Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday Sermon: From Damascus to Doxology

Today we are not doing an expositional sermon, what we are going to do is to explore a topic, that of worship, and specifically doxology. We are doing this because I want to help us to come to a more full understanding, but I also want it to revolutionize how you see God and what your response to Him is. I want to redefine what you think is a good church service. Now we are not going to discuss everything about worship all in one day, but I am aiming at a target that God wants us all to hit, that of a deeper place of worship and a more full fellowship with Him. I want to inform the mind, but also warm the heart and constrain the will. I want to both explain and apply these truths to you today. I want to talk of worship and in doing so I want us all to worship.

Romans 11:33-36 – This is a doxology, a word of glory or to speak of glory, a short hymn of praise to God (Romans 16:27 / Galatians 1:5 / Ephesians 3:20-21 / Philippians 4:20 / 1 Timothy 1:17, 6:16 / 2 Timothy 4:18 / Hebrews 13:21 / 1 Peter 4:11, 5:11 / 2 Peter 3:18 / Jude 25 / Revelation 1:6, 5:13, 7:12). They are usually after the revealing of great truths.

The Book of Psalms, so rich with worship and good theology is arranged into five books: Book One – Psalm 1-41 / Book Two – Psalm 42-72 / Book Three – Psalm 73-89 / Book Four – Psalm 90-106 / Book Five – Psalm 107-150. Each book concludes with a doxology, again, a hymn or word of praise to God, usually found within the last verse, or two, of each Psalm. In the case of Book Five, Psalm 150, in its entirety, is a "concluding" doxology.

1 Chronicles 16:7-36 – after David had brought the Ark, and after all that had been said (sung), it is ended with what we call a doxology.

Matthew 6:13 alludes to 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 – our prayers should have doxology in them.

Romans 1:25 – J.I. Packer has said, “the purpose of theology is doxology. We study in order to praise.” It is interesting that Paul’s brief exclamation of praise arises out of his treatment of the doctrine of sin; in it we see Paul’s passion for God’s glory and his abhorrence of what man had done in defiance of God’s rightful rule.

Now looking again at Romans 11:33-36, we see Paul thinking out loud of the lofty truths that he has just communicated to his audience, and he is struck with awe. This is a proper response to God and His sovereign purposes. Theology is the study of God; doxology is the worship of God. This is where all theology should end up, in praise to God. Study without praise is pride. Praise without study is shallow. Knowledge without a heart surrendered to God is empty of God’s life.

Good theology should sound like doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14). We should strive to make our study of God result in a deeper and more full worship of God. This is preferable to simply gathering our doxology from personal experience. Better to have studied and lived so as to give God the full glory in our worship. Then our feelings will be better rooted in Truth and deeper. Certainly by the end of his life the Apostle Paul had come to a higher place, he didn’t stay on that Damascus road. Jesus told Peter to come down off the Mount of Transfiguration, and God calls us who are converted, those who have had that Damascus road experience, those who are born again are to come down off the Mount and dive in to the scriptures (2 Peter 1:17-19).

Today Bible literacy is on the decline. Many Christians are satisfied to study the scriptures in a superficial sort of way never entering into the deep things of God. Now, by deep I do not mean hard to understand, but those truths that take a little more digging. The treasure is just below the seemingly dry and dusty surface. A superficial and causal approach to the Word of God will never lead you into the great storehouse that God has revealed in His Word. Martin Lloyd-Jones described it this way, "Whether we know it or not our main trouble as Christians today is still a lack of understanding and knowledge. Not a lack of superficial knowledge of the scriptures, but a lack of knowledge of the doctrines of Scripture."

If doctrine bores you or you feel it is something that is above you, you will never experience the fullness of Christ in your life that you ought. It is through the understanding of the great doctrines of God's Word that we begin our journey into who God is and what the believer has in Christ. Can anyone deny that the more they understand the more they could have?

Doxology is fueled by theology and theology is made more potent by diving into the depths of revealed truth. People don't want to believe that but it is true. They may say that they believe it, but they won't do it, thinking it is just too dry, but the treasure is below the seemingly dry and dusty surface. However, most Christians seem to be surface dwellers and so they indeed do choke on the dry smoke, and so they think going deep means exploring the depths of their own feelings, and so therefore "God" becomes a projection of their best thoughts, and they practice idolatry thinking all the while that we who press them to maturity are just not "spiritual" enough.

It is not that the feelings are necessarily bad. They are not. Paul, when he says “O” in Romans 11:33, the Greek he is using is a very strong emotional expression. So the feelings in themselves aren’t bad. I do wish some who have deep theology might realize this and allow their depth to come forth. It is not a good thing to let deep roots produce no more fruit than the shallow emotions we often associate with apathetic response.

