The Choke to Vertical Worship

The Choke to Vertical Worship

Pastor Don Carpenter

Worship: What’s Stopping You? / Psalm 66:18; Matthew 15:7–9; Isaiah 29:13; Psalm 32:5–6; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 64:7; James 4:3

When Lawrence of Arabia was in Paris with some of his Arab friends after World War I, he took them to see the sights of the city. His friends showed little interest in the Louvre, the Arch of Triumph, or Napoleon’s tomb. The thing that really interested them was the faucet in their bathtub. They spent much time turning it on and off; they thought it was wonderful. All they had to do was turn the handle and they could get all the water they wanted.

When they were leaving Paris, Lawrence found them in the bathroom with wrenches, trying to get the faucet off so they could take it with them. You see, they said, it is very dry in Arabia. What we need are faucets. If we have them, we will have all the water we want. Lawrence had to explain to them that the effectiveness of the faucet depended on the water system to which it was attached.

Our study of worship reminds us that the effectiveness of all that we do in the church is not to be found in outward activity or service, but in the One who stands behind it.

2021 is the year of Worship for Evangelical Baptist Church. We are going to study it, understand it, practice it, and develop it within our church culture and church body. On New Year’s Eve we were introduced to the concept of worship as described by our Savior.

John 4:23 KJV

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

We saw that there are two essential elements to true and effective, intimate worship. We must worship in spirit, that is emotional passion, and in truth… both doctrinal truth and genuine expression.  

Since that introduction we have learned about the role of singing in the life of a believer. We have also started to learn about intimate prayer. We saw that Jesus gave us a very basic model of how to pray in what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer”.

Worship goes two ways, vertical and horizontal. Our vertical worship goes up to God and receives input from God down to us. On the horizontal level, when we worship God vertically, we are ministering to our brothers and sisters within the congregation – horizontally.

Tonight as we continue to learn about worship in 2021 we are launching a series called “Worship: What’s Stopping You?”

Since true worship is done in spirit and in truth, there are things that can choke the passion and the truth of worship and cause the exercise to be empty. Worship is largely relational. It feeds on our relationship to God (vertical) and on our relationship to each other in brotherly love ( horizontal).

This week and next we will take a journey through scriptures and discover what could choke out genuine spiritual worship. Tonight we will focus on things that will cause a Vertical Choke to Worship.

Unresolved Sin

Creates a Distance Between Us and God

Isaiah 59:2 KJV

But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, And your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Creates a Barrier to Answered Prayer

Psalm 66:18 KJV

If I regard iniquity in my heart, The Lord will not hear me:

A Handbook on the Book of Psalms Psalm 66:18–19

In verse 18 the Hebrew reads “If I had seen iniquity in my heart,” by which the psalmist means that if he had been aware of his sin yet done nothing about it

Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words To See, Perceive

ra?ah (?????, 7200), “to see, observe, perceive, get acquainted with, gain understanding, examine, look after (see to), choose, discover.” This verb occurs only in Moabite and all periods of Hebrew. It appears in the Bible about 1,300 times.

Basically ra?ah connotes seeing with one’s eyes: Isaac’s “eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (Gen. 27:1). This is its meaning in Gen. 1:4, its first biblical appearance. The word can be used in the sense of seeing only what is obvious:

Proverbs 28:9 KJV

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer shall be abomination.

Hypocrisy – Worship For Show

Isaiah 29:13 KJV

Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, And with their lips do honour me, But have removed their heart far from me, And their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

A Handbook on Isaiah, Volumes 1 & 2 29:13

And their fear of me is a commandment of men learned by rote: The Hebrew noun rendered fear can refer to physical fear, but here it refers to reverence or awe for God, or even worship. For their fear of me, NJB and NAB have “their reverence for me,” while GNB and REB say “Their religion.” It may also be rendered “when they worship me.” Their worship is described first as a commandment of men, which means their religious leaders, not God, have required them to do it. It is also learned by rote. The English expression “to learn by rote” means to memorize something through repetition, without necessarily understanding it fully. The Hebrew text is simply “a learned thing.” NJB has “a lesson memorised,” and NAB says “routine observance.” GNB renders this whole line well with “Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized.”

