Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďYOUR SENSES IN WORSHIPĒ

Lamentations 3.51

 From time to time, we are thrilled that people visit our worship services. We are delighted to welcome them. We should go out of our way to be hospitable to them. We are frequently satisfied that guests are responding to our invitations to worship with us. We seek only Godís best for them while they are here. That said, let us remember that whether we find welcome strangers in our midst or not, our gatherings are most frequently for the purpose of worshiping God, and sometimes for the purpose of serving God. For example: Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening we assemble for the purpose of praying, preaching, singing, and giving, all in the context of worshiping God, with serving ministry opportunities interspersed in every one of those services. The fourth time we assemble each week is primarily for the purpose of outreach and evangelism (hence our more casual but still modest attire), though even on Saturday nights at 6:00 PM we engage in worship. We sometimes pray, we sometimes preach rather abbreviated messages, we sometimes sing, but we do not worship by means of giving money. Instead, we worship God by means of investing our time to reach out and to welcome in those we want to introduce to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

In a portion of scripture where the Apostle Paul explains the superiority of the gift of prophecy (preaching) over the gift of tongues, we see an interesting byproduct of our worship. What wonderful thing can happen when a visitor is present during a congregationís worship? Those worshiping God may find that another in their midst will also begin to worship God. I read from First Corinthians 14.24-25:

 24     But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:

25     And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.

 So, you see, our church is all about worship. We engage in many different activities, with our goal throughout being a distinctive approach to the worship of the one true and living God. Admittedly, this sets us apart from too many congregations. In many churches that are noted for their devotion to worship, the stifling nature of the formalism of the services results in worship becoming ritual, which is not actually worship at all. In other churches where little thought is given to worship, the freewheeling and irreverent approach of their services bears little or no resemblance to worship as it is found in the Bible, and at least subconsciously conveys to those present a God Who is neither terrible in majesty nor high and lifted up. Both extremes of worship should grieve us.

I admit that it is a fine line that separates the stifling formalism of worship that results in ritual being the main thing and the undisciplined and casual approach to worship that most resembles some kind of party or entertainment. At Calvary Road Baptist Church, we seek to be neither ritualistic nor entertaining. As well, we have no interest in inviting others to join with us in worship so that we might teach them rituals, on one hand, or so that we might entertain them, on the other hand. We invite them to join us in worshiping God. This approach to worship seems to be so tragically novel in this day and age that it is no surprise to me that those who respond to our invitations to worship with us are sometimes a bit puzzled about what we are up to to begin with. Some might be disappointed to see those leading the worship dressed in business attire rather than traditional ecclesiastic robes. However, our purpose is not to set ourselves apart from those we are leading in worship, but to clearly state by our appearance that we are who you are, and that there is no essential difference between us insofar as stature or innate holiness is concerned. The best of us are sinners saved by Godís grace. Others are disappointed that we dress in business attire rather than wearing Hawaiian shirts, Bermuda shorts, and sandals. However, our purpose is not to pretend that the conscious decision to worship the high and holy God is something like going to Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Worship is nothing like going to Wal-Mart or Home Depot. Worship is intentional, and so we seek to set forth an example for our visitors to follow. Our goal is not to make visitors feel either comfortable or uncomfortable. Our goal is to worship God and to cordially invite visitors who join us to follow our lead in this respect and so modify their approach to worshiping God that it harmonizes with our approach to worshiping God. At the same time, our approach to worship is not one-upmanship. Nor is it a fashion plate competition. That is, we are not in the business of trying to either under dress anyone or out dress anyone. If you only have two pairs of overalls, it is appropriate for you to wear your nicer looking pair to the worship of God. If you have shoes, it is inappropriate to wear sandals to the worship of God. If you have a Hawaiian shirt, do not wear a tee shirt. If you have a dress shirt, it is certainly not wrong to wear it to church. If you ladies have skirts or dresses, it is not inappropriate to dress modestly when attending worship in the house of God. Our goal is to show the angels that our worship of God is intentional and purposeful.

