Bill McFarland

July 18, 2004

The old clocks and watches all had a very important piece of equipment in their works: a mainspring. From that mainspring there came all of the energy which was responsible for the working of all the other movements in that timepiece. Most of the mainsprings have now been replaced by batteries, but still the figure of speech that arises from something which gives power and motivation and energy to what is done is summed up in that word "mainspring."

Today we are going to think about the mainspring of Christian worship. By using that title we really have two things in mind. One is that no matter what else the church may do, worship must be the power, the strength, the energy which moves a congregation to work and to serve and to care about each other and to lift up God's name before the world. Anything else we may seek to do will be empty of its meaning and empty of its power unless it comes from real, from the heart, true worship to our heavenly Father through his Son.

The other thing that we have in mind by the phrase is the fact suggested by Bro. Sanderson's great hymn that we sang before the Lord's supper this morning. And that is that the real strength and power of the worship of the Lord's church grows out of that phrase "in remembrance of me." Luke tells us that that night when Jesus was betrayed at the supper with his disciples, when he offered them the bread, he said, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19. That phrase "do this in remembrance of me," if it controls the worship that we offer to God, if it is in our thoughts as we offer that, will transform us. It will give a sense of well-being to us in our individual spiritual lives. It will cause us to care about those activities that we are trying to do in serving the Lord. It will allow us to go forth with the sense of our mission and purpose in our minds. Here's why remembering Jesus is the mainspring of Christian worship.

The Motivation of Worship

Consider first off really the motivation behind Christian worship. In Rev. 5:11, 12 there is an impressive picture of what takes place in heaven. John said, "Then I looked and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders and the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads (I don't know how many that is) and thousands of thousands saying with a loud voice 'Worthy is the lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.'" Even in heaven the motivation for the praise and honor that is offered to the Lamb is in remembrance of what he did for us on the cross. He is worthy because he was slain and because he yet lives as our savior. That motivation needs to be deeply ingrained in the church on earth, too. When Paul appealed to his readers in Romans 12:1 for them to offer their bodies even as living sacrifice saying that would be the reasonable worship and service to offer to God. He said, "I appeal to you by the mercies of God." What he is talking about is what Jesus did for us on the cross.

In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul makes the statement that the "love of Christ controls us." It constrains us, it compels us because it is only reasonable that if one died for all of us then all of us ought to be living for him. That controlling motive, that compelling power, that constraining interest that grows out of the fact that Jesus offered himself up for us is the mainspring behind all of our service to God. Just think of that phrase "in remembrance of me" as the real motive behind our worship.

The Manner of Worship

Not only does what Jesus did on the cross influence and motivate our service to him, but even the manner of our service to the Lord grows out of our remembrance of what he did for us. Think of Thomas. I believe the Bible says it is 8 days after Jesus' resurrection. It was in the evening of the first day of the week and the disciples are still somewhat confused and maybe bewildered about what all has happened, but they are back together again in that room and the door is blocked, and Jesus stands in the midst of them. He singles out Thomas. You remember what Thomas had before said. And he said, "Thomas, put out your finger and touch these marks in my hand and reach forth your hand and touch my side and see all of this and don't be unbelieving but believing." Thomas fell down, the Bible says, and said, "My Lord and my God." The manner of Thomas' confession was in response to the marks he saw of what Jesus had endured for us.

The manner of real worship is to remember what has been done for us and then to respond to that. The Lord has so arranged Christian worship that its power does not come from the ability of a speaker to say something no one every thought of or heard of before or the talent of a song leader to get everything just exactly right. It is not dependent upon our ability to arrange a service in a way that is different from anything that we have ever experienced before. The real power in the manner of Christian worship is that whatever we do is done remembering him. It is not something I have never done before. It is remembering what has been done long before for me.