Isaiah, Volume 1 Chapter 29

And their fear toward me. The worship of God is often represented as fear (Job 28:28; Ps. 19:9; 34:11; Prov. 1:7).

Is taught by the precept of men. That is, their views, instead of having been derived from the Scriptures, were drawn from the doctrines of men. Our Saviour referred to this passage, and applied it to the hypocrites of his own time (Matt. 15:8, 9). The latter part of it is, however, not quoted literally from the Hebrew, nor from the LXX., but retains the sense: ‘But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ He quoted it as strikingly descriptive of the people when he lived, not as saying that Isaiah referred directly to his times.

Elevate Tradition Over Scripture

Matthew 15:7–9 KJV

Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 

But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

 • Making Up Extra biblical rules of worship.

 • Disregarding Biblical precedent and practice because of perceived cultural norms.

1 Timothy 2:8 KJV

I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.

Selfishness

James 4:3 KJV

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.

Apathy/ Laziness

Isaiah 64:7 KJV

And there is none that calleth upon thy name, That stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: For thou hast hid thy face from us, And hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.

That stirreth up himself. The word here used (??????????) refers to the effort which is requisite to rouse one’s self when oppressed by a spirit of heavy slumber; and the idea here is, that the nation was sunk in spiritual torpor, and that the same effort was needful to excite it which was requisite to rouse one who had sunk down to deep sleep. How aptly this describes the state of a sinful world! How much disposed is that world to give itself to spiritual slumber! How indisposed to rouse itself to call upon God! No man rises to God without effort; and unless men make an effort for this, they fall into the stupidity of sin, just as certainly as a drowsy man sinks back into deep sleep.

Albert Barnes, Notes on the Old Testament: Isaiah, vol. 2 (London: Blackie & Son, 1851), 404–405.

1 Corinthians 15:34 KJV

Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.

I think George Reeves was the first actor to be Superman on TV.

Back in the 50’s, TV actors were not quite as “elite” as some seem to be now. They would throw out the first pitch at a Los Angeles little league game. They would fire the starting pistol for a soap box derby race in Oklahoma City. They would be at the dedication of a statue in a city park in Boise. People could meet them, shake their hand, and, of course, get an autograph.

George Reeves was popular for guest appearances, but his fame included risks. Kids might kick him in the shins or throw rocks to find out if he was the “real” Superman or a “pretend” Superman, the same way kids pull on Santa beards to find out if they are real. It seemed like every time he appeared in public as Superman, someone wanted to put him to the test.

In 1953, he may have faced real-life danger appearing at a department store opening. A young fan, who wanted to see bullets bounce off Superman’s chest, brought his dad’s Army Colt, his dad’s loaded… .45 caliber… Army Colt. Reeves talked him into putting it down. He told the boy that Superman could survive the shot without being hurt, but “when bullets bounce off my chest, they might hurt you and others around here.”

He continued to make public appearances, but never again in the Superman costume.

I said, “he may have faced real-life danger.” I tried to find more details about the incident. I could not find a first hand account, a specific date, or a department store name. Apparently, neither can anyone else.

Some believe Reeves made up the story so he would not have to wear the costume when he appeared in public. It’s understandable. I would not want kids kicking me in the shins or throwing rocks every time I showed up. That story was the only way he could stop the agents and producers from scheduling Superman appearances.

When he appeared in public, children wanted to know. “Is he real or is he pretend?”

God doesn’t have to kick us in the shins or throw rocks at us to know if our devotion is real or pretend. When God sent Samuel to anoint the next king, he was impressed with some of Jesse’s sons, but God said, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” He still does.

God is looking for us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. Tonight we have identified some barriers to true vertical worship. Let us identify and confess unresolved sin, hypocrisy, the elevation of tradition over scripture, selfishness and apathy. These are the things that can create a vertical choke to worship.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 7:20 PM April 8, 2021.

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