The point that I seek to make in so many words is that our churchís approach to worship is quite different from the approach of many congregations. We have reasons for choosing to take the approach we have embraced, and we do not intend to demand anyone who worships with us modify their attire. After all, there are many churches nearby whose members dress similarly, where you might more comfortably fit in. More power to you. My preference, however, would be for you to come worship with us again. I illustrate: When one man here tonight and his sons showed up at our church with ponytails and wearing his best stud in your ear, did I say anything to him? When another young man showed up with his spike ear studs, I said nothing. However, in both cases, there was no evidence of rebellion and the appearances soon changed. I make no apology for my dealings with the rebellious who know better. God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. When I attended church for the first time, I did not intentionally push the envelope, and will not countenance anyone else intentionally pushing the envelope. Excuse me; we are here to worship God, not to be challenged by people we do not know. Does that sound unreasonable? I donít think so.

Are you inclined to live out your life based on logic and Bible principles rather than insisting on maximizing your comfort level? I want to live that way, and I hope you are, as well. Based upon that premise, I urge you to take one step in that direction by turning in your Bible to the Old Testament book of Lamentations. Our text for this evening is Lamentations 3.51: ďMine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.Ē What is observed in this verse is that what a person sees affects his heart. Is that observation significant? It certainly is, for it is with the heart that man believes unto righteousness, Romans 10.10.

Three considerations in light of our concern for worship, as it is informed by Lamentations 3.51.

 #1 - SENSES GATHER INFORMATION

 This seems too obvious to have to state. However, if you spend time listening to well-informed people you will eventually realize that such people frequently spend a great deal of time addressing subjects that those who are somewhat less brilliant oftentimes overlook. Your senses gather information. Your eyes capture images. Your nose captures scents. Your tongue captures tastes. Your skin captures sensations. Your ears capture sounds. What you may not have given much thought to is your inability to control the information your senses capture. Only your eyes are completely under your direction and control, looking only at what you choose to look at, or seeing nothing at all should you choose to close your eyes. However, even your eyes respond so quickly to sights in your field of view, or to sounds your ears pick up, or vibrations your sense of touch detects, that your gaze is typically more quickly responsive than your conscious decision-making can always control.

A little chemistry and biology for you in this regard. The body processes vitamin C to manufacture naturally occurring cortisone, a steroid used by the body to regulate the sensitivity of the nerve endings much like the squelch knob on old-fashioned communication devices adjusted the sensitivity of the reception of the incoming signal. Cortisone is so powerful that a cortisone shot can be a very effective painkiller. Insufficient vitamin C, or difficulty metabolizing vitamin C (such as those with allergies have), and your nerves become too sensitive, bombarding you with sensory input in the form of itchy eyes, sneezing, and scratching if you have allergies and there is pollen in the air, or seeing, hearing, or feeling everything if you tend to be hyperactive. For people like me, higher doses of vitamin C and the absolute importance of a good nightís sleep every night cannot be overstated, as well as somewhat subdued colors and sounds.

What does this information about the five senses have to do with worship? Two things: First, keep in mind that other peopleís senses also gather information. How is your conduct affecting other peopleís attempts to worship? Second, worship is integrally related to information, which brings me to the next main point.

 #2 - GATHERING AND RESPONDING TO INFORMATION IS CRUCIAL TO WORSHIP

 In scriptural worship, Bible-based and Bible-informed worship, Godís people consciously direct their attention toward Godís Word, toward Godís person, or toward Godís Son, Godís Spirit, or some aspect of Godís program. Information can be acquired the reading of Godís Word, but more importantly it is gathered in worship from the teaching and preaching of Godís Word. This is why turning from page to page and reading the Bible, which is wonderful at other times, can be downright distracting and devilish during worship. Why? Because it is distracting to you as well as to other people. More on this shortly.