It is not that the feelings are necessarily faked. I don’t doubt the strong emotional, and yes spiritual times others have had, I have had them I have seen others have them. I don’t discount this. I know the Bible and the Apostle Paul in his epistles paint a picture of theology and doxology together, deep roots in the soil of the scriptures matched with the fervent fruit of fired up worship. We need to see both, not one to the exclusion of the other. Yes, I do believe part of the problem is that those who have deep roots in theology don’t often express the outgrowth of that enough in their corporate worship or lifestyle. However, truth must come first.

The problem with feelings is this. It is when we feel those feelings, even when they are real, yet we don’t progress beyond those into further depths of understanding. If that is the case, then we go searching for that feeling as the tell tale sign if we are worshipping correctly or deeply or not. We fail to dig deeper into things we may at first have a hard time understanding because they don’t give us a feeling yet. We become satisfied with feeling what we think is “fullness”, but it is only to the extent that we have expanded our worship space. Our lives are becoming more full each day, so should our worship. As our minds and lives expand so too should our capacity to worship. The better we understand God from the scripture the better we are able to worship. It doesn’t mean the better we will worship but it increases our capacity. The deeper our thoughts of God become, the higher our worship of God becomes.

It is a beautiful sight to see children praising God. We see a child worshipping with all of their heart and we think that this is the height of devotion; that this is where we wish we could get back to, that this is what we are missing. I tell you no! How can their worship be as deep as the Apostle Paul; they just started digging!

That child’s worship isn’t as far as worship goes. Sure the child is in a wonderful place, and they may indeed be experiencing God to the degree that they are able; they are feeling the fullness of God in that moment, in a sense. If you see them worshipping in such a beautiful way it ought to convict you to want more. But their capacity for fullness is not what you want or not what you should have. You as an adult and all through your life as you grow older; you should be having the same type of fullness, but in an increased space, the same fullness in a greater space. The worship may be pure, and that is what you see in them and what we are wanting, and we are right to want it. You want that surrendered heart. But we can pour that pure worship into a larger glass. It isn’t about getting back to that feeling, it is about moving on to understanding.

The key is not to go back but to go forward, to increase our understanding. This will lift us up into His presence no matter what we are facing. Looking at the child again, we know that they haven’t had as many trials and tribulations as us, they aren’t going through some of the things we are, and you look at them and just wish you could get back to the place where you could focus on God for a minute in a pure way. But let me tell you, it is when, in the midst of trial and tribulation that you, not only having had more experiences with God, but when you are able to understand who God really is, when you have leaned not only by experience but by understanding His Word how to trust Him, when you can see Him in the midst of difficulty, this is what brings pure worship into a mature state.

We can have a child like faith with an adult understanding. We say we want to worship free from the cares and constraints of the world but no man feels his freedom in Christ more than the man who does despite the chains of the world. Your situation may and will change but God does not, and God is what worship is about, not you and your feelings of ability in a particular moment of time, but God as the timeless king of the universe. When we endeavor to find out more about Him in this way, then we can worship despite our feelings and circumstances, and we can call on God out of a pure heart, going from worry to worship. When we can dive deep despite the cares of the world that is true worship, again no one is quite so free as the one who feels his freedom in Christ while shackled with the world’s chains.

A huge problem is that we haven’t taught about what worship actually is, and how to cultivate it within our lives. It is why we were created and sin has messed it up as we see in Romans 1 where they didn’t give thanks and worship God but instead worshipped the creation more than the creator. You say, “oh yeah I know worship is where it’s at”, but you stay at that same level. Once you have an experience you think that is the thing, but you can and should and must go deeper. We too often stop and don’t move into more full understanding that is why your worship fix won’t get the job done when the chips come down harder than you expect. You can’t just go into default mode you aren’t deep enough, but if the roots are getting deeper then all that happens when the tree is shaken is that it drops down fruit.

We always talk of how we aren’t going to let the rocks do our praising for us; well I say I am not going to let some child out praise me! Oh, I am not discounting their praise, it is wonderful, glorious, beautiful, but we need to show them that there is something to look forward to, not something to yearn back to. Their praise is not bad, it is good, and something we should teach them about. However, we do our children a disservice, and we discount God when we say that this is all there is. I tell you there is more! We can never exhaust our understanding of God, we will always have more to discover and more praise that will develop in our lives! Our praise should be getting more glorious day by day because our understanding of God is getting more informed day by day, at least this is how it should be and could be. Don’t you want to go as far with God as you can? Then why look back, why stay on Damascus road? Paul didn’t want to go back to Damascus. Child, teenager, 20 or 30 something, senior citizen, there is more to learn about God, there is more worship to give!

