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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 59th Anniversary Thanksgiving & Baptismal Service, 2009-10-18

Text: Psalm 84:4

On the occasion of our church's 59th anniversary it would be most appropriate for us to focus our thoughts on Psalm 84:4 'Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house: they will be still praising Thee. Selah.' This verse is all about the blessing of being in the Lord's house. We shall consider two things that we need to know about this blessing: Firstly, Why we are blessed or, The desire to be in the Lord's house, and secondly, How we are blessed or, The delights of being in the Lord's house.

I. Why We Are Blessed: The Desire to be In the Lord's House

A. Because it is better than any other place

The writer of this psalm begins by expressing his intense desire to be in the Lord's House. He says in the first two verses, 'How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.' Here we can see how much the writer wants to be in God's house: he longs for it, he faints for it and his whole being just cries out for it! He cannot wait to be there, and the thought of being there just fills him with excitement. 

Some of us may perhaps be able to identify with this kind of feeling - perhaps this was what we felt when we had to leave home for a long time of overseas work or study, and we felt really homesick, longing intensely for the day we can return home. Those in National Service would know this feeling well - especially when the weekend is coming after a tiring week of training or field camp. At that moment no other place on earth seems to be as nice and desirable as home! Well, coming back to this psalm, we can describe the feelings expressed here as feeling homesick for the Lord's house!

How much did the writer yearn to be in the Lord's house? He tells us in v.10 'For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.' Here the writer makes 2 significant comparisons: One involving time, and the other involving comfort or ease. In the first comparison, he says that spending just one single day with the Lord is so much better than a thousand days spent in the tents of wickedness. To put it another way, we can say that it is a thousand times better to be in God's house than in any other place!

The second comparison is just as interesting. He says: It is far better even to be just a humble doorkeeper who has to stand guard at God's house at all times, than to rest in ease and comfort in the tents of wickedness. These two comparisons show us just how greatly the psalmist valued the privilege of being in the Lord's House. He was willing to give up everything just to have this privilege. 

And this is not the only psalm where such sentiments for God's House are expressed. For instance, let us take the ending of the 23rd Psalm: 'and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.' Psalm 122 begins: 'I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.' Can you see the intense desire for God's house expressed in these verses?

Today many would not mind paying large sums of money for a few days' stay in some fabulous five-star hotel located in an attractive tourist spot. Others may be willing to take huge bank loans to buy an apartment in some condominium in a prime location that is conveniently close to all the amenities.

B. Because of its use for the Lord

Is that the way we value our privilege of being in the House of the Lord? How much do you long to be in the Lord's House? The prospect of dwelling in God's House should thrill your soul in a way that nothing else can. But perhaps this depends also on what you understand by the term, 'the Lord's house.' What is the House of the Lord? 

At the time of David and Solomon, the Lord's house referred to the Tabernacle or the Temple - the physical building where God was worshipped. The temple that Solomon built was a fine piece of architecture. It was made with costly material like specially-cut stones, the wood of cedar trees, and precious metals like gold. But this temple was destroyed in 586 BC and replaced with a second temple, which was smaller. However by the time of Christ, it had been renovated at great expense and extended with several courts added on to it. The Jews who came to offer sacrifices at there and to keep the various temple feasts every year looked forward to seeing this magnificent edifice of worship. Even the disciples of Christ loved to come to this temple just to gape at its beauty. 

In Mark 13:1 when Jesus was going out of the temple, one of them exclaimed 'Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!' But this temple was also destroyed, in AD 70. And up till today no new temple has been built in Israel. Over the centuries, many church buildings have been built to be a House of the Lord. In fact some of the finest works of architecture in history have been cathedrals and places of worship. And even today, there are still people who choose which church they would like to attend, because of its fine buildings, and its inspiring ambience. Some think that there is something especially sacred about the building itself, that can bring them very close to God. 

Our own church building has an impressive neo-classical facade, complete with a steeple, round columns and arched windows and a nice sounding bell. And because of its quiet surroundings, it is most conducive for worship and prayer. But this is not the reason why we should love to be here. If you come each Sunday because you think that God is in some special way abiding and dwelling within these four walls, so that the church building has some special divine aura in it, then you must listen to what God's Word said in Acts 7:48,49 'the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool: what house will ye build Me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of My rest?' 

