Why We Worship Jesus Christ

Why We Worship Jesus Christ

Acts 10:1-11:18

Introduction

Whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us worship something. Today there is a growing interest in atheism, but the truth is – regardless of whether or not you believe in God – you still worship something.

Consider one pastor’s observation about going to a Seattle Seahawks game. He says, “As I sat among nearly seventy thousand fans, I wondered what the impression of Old Testament Hebrew worshipers would be if they could have been teleported to the game. My guess is that they would have assumed they were at the worship service of an enormous cult. While zoning laws in our city essentially forbid us from building a large church, the football stadium was built at a cost of 450 million dollars (with roughly 300 million dollars of that money coming from public monies such as taxes). Every ticket for the entire season is expensive yet sold out. Our seats at the game I attended were in what Paul calls the “third heaven” and cost about forty dollars each. In addition, parking, a hot dog, and a [drink] cost about the same as a year’s tuition at a state college. The help of a Sherpa was required to haul it all to the high altitude where the seats were.

People walked many blocks in a driving rain that was so [intense] that parts of the city were flooded, rivers had spilled over their banks, and mudslides were leading the nightly newscasts. Nonetheless, seemingly every seat in the stadium was filled, and fans stood in the rain for the entire game—not even using the seat they paid for—wearing the team colors and screaming, while music blared through the sound system and half-naked young women provided the eye candy. In short, I was at a worship service with a congregation that was larger, more devoted, more generous, and more vocal than any church in America. . . . [I] was surrounded by people no less religiously zealous who had painted their faces to gather together and cheer on their gods who happened to play quarterback, tailback, and such, while wearing replica jerseys in tribute and giving one another high-fives in celebration whenever one of their gods made a great play.”

People worship all kinds of things. So what is worship anyway? The Bible says that “worship is living our life individually and corporately as continuous living sacrifices to the glory of a person or thing.” To glorify something is to make much of it – to exalt it and show its greatness.

‘Glory’ means weightiness, importance, preeminence, priority, or that which is our greatest treasure, deepest longing, and fountain of hope. Functionally, what we hold in the place of glory is in effect our real god. It’s the thing we worship.

Furthermore, the biblical word for worship is sometimes translated as ‘sacrifice.’ People can and do hold all kinds of people and things in a position of glory and then worship them by making sacrifices.

Because we have limited resources – limited amounts of time, energy, and money – we must distribute those resources to those things that we consider most important or glorious to us and in so doing make sacrifices for our functional god. Whatever we hold in the position of highest glory is by definition our god(s). Practically speaking, worship is making sacrifices for what we are living to glorify.

So, for example, if we eat and drink in excess, we are worshiping our stomach and sacrificing our health. If we sacrifice relationships with God and people for a hobby (e.g., sport, music, craft), then we are worshiping that hobby.

If we are giving our bodies to sexual sin, we are worshiping sex and/or another person whose glory is our highest aim, sacrificing holiness and intimacy with God in the process.

In the end, we give our time, energy, body, money, focus, devotion, and passion to that which we glorify most, and we make sacrifices to worship that person or thing. And this isn’t abnormal. God has created us as human beings to worship Him.

We simply distort that purpose with sinful hearts. Everyone is a worshiper. The only difference is who or what we worship. As one philosopher has rightly observed, “the alternative to theism is not atheism but idolatry.”

The human heart is an idol factory for everything from political causes to hobbies, recreation, sports, and crafts. As a result, some men worship old cars and houses and spend all of their time and money to renovate them while neglecting time with God and the people he has called them to love, such as their wife and children.

Some women worship their beauty and spend so much of their time, energy, and money on their looks that they are prone to neglect God and others such as their husband, children, and friends.

Others are prone to worship their favorite band and even spend hours every day online gathering the latest news, downloading the latest songs, tuning in to the latest interviews, buying the latest merchandise, and even traveling around the country and world to catch the latest concert.

If you want to know what you worship, ask yourself question like this –

· Who or what do you make sacrifices for?

· Who or what is most important to you?

· If you could have any thing or experience you wanted, what would that be?

· Who or what makes you the most happy?

