Sunday, November 27, 2011

A MODEL FOR CHURCH RESTORATION -II (Restoring Worship) 2 Chronicles 29:20-30

Mark Matousek is an American memoirist, teacher, essayist, and journalist. He was raised in poverty. He was a child prodigy on a fast literary track. He seemed to have the world at his feet, and his feet were moving everywhere. Mark continued on this path and bought into the typical American linear track: He said of himself: “Like most stout-hearted American men, I was raised to play God, to pretend that I was omnipotent, to mastermind the world. Power was supposed to be my idea of Heaven; Triumph, the Lord I secretly worshiped.”

The only problem with this philosophy of life is that it works as long as you're winning. But nobody wins forever. And there came a time in Mark's life when disaster struck, death intruded, and the whole house of cards came tumbling down. He found himself asking religious questions.[1] Jim Wallis the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine notes, “We have forgotten we are God's people, and we have fallen into the worship of American gods. Now God's word to us is to return. Church historians may someday describe our period as the American captivity of the church. It is no less real than the Babylonian Captivity in the history of Israel. Trapped in our false worship, we no longer experience the freedom that is our birthright in Jesus Christ.[2]

Interestingly this call to return to God and the heart of worship has been going on for thousands of years. God has been calling his people to return to worship him alone not any and everything. Over the centuries many have tried and many are still trying today to restore worship to its rightful place in order to bring back true worship in the Church.

Two weeks ago we started a series of teaching called “Church Restoration.” We looked at a Model for Church restoration from 2 Chronicles 29-31. Last time we saw how King Hezekiah started a restoration process soon after assuming the throne. He first restored the Temple to its original state and then went on to restore the worship in the temple. We read about this process or restoring worship in 2 Chronicle 29: 20-30. (Read)

As someone who tends to resist the popular culturalization of life, I was drawn to [Marva Dawn's book “Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for the Turn-of-the-Century Culture]. Dawn points out the error of approaching church planning by how can we fill the pews the fastest. She reminds us that pop culture and its associated cults of celebrity, wealth and popularity are counter to the otherness of Christianity. She couches her arguments in the larger terms of the changes that have taken place in American culture -- changes she sees as distressing -- that ordinary people don't sing or play instruments any more, that there is increased consumerism, that people are increasingly taking part in amusements that are passive and that separate them from other humans. But Dawn also challenges traditionalists not to fossilize in their worship styles and points out that some change may be necessary.

What changes are we to make in the way we understand and do worship in our Church? Today, I will be looking at the preparations that King Hezekiah undertook in the process of restoring temple worship. I will also share about, what worship is, and who is the center of worship? Let’s begin by asking “What is worship?


This question can be answered in many ways. For some worship means singing songs of praise for half hour in the church during a Sunday service, or playing music instruments, lifting up, clapping, hands, kneeling down, falling prostrate, fasting, and dancing and so on.

Is that all or is there more to worship? The word worship comes from two Old English words meaning, “honor, worthiness and to create. Though we can not create God’s honor we devise ways to honor God and speak of his worthiness. Let’s see how the Jewish people understood worship in the OT. There were two verbs used to explain worship, one was frequented more than the other one. Let’s consider these verbs. Firstly, shachah means: to prostrate oneself, to bow oneself down, to fall down, to humbly beseech. It was used 170 times in the OT more specifically to bow down, to prostrate oneself as an act of respect before a superior being. We read in Exodus 20: 3-4, “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.”

What did God mean by this commandment? He did not want his children to bow before any object or false god or to make any one as superior or supreme. That place of supremacy in our lives and in the world only belongs to God. Worship is our heart attitude towards God. The second verb was “abad” occurs 290 times in the OT which means, to work, to labor, to serve, to work as a slave. We see this verb used in Gen 2:15, “Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.” It was used again by God when He told Moses to tell Pharoah, “Let my people Go so that they might serve me in the wilderness” Exodus 7:16. This verse states that God wants his people to serve him only and not anyone else

From these two verbs we gather that worship has two components one is an inward attitude and the other an outward action. Worship is when we respond to God’s call and show respect by bowing before him in our hearts but it doesn’t stop there it compels us to service like a bond slave. However, service to God is an exhilarating experience which does not seem like bondage at all instead it is a privilege and a delight to be able to serve the God of the universe.