In the ideal circumstance, understood and applied rightly, the difference between a worshipful child and when that same child becomes a worshipful senior is that their worship will have grown deeper over a lifetime. They will have understood more of the great truths of God and applied more of His wisdom in their lives. They will have been carried through more trials and tribulations and seen God water them in a dry place many times. They may not be able to shout and may not be able to lift their hands, but their worship could be in a deeper place that they never knew as a child. They aren’t getting to know God; they have known Him for a long time, for a lifetime. They may be slowing down but their still growing up. Great relationships were meant to mature and grow stronger through time and circumstance. That is the way God wants it to be for us, getting to know Him in a deep way, progressing into the depths of understanding. Even if a child were able to go to the bottom, which none of us can on earth or even in heaven, then it would still be greater to have traveled to that place again and again, over a lifetime.

Getting back to Romans 11:33-36, Paul doesn’t stop at “O”, he goes further and deeper, realizing that language has indeed reached its end and God is still more than that. In verses 34-35 He asks rhetorical questions, and is left with silence, stunned silence. Paul gives praise to God, not just for what he knows but also because of what he doesn’t know.

We get to the “beyond language” before it’s time, we go to it before our minds have actually been to the grandness and mystery of God. That’s okay for children but not for mature believers.

Pastor Steve Weaver – This is the response of those who have encountered the greatness of God. They’re not whooping, hollering and running the aisles. They are silenced at His majesty! Some people get nervous if it gets quiet in church. Instead, why don’t you use those moments to meditate on the greatness and majesty of our God! Finally, in verse 36, Paul was struck by the centrality of God in all things! This is the basis of doxology, God Himself! God is shown here to be the source of all things, the means of all things, and the goal of all things!

I want to show you how more fully diving into great truth leads to greater worship. Charles Spurgeon seizes on the simple phrase "I will be their God," from Jeremiah 31:33. He plunges his hands deep into the depths of this truth, and scoops up and shares what he finds. Hear him, and be stirred and moved to rejoice in God's great goodness with him:

Christian! here is all thou canst require. To make thee happy thou wantest something that shall satisfy thee; and is not this enough? If thou canst pour this promise into thy cup, wilt thou not say, with David, “My cup runneth over; I have more than heart can wish”? When this is fulfilled, “I am thy God”, art thou not possessor of all things? Desire is insatiable as death, but he who filleth all in all can fill it. The capacity of our wishes who can measure? but the immeasurable wealth of God can more than overflow it. I ask thee if thou art not complete when God is thine? Dost thou want anything but God? Is not his all-sufficiency enough to satisfy thee if all else should fail? But thou wantest more than quiet satisfaction; thou desirest rapturous delight. Come, soul, here is music fit for heaven in this thy portion, for God is the Maker of Heaven. Not all the music blown from sweet instruments, or drawn from living strings, can yield such melody as this sweet promise, “I will be their God.” Here is a deep sea of bliss, a shoreless ocean of delight; come, bathe thy spirit in it; swim an age, and thou shalt find no shore; dive throughout eternity, and thou shalt find no bottom. “I will be their God.” If this do not make thine eyes sparkle, and thy heart beat high with bliss, then assuredly thy soul is not in a healthy state. But thou wantest more than present delights – thou cravest something concerning which thou mayest exercise hope; and what more canst thou hope for than the fulfilment of this great promise, “I will be their God”? This is the masterpiece of all the promises; its enjoyment makes a heaven below, and will make a heaven above. Dwell in the light of thy Lord, and let thy soul be always ravished with his love. Get out the marrow and fatness which this portion yields thee. Live up to thy privileges, and rejoice with unspeakable joy.

Church, God is calling us, not back to Damascus, but on to doxology. It is time to grow up in God, and to give our children and new believers something to look forward to. Let us endeavor to dive into the depths of His Word, with our singing the praise of His awe and wonder, our heartfelt devotion and neediness of the now following in proper response.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©


Even So... said...

