It’s All Meaningless 9? Going to the House of God 2 (Ecclesiastes 5:1-7)
Ecclesiastes 5:1: Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.
Two posts ago we asked: What is the importance/purpose of the Sunday worship service?
What does it mean to “guard our steps when we go to the house of God”?
Our vertical responsibility—to literally meet with God by faith &
gather together in His presence to worship & adore Him.
- culturally, financially, and internally, there can be a pressure
to turn the worship service into the customer service,
- a pressure to treat the local church as a business & the people
as customers to please to get them in the seats & keep them coming back.
Do we need laser lights/fog machines/state of the art facilities/famous musicians/loudness/most popular songs/man-made ways to set a mood for worship?
If we need all that, are we actually worshiping the LORD? Or worshiping worship?
We only need Him…His presence…& faith to trust that He is actually among us.
Only specific description of the New Jerusalem—no other details matter/are needed:
Ezekiel 48:35: “And the name of the city from that time on will be: the Lord is there.”
We can see this vertical responsibility in Hebrews 10:19-25: 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
We come into God’s presence on Sunday morning only by the blood of Jesus, remembering what it cost Him to tear the curtain/veil in the Temple from top to bottom!
Oh if we could only keep our eyes on Christ
and not on all the other aspects that distract us!
We also come to bring our guilt in confession to Jesus & repentance
(turning from our sins)—the worship service is not mainly a time for us to try to feel good, but also a time for us to confess to the Lord Jesus the ways we have not been good.
And what does He graciously and compassionately do?
He forgives & washes & transforms us thru trusting His death & resurrection,
thru the teaching of His Word!
John 15:3: “You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.”
Ephesians 5:25-27: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water thru the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
In the weekly worship service,
we also have a horizontal responsibility to others:
Back to Hebrews 10: 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess,
for he who promised is faithful.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
25not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing,
but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We have a responsibility to each other on Sunday mornings! Our consistent attendance is so important, and not just attendance, but fellowship before, during & after the worship service!
Listening to & encouraging each other to
- keep following the Lord Jesus,
- keep carrying our cross,
- not make compromises with the culture,
- not grow weary in doing what is good,
- praying together,
- sharing what He taught us this week,
- Building each other up in our faith in the Lord Jesus!!!
Not just small talk but big talk of our Big Savior!
Ephesians 4:11-16: 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
A.W. Tozer: “100 pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other. They’re of 1 accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So 100 worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious & turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
We must remember when we’re here to focus our minds on the LORD—we don’t just passively sit back & watch a movie/show—we actively participate by focusing our minds & hearts & attention on God, acting as if He is Personally here because He is!
We then focus on others around us—Lord Jesus, who do You want me to encourage, listen to, pray with, etc.? Though by God’s grace we do receive on a Sunday morning, our presence here is not primarily about us & what we get. We will rarely have a “boring” or “dry” church service as we focus our minds on Who God is, what He has done, what He promises to do, meeting Him personally by faith, & looking for ways to build up Christians around us.
We must be careful not to come just to “get a nice feeling”
(though God DOES provide feelings of joy!)
or determine the success of a worship service based on how we feel at the end.
- Some medicine soothes your nausea…
- some medicine gets rid of the nausea by causing you to throw up.
Both are medicine, both are good,
but the throwing up is needed when we ingest poison—soothing won’t heal us.
Sometimes in a worship service we’ll throw up
as the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin & causes us to regret & repent—
this leads to joy & peace & health!
We also guard our steps when we go to the house of God
by preparing our hearts Monday—Saturday for the Sunday worship service.
Just as pastors & musicians & tech prepare for Sunday,
there is preparation for all of us each week—
- like stretching before sports,
- priming before painting,
- turning over soil before planting,
- & preheating the oven before baking,
to truly meet with the LORD Sunday we must prepare Monday—Saturday:
Pray that the LORD would meet with us Personally each Sunday!
Pray that the LORD would bless me to preach the Word
with boldness, accuracy, compassion, and Holy Spirit power
(Ephesians 6; 1 Corinthians 2),
to build up your souls not tickle your ears (2 Timothy 4).
Pray that the LORD would honor & glorify Himself
& spread His fame each Sunday morning: that’s true success!
Of course we want everyone to come back next week!
But thats never the primary goal,
just as it would be criminal for a hospital to put all its money/energy
into having the best restaurant/gift shop
instead of the best doctors, nurses, medicine, & equipment.
Oh how your prayers are needed each week
to keep the main thing the main thing!
Ancient armies sometimes had to get motivational speeches before a battle,
including lots of yelling, even alcohol or cutting themselves,
to work up the motivation to go and fight.
Ancient Spartans didn’t usually do that, they were quiet & sober before battle.
