The Greatest Threat to the Freedom of Your Faith

Learning How To Worship God The Way He So Rightly Deserves.

Pastor Matt Stokes
Feb 21, 2021    32m
How much does worship and praise mean to you? Would it matter even more to you if you knew how important it is to God's heart? This message helps you learn how to worship God in the way he so rightly deserves. Video recorded at Ocean City, New Jersey.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

Matt Stokes: 00:00 Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy, Holy. Holy, is a song that we will sing for all eternity. Take a moment as we begin this morning to just let the weight of that sink in. As we step into the throne room of heaven, Revelation chapter 4, now moving into chapter 5, John is caught up in a vision. And the apostle, as he sees worship taking place all around him, emanations coming forth from the throne that are just nothing short of epic and awesome. He begins to weep because there's a scroll in the hand of the one sitting upon the throne, and no one is worthy to take the scroll and open the seals that are on and in the scroll. Then he's told not to weep because there is one who is worthy, he can stop his sobbing and his crying because there is a Lion of the tribe of Judah who is worthy. The Apostle John said, when I looked, I saw a Lamb actually, as if it was slain, as if it had the marks of slaughter on it, and there was rejoicing in heaven because the Lamb is worthy to take the scroll and to open the seals.

Matt Stokes: 01:47 And so we pick up in Revelation chapter 5 in verse 7, and it says this, the Lamb, "He stepped forward and took the scroll from the right hand of the one sitting on the throne. And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp." So if you've ever seen the imagery in cartoons or television, where all these angels are sitting on clouds, playing harps, it comes probably from this verse. "Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people." The harp represents, is symbolic, of worship, the bowl with the incense represents prayer. Worship and prayer, worship and prayer, worship and prayer, this is what's going on in the midst of heaven's throne room.

Matt Stokes: 03:13 And so I don't have a slide for you, but maybe you want to write this down just as an important question for all of us to answer. How much does worship and prayer mean to you? How much worship and praying goes on in your life? I gather it happens to some degree, that's why you're here. Because we're here to worship and we certainly make it a matter of prayer, and there's going to be communion at the end of this gathering, and it's wonderful. But are you going deeper in cultivating that heart of worship? Is it fresh? Is it alive? Is it new? Does it help recalibrate and realign your spiritual life, your relationship with Christ? Are you saturating yourself in prayer? Having more frequent and intimate dealings with God than ever before as we head into this year, that's filled with chaos and unknowns? Because in heaven this is a big part of the picture, it's worship and prayer.

Matt Stokes: 04:16 They all had harps, and they all had bowls that were filled with this incense, which was the prayers of the saints. Now again, in the apocalyptic imagery, there's a lot of symbolism and meaning. What is the scroll? What does this scroll represent? Lots of scholars have different thoughts, and opinions, and interpretations, on what this scroll is. I'm confident that this scroll represents Christ's title deed, containing all that the Father promised because of Christ' sacrifice on the cross. That's what this scroll is, it's his title deed, it's what it's entitled to him. If you read the Book of Hebrews, you'll see that it says that Christ is the heir of all things. And here's the reason why, because he's the heir of all things because, and you'll see this in the songs that we're about to sing, because he gave his life and set us free from sin, he set us free from Satan, he set us free from the sentence of death on a world that has suppressed and rejected and denied the truth that God revealed.

Matt Stokes: 05:24 Truth suppression, truth rejection, truth denial, let me ask you a question, does that sound in any way, like the world in which we live today? Well Pastor Matt, do you think this is the end times? Oh Pastor Matt, are we living in the end times? Suppression, rejection, denial, I want to challenge every believer this room, as much as I'm challenging myself and everyone, who's watching this message now, ask the Holy Spirit to come upon you and open your eyes to the world around you. Jesus challenges us in the scriptures to discern the signs, and discern the times. Discern the signs and discern the times, and you make the applications and ask yourself, what's the believers obligation? Why do I say that? Because you can shake your fist all you want at cancel culture, and critical race theory, and pandemic political persuasions, and systemic racism accusations, and DNA robots in the vaccinations, but at some point the believer, filled with the Holy Spirit and armed with the gospel of Christ, has to make a decision that leads to action. It's not enough to say that's right, that's right. Amen. There's going to come a point where we need to pray, because there's going to come a day where making that decision is not going to be an option. Is this making sense to anybody? Say yes, come on.

