You’ll notice that on the next page in your worship folder is a piece of music called Gloria by John Rutter, which the choir is going to sing in about 10 minutes. My job right now is to lay before you three biblically-based reasons for why your heart should leap up in praise to God when they sing, and why, when you’re given an occasion to sing, just before and after they sing, you should do it with all your might and all your mind and all your heart.
To do that, I want to open before you a text from the book of Acts. It happens to be the very next text. I invite you to turn to Acts 3:17–21. My desire is that your mind might not click off when the music begins, but rather that it might be full of matter — biblical, God-exalting, Christ-saturated matter and truth.
Glory to God in the Highest
I want to give you three truths and then point to the place in the text where they come from and hope that they’ll be lodged in your mind, seeping down into your heart, releasing praise for the rest of this service when I’m done.
God Fulfills His Purposes
Reason number one: You ought to say, “Glory to God in the highest,” with all your might because God fulfills his good purposes, in spite of — and even through — the opposition of ignorant people. In Acts 3:17–18, Peter has just indicted the listeners with killing Jesus, and now he says:
And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.
Notice that word thus. It says, “how he thus fulfilled…” It was through the ignorance of rebellious people. The highlight of the glory of God in those two verses is that the people who were handing Jesus over, mocking him, scourging him, nailing him, and killing him, were not in sync with God. They weren’t intentionally obeying God and blessing the human race. They were against Jesus and against God.
But the glory is that it says God was all the while fulfilling what had been prophesied about the suffering of the Messiah, precisely in spite of, and even through, the ignorance of these people. Now, this is a glorious thought because as I look around America today, my heart wants to sink again and again and again at the godlessness of our land. God is banished from school, he’s banished from the marketplace, he’s banished from educational institutions at the higher levels, and he’s banished from the media. He’s gone. There is intense rebellion and rage against God today, seething underneath the relativism and materialism of America.
And I turn and say, “How on earth could God ever bring a glorious, good, hopeful purpose to pass when there’s so much opposition and so much ignorance?” And I come back to this verse and I say, “It’s no worse than the killing of Jesus. If God was fulfilling everything he promised and planned precisely through the opposition of ignorant people when they killed Jesus, he can fulfill his purpose today, no matter what kind of opposition and ignorance anybody has.” And therefore, let us rejoice and take heart. God reigns.
God Forgives Sins
Reason number two: God wipes away all the sins of people who repent and turn to Jesus. Acts 3:19 says:
Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out …
That is why, by the way, he fulfilled all those promises about the suffering of the Messiah. It was so that that suffering could become our suffering, that he could bear our sin and take our guilt, and that the very next verse could say, “Everybody and anybody in this room who turns to God and trusts in Jesus” — that’s what repentance is, turning from sin, focusing on God, and receiving the gift of salvation through the cross and honoring Jesus Christ with your life — “every evil they have ever done or ever will do will be wiped away.”
The word wipe away is a really precious and beautiful word in the New Testament. It’s used, for example, in Revelation 21:4, where it says, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” God is in the business of wiping away sin to prepare people for the wiping away of tears in the age to come.
God Will Restore All Things
That leads us to the third reason, that we should exult with the choir. Reason number three: God will one day establish the kingdom of Jesus Christ on this earth. I want to read the second half of Acts 3:19–21. Look for three features of this glorious coming kingdom that would give your heart hope. Peter has said, “Repent, that your sins might be blotted out,” and now he continues:
That times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.
Let me translate that last phrase more literally. It would be, “whom heaven must receive until the times for the restoration of all things…” That’s the literal rendering — the restoration of all things. Now let me tell you three things about the coming kingdom that are going to happen as surely as God is God, no matter what opposition or ignorance there is.
Refreshment, Rule, and Restoration
That kingdom will be, first of all, a kingdom of refreshment, everlasting refreshment. We need refreshing in this life again and again. We need to lay our heads down and go unconscious for seven or eight hours a night, or we get really crabby and really depressed. In the age to come, it may be that we’ll sleep, I don’t know, but whether we wake or sleep, whether there’s the rhythm like that or not, it’s going to be perfect refreshment every time you need it. We will mount up with wings like eagles. We will run and not grow weary. We will walk and not faint. It will be Perfect.
The second characteristic of this kingdom is that Jesus is going to be there as the king. It says. “He will send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus” (Acts 3:20). And he will establish his kingdom on the earth, erect his throne, and rule his kingdom. And I believe that my own refreshment and yours will come from looking into the face of Jesus again and again and again and again.
The third characteristic of this kingdom is that it will mean a restoration of all things. As you look at the world today things are not as they should be, and we often want to ask, “What is God up to? Where is God in a world with so much agony, so much tragedy, so much futility, so much frustration, so much immorality, and so much corruption? Where is God?” The answer is that he reigns and he’s coming. And when he comes, it will all be restored to Eden, and I believe even better than Eden. There will be no more guilt, no more pain, no more suffering, no more frustration, no more corruption, no more decay, and no more futility. It will be as it was in the beginning before the fall, only better with no possibility for the fall.
Meeting the Needs of Weary Souls
As I draw this to a close, let me remind you again that either through what I’ve said, or through what you hear from the musicians now, let God do something to you. Don’t resist God. Let God speak and minister to your need. Everybody in this room has a different need right now, many different needs.
At the end of the service, we are going to have some prayer teams who will just make themselves available here at the front. They have little badges on. It could be a little, teeny thing, and it could be a big thing. God may just touch you and say, “Why don’t you go up there?” When we’re all done and dismissed, just ask one of those teams to pray with you. Tell them what it was, and let them pray for a minute or two. And you may go out of here healed, well, restored, and stronger. I want you to know that they’re here and they’re full of eagerness. I was praying with them before the service, in fact, to pray with you.
Let me sum it up. There are three reasons now that we should sing with all our might. As you can see here, we’re going to sing Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and then we’ll go into Gloria. There are three reasons why your heart should just leap up in this hymn, and why you should listen with all your might to what they sing.
First, God fulfills his hope-giving promises in spite of, and even through, the opposition of ignorant people. Second, God wipes away all the sins of people who repent, and nobody needs to go out of this room carrying sin in their life. God, in the twinkling of an eye, takes it away when we turn to him. And third, he will establish the kingdom of Christ on this earth and it will be a kingdom of refreshment in the presence of the Lord, along with a restored creation where there is no futility, no frustration, no sickness, no pain, no tears, and no sadness anymore. So let’s lift our voices and sing now and welcome Gloria by John Rutter.