I like the way Marva Dawn expressed her views on worship, “True worship arises because God calls us. As an echo, our worship directed to God is a gift in response to his gifts. As C. Welton Gaddy details, “Worship is a gift between lovers who keep on giving to each other.” We worship God not to get something from Him but to give back to God realizing that everything we ever have including our very lives come from Him in the first place. In our text we read, King Hezekiah after restoring God’s temple restored the order of worship in the temple. How did he do that? The text explains in detail the preparation that went into restoring worship.

II. PREPERATION FOR WORSHIP. (2 Chron 29: 20-25)

In the story we read that King Hezekiah rose early and assembled the princes (elders) of the city and went up to the house of the LORD. There he ordered the Levites and priests to sacrifice animals on the altar of God for the sins of the whole kingdom of Israel, the sins committed in the sanctuary and for the sins of his kingdom Judah. Why was this so significant? It was significant for two reasons if you remember his father offered sacrifices on false altars all over Jerusalem. On the contrary Hezekiah offered in the house of God on the altar of the God of Israel. Secondly, Hezekiah offered sacrifice not only for his sins but for the whole of Israel.

When we come to worship God on a Sunday service we too must prepare our hearts, make sure that we have repented of our known and unknown sins. Today we are not required to offer animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of our sins, however we are required to confess our sins and when we do that the blood of Christ the perfect sacrifice can wash away all our sins. Once our sins are forgiven and our hearts are made right then we can boldly enter God’s presence and offer our Worship to Him. Without such preparation of heart, our worship falls flat and becomes a bunch of empty words and actions.

Here are a few examples where God placed more importance on the heart attitude than the outward acts of worship. God rejected Cain’s offering, but accepted Abel’s because Cain had a hostile attitude towards God and his brother. (Gen 4) God exposes the deceptive and shallow worship of people in Isaiah 29:13, “The Lord says: These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” In the familiar story of how God rejected Saul as the king of Israel, listen to the words of Prophet Samuel, “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice.”(I Sam 15:22)

In the New Testament Jesus reemphasized the same when he said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matt 5:23). This shows us the urgency and importance of reconciliation.

What does this all mean for us today? It means a number of things. Firstly, these scriptures show us what God values most namely a reverent heart attitude. Secondly God hates hypocrisy and pharisaical attitude. Jesus sternly rebuked Pharisees and Sadducees for their hypocrisy. They said the right words and did the right things while having a hostile and rotten attitude towards people. Thirdly, God cares for right relationships that we are in right relationship with Him and with one another. Fourthly, If we have un reconciled relationships, it is our responsibility to make sure that we are reconciled with our fellow brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. We may come, lift up our hands, sing songs of praise, shout Halleluiah, and praise the Lord but when we are living in sin; with unrepentant heart our worship becomes shallow and displeasing to God. How can we say we love God on one hand and hate our brothers and sisters on the other hand? Let’s look at who is in the center of Worship.


We are living in a highly individualized, self centered society. To our astonishment we see certain people carrying an attitude as if they are the center of the universe. Is the Church exempt from such attitudes? I hope to think it is exempted but the reality is the opposite. If we are not careful similar attitude may be present in our Church and in our Worship Let me illustrate it by a video clip (Me Church).This clearly illustrates how we view Church and Worship. We think it is all about us? But is it so? We place ourselves in the center of attention while all along true worship belongs to God. In reply to the question, For whom is worship? Gaddy insists, “Worship is for God. Only! The chief aim of worship is to please God whether by adoration and praise, prayer and proclamation, confessions and offerings, thanksgivings and commitment, or by all of these actions combined.” The Point of worship is to recognize that “God alone matters.”[3]

In our text we see King Hezekiah, the singers, the Levites, priests and the whole assembly kept singing and blowing trumpets until the whole burnt offering was finished. At the end of it they all bowed down and worshipped God with songs of praises and of Joy. For them what mattered the most was God, they didn’t care about their positions, power or how long it took they wanted to honor God with their worship. It is a great model of worship we can follow.