Because they trained. Hard.
They didn’t rely on a surge in last-minute motivation to go to battle
because they trained everyday for the battle.
They were prepared in every way—their motivation was inner, not surface.
Surface motivation fades fast:
some armies facing the Spartans fled in terror when the battle got tough—alcohol/speech-fueled motivation burned away.
But the Spartans stayed in the battle til the end because of their training.
And so we train on Sunday morning to launch us out into the week
to carry our cross & follow the Lord Jesus.
So we train, pray…& prepare your hearts:
if we harden our hearts during the week by our thoughts and actions,
if we do not seek to worship the LORD in
prayer, Bible reading, confession and praise during the week,
if we aren’t learning to die to our self-will
and sacrificially serve God, Christians, and non-Christians during the week,
it will be difficult for us to “get anything out of”
the Sunday morning worship service.
The best way to prepare for a delicious dinner
is to put in an honest day of hard work in the field—
hunger & some good old-fashioned tiredness from hard work
helps the meal taste better!
My dear friends, learning to follow Christ sacrificially during the week
will lead us to praise Him joyfully on Sunday!
- But clogging our ears all week
will make it hard to hear the LORD on Sunday,
- numbing our souls with unrepentant sin all week
will make it hard to feel the LORD on Sunday,
- bombarding our taste buds with spiritual msg & sugar all week
will make it difficult to taste and see that the LORD is good on Sunday,
- playing it safe following Christ all week
will make it difficult to respond & step out of the boat on Sunday.
I wonder if we sometimes crave nice feelings from worship services
because we’re dry spiritually, and when you’re dry,
the last thing you want is something difficult to chew on, or humbling stillness.
We want action, we may work up excitement to take our minds off our dryness.
When we’re dry, the sharp Truth of Scripture can be difficult,
like swallowing a Dorito whole.
You might say, “I’m exhausted/tired/struggling,
there’s so much pain in life, I don’t have the time/energy to seek the LORD.
I’m in a desert—surviving mode not thriving mode.”
My dear friend, my heart breaks for what you are going thru—truly!
But your difficulty is the best time TO seek the LORD!
You’re walking in the sandals of King David, the writer of Psalm 63:1:
You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
YES! And how does the LORD eventually respond to David’s earnest seeking?
Verses 2—5: I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Full satisfaction after the emptiest thirst/hunger—seek the LORD!
Hosea 5:13-15:“When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah his sores,
then Ephraim turned to Assyria,
and sent to the great king for help.
But he is not able to cure you, not able to heal your sores.
14 For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, like a great lion to Judah.
I will tear them to pieces and go away;
I will carry them off, with no one to rescue them.
15 Then I will return to my lair
until they have borne their guilt and seek my face—
in their misery they will earnestly seek me.”
Oh thankfully the Lord Jesus has born the guilt of our sin & our idolatry!
But oh how God graciously puts us thru trials so we seek His face only & have peace!
Look at the next verses in Hosea 6:
how the LORD responds to His people when we repent/earnestly seek Him:
Hosea 6:1-3:“Come, let us return to the Lord.
He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us;
he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds.
2 After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.
3 Let us acknowledge the Lord;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth.”
He makes their desert bloom! Oh the grace of God as we seek Him!!!
This is what Isaiah 35:1-4 reveals!!!
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come, he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
Don’t wait to seek Him after the dryness ends, seek Him during the dryness…
He alone can truly make it end…
let’s keep meeting together in His presence each Sunday &
encourage each other each week, in the dryness,
to focus on Him & not ourselves…
1 Kings 19:11-12: 11 “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain
in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart
and shattered the rocks before the Lord,
but the Lord was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake,
but the Lord was not in the earthquake.
12 After the earthquake came a fire,
but the Lord was not in the fire.
And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
Maybe at many local churches we’d meet with God better if we came back after the production (fire/earthquake/wind) of the worship experience ended & just knelt quietly before Him & sang with out of tune voices but with humble hearts simply seeking Him.
Here are some closing quotes by A.W. Tozer:
“The church must worship,
& worship & entertainment are at opposite ends of the table.”
The church that can’t worship must be entertained.
And men who can’t lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment.
What comes into our minds when we think about God
is the most important thing about us…
Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
If you’re not worshiping God on Monday the way you did the day before,
perhaps you’re not worshiping him at all.
Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us
more than the Christ within us.
It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting
where the only attraction is God.”
Tim Keller: “Religious people find God useful. Growing Christians find God beautiful.”
We come here on Sunday morning & seek Him thru the week
- to know the LORD & find Him beautiful,
- to learn to humble ourselves & submit to Him &
listen to His gentle whisper in the Bible
- to be transformed by Him to delight in Him & enjoy Him forever.
See you Sunday!