A Church that Worships and Witnesses – Ps 96 (Sep 22-23)


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Synopsis of the Sermon

In this weeks sermon we see two things being brought together that Christians often tear apart: worshipping and witnessing. Churches are often stronger in one of these two things than the other. There are churches that are great at worshipping—they have phenomenal worship services and everyone leaves having had a profound experience with God. But they don’t do much outreach to the lost community around them. Then there are other churches that are activists—they are involved in the community, sharing Christ with those outside of the church walls, but they don’t put much thought or energy into worshiping the Lord. We see this same “either-or” tendency in individual Christians. Some are more contemplative, taking time to seek the Lord personally and experience Him while others are actively involved in outreach and doing what they can to bring the truth of the Lord to others.

According to scripture, as God’s people we are to do both—worship God and be witness to others about Him. In our text, Psalm 96 we see these two themes interwoven together. The message goes back and forth from one to the other.

Pastor and theologian John Piper explains how worship and witness are meant to be inseparable for Christians:

“Missions [witness] is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Mission [witness] exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions [witness] will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever. Worship is, therefore, the fuel and goal of missions [witness].

WHY are we to worship, or as the psalm says “sing?” First because we are commanded to—worship is what creatures are to do towards their Creator. Second, because the Lord is so worthy of praise! A great God like ours deserves great worship! And third, because God Himself is a song writer—He is the inspiration for music!

WHAT do we sing? A new song. Music, in particular new music is the product of God doing a new thing. When we have a new experience with God, there ought to be a new expression of praise. It has been noted that new moves of God throughout history have often resulted in a fresh proliferation of worship hymns and songs.

WHO should be singing this new song? The Nations!! Rather than the nations being hostile to God, they will turn to Him in great adoration and appreciation with a new song.

WHAT will cause the nations to worship? The great truth that the Lord reigns! Old Testament scholar John Oswalt put it well in his commentary on Isaiah:

“What does God’s rule entail? It entails a condition where all things are in their proper relation to each other, with nothing left hanging, incomplete or unfulfilled (peace, shalom); it entails a condition where creation purposes are realized (good); it entails a condition of freedom from every bondage, but particularly the bondage resultant from sin (salvation). Where God reigns, these follow! Of course, this is exactly congruent with what the Christian faith considers its good news to be. This is the content that Christ instructed His disciples to preach from village to village; that which Isaiah 52:5-7 had spoken of was now present and at hand. Christianity understood itself to be about what Isaiah was about, declaring the good news of the universal rule of God in the world, with concomitant peace, good and salvation.”

Finally, HOW are we to worship? By bringing an offering, specifically our tithe—the tenth of what God has given to us. We never come to worship empty handed. We bring ourselves (Romans 12) and we also bring our wealth.

Getting the Conversation Started

These questions can be used as ice-breakers in the beginning OR interwoven between the questions below to draw the group into the discussion.

  • Was there anything in this week’s sermon that stood out to you?  Briefly share.
  • How would you describe yourself? Are you more of a worshipper or are you more of a witness? Are you a contemplative or an activist? Why do you think this is?
  • If you are stronger in one area more than the other—stronger in worship than witness, or vice-versa—what do you think you can do to become more balanced?

Scripture Study

Psalm 98

[Read through this psalm out loud]

Footnotes:

  1. Luke 15:8 Greek ten drachmas, each worth about a day’s wages

Background and context: This author of this psalm is unknown but it has been paired with Psalm 96. It is a call to celebrate God’s righteous reign. It begins within the congregation of God’s people—the temple. It then moves on to include all the people’s on the earth and finally ends with the entire creation worshipping the greatness of God. It is such a good picture of worship and witness being inseparably entwined together.

Questions for discussion:

  • We are told to sing about the marvelous things God has done. What are some of these things—for you personally as well as the whole of creation?
  • How does God make His salvation known and reveal His righteousness to the nations (v.2)?
  • How has God remembered His love and shown His faithfulness to you in the past couple weeks (v.3)?
  • Verses 4-6 are a description of worship in music. Why do you think music and song is such an integral part of worship? How important is music and song to you personally as a worshipper? Discuss.
  • Creation in scripture always seems more in tune with God’s greatness than people are! Describe ways creation has encouraged and inspired you to worship.

Ministry Application

Below you’ll see some options for ministry time with your group. We always encourage you to reserve time in your group to pray for one another and wait on the Holy Spirit.

  • Some people dismiss worship as not “their thing” because they are not the emotional type—they are not very demonstrative and “public shows of affection” make them uncomfortable. But the bible says that all peoples and nations are to worship the Lord. That includes every personality type and temperament. Worship will not look or be the same for every person! So, do a “worship exercise” with your group. Take some time to welcome the presence of God—do a few worship songs or if the group prefers, be silent together. Then have everyone invite the Holy Spirit to produce a “new song” in their own hearts personally, allowing God to speak words of encouragement, comfort, truth and love. Don’t rush through this, because it is a real experience of God that produces genuine worship!

Many people do not witness because they are afraid to! They don’t know how to begin or what to say! They are afraid they will be asked questions they don’t know the answer to. They are really afraid of rejection and ridicule! Do a “witness exercise” with the group! Try to take the fear and awkwardness out of witnessing. After all, witnessing is just telling others they great things God has done! Invite the Holy Spirit and ask Him to reveal some of the “marvelous things” He has done for the group—how their lives are better because of Him. Then have people share out loud what some of those things are. Finally, pray for each person that the Lord will show them someone they can share this with in the next couple