? Sometimes we complicate things too much in this area, whereas the Bible simplifies it to the point that we can look at our own lives, see what we are doing, examine ourselves, and actually answer the question about whether our worship is acceptable. If it is not in certain areas, you would adjust as needed.

After some time of examining the essential marks or virtues of the Christian life lead to a very specific action, which is that of the believer offering up sacrifices to God that are acceptable. Here we come to a section of Hebrews that teaches us that we can come before the Father and offer up sacrifices before Him.

Using sacrificial language is not unfamiliar to the book of Hebrews, but it surely is unfamiliar to a postmodern day. It does conjure up thoughts of offering up animals on the altar, but it is the best imagery that the Bible offers. The animal sacrifices of earlier days have been rendered forever obsolete by Christ and His self-offering. That has been evident throughout all the book of Hebrews. But there is always room for worship rendered by obedient hearts, those who know Christ.

In the Old Testament times when the saints offered up sacrifices, they did so anticipating by faith a better sacrifice, which was Christ Himself. He is the complete, perfect, and unrepeatable sacrifice for believers as a High Priest.

Now that Jesus’ sacrifice is complete, it doesn’t mean that God’s people stop offering sacrifices to God. We just offer sacrifices for a different reason and in a different way. The different reason is because Jesus inaugurated the new covenant with His blood. People are called by the gospel to receive Jesus as their substitute sacrifice, and once they have accepted God and are in fellowship with Him, they begin to be strengthened by grace every day. And they don’t offer up sacrifices to God in order to secure their redemption, which is already made so by Christ’s blood.

In Hebrews 9:12, the writer has said to us:

And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

In Ephesians 4:30, it says:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Our redemption has already been sealed, so we don’t offer up sacrifices to God in order to secure redemption. The only reason we offer these sacrifices that we are going to look at today, is this. Look at the last phrase in Hebrews 13:16, after the comma:

For with such sacrifices God is pleased.

That’s the bottom line. If you want to sum up the Christian life, then basically you need to live a life that is pleasing to God. All over the Word of God, you are going to find this particular admonition to the believers. In 2 Corinthians 5:9, Paul says:

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

Why does he say this? Because we all will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to be recompensed for deeds done in the body whether for good or bad. And then right here in Hebrews 11:5-6, which says:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

We have an example here of someone who lived a pleasing life before God. The author is saying here that we have an Old Testament example here, and Enoch pleased God. In Genesis where this passage comes from, it says that he walked with God. It says it in several places that Enoch walked with God, and God took him without dying.

The word walk suggests action; it’s a metaphor of Biblical faith. R. Kent Hughes says that this word means there must be mutual agreement with the one you are walking with. Amos 3:3 says:

Do two men walk together unless they have made an appointment?

So if you are walking with God, then you are agreeing on the destination, the same place. If you are walking with God, you are agreeing to follow God’s path, not anyone else’s. Also if you are going to be agreeing with God, then you will be agreeing on the same pace. If you are walking with someone, you can’t run ahead or lag behind, you have to be on the same pace.

So he is saying here that he pleased God by walking on the same path and on the same pace with God. And God liked that so much that he took him. Pleasing God in Genesis included steadfast, consistent, and forward looking faith. Genesis 5:23 says:

So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.

This was 365 days of righteous living with God pre-flood times, terribly evil times. This is what the Word of God says about the times before the great flood in Genesis 6:11:

Now it came about, when men began to multiply on the face of the land, and daughters were born to them.

Enoch lived in the midst of a cesspool of sin and wickedness where the evil in the people’s heart was continual of everyone around them. And here’s this guy living a simple life following God. Even in the wickedest times and places, it is still possible to live with an enduring faith that pleases God. So the necessary condition for pleasing God and walking intimately with Him is faith.

