“The effects of true worship--living

out the three cardinal virtues”

12 March 2000 Sermon

Text: Hebrews 10:22-25


We are encouraged by true worship to live out of our confidence in the cardinal virtues: faith, hope and love—qualities that we encounter elsewhere in the New Testament (1 Cor. 13: 13 and 1 Thess. 1: 3).  These three virtues are the bedrock of authentic Christian spirituality. True worship leads to authenticity.  A genuine relationship to God, a relationship free of gossip, produces these virtues in us all.  Therefore we stir up love, exhort each other to greater works of love in the context of this faith, and this hope.  We excite, agitate and stimulate each other to good works: kindness’, pure thoughts, moral living, gratitude, praise and, yes, more and deeper worship.  In a real sense, we do all this out of this love.  We love God and we love being loved by God.  And it shows. 


            The gospel then isn’t out there somewhere, like some speech balloon suspended in cartoon space of our media-captivated imagination.  Conversion isn’t a sleight of deception, a card trick of mental assent!  No, conversion to the gospel is rooted in “signs and wonders” and the gritty out-workings of our faith.  The cardinal virtues function as gospel tie-downs, anchoring the gospel in the rich soil of Christian experience and life in a faith community.  When we live out the Christian walk, when faith, hope and love work themselves into us experientially and thoroughly, then we have inhaled first that which we may later exhale to good effect.  This only comes by way of interaction.  You cannot give away anything on a significant level that you do not first possess to a sufficient and genuine degree.  “In Him we live and move and have our being” . . . Acts 17:28.  So, we declare to the world who we are (we are people formed by the Throne and by The Lamb).  We declare that we are His workmanship: (Eph. 2: 10)“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  We exhibit to each other, and to the world, a certain defiant passivity, a spiritual pliability which is so counter-cultural in our self-assertive days.  We declare, “It’s not about us, but about Him.”  Having peace with God being in control is tremendously revolutionary and radical.  Such a life exhibits precisely the difference that so many who are spiritually empty, or bereft are looking for!  The brightest and the best in China are no longer pursuing just the Marxist alternative; the truly radical path is Christianity.  Perhaps we should remember that.  When you and I walk in perfect obedience and celebrate it as perfect freedom, the anarchistic, amoral generation that surrounds us is astounded into consideration of our faith as a real alternative.


            Every word of Scripture exists to pull us into worship, into relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  Every verse is both inspired and inspiring.  Anything other than living before our God is a spiritual detour, if not a blind alley.  Living for anything other than pleasing God is idolatry.  We are plagued, both inside Christianity and outside our faith, in our day with idolatrous religions: religions of self, improvement, psychology, philosophy and so forth.  Even certain churches have hearkened to the siren songs of our culture.  For example, some churches have been persuaded to think of their purpose as either communication, or as motivation.  Both of these idols result in a one-dimensional church; and both fail the test of producing the full-bodied church of Jesus Christ.  Church is not just about getting the message right, which comes from an over-emphasis on doctrine and communication’s technique.  Nor is church about firing people up to do more good things as if the proliferation of programs justifies her existence.  People who attend the latter form of Christian religiosity end up frustrated, exhausted, or both!  And they tend to be tempted to pride where what they do for God appears to overshadow what God has done for them.  Church is not here to serve the ego needs of anyone.


            Church is about coming before God, about joining together under Christ’s rule with hearts both full and reverberating with the power of the Holy Spirit.


            That kind of living invites others to come in and discover with us everything they were ever concerned with!  That kind of faithful fellowship ignites the trues and deepest longings of the human heart, a heart designed for communion with God and with each other.


            The life exuberant is here in church . . . filled with the color, sights and sounds of praise.  The life abundant, full and flourishing is in our faith community . . . church is where we celebrate the might and magnificence of our Redeemer, and of our God!  We lift Him up as the glorious, majestic and All encompassing One.  In turn He lifts us up and reveals to us His truth . . . and, then, from that height He exposes to us all the empty pretensions of the Evil One.  He reveals the actual impotence of Satan and all the forces of the anti-god.  Over and over we experience the Lamb standing up to our adversaries, the bullies of darkness, despair and death.  Over and over again, we watch as they repeatedly go down in defeat.  He, the Lamb, rose above the worst that they could do.  In Him, and in none other, life has triumphed.  The grave is not only emptied for Him but also demystified for us.  Oh, how wonderful are the things that He has done for us in doing all for the Father!


Can anyone who sees these things be so soul weary and spiritually dead as to say, dully and dutifully, even with pained, measured speech, “Oh, at our church, we just worship God?” May we never be so pathetic!  Worship, true worship fuses us with the great, life-changing, eternally true God who has come to us that we might come to Him.  What privilege!


            And what are people like who know these things?  What is the effect of faith, hope and love on their character formation?