How is our worship today? Who matters most in our worship? Are you coming to worship with an expectation of only receiving from God or with an attitude of offering to God? Is your worship self-centered or God centered? Are you a spectator during worship or an active participant, who worships God in Spirit and Truth? In closing, my prayer is that may we glorify God with our whole life and may our Sunday morning worship be a culmination of praise, thanksgiving and adoration. Amen.

[1] Mark Matousek, Knockin' on Heaven's Door, June 1992, page 44-46.

[2]Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion (Harper SanFrancisco, 1992), 31.

[3] Marva J. Dawn, “Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, page 80.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A MODEL FOR CHURCH RESTORATION -II (Restoring God's Image in Man) 2 Chronicles 29:1-19

In 1972 an axe wielding maniac attacked the famous Michelangelo’s beautiful sculpture The Pieta in St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. He smashed the nose and breaking the hand of Madonna.[1] In 1975 a Dutch schoolmaster claiming to be on a divine mission made several deep slashes in the world famous painting of Rembrandt called “The Night watch.” He was never tried but committed to a mental asylum, where he later committed suicide.[2] Two cherished works of art were severely damaged. But what did officials do? Throw them out and forget about them? Absolutely not! Using the best experts, who worked with the utmost care and precision, they made every effort to restore these treasures to their original form. It took four years to restore Rembrandt’s painting and The Pieta was also eventually restored. Similarly, you and I are the most precious and priceless creation of God. But the devil has vandalized the image of God in us through sin. God’s original purpose in creating us has been distorted. But God in his great love for us sent his son Jesus Christ to restore us back to Himself.

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about “Taking our country back” but what no one seems to be asking is back to where or back to what? Long ago there was a king named Hezekiah was disturbed by the sad state of the nation of Judah especially the temple or the house of worship. How disturbed are we by the decaying morals of our nation and the lukewarm state of churches in our time? As we know both, nations and churches are made up of people; if we want to see them restored then people must be restored first back to God’s design, order and purpose. We read A model of Church restoration in 2 Chronicles 29-31.


When we closely look into the history of the nation of Israel in the Old Testament we will discover a pattern. There were good as well as bad kings that ruled the nation at different times. Under a good king the nation thrived but under a bad king it went bankrupt. When another good king came into power he had to undo all the bad things the previous administration had done. Bad kings brought disgrace to God’s name through their idolatry therefore subjected the nation to God’s wrath and punishment. On the contrary good kings honored God’s name by walking righteously, in humility before God as a result God not only blessed them but the nation as well.

Some time during 735 B.C a king named Ahaz ruled Judah. He was a bad king. He did certain unspeakable things. He burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree (2 Chro 28:4). He made ungodly alliances with the nations that were prohibited by God. In addition to all these abominations he “closed the doors of the house of the LORD, and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. In other words he became a god in his own eyes. What Ahaz did indeed provoked God to anger and the wrath of the LORD was against Judah and Jerusalem. God made them an object of terror of horror.

Let me bring this into our context. Can you imagine what our country would look like, if all of a sudden the government has decided to shut down all the churches, synagogues, including house churches, and passed a bill that curbs our freedom to worship and practice our faith? Do you think that would provoke God to anger? Of course it would! In recent times we’ve become a target for terror of horror. Could it be that we have turned our backs on God, driven God out of our schools and public life and began to offer sacrifices to other gods? Whenever a nation turns its back against God; He may tolerate it for a while but not forever; He will certainly brings his wrath and vengeance upon that nation because he does not share his glory with others.