He supported that necessary condition in Scripture with three things. What does it really mean to believe or have faith in God? Well number one, we must approach God believing. It says in Hebrews 11:6:

…for he who comes to God must believe…

That’s part of what faith is, believing what God said about Himself that He actually is real. It also says in the verse a second thing:

…that He exists…

He has real personalities and is involved in this world and in your life. Doug Wilson, who writes in a small magazine called Credenda/Agenda, said that there’s only two kinds of atheists. One who believes there is no God, and the other who hates Him. They kinda go hand in hand. If you don’t believe there’s a God, ultimately you believe that it’s all about you and about what you can do. There is no order and the world is a chaotic place. So you just do what you feel or think is right. But ultimately, there are those who just hate God, and doesn’t have a personality or care for them. They might believe that God has wound up this world in some way and just let it go to do it’s own thing. That’s what deists believe, which mostly include those who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Therefore, faith means that you believe in God’s Word and that He actually is a person involved in your life. You also believe in Hebrews 11:6, in His personality generosity. The verse says:

He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

That’s God’s grace. Enoch came regularly and daily believing that He was alive and He was God. He also found that God responded positively and abundantly to those who sought Him, because He found out that God is a Rewarder, not a Condemner of those who live by faith. The bottomline is that you can’t really know that He is a Rewarder of those who seek Him unless you already rely on Him as the only true and almighty God, unless you trust Him that He will fulfill all His promises, and unless you find Him to be the source of your deepest satisfaction. Remember that Enoch enjoyed walking with God.

Christian life and faith will always bring you to the place where your affections for God are heightened to a place they never have been before. The more you know about God, the higher affection you have for Him, and the more desire you have for Him in your life every single day. The Lord becomes the most important part of your life.

What we do understand from Enoch’s example of faith is that real believers desire God as a Companion and seek to please Him wherever they go and in whatever they do. So what did Enoch get for such desired fellowship and a pleasing lifestyle before God? Well it’s in Hebrews 11:5, God took him. God said, “I enjoy fellowship with you so much, Enoch, that I’m just going to take you to Heaven and you can forget the death part.”

Isn’t that not real for a Christian? Doesn’t God forget the death part when we trust in Christ by faith? Death has no mastery or rule over us anymore, it’s not our enemy anymore. God has taken care of it, He has defeated death and Satan. God translates us from life here on earth to life in His presence. That’s where faith brings you.

With that in mind, let’s dip back into the lettuce bowl of Scripture that will help us to see what acceptable worship is for the Christian now today. Here’s the first thing in Hebrews 13:15. Let me just back up in this verse and talk about the proper approach for Christian worship. It says:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

The proper approach to God and offer worship is through Jesus. That’s the only way. Proper worship to God is always through our eye High Priest Jesus Christ. There are not many religions that lead to the same place, there’s only one way to approach God without coming under His wrath, and that is through Christ. So He doesn’t go into great detail in verse 15 because the whole book is about that!

He says that today as a believer if you are going to worship God, you come through Christ. He is the doorway through proper Christian worship. In fact, it was the Apostle Peter who said almost exactly the same thing in 1 Peter 2:5:

You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You’re not going to get a conflict of interest on this point with Biblical writers. There is only one way to approach God, and that is through the sacrifice of our High Priest Jesus Christ. Here’s the second thing in Hebrews 13:15, it is about the frequency of Christian worship. It says:

Let us continually offer up a sacrifice.

Here is the frequency of Christian worship. Now why does that say that here to the Hebrew audience? Remember that in their mind to offer up sacrifice was connected to a festival, a special day, and a time of the year. The author is saying here to know for the believer who comes to God through Christ that it is to be continual. In other words, the worship should be day by day. The sacrifices are not regulated by some festival, holiday, or a certain time of the year. Christian worship is to be offered day by day, at the moment we awake. When we wake up we are either to grumble or thank God. Even when it’s harder to get up every day because you’re getting older, you’re still thanking God because your body is growing older and your spirit is growing stronger.

According to one linguist, the rabbinical tradition teaches that all the Mosaic sacrifices would have come to an end except for one, which was the sacrifice of thanksgiving. The thank offering was the only thing that never came to an end. And all prayers would cease except for the prayer of thanksgiving.