Matt Stokes: 07:11 Now as soon as the Lamb took the judgment scroll out of the right hand of the Father, the living creatures and the elders, they fell flat before the Lamb and each one had a harp and a golden bowl filled with incense, representing the prayers of the saints. Now you have to understand, because it's so beautiful to think about, oh, our prayers are like incense that are going up to heaven and they are. But you have to understand what's happening in the context of this passage, and in Revelation right now, in the context of the coming chapters, it's going to reveal that these prayers that are represented by the incense in the bowls, these are the prayers of martyrs. These are the prayers of people who have been persecuted. These are prayers of the people who have been killed because of their commitment to Christ. Revelation chapter 6 and the opening verses of chapter 8 are going to communicate the same concept.

Matt Stokes: 08:06 And when we get there, and we're going to get there soon, some of you are going to have a very hard time digesting the language. I'm not going to get any more emails that say, Pastor Matt, thank you so much for making Revelation so simple and fun to listen to, that season will be gone. Some of you are going to have a very hard time adjusting to the language, some of you are going to see a side of the Savior you've never seen. And although I believe this generation of believers are going to watch from the mezzanine, because I see the scriptures stating a pre wrath rapture, and we'll probably talk about that. That doesn't mean that things are going to get easier, in fact, it means that things are going get extremely difficult for the believer on the earth. There's no telling what you and I might have to endure for our faith. And so I'm saying, along with many others, are you ready? And if you think that you are ready, what does it look like to be ready when that time comes?

Matt Stokes: 09:16 I know this, it won't be God's wrath, because the scriptures promise the believer that we are free from the wrath to come. The scriptures promise us that there is now, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Praise God. But the scriptures also say that in the last days, perilous times shall come. It says in the last days that the love of men will grow cold. So unless you have a subscription to voice of the martyrs, or you're doing your research on the persecuted church, some believers are going to be in for a real shock when they face persecution and they have it knock right on their door, it very well may be on these doors right here. Some are going to be in for a real shock, and I'm one of them. Do you know why? Because I like this, I like my suit, I like the lights, I like the cushy chairs. The greatest enemy, the greatest threat to the freedom of your faith is not ISIS, it's not Hamas, it's not the Taliban, the real terrorists are going to come through your television, they're going to come through your television, they're going to come through your tech, they're going to come through your phone, they're going to come through your laptops, they're going to come through your news outlets.

Matt Stokes: 10:47 Read it for yourself, First Thessalonians chapter 5, the Apostle Paul, who had his head cut off for the sake of his commitment to Christ. He said, "While people are saying peace and safety, peace and safety, destruction will come upon them suddenly and they will not escape." I'm saying the greatest threat to the freedom of your faith is ignorance, followed very closely by spiritual apathy, and right behind that, biblical illiteracy. That's why this church, and those who stand on this platform, stand for the supremacy of scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And woe unto the day that the gospel is not preached from this place, because there will come a day where we will be challenged.

Matt Stokes: 11:41 In the gospels that says be careful that your hearts don't get weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and all the cares of this life, and that day, it will close upon you suddenly like a trap. It says, like a snare, it will come upon all them that are on the face of the earth. Do you know what a snare is? Like in the ancient language, a snare was when someone who caught birds, they called it a fowler, they would actually go into the woods and they would actually tie up a net. And they would actually know where the birds would travel through the woods, and they would actually, the bird, just fly and carefree would just go right into that net, and the whole thing would just capture and roll when they pick up the pigeon or the quail or whatever it was. And in a moment just like that, life was over. Peace and safety, peace and safety, gone. Jesus said in Luke chapter 17, "As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the last days. Where people are eating and drinking, marrying and being given in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered into the Ark and the flood came and destroyed them all." Peace and safety, peace and safety, I'm saying you keep listening and hearing things are okay, things are okay, things are okay, and they're not okay.