To a Samaritan woman who wondered where God should be worshipped - whether at Jerusalem or at Mt Gerizim - Jesus said that the worship of God is not limited to any specific place, and that we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24). The Lord wants us to know that His presence cannot be limited to any particular physical place or building. So there is no such thing as a special place that can bestow a special blessing on those who come inside it. You cannot become more holy or be brought closer to God by merely stepping into a certain place. 

Some people may think that visiting Israel or entering into Jerusalem or walking along the paths where Jesus walked before will add more holiness to them. Visiting these places is valuable and useful to gain a better understanding of the things that we read about in the Bible. But we must not believe that these places have some special power to bless, or to make those who visit them more holy. 

The same thing is true of this church building. It is not a shrine and we should never regard it as one. It is actually an ordinary building, like any other building, made of bricks, wood, glass and cement. It would be very supersititious to attach any special power to it. 

Where then does the blessedness of dwelling in the Lord's house come from? It comes from the use that is made of this building for the Lord. What takes place within this place may be a source of blessing to all who come here - the holy worship of God by His people, the singing of praises from the heart, the preaching of God's Word, the teaching of Sunday School lessons, the corporate praying, the meaningful fellowship of God's people, the salvation of sinners and the building up of the saints. These are the things that the church building is dedicated for, and they should make us long to be here in the Lord's House every Lord�s Day. Without these things, this building would not be the Lord's House at all. 

Therefore, these are the things that should should make us say like the psalmist said in Psalm 122:1 'I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD.' And we should love to come to church week after week for all these things, with the same kind of intensity that the psalmist expressed in Psalm 84 'My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord!' Let us love to come to church every Sunday for the worship service, and for Sunday School. Let us also love to come to church on other days of the week for prayer meeting on Tuesday night, for fellowship group meetings on Saturdays, and for the Bible lectures at night. 

And if you truly love to be in the House of the Lord, please make it a point to come early for worship 5-10 minutes before it begins. We understand that sometimes due to circumstances beyond your control you may be late for the service e.g. bad traffic conditions. That's alright. But coming late every week only betrays a lack of love for the Lord's house. How can you say, 'My soul longeth, yea even fainteth for the courts of the Lord!' if you are consistently late in coming here? Let us strive to be here before the church bell rings so that we can spend some moments in prayer to quieten our hearts and focus our thoughts on God, so that our worship will be pure and pleasing to Him and we will delight in His presence. This brings us to the second thing that we need to know about the Lord's House:

II. How We Are Blessed: The Delights of Being In The Lord's House

When we talk about the blessedness of dwelling in the Lord's house as v.4 says, we need to know exactly what that blessing consists of. And here in psalm 84, we can see that the blessing is the delight of being in God's presence. V.2 makes this clear to us 'my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.' What made the psalmist long so earnestly to be in the Lord's house, was not its fine architecture or atmosphere. What mattered most to him was to be able to enjoy intimate fellowship with the living God.

Let us also long to enjoy such deep communion with the Living God, whenever we spend time in worship, whether it is here in church or even at home during our personal daily devotions. Any place where we can commune with the Lord in prayer is the House of the Lord. It does not even have to be a building. Jacob communed with God in an open field, when God appeared to Him in a dream at night and he received the comforting assurance that the Lord would be with him. And to Jacob, that plain open field on his way to Haran, was the House of God! Thus he named the place Bethel which means 'House of God.' Therefore, wherever you may be in any part of the world, whether traveling on a plane or in a hotel room, you can actually be in the Lord's House, and experience the delight of being in His presence!

Being in God's presence is the main emphasis of Psalm 27:4 which says 'One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in His temple.' Dearly beloved, let this be the ultimate purpose of any time you spend with the Lord. Whether it is here, or in the privacy of your own home or office during the rest of the week, the one thing that you desire is 'To behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple.' This is a wonderful way to describe the blessedness of delighting in God's presence. Please do not allow yourself to be distracted from this purpose. 

This experience is also described in Psalm 16:11, which says 'in Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.' This fullness of joy ought to be your daily experience. Why? Because it gives fuller meaning to every experience you go through in life: whether it be your work, or your relationships with others. It adds life to your service to God. It adds vigour to your singing of praise. It adds zeal to your service to God and a deeper dimension of love to your fellowship with others. 