Well that leads us to the next thing. I went quickly through those two because I want to get to the next one which is the particulars of Christian worship, found in Hebrews 13:15, in the last part of the verse. And this really answers the question for us as to why the sacrifices are different, and that’s because they are of a different kind than the Old Testament. We are to sacrifice ourselves, and Paul says that also in Romans 12. We are to come to God as a living sacrifice. That sounds like an oxymoron because a sacrifice is usually something that dies. We already died in Christ and now that we are alive in Christ, we offer up ourselves as a living sacrifice. This is what he is getting to, it’s the different kind that we are to offer to God ourselves and our very lives. And how do we do that? Well look back in verse 15:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

So here He is, we are offering up praise to God every day of our lives. Now if we just got done reflecting on what just came before, let me back track a little. Let’s go up to Hebrews 13:1, and I’m just going to package it like this. Shouldn’t we offer up praise to God for brotherly love? Brotherly love that has been shown to us in our Christian lives since we became believers. Also we learn that God loved us first and that His greatest demonstration love toward us was expressed in His sacrificial death in the class.

When we learn all that, we remember that we didn’t love God first. God was the One that loved us first! Then we found out that because of His demonstration on the cross that God really loved us individually. Can you praise God for that and for the love that comes with others because of the relationship you have with Christ?

Shouldn’t we also offer up praise for the hospitality we receive in Hebrews 13:2?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Isn’t being hospitable something we should be doing something on a regular basis? You know, after preaching on hospitality, my wife and I last week were in New York City for our anniversary. We came back late at night when it has already been raining all day long. We were standing in New Brunswick at the train station and it’s like we had a tag on us, “Just ask us for help!” We stood there and people just kept coming up to asking to borrow a cell phone, etc. And what kept ringing through my mind was radical hospitality. We couldn’t say no to anyone!

It came down to this one girl who was desperate for some reasons, and we ended up paying the taxi cab to drive her where she needed to go. If she had stood there any longer, we probably would have set up a stand to start preaching. Of course it was still pouring and miserable and cold, but the Lord was just ringing through our minds, “radical hospitality.”

That’s something we can do because God did it for us. So we open up ourselves to help others. And then Hebrews 13:3 says:

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

Shouldn’t we offer up acts of sympathy like it says in the verse? And verse 4:

Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.

God is teaching us about purity before and during marriage, which is honorable in His sight. Shouldn’t we give Him praise for the institution of marriage that He designed? When we live it out properly and honorably, all the benefits that God intended come out in it. Then verse 5, which says that God has met all our material needs.

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

And He is presently helping us to learn realistic contentment. Being content with what you have and praising Him for His providential and protective care every single day matters.

Also shouldn’t we offer up praise to God for His imitable loyalty, like in verse 7-12?

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited. We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat. For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy place by the high priest as an offering for sin, are burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.

We need to be able to emulate and follow those who have gone before us, whether it be a pastor, Bible teacher, parent, or even a book! All these share with us and live the Word of God! Also we should want daily to offer up sacrifices of praise to God, like for the mercy of Jesus and the changelessness of God every day. We should be praising Him for the God-breathed Scriptures and the sound doctrine we have access to. we should praise Him for the salvation that we have been offered in His grace, and which is maintained by grace. We should praise Him for the future plan of God that He has offered us in the Word of God. We are living in a time now that is temporary. We live in tents but one day we will live in a city whose Builder and Maker is God.

So every time we praise God, it’s a sacrifice before Him! And that’s pleasing to God. It’s like it says in the Old Testament about a sweet smelling savor in His nostrils with a proper sacrifice. Take your Bibles really quickly and turn to the last Psalm, which as to do with praise. Praise in Hebrew is hallelujah. Look at Psalm 150:

Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty expanse. Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness. Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!

Do you realize what He is saying here? In song, this is what pleases God, when you live your life and praising Him for everything. And when we come to worship, what we lift up with our voices should be loud. It should come from deep in our hearts because we’ve been praising Him all week.

Now that leads us to the last part of Hebrews 13:15. And I’m breaking this up to give you a sense about what the author is saying about our sacrifices. He says in the verse:

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.