· What is the one person or thing you could not live without?

· What do you spend your money on?

· Who or what do you devote your spare time to?

As a Christian, my answer to all those questions should be the same things – Jesus Christ. And that should be true for all Christians. But why? What makes Christ do significant that we would worship him? Thankfully, the Bible doesn’t just say we worship Christ, it tells us why we should worship him.

For the past several weeks, we have been studying the book of Acts – the history of the beginning and growth of God’s Church. We’ve come to a passage that tells us of a man named Cornelius. He was a man who earnestly desired God, but was not a Christian. God sent Peter – one of Jesus’ first disciples to tell him how to experience salvation. In Acts 10, we see the message he brought.

[34] So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, [35] but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. [36] As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), [37] you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: [38] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. [39] And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, [40]but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, [41] not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. [42] And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. [43] To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

As is typical in the New Testament, the author of Acts is most likely summarizing Peter’s sermon, giving an outline of what he said. And what Peter taught about Christ can be summarized in three statements. Three statements that show why Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship.

1. Jesus Christ is the Fulfillment of God’s Promise and Plan (10:36-38, 43)

Peter begins by explaining how Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promises. That his life and ministry was the culmination of God’s plan for his people. Specifically, that he came as the long-awaited Messiah.

[36] As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), [37] you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: [38] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

Later in 43 he says, “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

The people of Israel – God’s people in Jesus day – were eagerly looking God’s promised Messiah. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned and all humanity was separated from God by sin, God promised to provide a special son who would set things right and restore peace between a holy God and sinful humanity.

And over decades and centuries, God kept telling people what this Messiah would be like. In Isaiah 42, God says, “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations” (42:1).

And then at the outset of Jesus’ ministry we read in Matthew: And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (3:16-17).

All the God had promised – the coming of the Messiah clothed with the Spirit’s power to do God’s work of saving his people – was fulfilled in Christ. And Peter says he and other disciples were around to see evidence of that fact. During his earthly ministry, Jesus “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil.”

In very practical and powerful ways – feeding thousands of people at a time, calming a raging storm at sea, healing people of blindness and diseases, showing mercy to repentant sinners – Jesus demonstrated that God was faithful to keep his promises of sending a Messiah who would minister to his people. And the evidence of that fulfillment was seen in the powerful working Jesus did for the benefit of sinful people.

2. Jesus Christ is the Savior of All Humanity (10:34-35, 39, 43)

Many people like Jesus. You can go into certain stores and online and even find t-shirts that say ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ – the same shirt you see on people like Madonna, Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, and Pamela Anderson.

I think they – like so many others – think Jesus is cool because they don’t really know him. They’ve never really read the New Testament. They simply believe the old lie of liberal scholarship – that the Jesus preached by the Church is the not the hip Jesus who really lived. That he may have been a great guy – a moral, philosophical teacher who told people to love one another. But that’s it.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give us that option. Jesus did not just come as to do good towards humanity. He also came to win salvation for sinners in need of a Savior.

Notice what Peter says in v. 39. He has talked about Jesus’ earthly ministry. And then he says, all of that came to an end when, “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree. Notice he doesn’t just say they killed him, or even that they crucified him. No, he very specifically says he was put to death on a tree.

When Peter says Jesus was killed by hanging on a tree, he isn’t denying the fact that Jesus was crucified. Crosses were made of wood, which meant on a very basic level that when Jesus was hung up on a cross, he was hanging on a tree.

Even though most people in Jesus’ day were simply stoned to death by zealous Jews, Jesus was killed by the Romans – through crucifixion, hanging a tree. In his providence, God ensured this would happen because it said something about what Jesus’ death accomplished.

Back in the Law – in Deut 21:23 – he had declared “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.”

Remember that when the very first people – Adam and Eve sinned and rebelled against God, God issued a curse upon all of creation. Since we are born into this world as sinners, we also stand under that curse.

But, Jesus was born without a sin nature. Symbolically, he was not born with Adam as his representative before God because he didn’t have a human father. Rather, God supernaturally impregnated his virgin mother. This is why the Bible can say and we can affirm that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.

