Paul’s redefinition of worship continues in v. 23. He tells us that Worship is enduring to the end with hope in Jesus. By the way, that doesn’t mean hoping that the worship service ends soon. Now listen. I know that for some, worship is like dying a slow death, but according to the Bible, worship is many things. It is joyful and it is agonizing; it is celebration and it is humiliation; it is dancing and it is weeping. Worship is loud and worship is quiet; worship is raucous and it is somber. Understand, my friends, that in the Bible, worship is all manner of things, but it is never like dying a slow death. Worship is about coming face to face with a holy God and being changed completely by the experience. And that is what gives us hope.
Let me show you something. The KJV says we are to hold fast to the profession of our faith. In the Greek, the word that is usually used for faith is “pisteuo.” But the word used here is different. It’s “elpidos.” This new word is better translated as hope or expectation of good. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope. Here is the admonition to endure to the end. The words “hold fast” convey the idea of perseverance on the part of believers, but Paul is not talking about holding fast to our salvation as if it is something that might elude us. He’s talking about holding fast to the hope we have in Jesus Christ: hope for today, hope for tomorrow, the blessed hope of his return.
We are to hold fast to our hope without wavering, a word that means not leaning. In other words, Christians are not to lean back to the old life, but rather we are to move forward, to go on. Even though there is that constant pull of the old life, the child of God ought to endure without wavering, leaning toward Jesus all the time.
Do you know what Paul is telling us here? He is saying that as a child of God, our past may have been a mess, and our present may be tumultuous, but you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt, our future is secure. We are also to hold fast to our hope. Have you ever doubted God? His love for you? Your salvation? Most Christians do from time to time, but Paul assures us that there is no reason to doubt because He who promised is faithful. Have you ever crossed a busy city street with a child? No matter how independent that child is, no matter how hard they try to pull away from you, you hold on to them, don’t you. There is no getting away. That’s the way God is, and that is the basic truth about perseverance–not that we hold onto the Lord, but that He holds onto us. He is faithful. That’s good news because, let’s face it, sometimes we are unfaithful. Sometimes we want to be independent. Sometimes we try to pull away, but the wonderful truth is that He who has promised is faithful, and He has laid hold on us and will never let go. Though there are many places where the Bible calls us to endure, we are not kept saved by our hold on the Lord. We are kept saved by the power of God. And my friends, worship reminds us that we have hope and enables us to endure to the end because of that hope.
So Paul tells us to draw near and to hold on. He calls us to enter God’s presence and endure to the end. But look at what else he says. In v. 24 we find the rest of his redefinition of worship. Worship is encouraging the Christian family with love. “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” In other words, let’s spur each other on, let’s encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. This might surprise you, but the word “consider” means to fix our eyes on, or to focus our attention on. Believers are admonished to pay attention to, to fix our minds on other believers. Now some of you probably are saying, “But preacher, I thought we were supposed to keep our eyes only on Jesus.” Maybe that’s why God gave us two eyes, I don’t know. Paul will tell us that we should keep our eyes on Jesus because He is the author and finisher of our faith.
Now our purpose as we consider others is to look for ways “to provoke them/to stir them up to love and good works.” But look at what the passage says. We are to be encouragers to our fellow believers. By our words and by our deeds we are to make other believers love other believers and do good things. Listen, we ought to be so caught up in love that others are challenged to be loving by our example. We ought to work so faithfully for the Lord Jesus Christ that by our example other Christians are challenged to work for the Lord and lost people are drawn into a relationship with Him.
Now the question is, “How do we do this?” How do we encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ? Paul says that we are to spur them on by the public celebration of worship. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Interestingly, the word for assembling is used also in 2 Th. 2:1 to describe the second coming of Jesus, when believers are gathered in the air. Think about what that’s going to be like. And Paul says when we come together on earth to worship, it should be the same kind of celebration. When we worship, we should celebrate as if we are already in heaven because our hope is secure. For the life of me, I don’t understand how anyone could come to worship and not be excited about entering into the presence of God. What a contradiction it is for people to claim they have new life in the Lord, that they serve a living Savior, and that they look forward to the blessed hope of the glorious coming of Jesus, and sit in church as if they were the most miserable people in the world. It ought to be a celebration.
In James 4:8, we read, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” In Hebrews 4:16 we are told that we can come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy and to find grace in time of need. The promise is clear. The invitation rings out for God’s people to experience His presence. When God is present with His people, supernatural things begin to happen. You can call it revival if you want to. You can say that it is an unusual occurrence if you want to. But I believe it is simply a fulfillment of what God desires for His people.
(Taken from a sermon preached in May 2015)