He goes from praise to thanks. The fruit of your lips. Now that we are under the New Covenant, no longer do we have a heart of stone. That means a heart that blocks God, is hard towards God, and is dead towards Him. Under the New Covenant, we have been given a heart of flesh that is responsive to God, pliable to the will of God, and no longer dead but alive. This heart wants to walk with God and bears fruit of the lips.

Things are coming out of your mouth because of what has happened in your heart. So what is already in your heart comes out through your lips. In fact what we really believe in our hearts and lives comes out of our mouths.

The author uses the same word that is used in Hebrews 10:23, when he says:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

The same word is for making a confession. It shows how much Jesus means to you when you talk about Him and openly confess your faith in Jesus Christ. It’s not always a systematic point of the gospel, that’s not what he means here. Instead, he is talking about your whole demeanor. It’s about what you think and what comes out of your heart by openly acknowledging Christ and what He’s done for you.

One translation puts this passage like this: “proclaiming our allegiance to His Name.” That’s a great way of saying it. Where’s your allegiance? The definition of this word is, “loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.” See our allegiance here is to Christ. When it comes right down to it, our allegiance is always to Christ.

Again it’s the Psalms that tells us this. Look at Psalm 50:12-14, it says:

If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is Mine, and all it contains. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High.

And then in verse 23:

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me.

So it’s about a Christian living their every day life when they are praising God for all the things mentioned in this chapter and more. And then it comes down to what comes out of their lips, and it shouldn’t be back-biting, complaining, gossiping, or moaning about your situation. James 3:11 says:

Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water?

It can’t happen! See God wants us by His Spirit to spew out sweet water. There’s no room for gossip and complaining in a Christian’s life. And when you’re there, you’re already being displeasing to God. Proverbs says that God hates gossip because of all the damage it does in the body of Christ and in a family. You stay away from people who gossip and complain. We should call each other on the carpet when we notice it and confess when we do it in our own lives. We’re going to fall in those ways and yet at the same time we are to give sacrifices that come out of our lips to thank God because our allegiance is Jesus Christ and no one is going to move us from that position ever.

And then there is a third thing that comes under this in Hebrews 13:16. This verse is about Christians offering up the sacrifice of compassionate service.

And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

I thought about that when I read it. What is it though? Do we forget to do good? Is that why this is here? The way this verse is designed to have a present imperative with a negative, means that to forbid a habitual action from happening amongst the congregation of believers. This means that as a member of the congregation, you would forget to do good! We have to be reminded to do good.

It’s about simply showing kindness to others and doing them good. From the Ephesians passage, it’s about simply walking in and practicing the good works that you were ordained to do already. It says in Ephesians 2:10:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

Don’t forget to walk in the ordained works that God has already called you to. I’ll tell you what, if you are praising God and giving thanks, you will. If you’re not doing those things, you will forget because you will forget the source of all you have, which is God Himself.

In fact the very word in Ephesians for “His workmanship” is a word that can be translated to “poem.” We are God’s poem. It’s amazing that that word is used. A poem is a piece of writing that really partakes of the nature of both speech and song. It is nearly always rhythmical. It’s got meter to it and exhibits a form of elements like rhyme and stanzas and structure to it. In fact, poems are often considered to be beautiful literature because of the way they are set up. God is saying here that when you walk in your ordained works, you are displaying His poem to humanity.

God speaks the universe and everything into existence so that it is His spoken word through us so that He exemplifies who He is to other people. So when a Christian is engaged and ready to do good, they are actually displaying the wise generosity of God.

Let’s take our Bibles and turn to Proverbs 3. When I was looking in that passage of Scripture, I came across an interesting phrase. It says this in verse 27:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

In other words, the wise person is obligated before God to help. And of course the words here for generosity or sharing material goods is “our neighbor’s right for help.” Christians have a right by God Himself to help those who are in need.

If it’s in your hand and you have the power to produce the need, then you act like God when you act good in supplying someone’s need. In a very real way, our neighbor has a claim on any goods that we can spare to help meet their needs. Of course, there is always a choice in it. I can help or not help someone, as it says in Proverbs 3:28. We have a choice to delay helping someone, which can be a good tactic, because you hope the person forgets or finds someone else to help them. But look what it says in the verse:

Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you.

