Angels From the Realms of Glory
Good morning. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Hope you’ve had a great week celebrating the joy of the season, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. I know that just in this group here I’d like just to welcome many family members and friends. I’ve already seen some people who haven’t been at North Hills in years, and they’ve come back. We’re really glad that you’re here with us this morning. We trust that your time of worshiping Jesus will be a blessing to you.
I know that some of us are probably even a little exhausted. We had our kids at our house this week, and that was such a great time especially with our grandchildren who are 6, 4, and 2. There’s a real reason why young people have children. But it kind of works out, but in a good way. They left off Friday afternoon. And actually yesterday I got that brief nap before the games last night. I was prepared for the results there. It was pretty interesting, but we won’t talk about that.
This morning we’re ending our sermon series, this Christmas series, “Jesus the hope of all the earth,” and we’re going to be looking at “Angels from the Realms of Glory.” We’ve seen the gospel presented these past three Sundays, and we’re going to see the gospel presented to us again this morning. But before we get started, I’d love for us to pray.
Father, I thank you that you are here. I pray that by your Spirit you would speak to each individual heart here present in this room this morning, each husband and wife, mother and father, son and daughter, grandparent, grandmother, every person here, Father, no matter where we are. Would you by your Spirit open up our hearts and minds to what you would have us see this morning? See your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And as we’ve already been experiencing what it is to worship him, Father would you do that in our hearts we pray this morning for your glory in Jesus name, amen.
I don’t know about you guys, but at this time of year it seems as if everywhere you look people are talking about making new year’s resolutions. How many people here have thought about the resolution you’re going to make for 2020? Raise your hands high. You barely beat the first service. Isn’t that interesting that everywhere you go you hear that we should make New Year’s resolutions, but then, we don’t do that anymore. That’s old school. But the truth of the matter is it’s a good thing to resolve to do things, to determine I’m going to change things. I’m going to make a different kind of choice for what I do even today, even this week, or even this year.
Yesterday The Wall Street Journal came out with a suggestion. They say for the New Year, “Say no to negativity.” That should be our resolution.
Let me just read their assessment. Let me read what they said. They said,
“The new year is supposed to bring hope, but too often it feels grim. We resolve to be virtuous, to lose weight, to exercise, to unplug from social media, but we recall past failures and fear another losing struggle. We toast to a better happier world in 2020, but we know there will be endless bad news, vitriol especially in this coming election year. We could use a fresh approach. For 2020, here’s a resolution that could actually work. Go on a low bad diet a low bad diet.”
A low bad diet. I think that’s a great idea. Don’t you? A low bad diet. But actually, just like any other thing we might resolve to do, we might find out that that’s very difficult for us to keep up with. I think we’d be better to follow the advice of our hymn writer this morning who repeats the following words at the end of all the stanzas in his hymn,
“Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king.”
If you want to talk about a resolution to have, something that we can determine to do in this new year, I would encourage us to consider that. Let’s just take a few minutes this morning and look at this hymn and see if the hymn itself can encourage us to make that resolution.
The first thing that it talks about in this chorus is the idea of “Come, come.” I think sometimes we forget what that word might mean. I know that as a parent I was always speaking kindly, right, to my kids. Come here. Now. You know. But it’s the idea of come alongside, draw near. Come to a specific person, a specific place or thing. It actually can be the word that you say, well come to a different view or a different process of thinking. The idea of leaving where you are to go to someplace different. I think here in our hymn it’s actually an invitation for us to do something and worship a King
I see this invitation extended in two ways. It’s extended specifically and openly. First of all, there’s an invitation made to angels, shepherds, and wise men as described in the first three stanzas of the hymn. In the first stanza, the angels from the realms of glory are invited to come from heaven to earth and proclaim the birth of the Messiah. As Heather read earlier from Luke 2 after the announcement of the birth of Jesus by an angel,
“Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’”
Hundreds if not thousands upon thousands of angel voices praised God because of the birth of the Savior. And the chorus of the carol also beckons the angels to come and worship. They are to come and worship Christ. These words the hymn writer must have had, he was thinking through Hebrews 1:6 which says,
“When he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.”
Jesus, Son of God, is superior to the angels, and they worship him. A specific invitation is offered to them to come.
A second specific invitation is offered to the shepherds. They are watching their sheep. We know the story well but again the invitation to them is to come away from their sheep and go find and see the infant who is God in Bethlehem.
Again Luke 2 records these words.
“When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to them one to another. ‘Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.”