Nothing can compare with this joy - the joy of being in the presence of God - because it is a joy that fully satisfies the soul. In Psalm 21:6 David wrote: 'For Thou hast made him [i.e. king David] most blessed for ever: Thou hast made him exceeding glad with Thy countenance.' And in Psalm 43:4, David said: 'Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy'

What David describes here ought to be your own experience. When you seek for joy in God's presence alone, you will find in Him an infinite source of delight that never ends. Fanny Crosby described this so well in one of her many hymns: 'Oh, the pure delight of a single hour that before Thy throne I spend, When I kneel in prayer, and with Thee, my God I commune as friend with friend!'

My hope and prayer for all of us on our 59th church anniversary is that we will find no greater delight in life than the delight of spending time with our God. Remember: The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Therefore, no matter how busy we are, we must always have time to enjoy the presence of God. 

Isn't it strange that somehow, no matter how busy we are, we can always find time to eat and to sleep and to bathe? How is it that we always manage to find time to do the things that we like to do, but we cannot find time to enjoy the pure delight of being God's presence? Dearly beloved, if we really love to be in the Lord's house, there is no doubt that we will make time for it. We must be disciplined in this matter, and not allow our souls to be deprived of that special time with our Lord. This brings us now to consider 2 guidelines for having a blessed time in the Lord's house: The first is -

A. Quieten Yourself to Come Before the Lord

This is the key to having real quality time with Him. The scriptures tell us to wait upon the Lord. Don't think about when the worship service will end and what you are going to do after that. Forget what the time is and let your heart take its time to get tuned to the Lord. Psalm 46:10 says: 'Be still and know that I am God...' Let Him speak to you through His Word, and then respond accordingly in prayer. Take your time to reflect carefully on what He says, and take your time to pray. Express all that is in your heart to Him. Be open and sincere but at the same time, reverent. And by the end of your time here with God, you will sense the inner refreshment that has come into your soul. And that will enable you to keep close to God throughout the rest of the week. Let us look now that the second guideline for a blessed time in God's presence:

B. Concentrate All Your Thoughts and Actions on Worshipping the Lord

If you do not concentrate on worshipping God, then all that you do here becomes meaningless. You go through the motions of worship: You rise up when everyone stands. You sit when everyone sits. You sing when everyone sings, but you are not thinking about the words you sing. When the pastor prays, your thoughts wander away to other things. When he preaches the sermon you do not give undivided attention to what he says. You fall asleep during the sermon, or read the church weekly, or talk softly with the person sitting beside you, or send SMS messages on your handphone. By the next day, you have completely forgotten everything you have heard in church.

Dearly beloved, if this is true of your worship here every Sunday, there is no blessing or benefit at all for you in coming here. You are just wasting your time. Please remember this: Your time in God's House is not merely a weekly duty to perform. Do not think that when you have done all the necessary things in the service, step by step, that means you have effectively worshipped God. Worship is not measured by the number of times you stand or sit or sing in the worship service. 

Do you know what God says about this kind of worship? According to Isaiah 29:13, He says: 'Forasmuch as this people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me, and their fear toward Me is taught by the precept of men.' Let us examine our own attitudes in worshipping God - is our heart truly involved in our worship? Or is our worship of God just a matter of going through each item in the order of service? 

As our church goes into its 60th year, let us all resolve to keep this place a House of real Worship every Sunday. This Church must be a place where God receives the full heart-felt worship that He deserves. This Church must be a place where God's people are present here outwardly as well as inwardly. This Church must be a place where all our energies, thoughts, attitudes and prayers are fully directed to the Lord, a place where God is truly being glorified in the heart-felt worship of His people! For then we will all experience the blessing of dwelling in the Lord's House, and we will all be able to testify with full conviction what the psalmist has said in Psalm 84:10 'For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.' 

Before we close, I would like to say a word to anyone here who is still outside Christ. All that has been said in the sermon on the blessing of being in God's house cannot be yours until you have experienced another blessing: The blessing of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. The way to receive that blessing is to admit that you are a sinner, and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, trusting only in His death on the cross to save you. Will you come to Him now?

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

December 3 & 10 - Holy Living

Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 2 Peter 3:11