Procrastination can be a ploy to infinite postponement, but the Bible says that it’s not wisdom but foolishness. When it’s in your power to do it, God’s not asking you to give away stuff that you cannot do. He’s asking you to be wise about what you have so you can help others. When you have the things with you, don’t delay in giving them because you display the deeds of kindness that God has displayed to you already.

When we look at a passage of Scripture like this we come head on to the radical nature of God’s wisdom, which leads to a life of goodwill and helpfulness. A wise person becomes a blessing to any church, community, or job site.

One last thing in Hebrews 13 when we are talking about the particulars of Christian worship. Not only do we have thankful praise, but also shameless witness before others. It also includes compassionate service and the last thing is big-hearted, open-handed giving. Verse 16 says:

Do not neglect doing good and sharing.

Be big-hearted and open-handed as a believer, that’s the very word for fellowship here. Sharing is fellowship with God as you fellowship with others. So if you are praising and thanking God, you will be that vessel of good works that displays goodness, generosity, and sharing with other people. And when you do that, all those things are pleasing to God. Those are your sacrifices. Simple right?

You’re sharing what you have, which includes monetary offerings on behalf of needy people, and it includes regular, methodical and cheerful giving that we ought to do as believers according to the Word of God. Really we have come full circle in explaining the real reason why we offer these sacrifices to God, which is to please Him. That’s what we have in all of verse 16, which again says:

And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

Don’t you want to please God? Is that difficult to understand? I think the intention of the author is to make it as simple and clear as possible that this is how you are to live your life. With all the theology in Hebrews, this is how you are to live. All that theology doesn’t produce a big head, it produces a big heart. And it produces a big heart for God first and then for people. That’s what theology does.

If theology just gives you a big head, you’ll feel like you’re going to explode with trying to answer all the questions that people have. That’s not what it’s meant for. It’s actually amazing what Paul says to the Colossians church. In Colossians 1:10, it says:

So that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Now if you remember way back when I was saying that if you want to increase your faith, you must increase your knowledge of God. We live a life that is pleasing to Him in all respects, we bear fruit of the good works that God ordained us for, and we increase in the knowledge of God. So you gotta ask yourself, is this a pattern of your life? That’s what it means to live by faith.

This next coming year, let’s make this a point of our prayers. That whatever pleases God, that’s what we’re going to decided to do. And the things that you have been doing in your life that have not been pleasing to God, that’s what you will decide not to do anymore. Keep driving things out that don’t please God with things that do please Him until you die. Until God decides to take you, like Enoch. That is how we ought to live. It’s easy to just take a look at your life and asking yourself how you’re living, what you’re thinking, and who you’re allowing into your life. Ask yourself if your affections for God are heightened every single day. Ask if Christ your highest allegiance or if you have other allegiances that have taken His place.

Let’s pray. Lord, this morning, I thank You for Your Word. For mostly of the simplicity of what it says. We can be all these things by Your Spirit. All those who come to You and approach You through Christ, those who live by faith in a pleasing manner. Those who, Lord, want to do it in every respect of their life. Those who are Your poem and who are displaying the good works You are working through them. And those who, as they are learning the Word of God, are increasing more and more in the knowledge of God so therefore their faith is increasing. Lord, help us to worship You day by day, and that it would be filled with thankful praise. Also that it would be filled with shameless witness, and a compassionate service, and a generous heart. I pray as we do that, Lord, that we would be able to display before the world the very things that You want the world to know, because we know You in a very personal way as our Lord and Savior.

Lord, this coming year let it be our prayer that we would examine ourselves to see how pleasing we really are to You and that we would adjust our lives and repent of our sin and get on track in walking in pace and on step with You and Your Word. And I pray that You would receive the glory and honor, and that this next year would be a great year of growing deeply in our faith with You and our relationship with You to the point that we would not want it any other way. That our affections would be so heightened that our love for You would be displayed in what we say, think, and do. And I pray this in Your matchless Name, Amen.