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Last week we opened our series, ‘Thinking Eternally’ with this idea that we are in the process of becoming who we already are in Christ.

In other words, we are counted as righteous through Christ. And yet we still commit unrighteous deeds. We are citizens in the perfect Kingdom, but we still live in the cursed Kingdom of the World.

If you’re like me, there are things about this world that you like and things about this world that you absolutely hate. There are things that disgust you. There are patterns of behavior that you can’t stand to be around.

That’s because the world is fundamentally corrupt. Society is fundamentally broken. And people are fundamentally unfaithful.

So, speaking eternally: for many people, the hope of heaven has less to do with being free from our own personal sins, and more to do with being free from the corruption of the world around us. I get that. I, too, look forward to a time when the world will be perfected, where everything wrong will be made right and good again.

Do you connect with that? Do you want to be a part of a better world? Said differently, is that the hope of heaven for you?

Today, we will be talking about worship—eternal worship. And it’s my belief that worshiping Christ is basically the same thing as expressing a desire for a better world, a perfect world. The entire point of Jesus dying to save us from our sins and His invitation to join Him in His Eternal Kingdom is so that the people of God would live forever with God in a perfect world, a better world.

So, if a Christian is a person who wants a better world, then a Christian is a person whose ultimate desire is to worship Christ eternally?

I want to talk about worship now, in this life, but since we are doing a series called, ‘Thinking Eternally’ I want to begin with that premise…

Worshipping Christ in His Kingdom

The idea that eternity will be spent worshipping Jesus comes from a few statements in the book of Revelation and a few in the Old Testament where all the nations of the earth are observed singing praise or crying out in praise forever and ever.

Here’s one of the key passages. John writes,

I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in [the] heaven, crying out,

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1–2, ESV)

Notice the word multitude. This word can just mean a lot of people—or a lot of something. But, sometimes it is used to convey the idea of such great abundance that it is impossible to quantify. That seems to be the sense here. There are so many people that their voices together sound off like one huge voice.

I want to make a note about John’s use of heaven in this verse. Most of the time, when the Bible says the word ‘heaven’ or ‘heavens’ it is referring to the sky or the universe. But, here in the text, the original Greek actually reads, ‘a great multitude in the heaven,’ using the definite article ‘the.’ This means that there is a single, particular heaven in mind. So, what John is referring to is the divine abode of God, where Christ sits on His throne, and the heavenly beings worship and serve. This is the heaven we mean when we say that someone has died and gone to heaven. John uses the word heaven to explain the place where this great multitude of people cry out to God, so many that they cannot be counted.

I won’t get too much into the imagery of their cry of praise, but it seems pretty obvious that they are praising God for doing away with the immorality of the world. The multitudes praise God because He has finally put sin to death. And they continue,

Once more they cried out,

Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.” (Revelation 19:3, ESV)

Forever and ever, smoke comes up from the earth as sin and death are destroyed. Sin will be no more.

People often ask me, ‘Anthony do you think we can sin in heaven?’ When they ask me that, they know my answer is ‘no,’ but they have a hard time connecting with that concept. This is why. Sin is alive and well right now. But sin will be forever put to death. There will be no more corruption and no more temptation to sin, so sin will be no more.

But, because all we have ever known is a sinful, corrupt creation, a sinless one is hard to imagine. But, when sin and death are destroyed, everything will be perfected.

John goes on,

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen [Truly]. Hallelujah [Praise Yahweh]!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:4–7, ESV)

Again, we get this idea of the great multitude praising God for delivering them to His Eternal Kingdom. This multitude is so great that it is like the roar of the oceans—many waters. The roar of their voices boom like peals of thunder.

This is the moment that David spoke of when he sang,

All the nations you have made shall come

and worship before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things;

you alone are God. (Psalm 86:9–10, ESV)

So, here’s what I think happens. We see passages that show the nations gathered and singing songs of praise to God. And then we see passages like this one from earlier in the book of Revelation,

And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8, ESV)

We get the idea that since these divine creatures sing praise to God day and night, that we must do the same thing in heaven.

But, this passage is not about humans. These divine beings are not properly ‘angels,’ but in Isaiah 6.2, Isaiah calls them the Seraphim. They are beings that are created for the express purpose of praising God for his holiness. That they have eyes all around is an ancient illustration that tells us these beings don’t even sleep. They are conscious and praising God all the time. The idea that all we will do is sing songs in heaven isn’t in the Bible.

The Seraphim absolutely give us a beautiful picture of worship, because worship takes our minds off our problems and focuses them on God. Songs help us to consider and appreciate God’s reality and character. Music lifts our perspective from the earthly and mundane to the heavenly and glorious.