The shepherds specifically invited to come to Bethlehem. They left to tell others about what they had seen, the great news about Jesus their Savior being born, inviting others also to come. The third verse records its final, specific invitation, which is to sages, more commonly known as the wise men. We don’t know much about the wise men.
Their story is recorded in Matthew 2, but we do know that they came from the east. And we do know that when they entered Jerusalem, they were there to worship a King. Matthew 2 records their journey and then their arrival in Bethlehem where says they fell down and worshiped him. Our hymn writer has specifically addressed characters in this Christmas story we’re well familiar with, and each group he said come. Come and see, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king.
But then there’s also this open invitation. This open invitation is to saints, sinners, and all nations, as mentioned in the 4th-6th stanzas of the carol. Saints are described as believers in God, holy ones, the redeemed who are worshiping God with prayer and fasting, much like Simeon and Anna who were worshiping God in the temple. These saints are watching for the coming of the Lord. The words from Malachi 3, the prophecy say this,
“Behold I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.”
The saints hear the call of God to come and worship. Sinners are addressed in the fifth stanza, specifically sinners who are ready to repent, to turn from their sin. They are invited to come in true repentance heeding the call of mercy which can break the power of sin in their lives and worship Christ the newborn king. Sinners, all sinners in true repentance are invited to come and worship.
And finally, all nations are invited to come, to gather before the King of kings, one to whom every knee shall bow. Romans 14 says,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
We will get to this soon here in our study in Revelation, but Revelation 15:4 says,
“Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts had been revealed.”
One sure and certain day every nation will come before the Lord Jesus Christ and worship him. There is this open and specific calling to everyone. This is like a universal call — believers, everyone in the world — come, come to Jesus come and worship.
Worship is what we will look at next. Come and do what? What are we going do? We’re going to worship. just before we get into this, I’d just like to make a brief comment. The topic of worship as one that’s covered extensively in the Bible. Unfortunately or fortunately, we don’t have the hours to cover it this morning. But I do want us to have some basic information because we need to understand what it means to come and worship. What does worship look like? Well, generally worship is defined as an act of homage, adoration, or praise. To idolize. The Greek word for worship means to make obeisance, which is a gesture of respect or reverence such as a bow, a bending of the knee or falling down on your knees, holding out your hands. It has the idea of reverence for someone or something with a feeling of deep respect, love, and awe. Wayne Grudem, a Christian theologian, says that believer’s worship is
“the activity of glorifying God in his presence with our voices and our hearts.”
The author of Hebrews encourages believers to offer to God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. Reverence and awe. The idea that before God our breath can be taken away. Reverence and awe. Jesus says true worship is marked by worshiping the Father in Spirit and in truth.
So, worship could look like what we’ve been doing this morning. Most of us have been singing, and y’all have been singing great. This is my shameless plug again for sitting on the front row. But if you sit on the front row, as everybody on the front row would agree with me, you can hear a wonderful choir behind you. But we’ve been praising God, we’ve been using our voices to worship and praise God through our singing. Some of us when we were singing, we lifted up our hands. Others may have bowed their heads, closed their eyes. Many of us have been worshiping God this morning through the different prayers at different times we’ve prayed. You have been praying, you have been worshiping God. When the Scripture was read, you agreed in your heart before God. You agree with that Scripture. You were worshiping God.
Moreover, as all of us in our hearts and minds have been doing that this morning, the expression of worship has been that we could do it together. That’s one of the reasons why we gather. We get to worship God together as a family, and that worship encourages all of us. On the other hand, worship could look like our being alone, our being alone in our home in a room or a closet, or our taking a walk outside by ourselves, taking time to read God’s Word, to meditate on God’s Word, to let God’s Word resonate with our hearts, to pray, to be asking God to do a work in our lives, to confess our sins, to be offering prayers of intercession for people who we love who don’t know Jesus. That also can be worship. This worship of God, I would say, just like the song we just sang, it’s as necessary to us as our very breath. The very breath that God gives us should be a reminder that we should be worshiping him.
And I just want to mention since I think of that breath. My dear brother Bill Gautsch — you may not know him, but he’s on the second row. Last Sunday he couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe. We went to his house. We prayed. He went to the hospital. God showed the doctors there what to do. They found a blood clot in his lungs. The one who gave him breath has brought him here this morning. It’s what we need. God, we need you to realize that we need this worship as much as our very next breath. Nevertheless, we must remember that even though we might have an understanding about worship, worship is not something that God takes for granted. We can take it for granted. God does not. Worship is very important to God. He knows our hearts, and he knows that our hearts can be as John Calvin once said, idol factories. That is why from the beginning of the Bible to the end, God makes it clear his position regarding worship. And we need to know that it’s a significant thing when we come and say we’re worshiping. We need to know that God is really concerned about what that looks like. He says in the book of Exodus,
“You shall have no other gods before me… You shall worship no other god. I am the Lord.”