It is interesting that in I Corinthians 11:27 the apostle Paul speaks to the issue of our not engaging in the Lord's Supper in an unworthy manner. You have heard that phrase many times. Often we think of that in the sense of not being irreverent and not observing the supper in some sort of a frivolous or disorderly way. But really in the context, I am persuaded that what Paul is talking about is the tendency to engage in the Lord's Supper even in a manner which ignores the cross. In I Corinthians 11:20, 21 Paul said, "When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper that you eat. For in eating each one goes ahead with his own meal, one is hungry, another gets drunk." The manner is that even in their gathering together supposedly to eat the supper, they ignored the cross and sought only their own interests. It is the attitude, "I am here for what I am going to get out of it. I am not remembering the Lord and I am not imitating and honoring Him. I am interested in what is going to be done for me." Every time we measure worship by the phrase, "It's what I like," we are showing the attitude that Paul is speaking against here. The motive for worship is remembering Jesus. But the manner of worship of the Lord's church must also be remembering Jesus.

The Meaning of Worship

Think about a third thing with me for just a moment. And that is that the meaning of Christian worship, any part of it, should also be remembering Jesus. Just think of what we are saying here.

The Lord's Supper is the most obvious illustration of this. The Lord's Supper is remembering the cross. The Lord has cared enough about our remembering him that he has given us a simple and a fitting memorial to what he offered for us - his body and his blood. When the church comes together on the first day of the week as Acts 20:7 indicates, it comes together to eat (I. Cor. 11:33). He says, "So then my brothers when you come together to eat." He is talking about the eating of the supper. The idea is that we remember Jesus. It is true that we look inward and examine ourselves in relation to Jesus. That is what Paul calls on us to do in I Cor. 11:28. It is also true that we look around and remember that we are a part of a body and we have brothers and sisters as Paul mentions in I Cor. 10:16 and following. But most of all, we look backward and we remember that the Son of God came in the flesh and he offered himself up for us all; that he by the grace of God has tasted death for every man. And the wonderful joy and the freedom and the hope that that grants to us is all stirred up again for a new week as we remember Jesus.

If the Lord's Supper is the cross of Christ remembered, the preaching and the teaching of the Lord's word that goes on in the assembly of the church is the cross of Christ proclaimed. Paul says in I Cor. 2:2, "We preach Christ and him crucified." We are not at liberty merely to talk about whatever we want to talk about. In the Lord's church we begin with scripture and we preach Jesus. That is the only way to remember him. The only way that I can see that it can justly be called worship when someone is up speaking from the Lord's word and we are all together hearing is that if, in the speaking, we hold up Jesus and we remember what he did for us. The more deeply you and I remember that and appreciate it, then the more we are worshiping and thanking God for it and committing ourselves to the doing of his will.

Many, many years ago there was a great preacher by the name of Bernard. He said one Sunday that he preached himself and all the scholars came forward to praise him. The next Sunday he preached Christ, and all the sinners came up to thank him. One of the most famous preachers of his day was Charles Spurgeon in England. Spurgeon was a great speaker, but he was once criticized because some people thought that in his sermons he was always saying the same things and he had nothing really new to offer. His response revealed the secret of his success. He said, "The charge is quite true, and the reason is that no matter where I take my text in the whole Bible, it is my principle and practice to make it across the country as fast as possible to Jesus Christ." In 2 Cor. 4:5, the apostle Paul in dealing with some problems about preachers said, "We preach not ourselves but Christ as Lord and ourselves as his servants." So the preaching that goes on in the worship of the church should be the proclaiming of the cross.

The praying that we do together is using the cross. It is taking in the benefits of what Jesus did there. In I Timothy 2 the apostle Paul talks about prayer at the beginning of the chapter, and then a little bit later on it seems to me that he has in mind what goes on in the assembly when he talks about those who are leading the prayers being men of holy hands. But in verses 4 and 5 he mentions our great God and Savior, "who desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth, for there is one God and there is one mediator between God and man, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all which is the testimony given at the proper time." Now look at the thought. Jesus gave himself a ransom for all, but God has now raised him up and seated him at his right hand where he is active to make intercession for his people. He is the mediator. He is the way in which we can draw near even into the holy presence of almighty God. I can come with boldness to the throne of the universe. Why? Because Jesus himself a ransom for me. So when we pray together in the name of Jesus Christ, what we are doing is taking advantage of what he did for us on the cross and using that as he told us we could.

