************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:22a-b ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 11, 2016
"Worship with a Sincere Heart"
"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." That's what our text says.
On this Lord's Supper Sunday let me remind you of why Hebrews says this. Draw near to God because, verses 19 & 20, we sinners have access to our holy God by the blood of Jesus. Before the coming of Jesus, remember, access to God was limited and inferior. On behalf of the people, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies one day of the year and he got in and he got out as quickly as possible. But now, thanks to Jesus, we have unlimited access to God, His grace, His presence, His holiness, His glory, His throne. Isn't this the whole point of the Lord's Supper? We are pointed to the body and blood of the Lord. We are pointed to what He has done for us. Therefore, we sinners can draw near to God and have a living relationship with Him.
Our Bible reading also gives us a second reason. Draw near to God because, verse 21, we have a priest who is our advocate in the house of God. As our brother, as our flesh and blood, as our high priest, He represents us before the Father.
So, because of Who Jesus is and what Jesus has done, let us draw near to God.
Hebrews is talking about worship. Hebrews is talking about drawing near to God in worship. Hebrews tells us that our first and most important response to Christ is worship. Hebrews tells us that we come for worship Sunday after Sunday, week after week, year after year as our response to what Jesus has done and Who Jesus is.
I Insincere Worship
A We have access to God. We have an advocate with the Father. "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart."
Hebrews is telling us it is possible to draw near without a sincere heart. It is possible to draw near and not mean a word of it. It is possible to draw near and simply go through the motions. It is possible to draw near and be insincere about it. It is possible to sing songs, celebrate the sacraments, present our gifts, offer prayers, confess sins, commission pastors, read Scripture, and listen to the sermon -- and to be insincere about all of this.
B Hebrews does not offer a quote here. However, as a student of the Old Testament scriptures the author did have Isaiah 29 in mind as he tells us to "draw near to God with a sincere heart."
(Isa 29:13) The Lord says: "These people come near to me [notice language very similar to Hebrews] with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men."Jesus quotes this passage in Matthew 15 to condemn the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
Jesus adds a phrase to the quote from Isaiah. "They worship me in vain" (Mt 15:9). What does "vain" mean? The Greek word carries the senses of "vain, deceptive, pointless, futile, empty." Their worship is vain, deceptive, pointless, futile, empty because it accomplishes nothing. Their worship is ineffective, impotent, feeble.
Notice, God calls it worship. The Pharisees called it worship. But it is not acceptable to God. Why not? They were worshiping the one true God yet God wanted nothing to do with it. Why? Because God condemns worship that does not involve the heart. God condemns worship that is not sincere. God condemns worship that is not done in Spirit and in truth. God condemns worship that is rules based.
Worship that does not involve the heart is worship done in vain. God wants us to give Him our hearts, and not just our lip service. God wants our heart involved. God wants the center of our being and essence involved in His worship. Consider what we all do with the heart. We believe in the heart (Rom 10:9–10), love from the heart (Mt 22:37), sing from the heart (Col 3:16), obey from the heart (Rom 6:17; Eph 6:6), and give from the heart (2 Cor 9:7). And we are to worship with the heart.
If the heart is not involved in worship, then the worship is done in vain. For worship to be authentic, the heart needs to be engaged with the living God.
C "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." "They worship me in vain" (Mt 15:9). This should horrify us and alarm us and even scare us. This should make us question whether our worship is from the heart. This should make us ask whether our worship is sincere.
From this pulpit I see all sorts of things. I see people singing with all their heart and I see people who barely open their mouth when we praise the Lord. I see people totally absorbed in the sermon and I see people sleeping or zoned out. I see people praying with me and I see people fiddling with stuff in their purse or on their phone. I see people who receive the sacrament with joy and I see people who give no more thought to it than they give to their breakfast. I see people who are grace based and I see people who are rules based.
So, let me ask, how do you respond to what Jesus has done? Jesus is your access and Jesus is your advocate. Do you draw near with a sincere heart? Or do you worship God in vain?
If you are thankful for Jesus and what He has done, then your worship of Him is joyful, excited, enthusiastic, meaningful, sincere, and from the heart.
II Preoccupied with God
A "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Who do we draw near to? Who is our focus? This is so simple and so basic, yet I have to say it anyway: Christian worship is preoccupied with God.
Let me first explain this from a negative point-of-view. If Christian worship is preoccupied with God, this means it is not preoccupied with me.
A lot of what passes for worship in many churches today is a preoccupation with self. The focus is on the needs, desires, and feelings of the worshiper. What did I get out of the worship service? Did I find it uplifting and even entertaining? Was I made to feel welcome? The focus is me, me, me. Do you know what this is? This is worship of self. This is idolatry.