That kind of thinking about what God thinks about worship should also govern how we worship and what that looks like. When Jesus was being tempted to worship the devil, as recorded in Luke 4, he says,
“You shall worship of the Lord our God, and him only shall you serve.”
Only God is worthy of our worship. There could be a real danger with worship. It could be that we think we’re worshiping, but we might be missing the point. Part of that is because all of us, we have hearts that worship things all the time that we’re not even aware of.
It may seem that the worship of God and the worship of idols is pretty clear to us. But I think while probably most everybody in here would not bow down to an idol or worship a manmade image, I don’t think we always discern how our hearts can be taken in by less obvious things or worldly things. Our hearts which are so easily taken in by the things of the world, they need guarding.
Tony Reinke in his current blog post writes about Greg Beale’s book, “We Become What We Worship.” I want to really just make this point why worship is so important to us. Beale’s thesis is simply,
“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or for restoration.”
Beale traces this theme through Scripture to show that we are worshipers and that our worship exposes and changes us. We either revere the world and are conformed to the simple patterns of the world, or we revere God and are progressively conformed into his likeness. Beale’s point is that our worship and our affections right now are pointers to a future trajectory. Our worship is either aimed at our ruin, or our worship is aimed at our restoration. But it is aimed in either case. We are becoming what we worship. Thus the process of sanctification is God’s gracious redirecting of our worship and affections away from worldliness and toward God’s image in Jesus so that we are conformed to his image. Worship matters to God.
I would say this is the reason why the invitation in our carol is so important for us this morning. As Beale says, we should want to worship the Lord reflecting his holiness resulting in restoration rather than worshipping the idols of this world and becoming spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, resulting in ruin.
This is the point. Without a life marked by consistent, regular worship of God, we ourselves can find ourselves becoming spiritually insensitive, spiritually inanimate, and lifeless, like the idols of the world. So, the object of our worship is critical. I just want to say, worship has got to be a priority for all of us. It’s not just the priority for certain kinds of people at church. If we start looking down our aisles, each person here, worship should be all of our individual priority, and then our priority as a church. That is why we’re here this morning. And it’s why we want to make sure that that’s understood. Worship is vital. It’s got to be a vital part of our lives. And worship is vital, because we’re here to worship Christ.
The hymn writer says when you worship, come worship Christ. He doesn’t say come worship some other religious or spiritual leader or this idol, but he says specifically, the object of our worship is Christ Jesus, the only one worthy of our worship. The word Christ means Messiah or the Anointed One, the Lord. It was the most commonly used title of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. As the angel said to the shepherds,
“Fear not for I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all of people for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
We come to worship Christ the Lord. The long awaited Messiah has been born. We worship Jesus who is our Savior, and he is also our God. John 1 says that Christ is God.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
1 John says,
“We know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Jesus Christ is absolutely equal with God the Father in his person and his work. And as Christ, he fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies and the expectations of deliverance of his people. He is the Son of David the Son of God, our Prophet, our Priest and King. Yes, we come and worship Christ the Messiah, but he is the King. Christ Jesus is the king of kings. God’s Word in both the Old Testament and the New Testament speak of his kingship. Isaiah 9 says,
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”
Jesus Christ is King. He is King, King over everything. The angel said to Mary, the mother of Jesus in Luke 1,
“And behold you will conceive in your womb and bear son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David.”
He is the King of kings. He is the Lord of lords. Jesus Christ, he is absolutely sovereign. He is sovereign over all things. As 1 Timothy 6:15 says,
“He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.”
He demonstrates his kingship with this absolute rule over the entire universe. He is the one who holds all things together. As it says in Colossians 1,
“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
As king he is sovereign. He is also the one who has absolute authority and power. Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 28 he said,
“All authority and heaven on earth has been given to me.”
There is none his equal. He has a kingdom. 2 Peter, Peter was saying to his brothers,
“Be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these things you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
As a king he has a kingdom. In his kingdom he has sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. And he is the head of his church. He is also the King of the Jews. He is the King of nations. He is an eternal King. We see this in Hebrews 1:8 he says,
“But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is a scepter of your kingdom.’”
And 1 Timothy 1:17 says,
“To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”
And finally in Revelation 11,
“The seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven saying, ‘The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, he shall reign forever and ever.’”