But, what the Seraphim do is not what all of the spiritual beings do. And it’s not what humans do for all eternity—although it seems clear, we will at times gather to sing praise as we do even now.

Now … I don’t think anyone really believes we will spend eternity singing songs, but sometimes heaven is portrayed that way. Sometimes we think about heaven as a place where we sing before the throne night and day, and there’s nothing more than that.

I don’t believe heaven is a place where we sing songs all day long. But, I do believe heaven is a place where we worship day and night. And for many of you, that sounds really boring. But, I think that’s because of a misconception of what worship actually is.

So,

What is Worship?

It’s been said that everything we do is worship; either worship of God or worship of something else. Worship is really a very primitive function for humans because worship is what we do because of what our hearts desires. You have to understand how this works.

Rapists and pedophiles are worshipers, because their hearts yearn for sexual pleasure. Sex is their god.

Thieves and extortionists are worshipers, because their hearts always yearn for more. Fortune is their god.

Many good and hard working individuals worship entertainment and comfort, because that’s their god. So, everything they do is to have fun on the weekend whatever.

You know the desire for earthy pleasures that bubble up inside of you uncontrollably.

It’s difficult sometimes to imagine worship for God that happens that way.

How often does desire for Christ and His righteousness bubble up uncontrollably inside of you like so many false gods of our culture?

When we talk about sin—the worship of the things of this world—I think the image is clear. When our hearts yearn for the things of this world, we worship. But, when the desire for the pleasure of your eyes or your flesh is greater than your desire for Christ and His righteousness, then we sin. We worship something other than God.

Look how the biblical authors talk about worship—I’ll show you a handful of many passages that look just like this.

Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them. (Deuteronomy 11:16, ESV)

He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord… (1 Kings 22:53, ESV)

Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands… (Jeremiah 25:6, ESV)

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” (Matthew 4:10, ESV)

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator… (Romans 1:25, ESV)

I hope you see the theme here. What you serve with your time and money, what you give your attention to, more than anything else; that’s your god. That’s what you worship.

Is that Jesus? Is that the things of God? Or do you worship the things of the world?

Sometimes the biblical authors say things like, ‘Worship the Lord in his temple.’ And you get the image of singing and prayers. In the Old Testament, the centerpiece of that kind of worship was actually animal sacrifice. But, more often the biblical concept of worship is paired with serving, not singing.

Worship has to do with who or what you serve not what you profess and not what you sing about.

You either worship God by serving Him, or you worship something else—usually yourself, because we are by nature self-serving.

Who we serve—or, another way to say that would be, ‘What we do with our time’—says volumes about who we worship, who our hearts are ultimately devoted to.

When everything I do is to get more money, more comforts, more power, more prestige, to have more fun, more stuff, and so on, I worship something other than God.

But if my heart desires only the righteousness of Christ, then everything I do will be to get Christ and His righteousness. And in so doing, everything I then do becomes worship for Christ.

Right now, we live in tension, because our interests are divided. Sin, makes our worship of God less than what it ought to be. But, not in heaven. In heaven, everything you do—whatever you do—has as its express purpose the glorification of Christ because our hearts will be pure like Christ’s. Our interests will no longer be divided.

When we get to heaven, remember, sin and death will be no more. There will be no more temptation of the eyes or temptation of the flesh. For the first time, you and I will be able to focus our attention on Christ and Christ alone and everything that we do—night and day—will be an expression of pure devotion to Christ, worship.

So, worship is not per se singing songs. Any expression of reverence is worship.

Being obedient to God’s commands is worship.

Reading your Bible at home is worship.

Having a conversation about scripture is worship.

Praying is worship.

Listening to the messages on Sunday and applying them to your day-to-day life is worship.

Loving your neighbor is worship.

Caring for the needy is worship.

Serving in your community is worship.

And singing songs is also worship, but it’s a very small part of what we do as worship if you really think about it.

Worship is multi-faceted. It’s very personal and yet very communal. The worship we practice throughout the week is primarily individual. My daily worship is about me before a righteous and merciful God. But, the worship we do when we gather in life groups and on Sunday mornings is communal. It’s a community effort. When we come to worship on Sundays, it’s not just me and God, but it’s Christ and His Church. Individual worship, self-reflection, and all that is for the weekdays. But, on Sundays we gather together and Christ reflects on us.

When we sing songs about God’s grace, we praise God in one loud voice, as a multitude. When we pray, we cry out to God in one voice. When we listen to God’s Word, we hear as a community, and we allow the truth to motivate, not just our personal lives, but the mission of the church to reach out into our community.