The giving that goes on within the assembly of the Lord's church is merely an imitation of what Jesus did for us on the cross. By the way, it is interesting to me that the New Testament speaks of giving in the church on the first day of every week (I Cor. 16:2). Isn't it interesting that the only two things that are said specifically to take place on the first day of the week are the Lord's Supper and giving? Why is that? Well, one remembers the cross and the other imitates it. In 2 Cor. 8:8,9, this is the way Paul talked about giving. It was not to him merely a matter of raising money. He said, "I say this not as a command but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine, for you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor so that you by his poverty might become rich." All he is saying is, "Remember Jesus and then imitate him." He doesn't attach an amount to it. You and I are responsible for that. But we have to be imitating the cross.

I read an interesting story of a preacher who got up one Sunday and walked around the audience while the contribution was being taken up. You can imagine the kind of stir that caused. When only a small amount was put into the contribution basket by somebody who could easily have contributed more, he would pick it up and look at it and then shake his head and put it back in the basket. People grew a little bit angrier and angrier. Finally, after the contribution was finished, he got back up in the pulpit and he said, "Many of you are no doubt embarrassed and ashamed and perhaps even angry because I have seen how little you give. But keep this in mind. While I, a mere man, have seen this only once, Jesus the Son of God is here with us and sees it every Sunday."

I like the story of Horace Greely, a famous newspaper editor of his day, who once received a letter from a woman stating that her church was in distressing financial straits. They had tried every device they could think of - fairs, pie suppers, strawberry festivals, donkey party, turkey banquets, Japanese weddings, poverty sociables, mock marriages, grab backs, necktie sociables - they had tried them all. And her letter said finally, "Would Mr. Greely be so kind as to suggest some new device to keep the struggling church from disbanding?" The editor answered in two words: "Try religion." When we give, the only thing that makes giving in any sense worship, is that we do it in remembrance of him and imitation of him.

And then, of course, what of our singing? What could really add the life and the zeal and the meaning to our singing? That we remember that singing is praise for the cross and what God did for us there. If you just think about this, it is so obvious. Have you ever noticed the words of our greatest songs? "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, The emblem of suff'ring and shame; And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain." "When I survey the wondrous cross on which the prince of glory died, my richest gain I count but loss and pour contempt on all my pride." "Jesus, keep me near the cross, there a precious fountain. Free to all a healing stream flows from Calvary's mountain." "I must needs go home by the way of the cross. There is no other way but this. I shall ne'er get sight of the Gates of Light if the way of the cross I miss." And we could go on from there. "I owed a debt I could not pay" so "he paid a debt he did not owe" because I needed so much to have somebody to take my sins away.

The real thing that needs to be said about the singing of the Lord's church is always that it praises God for giving his son up for us. In Hebrews 13 the Hebrew writer mentioned in verse 11 and following that just as in the Old Testament, the bodies of those animals whose blood were sacrificed were then burned outside the camp, "so Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood." He says, "therefore we ought to go outside the camp to him. And he says in verse 15, "Through him then (why - because of the cross) let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name." The singing of the church is the fruit of lips, not something else, but confessing his name, praising him for what he did for us outside the camp.

In that great passage in Rev. 5, the next two verses said, "And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that in them is saying to him who sits on the throne and to the lamb, the blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever and the four living creatures said, 'Amen' and all the elders fell down and worshiped." That still needs to be our response when we think of what we are remembering about Jesus.

Maybe you are here this very day and you are needing to fall down before him and worship him and serve him. Maybe in remembering what he gave for us, you have been reminded today that you need to confess your faith in him and be baptized into his name for the forgiveness of your sins. Maybe as a Christian you need the reminder of the power that this activity today ought to have on our lives through this week. I urge us all to remember him today and then live this week like you remember him. If for some reason today you are needing to respond to the great invitation of our Lord, if we can help you, won't you let it be known while we stand and sing.