Coming back to our text; after Ahaz died, his son Hezekiah became king at age twenty five and ruled for twenty nine years. He did right in the sight of God. It was recorded that “after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, or among those who were before him.”(2 Kings 18: 5-6) What a contrast? What distinguished king Hezekiah from the other Kings? It is said, that “He trusted in the LORD the God of Israel, and he clung to the LORD and did not depart from following Him while keeping His commandments. We will be looking into five areas of restoration that King Hezekiah under took and how we can apply them to our personal as well as Church Restoration. The five areas are: The temple; the temple worship, the Passover, the tithes & offerings and the vision. Today our focus is on: “The Temple Restoration

I. TEMPLE RESTORATION: (2 Chro 29:1-19)

Before we look into temple restoration let me explain what restoration means. It means the act of restoring; renewal, revival or reestablishment. It means a return of something to a former, original, normal or unimpaired condition. So, temple restoration here means, rediscovering or reinstituting God’s original intent, design and purpose for that temple. What applies here for God’s temple also applies for the individual believers.

Keeping this in mind let’s look at the restoration that Hezekiah brought about in a time when the nations of Israel and Judah were in crisis. This is the election season, we often hear the presidential candidates rhetoric which goes somewhat like this, “from day one in the office I will repeal or reform the bill that was passed by the previous administration” But little do they know how hard it is to bring reforms about in the white house. Hezekiah, from the time he became the king undertook the restoration of the temple. If you remember; the last thing his father Ahaz did was to shut down the doors to the temple in Jerusalem. One of the first things Hezekiah did was to open the doors of the temple so that the restoration of the temple could begin.

Though he had opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them, there was a problem, who could be bold enough to go into the temple and carry on the work of cleansing? If you remember only the priests and the Levites were eligible to perform various services in the temple. So Hezekiah called them and told them to consecrate themselves before they would go in and clean the temple. Accordingly the Levites took up the job, went in and cleansed every unclean thing that was found in the temple. They came back to King Hezekiah and said, “we have cleansed the whole house of the LORD, the altar of burnt offering with all of its utensils, and the table of show bread with all of its utensils.” It was a total cleansing which took sixteen days to bring the temple back to its original shape. In the end the temple was fully restored.

Hundreds of years later we see another type of cleansing in the temple in Jerusalem, this time it was Jesus who took up the job of cleansing. Do you remember how upset Jesus was when he saw men selling cattle, sheep, and doves and others sitting at tables exchanging money? Why was he so angry at them for selling? He was not angry at them because they were selling those items; but because they were selling them in the outer courts of the temple itself, the one place where Gentiles could come to pray. So he took a whip and drove all from the temple area, both cattle and sheep and scattered the coins of the money changers and over turned their tables and he said, “Get those out of here! How dare you turn my father’s house into a market?

What does Hezekiah’s restoring the temple and years later Jesus’ cleansing the temple in Jerusalem got to do with us today? I believe it’s got a lot to do with us. These two symbolic cleansing represent the much needed cleansing of individual believers as well as Churches at large. God wants to restore His divine image back to man order back to our churches. He wants to drive out every form of evil from our churches.

How is God cleansing the Church; which is his bride today? We read in I Cor 3:16, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. Listen carefully, when Paul wrote, he was addressing the believers as the temple of the Holy Spirit and not the un-generated people. It is us who gave our lives to the LORD and accepted his forgiveness who are the temple of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a child of God but for some reason you are still continuing to live in sin before it is too late you must repent and ask God to forgive and cleanse you. The church of Jesus Christ is not a building but a community of believers. God is passionate about you as He was with his temple in Jerusalem. He doesn't want you to destroy yourself by indulging in sin. He wants to restore you and give you back the worth and dignity the enemy had stolen.

As the call went forth from king Hezekiah to the Levites to consecrate themselves, for the past three and half years I’ve been calling the people in this Church to come back to God and follow the basic teachings of Christianity. All my preaching and service reflects that call.

As King Hezekiah made a covenant in his heart to follow God and began to restore the temple, my prayer is that you too will open up your closed heart once again to the LORD by asking him to come into your heart to cleanse you. I sincerely believe, when we return to God in repentance and in humility God will restore his image back in us and the glory of God will fill not only our lives but this Church once again, and then truly this place will be called a house of prayer for all nations.

The world and our community is yet to see what a church full of restored, and transformed people can do by the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells in them. Let the power of God come in and change you from the inside out. Amen!

[1] Rome By Inc. Let's Go, Matthew W. Mahan, Vedran Lekic, Michael Squire, Elizabeth Thrall