Would anyone challenge my assertion that gathering and responding to information is crucial to worship? Is it not especially important for the uninformed or the unsaved person to focus his attention on that information that is most conducive to enhancing worship? Thus, it is crucial for someone in the house of God to sit where he can see the preacher or teacher, where he can hear the preacher or teacher, in an environment where what he sees, what he hears, what he tastes, what he smells, and what he feels does not work to distract his attention. Imagine what worship would be like if you sat undisturbed and the preacher revealed something to you about Godís glorious nature that you had never before considered. Suddenly, you are overwhelmed with joy, with awe, with gratitude, and with appreciation of God and His goodness. Are you not thrilled no one leaned over to say something to you at that moment, that no one dropped his Bible, or that the back of your chair was not suddenly grabbed so someone could get up in the middle of it all and go to the rest room? Consider, also, that it is in your power to give that same opportunity to worship to those around you.

 #3 - SOME INFORMATION, HOWEVER, IS DETRIMENTAL TO WORSHIP

 What if you are in an auditorium where a projector screen or a television monitor is being used? Have you ever been in such a setting? The eyes are tempted to constantly flit back and forth between the person who is speaking and the larger screen where his image appears. Is that not in itself a distraction? As well, did you know that your optic nerve does not function while your eye is in motion? Thus, while your eye is tracking back and forth between the preacher and the image on the screen your eye is gathering no information whatsoever. That is detrimental to worship. Additionally, when someone gets up and moves around for any reason, or enters or leaves the room, and someone looks at him, information is gathered by the eyes that serves no purpose in worshiping God.

What about hearing things that are detrimental to worship? Can the crackling of wrapping paper being removed from hard candy be a distraction that is detrimental to worship? Hello! How about unrelated or unsupportive comments that you hear spoken by someone in front of you, behind you, or at your side? Ever been driven nuts, not by a creaking door, but by the frustrated reactions of someone who creates more diversion by his harrumphing than by the creaking door?

Sometimes a person finds certain aromas or scents distracting because of allergies to certain fragrances. If we had a large auditorium, perhaps we could arrange for a fragrance-free zone. However, such is simply not possible at present, so our best course of action is good personal hygiene and self-restraint when it comes to using so much of the cheap fragrance.

When people come into our auditorium, I think it is a wonderful thing for you to help them relax with a few well-chosen words before the service begins. As well, perhaps an appropriate amen or well placed but non-distracting uh-huh during the course of the sermon would a helpful and not at all disturbing bit of information. However, what place does the wise crack have? What is the point of disagreeing with a comment that I have made? Is it your goal to undermine my effectiveness, to establish to the visitor that you disagree with me, or might it be better to allow me to deliver my entire sermon before weighing in on what I said? The point that I seek to make is that the great purpose of you sitting with a visitor during worship is not what you will say or do, but the benefit to the visitor of you saying or doing absolutely nothing to distract him from gathering information and responding to information useful to his worship of God.

 Focusing just on the eyes, and recognizing that this process I have described occurs to a degree with every one of your senses, allow me to describe the processing of information that comes to you by sight. If your eye wanders from here to there, or from this to that, so will your heart wander. Our text substantiates that claim. Is that what you want to happen when you are gathered for the worship of God? I mention this because when your eyes discover any new, any pleasing, or any curious object, they will transport that information to your heart, where it will be debated pro and con and then decided upon.

Is that a good thing to happen, especially when you are supposed to be about the worship of God, making use of the means of grace? Will not such activity grieve the Spirit of God and keep your heartís attention away from that which is beneficial? The problem, of course, is that once your eyes take your heart to one place of distraction, they will take your heart immediately to yet another place of distraction. We read, ďMine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.Ē We also know that oneís heart also affects his eyes. If your heart is not set on the Lord, your eyes will wander away from those opportunities to gather useful information to worship God. Therefore, without the discipline necessary to impose some measure of control on your senses you will never properly worship God.

Oh, you decide afresh and anew to worship God and not to let your heart wander away. However, the failure to control what you see means you are like the man who locks a steel door to keep himself safe, while leaving his window open for burglars to come through. Good intentions are not enough so long as you fail to exercise some control over your senses.

May I make an additional suggestion in closing? Romans 13.14: ďBut put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.Ē Think ahead when you come to church. Who do you sit with? Does that person distract you by the way he looks, by what he says, by what he does? If so, I would suggest that you courteously arrange to sit somewhere else. After all, the person who distracts you from worshiping God is more dangerous to you than the devil himself.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org