Matt Stokes: 13:10 Someone sent me an article, the Turners, this week that was in the Atlantic City Press. I don't know how many of you've seen this, but it was remarkable. The article I was really surprised to see, it's called US Christians Smeared. And let me read it to you, it's in a section of that paper, apparently called the Voice Of The People. And it says this, and this is a person writing in regards to another article that was previously written. "Regarding the recent commentary by Richard T. Hughes, and here's the title of his article in the paper, The Ferocious Last Gasps of the Religion of Christian America. This former professor of theology from Pepperdine University, with a broad stroke characterized all American Christians as racists, and applauded the demise of the American Christian. It is disconcerting that such an educated individual would feel it to be acceptable, to use such broad language and generalized stereotypes, as a basis to slander the Christian faith. Throughout the history of the world, many people of all colors, races, and creeds have used religion as a basis to hurt others and engage in violence. I assert that whenever that has occurred in the past, or occurs today, those people are not true disciples of Christ. Christian sin and make mistakes, no one is perfect, but those with a convinced heart for Jesus strive with the power of the Holy Spirit to repent of their sins and love all other people, regardless of their color, creed or sexuality, as Jesus loves us. The worldview of such Christians can be found in the inspired Word of God, the Bible, in Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus gave the sermon on the Mount. And then it closes, this woman closes the article by saying, people can learn more about being an authentic follower of Jesus, and learn about the power of his saving grace, at the Sunday services of local religious institutions such as Coastal Christian Ocean City." Right, yeah. And then she closed with a quote from me, which is actually wasn't quite what I said, but it was pretty close, which is classic for the newspaper, "Anytime anyone has a true encounter with God, something happens." And this was written by a woman named Karen White. So can we just say thanks to Karen for standing up for the truth of the gospel. Karen, can you stand up? Thank you, Karen. Would to God that we would all have that same spirit, you inspire us.

Matt Stokes: 15:58 Look at verse 9 together with me please, And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reigned on the earth.” From every nation, people are praising God before his throne, and this message of salvation, this is so remarkable, marvelous, miraculous. This message of salvation is not limited, it's not limited to any culture, it's not limited to any race, it's not limited to any country. I just, again, this weekend was speaking to the pastors in India, maybe 70 some pastors. And they were talking about, with Pastor Kranthipaul, about the caste system in India. That you're born into certain social strata, and you can't leave that social strata no matter how hard you really try. And what's amazing is, is just think about what it's like for maybe the Dalits which are the lowest class in Indian culture, for them to hear that God so loves the whole world. I mean, thank God it doesn't say for God so loved just the Africans, God so loved just the Chinese, for God so loved just the blacks, or the whites, or the rich. No, "God so loved the whole world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever would believe in him would not perish, but have everlasting life." That's the gospel say, amen. Anyone who comes to Christ in repentance and faith and accepts him becomes part of his kingdom.

Matt Stokes: 17:42 So I'm saying to you, as much again, as I say to myself, do not allow prejudice or some kind of bias to keep you from Christ with others. Well, he's not going to come to Christ, did you see the tattoos that he has with the teardrops from his eyes, and the spider webs on his elbows, and the chick with the bowling balls? You know what I'm talking about, or sometimes they're eight balls, like from what's up with that. Like, can you imagine, I'm sorry, I wanted to be serious today. But can you imagine you go into the tattoo and be like, I want that one. Like, what? All right, anyway. But guess what, God so loves that guy, or girl these days. I'm just trying to say, God loves the world so much that he gave his one and only son. Christ welcomes all people into his kingdom, and that's the reason they sing this song, to praise Christ's work.

Matt Stokes: 18:36 He was slain, he was slaughtered, he purchased them with his blood, he gathered them into his kingdom, he made them priests and appointed them to reign over the earth. Jesus has already died, he already paid the penalty for sin. Now what's Christ doing, he's gathering us together in his kingdom and making us priests. Philippians says, he's drawing all things and he's subduing all things unto himself, and that includes you and I as priests in his kingdom. In the future, we will be reigning with him that just blows my mind, worshiping and praising him for what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do for those for whosoever has trusted in him. And I say these things with a bit of passion, and I hope it reveals itself in inspiration because when you realize the glorious future that awaits us, you find strength to face your present difficulties no matter what it is you're going through trials, testing, temptation, calamity, crisis. When you realize the glorious future, and you fix your eyes on it, and you meditate upon it, and you contemplate it, and you consider it, you find strength to face your present difficulties. The believers song, praises Christ for bringing them into the kingdom and making them kings and priests.