And that’s much what eternal worship will be like. We will learn about God. We will sing praise to God. We will talk to God, and we will forever live in righteousness for the glory of God.

But, as we talk about thinking eternally, I think it’s important to remember that worship is something we do now. If we are the people of God, then we must…

Worship Now

I want to remind you where we started. We started our discussion on worship with this key principle.

The Christian is the person whose ultimate desire is to worship Christ.

If after unpacking the concept of worship and the idea that eternity will be spent with nothing else than worship of Christ, you still feel like that sounds boring or you can’t imagine life without sensual pleasures—lust, gluttony, violence, money, etc.—then I’m not going to go so far as to say you aren’t a Christian, but you probably have some hard questions to ask yourself.

I mean, if you don’t profess Jesus in order to get a relationship with Him and to attain His righteousness—both of which are worship—then why do you profess Christ?

What is your faith about? Why do you want to be a Christian?

These are important questions to ask that should reveal whatever it is in your heart that stands in the way of a desire to forever worship of Jesus.

I believe the Apostle Paul had this in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian Church,

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. (2 Corinthians 13:5–6, ESV)

Are your desires for Christ, His righteousness, the perfection of His eternal Kingdom? Or do you desire something else?

I don’t say this to challenge anyone’s salvation. I say this, because it’s the tool for figuring our what it is that stands in the way of experiencing Christ. Examine yourself. What do you love more than Christ? What do you desire more than Christ’s righteousness?

That’s the test and I hope you have not failed the test.

We think eternally by worshipping now. So, I want to give you three habits of worship that I believe you can develop now that will serve you very well, not just through your life on earth, but even into eternity.

The first we have already dealt with a bit. It is …

Corporate Worship

The author of Hebrew exhorts us,

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24–25, ESV)

It’s our habit to skip church here and there. It’s our habit to come home after work and not go to life group or to a fellow believer’s home for dinner, because we are busy or tired.

But, if we have eternal worship in sight, we will not neglect meeting together. When we meet together as Christians, that is a shadow of the way we will live eternally. So, when someone isn’t consistently coming to church, we should encourage each other all the more as we see the Day drawing near, when Christ will return for His church.

The desire to worship Christ for eternity naturally gives us a desire to worship now.

Tell me if something like this has ever happened to you.

I’m on a weird diet right now, trying to lose a couple pounds and get in a little better shape. The diet is very strict during the week, but then you get a cheat day. And on the cheat day, you can eat whatever you want after breakfast.

Here’s what happens to me. On the day after the cheat day, I feel gross from eating a bunch of junk food, so it’s very easy to stay on the diet. The second day, I’m doing some exercise, and I feel like I’m conquering the world. And that lasts for about three days. Then I hit the fourth day, and I start to think about the cheat day again. The diet gets harder. The fifth day comes, and it gets even harder.

The closer you get to the cheat day, when you can eat whatever you want, the more you want that pleasure now. We become so impatient to get the pleasure now. And that impatience gets worse and worse the closer the day comes.

That’s why a lot of families have a tradition of opening one Christmas present on Christmas Eve, right?

We just can’t handle the anticipation of the good things to come. It’s the way we’re wired.

So, let me make an observation. If we believe in this glorious day when we will gather with all of our brothers and sisters in Christ—past, present, and future—and sing praises to God before the throne of Jesus, then that should stir in us an impatient anticipation for that day even now.

You should come to gather and worship with anticipation of the Day of the Lord when we gather at His throne. That’s why the author of Hebrews said to, ‘encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’ Sunday worship gatherings should be a priority for every Christian, as a quick fix to get you through the anticipation of the week.

The anticipation of Eternity stirs in us such a bold desire that we must see the face of Christ now.

We need Sunday worship as a cheat day as we anticipate the ultimate Day. We get to open a present early every Sunday as we await ultimate worship in God’s eternal Kingdom.

Do you see Sunday worship that way? Do you long for worship? Or is coming to church just another rote religious task?

Test yourselves. Ask some hard questions. And if you struggle with this, the author of Hebrews seems to say the answer is to form the habit. Don’t just pray that you will desire to come to church. Don’t try to will yourself into wanting to come to church. Form the habit. Make a commitment to Sunday Worship. Don’t miss one week unless you’re too sick to come.

They say it takes 17 times of doing something in a row to form a habit. So clear your weekend for the next 17 weeks and don’t miss once. Work hard to get that habit formed. And encourage each other, because that kind of commitment is hard. And then watch what God does in your heart because of your commitment to stir your affections for Him.