I know this one is really long, but I truly believe you will be especially blessed if you take the time to read it...print it out and read it more than once, it is that big of a deal...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Hatfield,

I don't think that Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology. I think that the references to glory in 1:6, 1:12 and 1:14 are references to the resurrection. Now we have hope. Then we shall have glory. And God will be glorified by our glorification. We boast in hope of God's glory (Romans 5:2). In hope, we await the adoption, the ransom/redemption, the resurrection (Romans 8:23-25). We hope in Christ in this life until the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:19-23). We are sealed until the Day of ransom/redemption, at which point we shall be for the praise of God's glory (Ephesians 1:13-14 and 4:30). It is at the resurrection, the adoption, the ransom/redemption, when we are glorified, that we shall be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 5:27). Thus, He chose us in Him to be holy and without blemish (at the resurrection, the adoption), having before ordained us to the adoption (the resurrection), for the praise of the glory of His grace (at the resurrection) (Ephesians 1:4-6). IN WHOM (Christ) WE have the ransom/redemption through His Blood, the forgiveness of the trespasses (1:7), IN WHOM ALSO WE were made an inheritance (1:11) ... for US to be for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection), the ones having before hoped in Christ (we hope in Christ in this life before and until we are for the praise of God's glory at the resurrection) (1:12), IN WHOM ALSO WE (YOU) ... were sealed with ... a guarantee of OUR inheritance until the ransom/redemption (the resurrection) of the possession (US), for the praise of His glory (at the resurrection) (1:13-14). ... so that He would show in the coming ages the wealth of His grace in kindness/goodness on US in Christ Jesus (2:7). For by grace WE (YOU) are saved through faith, and this, not out of US (YOU), God's gift, not out of works, so that no one would glory (2:8-9). Paul inserts "YOU" in 1:13 and 2:8, not because its a different group than "WE" are, but to make what he's stating to be true of all believers (we/us/our) more personal for the believers to whom the epistle is written (you/your).


Even So... said...

I understand your emphasis, but I didn't say it was a doxology in the first place...

To quote the article itself...

Good theology should sound like doxology

It is a wonderful text, isn't it...

Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Hatfield

Mr. Hatfield:

“Today we are not doing an expositional sermon, what we are going to do is to explore a topic, that of worship, and specifically doxology. ... Romans 11:33-36 – This is a doxology, a word of glory or to speak of glory, a short hymn of praise to God ... The Book of Psalms, so rich with worship and good theology is arranged into five books ... Each book concludes with a doxology, again, a hymn or word of praise to God ... Good theology should sound like doxology (Ephesians 1:3-14). ....”

Jim (response):

I don't think that Ephesians 1:3-14 is a doxology. I think that the references to glory in 1:6, 1:12 and 1:14 are references to the resurrection. Now we have hope. Then we shall have glory. And God will be glorified by our glorification. ...

Mr. Hatfield (response):

I understand your emphasis, but I didn't say it was a doxology in the first place ... To quote the article itself ... Good theology should sound like doxology ... It is a wonderful text, isn't it ...

Jim (response):

Sorry. I misunderstood. I thought that you were speaking of Ephesians 1:3-14 the same way that the following commentator does:

“vs 3-14 As is evident from the structure and emphasis of this section as revealed in its phrasing above, this is a doxology giving praise to God. Each section focuses on the role of each member of the godhead and ends essentially with "to the praise of his glory". The key phrase in this whole section is found in verse 3 "Blessed be" or "Praise be". It is also the only exhortation found in this section. Very similar to the psalms in which there is first a call to worship followed by a listing of God's works and attributes. In studying this section, pay particular attention to the verbs. For they reveal God's action - what God did, which is the main subject here.”

Yes, it’s a good text, although I don’t care for the way that it runs on, as if it were one long sentence. It annoys me that some of the New Testament authors seem, if not always, at least at times, as interested in being poetic as in being understood.

There’s a theory floating around that Paul himself is not the author of Ephesians, even though the author says this:

(ASV) Ephesians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ... 3:1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles—2 if so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward; 3 how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, 4 whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5 which in other generation was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 [to wit], that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7 whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of that grace of God which was given me according to the working of his power. ... 6:21 But that ye also may know my affairs, how I do, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things: 22 whom I have sent unto you for this very purpose, that ye may know our state, and that he may comfort your hearts. 23 Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 24 Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ with [a love] incorruptible.

The proponents of this theory say that although, according to them, Paul himself is not the author of the epistle, it is nevertheless an important epistle. I don’t understand how they can say that. If Paul isn’t the author, then the epistle is a forgery, authored, not by anyone who is inspired by God’s Spirit, but by a liar, in which case, far from being an important epistle, it should be disregarded altogether. However, I think that Paul did author it, not only because the author identifies himself as the apostle Paul, but also because he expresses his doctrine the same way that Paul does in his other epistles. Whatever differences may exist between the epistles can be explained by the use of different amanuenses (writers taking dictation).