Matt Stokes: 19:59 Again, even though now, sometimes we are mocked, we're despised, and some of us are martyred for our faith that are believers. Why? Because Jesus said that these things would come, in this world you'll have tribulation. He said, a servant is not greater than his master, if they hated me, they're going to hate you. A servant is not greater than his master, if they persecuted me, they're going to persecute you. But not only did he say that in this world you'll have tribulation, he says, but be of good cheer, but take courage because I've overcome the world. Integrate that with the other scriptures, and you are going to be overcomers with me, it says in First John chapter 5, and you will reign with me in the future over all the earth.

Matt Stokes: 20:38 There's a verse in Luke chapter 22, it says this, "Just as my Father has granted me a kingdom, I now granted you the right to eat and drink at my table in my kingdom." We're going to take communion together in just a moment, and when we do remember what Jesus said? He took the cup and he said, I will not drink again of the fruit the vine, until I drink it again with you in the kingdom of my Father. Oh, what a day that will be. Christ's death made all believers, listen, come with me over here, Christ's death made all believers priests in the Kingdom of God. Do you know what a priest is? A priest is a channel. A priest is a vehicle of blessing to people. That's what the priest is, or was, supposed to be. And it says in the scriptures that we are now priests in the Kingdom of God. Listen to this, I'm going to read to you from First Peter chapter 2, just drink this in, "You are his Holy priests, through the mediation of Jesus Christ." In other words, every priest was a priest because of his lineage. You were either a priest because of Aaron the priest, or Zadok who was another priest. We are priests because we are of the lineage of Christ, we are his co-heirs, we are now his children. Right? Remarkable.

Matt Stokes: 21:58 And through mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer up spiritual sacrifices. Like a priest would offer up a sacrifice, you offer up spiritual sacrifices that please God, by the way that you praise. You offer up spiritual sacrifices that please God, by the way that you pray, by the way that you lead the lost to Jesus Christ. It says you are a chosen people, you are a royal priest, a holy nation, God's very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. I mean, if we really experience what it means to be taken out of darkness and to be brought into the light, what it's like for a blind person to finally receive sight, what it's like for a lost person to finally be found, that's the calling of you and I to reach into a world of darkness and show them his marvelous light. I mean, how's that going to change your life, and what are you going to do with that? Because that's what the song's about. In their new song they acclaim, listen to this, they acclaim to the Lamb that he's worthy to execute judgment because he's the Redemptor, he's the one that has brought redemption from the cross. That's why they worship him, that's why he's worthy.

Matt Stokes: 23:18 Look at verse 11, "Then I looked again, and I heard the voices of thousands and millions of angels around the throne and of the living beings and the elders." Briefly, angels are spiritual beings that are created by God to help carry out his work on the earth. Angels deliver messages, Luke chapter 1. Angels protect people, God's people, Daniel chapter 6. Angels offer encouragement, Genesis 16. Angels, they give guidance, Exodus 14. They actually bring punishment, Second Samuel 24. Angels actually, it says, patrol the earth, in Ezekiel chapter one, which is just mysterious. And angels fight the forces of evil, you see that in Second Kings, you see that in Revelation chapter 20, the Book of Daniel. And along with God's angels you know there's also evil angels, Revelation, chapter 12, but evil angels have aligned themselves with Satan, they have considerably less power, but they can't be ignored. I need to touch on that since we're first introducing angels into this worship image in heaven, more on that in times to come. Eventually the main role of God's angels will be to offer continuous praise, and we're going to see that in the opening verses of Revelation 19, which is just going to be amazing.

Matt Stokes: 24:45 So these two chapters of vision from the Book of Revelation, with this explosive burst of praise for the Lamb that's brought redemption. And there's this epic, watch this, epic cosmic choir singing this chorus with a cosmic cascade of a confluence of voices that crescendo in this exponential, like everything on earth joins with everything on heaven moment. I mean, can you see this? The greatest harmonic contours of the music made by men is just put a mere shadow compared to a John's hearing in heaven. I'm saying, can you hear it? Can you hear it? it reminds me of a song? Can you hear it, the sound of heaven touching earth? Can you hear it, the sound of heaven touching earth? In the Savior's song they proclaimed praise to Christ, the praise that he deserves, the praise that he should receive, that should be ascribed to him, that should have been ascribed to him all along. Do you know why? Because he did not receive that kind of praise on the earth, no way. In Philippians, it tells us that in his humility, he veiled his glory deliberately.