Corporate worship—church services and all that—should be a natural habit, but I’ll give you two other habits. The next is…

Prayer

Prayer is hard for most people. I’ll just say that upfront. And I think it’s hard because we hear people pray and we think there must be a proper form of prayer—there’s a way to do it right and way to do it wrong.

And we don’t want to do it wrong, right?

Look what the Apostle Paul writes:

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, (Ephesians 6:18–19, ESV)

Here are a few quick observations about this text.

Prayer is for all times. It’s not for particular religious moments or profound moments. It’s not just for church, bedtime, and mealtimes. It’s for any time, any circumstance.

Prayer is hard—it requires perseverance.

Prayer is for the congregation of the church to offer on behalf of their leaders. Pray for me, that I would speak the truth in love and encouragement. Pray that I would be effective in leading you towards God’s heart for our community. Pray that I would love and desire Christ more and more. Pray that I would lead my family well.

Prayer is for all things. Supplication is the kind of prayer where we ask for things we need. But, prayer is for all occasions.

Can you imagine the kind of relationship you would have with your spouse or best friend if the only conversation you ever had was to ask for things? That’s not much of a relationship. You build a relationship by talking about things that matter. How about you tell God about your day? What if you tell God what you’re feeling? What if you tell God when you’re mad at Him or at the way He allowed a situation to turn out? What if you tell God you’re sorry when you do things that break His heart? What if, the next time you have an idea, you tell God about it, maybe before you say anything to anyone else?

Prayer actually is easier than you think it is because you really can’t do it wrong as long as you are talking to God. Prayer can become a very easy habit to form if you make yourself aware of the need to pray throughout your day.

But, I get it. It’s kind of weird to talk to someone who doesn’t talk back, so there’s a final habit you need to form. The biblical term might seem confusing. The Bible calls it…

Meditation

When the Bible talks about meditation, however, it means something quite different than what you probably think meditation is. When we think about meditation, we usually think about Eastern meditation. Eastern meditation has to do with emptying the mind. But, Christian meditation has to do with filling the mind.

We don’t meditate by clearing our minds, but by filling it with the truth of God. Meditation is a matter of what you want your mind to be filled with.

Here’s what Paul says,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about [meditate on] these things. (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

Fill your mind with these things, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent things—things that are worthy of praise.

Now, the church historically has gone a different route than the contemporary church has, so I’m going to say something that is a little bit different for you. For the past 200-300 years, the church has taught that meditation means studying your Bibles.

But, historically, meditation meant pondering biblical truths. And that’s a little bit different.

I think both are good practices and it would be great if everyone did both. But, I believe one is more profitable than the other.

Bible study works through different portions of the scriptures to tell you what they mean and how to live it out. Most good Bible study books try to equip you to study other passages of scripture on your own. Bible studies move through lots of truths very quickly—usually in like a 20-minute quiet time in the morning or something like that—so you can fill your mind with tons of things, very quickly and efficiently.

Meditation is different. Meditation takes one simple truth and contemplates it for a long time. Bible study is lots of truths in a short time. Meditation is one truth over a long period of time.

For a long time, I had a practice. In the morning I took the Bible Gateway Verse of the day, and I read it—just the one or two verses. And one verse usually has lots of ideas in it, so I took one, and I wrote it down in a notepad on my phone, so I could remember it. And then as I would go through my day, I would go back to it, ponder it, talk to God about it. I’d consider how that truth informed the way I was living my life. I’d consider what God wanted to do in the world around me because of that truth. I’d consider how I could be a part of that. It was one truth, meditated upon, all day.

God speaks profoundly to us in this way.

You can form this habit the same way I did, by signing up for a verse of the day at Bible Gateway or another website like that.

Bible study puts lots of truth in the mind. But, meditation puts truth into your mind and then works it deep into your heart, and so I believe meditation is far supreme to Bible study, because meditation changes, not just what we think, but how we feel.

I believe God answers our prayers—speaks back to us—through both Bible study and meditation, but meditation, focusing your mind on the pure and lovely wonderful truths of God, is a truer act of worship because it makes our hearts disposition reflect God’s, heart. It makes it so that we love what God loves, desire what God desires. Meditation takes the eternal realities of God and all the wonders of His eternal Kingdom and writes those things into our hearts, even now.

So, I’ll close by once more saying, examine yourselves.

Do you have a habit of weekly worshipping with the church? Do you have a daily habit of meditating on the truths of scripture? Do you regularly talk to God? And do you talk to him about more than just things you want or need?

Let’s talk to God now as we anticipate talking face to face with Him in eternity.