You have heard of Seeker Services. The assumption is that these seekers don't know God or much about Him. So everything is dumbed down. No theological language is used. Anything offensive is removed. Sin and wrath and judgment are not mentioned. The focus of these services is on the so-called seekers rather than God. This is worship of man. This, too, is idolatry.
God is viewed as the great performer. He is performing for us. He is trying to get our attention. And if He doesn't get my attention, I can arrive late, go to the bathroom repeatedly, lurk in the entrance way, fall asleep, check my cell phone, and a host of other things that I see from this pulpit. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Christian worship is preoccupied with God. He, not me, is the focus. He, not the seeker, is the focus.
B "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." My cycling group included a new resident to our community a couple of weeks ago. I invited him to church and I invited him to Rotary. Rotary he was interested in. Church he wasn't. When I asked why he said an answer I have heard all too often: "I prefer to worship God in nature. I think I can worship Him as much in the mountains as you can in church."
I told him that as a minister I cannot possibly agree with such a view. I told him he was missing out on so much. Yes, we do see the glory and might of God when we go to the mountains. But the mountains don't tell us our sin, our need for the Savior, the cross, the grave, the resurrection, the ascension. The mountains don't give us the sacraments.
"Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Hebrews is not talking about worship in mountains and valleys. Hebrews is talking about worship in the church and by the church. Hebrews is talking about worship that focuses on more than God as Creator.
C "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Christian worship is preoccupied with God. Our focus is His exaltation, His honor, His glory, His praise. It is all about Him. He is the focus of the music. He is the focus of the prayers. He is the focus of the sermon. He is the focus of the songs. He is the focus of the sacraments. It is all about Him.
And don't forget why: because Jesus is our access and advocate. Worship is our response, our reaction, to Jesus, to His beauty and His worth.
I can never get enough of the big trees. I go to Balch Park or Mineral King or Sequoia National Park, and I am in awe whenever I see the sequoias. I react to their size, their grandeur, their majesty, their age.In the same way, when we see the God Who made us and provides for us, the Son Who is our access and advocate, and the Spirit Who lives in us and sanctifies us, we are filled with awe and want to worship.
I remember having the same kind of reaction to the Grand Canyon and the view from Glacier Point in Yosemite. You see the whole canyon stretched out before you -- so deep and so beautiful -- and you cannot help but be awed.
D "Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart." Christian worship is preoccupied with God. This morning we looked at Proverbs 1:7 and said "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." But Proverbs could also have said, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of worship." This means we need to know something about the God we worship. How can you worship what you don't know? We need to know Who He is and what He does in order to worship Him.
True worship, authentic worship, worship that is not in vain, is worship that focuses on the God Who reveals Himself in the Bible.
This God that you worship reveals Himself in the Bible as eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty, completely wise, just, good, and the overflowing source of all good (from Belgic Confession Article 1). Do you worship this God?
The God of the Bible reveals Himself to us in many, many different names:
El-Shaddai - "God of the Mountains"Do you worship this God?
El-Elyon - "The Most High God"
El-Olam - "God of Eternity"
El-Roi - "God who sees me"
Yahweh - The covenant name for God
Yahweh-Jireh - "The LORD will provide"
Yahweh-Nissi - "The LORD is my banner"
Yahweh-Mekaddesh - "The LORD sanctifies"
Yahweh-Shalom - "The LORD is peace"
Yahweh-Sabaoth - "The LORD of hosts"
Yahweh-Rohi - "The LORD is my shepherd"
Yahweh-Shammah - "The LORD is there"
Adon or Adonai - This is a title of authority and honor and is translated "Lord"
Ancient of Days
Father of mercies
Father of lights
Father of glory
Father, Son, Holy Spirit
The God of the Bible is the God Who made Adam from the dust of the earth. He is the God Who made a covenant with Adam that put off limits the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He is the God Who judged and cursed the serpent, the woman, the man, and the ground. He is the God Who chose Abraham. He is the God Who saved His people out of Egypt. He is the God Who gave Moses the Ten Commandments and instructions for His worship. He is the God Who gave the promise of a Redeemer Who would crush the serpent's head, a Suffering Servant Who would take away our sins, a priest after the order of Melchizedek, a Sun of Righteousness, a prophet like Elijah, a king like David. He is the God Who kept His promises in the fullness of time. He is the God Who placed on His only begotten Son the sin of the entire human race. He is the God Who sent His son to die on the cross, to rise from the grave, to ascend into heaven, and to be seated at His right hand. He is the God Who sent the Spirit. He is the God you one day will face. He is the God Whose commands you break and Whose holiness you offend. Do you worship this God?
I hope you realize to worship God with a sincere heart, you need to know Him. To know Him you need preaching, devotions, Bible Study, prayer, theology. Because if you don't know His beauty and His holiness, your worship is in vain. So, I repeat, Christian worship is preoccupied with God.
"Therefore, brothers, 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 ..." (Heb 10:19-22).
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