Matt Stokes: 25:58 But now he has a name like no other name, in Acts it says, "There is no other name given among men whereby we might be saved except the name of Jesus Christ." And he has the name that's above all names, and choir of multiple millions, perhaps billions are joining together in perfect harmony and antiphony, as angels, and elders, and living beings, and all creation sings. Look with me at verse 12, "They sang a mighty chorus." Well weren't they all mighty? Like this one's even louder than the last, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” I'm saying, hey man, get used to this song, because the angel song is the one that believers will sing throughout eternity. Worthy is the Lamb to receive, worthy is the Lamb to have himself ascribed these things.

Matt Stokes: 27:00 First, power. worthy is the Lamb to receive power? You have the power of my light, you have the power of the church, you have the power of the world, you have the power of the universe, it's all ascribed to you. Worthy is the Lamb to receive riches, you have all my silver, you have all my gold, you have all that I am, you have all that I have, and all I ever will be. Worthy is the Lamb to receive wisdom, you have the infinite insight of the finest intellectual understanding of all things seen and unseen in the universe. Worthy is the Lamb to receive strength, you have the strength to take time and matter and space and energy and history and the human soul and restore it all to its right relationship with your Father. Just like Matthew said last week, he will even recycle evil for his purpose. Worthy is the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor, worthy is the Lamb to receive honor. You are the Lamb that's worthy to be respected and acknowledged to the highest degree with my own heart, and my own soul, and my own mind, and strength, to the obedience of whatsoever the Lion, Lamb, Lord, requires. You are worthy, the Lamb is worthy, you're the Lamb worthy to receive my entire life. You're the Lamb worthy to receive glory, the glory of my entire devotion, declaring with my life, your goodness, and your greatness, and your graceness, and your wisdom, and your power, and your love, and your justice. Worthy is the Lamb to receive blessing, you have everything within me, giving praise to you, and for you, and through you, for all things. Amen. Say, amen.

Matt Stokes: 28:40 But it doesn't stop there, but wait, there's more. Verse 13, and we'll read to the end of the chapter, Then I heard seriously? "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb." Okay, so can you see what's happening, can you hear it? There's like this sound tsunami, like coming out from everywhere, and going in every direction from heaven. And anything and everything is singing this song, it says every creature in, and on, and under, and over, the earth. Can you imagine, can you imagine just right now, can you come with me and imagine a day where every living thing that's created joints together in this huge pile on of praise? Remember pile on? We had a game when we were kids called don't pile on, did you guys ever play this game? This is so primal, it's second only to king of the hill. Now girls don't play these games, but like ling of the hill, the guy gets to the top of the hill and he just stands there and waits for someone to try and take him down. And then when that guy gets taken down, the next guy tries to take him down, so all the guys are exhausted and we're all just lying on the Hill. Then there's another game called don't pile on, where we all pile on one guy, and we scream as we jump on him, don't pile on. And the object of the game is for the guy on the bottom to get out from the bottom, and when he finally gets out from the bottom, he jumps on the tops and starts screaming, don't pile on as well. That's humanity. So I'm just saying, can you imagine what you have here. this huge pile on of praise, glory, and honor, and blessing, and power, and strength, and wisdom. And the list just goes on and on. as they pile on all this praise to the one that sits upon the throne and the Lamb.

Matt Stokes: 30:53 It's very reminiscent and reflective of Philippians chapter 2, where it talks about how Christ was given the name that's above every name, so at that the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I'm saying can you hear it today? Can you hear it? Can you hear it? Can you hear the symphonic explosion? Instead of an atom bomb, like with a mushroom cloud, you have this anthem bomb and it is just like going off in heaven. I'm saying, can you hear it? Ask the Holy Spirit today to come upon you and open your eyes to the world around you. The believer filled with the Holy Spirit, and armed with the gospel, has to make a decision that leads to an action. And the greatest threat to your freedom of faith is ignorance. don't allow prejudice to keep you from sharing Christ with others. And when you realize the glorious future that awaits you, it'll strengthen you for the present difficulties that are before you. Christ death made all believers kings and priest in the kingdom of God. These two chapters close with this explosive burst of praise, multiple millions, joining together in perfect harmony and antiphony. And the angel's song is the one that us, as believers, will sing throughout all eternity. And imagine the day of this pile on of praise, because you're invited to begin instantly. And with that. Amen.

Recorded in Ocean City, New Jersey.
Read More
Coastal Christian Ocean City
300 E 8th Street
Ocean City, New Jersey 08226