And what should our response to his kingship be? I think this is the hardest thing for us especially as Americans. We don’t understand what it means to have a king. Probably all of us have different ideas of what a king should be like, but Jesus Christ is the King of kings. He’s the perfect King. He’s the one who shows his love and that he himself laid down his life for his people. He is a king worthy of all of our worship, all of our adoration, and all of our praise. As John Frame says,
“Never forget that the gospel is the good news of the coming of a King.”
We hear about the gospel, we should be thinking, the great news is a King is coming, and a King that we can all follow and worship. It’s great news. We get the opportunity to follow the King of kings. We get opportunity to be under his benevolent rule to rule our hearts and rule our lives. We bow to him only and to no other king.
As I close, I would hope that this series, this Christmas series has been a real encouragement to your hearts. If you haven’t been here the last four weeks, I just want to give a little quick summary. But we began four weeks ago learning that Jesus became homeless to bring homeless ones back to his home in heaven to be with him forever. The following week we learned that Jesus is the joy of every longing heart. That all of our longings can be satisfied only in Jesus. And last week we learned that Jesus is our example of love in action. He is our example of what love looks like as he laid down his life for those people, for people like us who did not deserve his love. And hopefully today we’re learning that this same Jesus is worthy of our coming away from all the different things we need to do and worshiping him, our Christ and our King.
As you think about what we’ve been talking about for this past month, I would just like for you to consider further four questions. First of all, does my heart belong to Jesus? Jesus said without me you can do nothing. He says, if I’m not the one in your life, you’re not going to find the joy and satisfaction that life can offer. Is Jesus Lord of my life? Is he Lord of my heart? Is that true for you?
Secondly, are you finding that all your longings are being satisfied in him, or are you trying to satisfy your longings in all the different things the world has to offer? Jesus says that you can only satisfy your longings in him in relationship with him.
And thirdly, are you finding that your love is being fueled by the love of Christ? Have you even had opportunities maybe this week to love unlovable people in your life, to show them love, show them grace, show them generosity? Is his love fueling your love for others?
And finally, is it your desire to come and worship him? I think the answers to these questions can be found in the chorus of our Christmas carol today. I would like for us to view them as an invitation from God to every one of us to come and worship him. Each of us needs to do this. We need to draw near to him. And I know that that can look differently for all of us. But I think as we approach the new year, we can make a resolution. There are only a few people that raised their hand and said that they’ve thought about it. But you know, every one of us could make a resolution this morning, and that resolution is, I want to be the person who sees this year as a year that I want to draw near to God. I want to be a person who accepts that invitation to come and worship, worship Christ the King. We can do that. We can resolve to do that. And this is really important.
I was saved as a young person, 8 years old, a long time ago now. But one of the things that really struck me as a young person and even in college was the fact that God wanted a relationship with me. You know that that’s why we believe what we believe. We believe that the eternal God wants a relationship with each and every one of us. It’s not just a relationship that we just all get under the umbrella of that relationship. No, he wants a personal relationship with every one of us. One of the verses that struck me was Jeremiah 29. It says,
“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”
And I think that sums up the message today. God wants a relationship with us. He says, call on me. Call on me. Come and pray to me. I will hear you. There is no doubt that when we call out our heavenly Father, he hears us. But the great thing it says here, he says if you will seek me, you’ll find me.
You know there’s nothing greater to find than God. We do that through his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But that happens when we seek him with all of our hearts. I would encourage you to resolve to do that. You want to have a resolution for 2020? If somebody asks you what’s your resolution, it’s really easy. You can say I’m going to go worship Christ the King.
Let’s pray. Father I trust you to do your work. I pray for each person to hear that even a year from now each one of us might look back and say, look what God did in my heart this year, that it was a joy. It was something that became like my breath to come aside and worship you, to worship Jesus Christ who is the King of kings. Father, I pray that you would do that work in our hearts. It has to be you. And I pray for each man, each woman and child in this room. Would you be so gracious, would you be so kind to reach out and touch our hearts? Would you free us from the busyness, all the distractions that this world is offering us? The things that keep us from thinking, I don’t have the time to get alone with my God. Father would you address that in all of our hearts and minds? Father we will give you the praise. All glory will be given to you our God. Father, I know that you can do that. I’ve seen what you’ve done and many people in this place, how you’ve drawn us closer to you. God would you draw your people at your church at North Hills to yourself today, this week, and in this year? May we be a people, may we be a people who are glad to come and worship Christ our King. And it’s in his name we pray. Amen.