And so by dying on the cross, Jesus willingly places himself under a curse. Specifically, he takes upon himself our curse. This is why in Galatians 3 Paul says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—“ (3:13).

Later, Peter would write a letter to the Christians and say, “[Christ] himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pet 2:24).

Jesus was not simply a good teacher. No, he was a savior. Jesus offered himself as an atoning sacrifice. He took the punishment we deserve for our sins, fully satisfying God’s wrath against us so that we might have forgiveness and life.

That’s why in v. 36, Peter can say that his message he is “good news of peace through Jesus Christ.” Through his death, Christ made it possible for sinners to have peace with God.

And the really good news comes in v. 35 – “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” Peter says, its not just God’s people Israel, but people from all over the world that is calling to believe in Christ and receive salvation.

It doesn’t who you are or what you’ve done, today, you can be saved from God’s wrath against your sin by trusting in Jesus as Savior. By turning away from your life of sin in repentance and trusting in the work of Christ to make you right before God.

3. Jesus Christ is the Risen Lord (10:40-42)

Notice in v. 39, that while “They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, God raised him on the third day.”

Today is the most important celebration of the Church. Anyone can celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas – what a cute little scene with a baby in a manger, angels all around, and a little child who grow up to be a good man, who tried to bring peace and love to the world. Jesus was a good, moral man and we should celebrate his birth!

Anyone can even celebrate Good Friday – it’s too bad about Jesus; he was such a good guy, he did so much good, and yet the evil people of this world killed him. He tried to do the right thing and it got him murdered like so many other good martyrs in so many other good causes (Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr.)

But not everyone can celebrate Easter! Easter separates the men from the boys, so to speak. It separates the nice people of this world, from those who have truly believed in Christ;

It separates those playing the game and those trying to be genuine disciples. It separates the Christian from the non-Christian. It separates the damned from the forgiven.

Because Easter says Jesus wasn’t just a good guy – he is the savior of the world; He wasn’t just a man – he is God in the flesh. He wasn’t just the historical Jesus who died 2000 years ago – he is the resurrected, living Lord of all creation.

Peter says, Christ “is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” That at the end of all things when we stand before God in heaven, Christ is the one who will be our judge. He will determine who spends eternity with God with heaven and who perishes in hell.

Why? Because as the risen Christ, the Bible says Jesus has been “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The fact that all authority had been given to Christ means that God has vindicated him. That God accepted his death as the perfect sacrifice for sins of his people. The resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on all that Christ did for his people.

And now through the resurrection, God has exalted Christ to a place of authority. Paul says in Philippians 2 – “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

As the one whom death could not hold, as the risen Christ, as God the Son who reigns as Lord of all things, he deserves our worship. He alone deserves the deepest affection of our hearts, our greatest sacrifices, our most profound devotion.

Conclusion

As human beings, we are made to worship. In fact, we love to worship things. We love to delight and rejoice in things more magnificent and more glorious than ourselves.

Think about how many people visit places like the Grand Canyon or climb mountains or take cruises to exotics and beautiful locations. Think about how many more people love to watch the Olympics and see displays of human ability and skills at their heights, or grow flower gardens for sheer delight of having beautiful flowers to look at in the summer.

It’s because we love to stand back and have our breath taken away as we admire something greater than ourselves. We love and long to worship.

But the great tragedy of the human race is that though we were made to find infinite joy by admiring God, but have become so blind and so foolish that we spend energy and time and money seeking out things in this world to satisfy our insatiable craving to admire greatness and beauty.

He has given us the most glorious person in the world to worship, and we choose to worship something else instead. We exchange a life of perfect satisfaction and joy for simply making the drudgery and pain of life bearable as we worship piddly thing like sports and nature and money.

This morning, we need to see the risen Christ for who he is – the incarnate glory of the living God; the one who lived and died and was raised again so that we might have peace with God and experience his salvation. Therefore, we must turn from our life of sin, from our false worship and worship Christ the Lord.

__________

* This message was preached at Bangor Baptist Church on March 23, 2008

*I am greatly indebted to Mark Driscoll’s excellent book, Vintage Jesus for my introduction.

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