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Introduction – John Mason
William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War, remarked: ‘The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.’ How often we put aside the missional nature of Christianity that bubbles throughout the Bible – and not least that we find in the Psalms.
At the Anglican Connection February Conference, Dr. Jim Salladin, Senior Minister of Emmanuel Anglican Church, New York City, gave two Bible Reflections, morning and afternoon, on Psalm 96. He spoke on the missional focus of the Psalm’s theme that there is only one LORD.
Here is a transcription of the first of Jim’s reflections with the title, ‘Worship Animates Evangelism’. While his notes were prepared for a spoken rather than a written presentation, we are grateful for his permission to use them for today’s ‘Word’.
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‘Worship Animates Evangelism…’ A Reflection on Psalm 96 (#1) – Jim Salladin
Well good morning everyone. It is great to be part of the conference today. Let’s get to it. We are looking at Psalm 96 this morning and this afternoon.
Right now the focus is verses 1-6 And I want to talk about motivation for evangelism. What motivates us to proclaim the Gospel? What motivates evangelism?
Now this is a huge issue isn’t it? I mean most Bible believing Christians know we should all do evangelism. But the reality is evangelism is scary – a lot of our people are ashamed and let’s face it, aren’t you ashamed sometimes?
So, what motivates evangelism? What animates evangelism? What moves it from duty to delight? Answer: According to Psalm 96 it is worship. Worship animates evangelism. You will proclaim the Gospel when you are captivated by God’s glory. Let me show you.
Psalm 96 is super strange for a bunch of reasons. Here is one reason it is strange. It is a worship song packed full of commandments. Look at the first few verses. The Psalm is quivering with commands: Sing! Sing! Sing! Bless! Tell! Declare! That is just the first 3 verses.
Clearly this Psalm wants us to do something. What does it want us to do? We find out in verse 3: Declare [the LORD’s] glory among the nations. There it is: This Psalm is a commission to proclaim, tell and declare the LORD’s glory. Or in verse 2, the LORD’s salvation to all nations. It is a little bit like the Great Commission:
Psalm 96 says: “Hey, whole world, listen up! Join me. Get on board with declaring God’s glory among all nations. Proclaim his glory, evangelize and tell everyone about the LORD of Israel! Now that is surprising. Does that surprise you? Did you know the Great Commission is anticipated in the Old Testament?
But again my question is why? Why does this Psalm think that we should proclaim the LORD among all the nations? And he answers that question in verse 4. Why should we proclaim the LORD among the nations? What is the motivation for Gospel ministry?
Verse 4: For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
The Psalmist is convinced that the LORD is great, so great and so magnificent, so powerful and so glorious that he outshines every other god any nation could imagine. The Psalmist is driven by the conviction that the LORD is glorious. His proclamation is driven by worship.
Look with me more closely at verse 5. Do you see the contrast between worthless idols and the LORD who made the heavens? His argument there is sort of interesting. I expect the Psalm to say: The LORD is real. The idols are fake.
That is true, but that is not the Psalm’s point. The argument is: ‘The LORD is way more valuable than idols. The argument is: The LORD is more worthy of worship than idols. Idols are stupid and worthless. And when you really see the glory of the LORD, when you see the LORD who created everything, then you will drop your idols like a bad habit.
Can you see it is an argument animated by worship. It is an argument that only works if you really think that the LORD is supremely valuable. And we can fill in a bit more detail here.
In verse 5 the LORD is valuable because he created everything. In verse 2, the LORD is glorious because of his works of salvation. The LORD is glorious because of both creation & redemption. The Psalmist says: Look at all God did in creation – all the beauty of this world, the sky, the mountains, works of art, humanity itself. God made it all. So all you find compelling in this world, is just a shadow of his glory.
But then add to that all God did in redemption and in salvation, all God did for Israel – the Passover and the Exodus, the Mana in the Wilderness, all of it – put all that together and you will see that the LORD’S glory dwarfs all possible competitors.
Now friends, that conviction, that heart worship is what drives boldness in evangelism, when you can see (verse 6) the splendor and majesty, the strength and beauty that are before the LORD. That is when it makes sense to obey the commands to sing and sing, and sing and bless, tell, declare his glory among the nations. Worship drives evangelism.
Does it drive you? Many of us are pastors. You know how sometimes you get people; they are pretty moral. Maybe their hearts are cold; they might not be converted; they are not driven by love yet. Well, what do they need? They need the gospel. They need verse 3; they need the glory of God to be declared to their hearts.
But guess what? It’s possible to is possible to be a preacher. It is possible to be a pretty good preacher, an expositor of the Bible. It is possible to say all the right things and yet still to have a cold heart.
Can you (verse 6) see something of the LORD’s splendor and majesty, his strength and beauty? When you say (verse 4) that the LORD is great, is that mainly a correct statement, or is it also the conviction of your soul? Well, if you look at your heart and find it cold, what do you need?
I think you are orthodox enough to know the answer: you need the Gospel. You need verse 3, the glory of God declared to you. And you know that you see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. He died so that our heart of stone could be replaced with a heart of flesh. He became sin so that we might become the righteousness of God.
Look at him. Receive his mercy again and you will see his splendor. Jesus was glorified when he was lifted up on the Cross. He was lifted up so that we could be lifted out of our sin. Sing his glory among the nations. Amen.
© Jim Salladin