Responding to Gathered Worship: With Faith and Hope
One of the great benefits of gathered worship with the church is that it keeps us regularly under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. As God’s people we must give attention to God’s Word. We must be diligent to listen as it is taught. We must be willing to place our lives in its light and ask God to shine upon us.
As the Word of God shines on us, exposing our sin, we are to respond with repentance. God’s Word has a penetrating gaze into the life of the believer. It is like a light that shines into a room. When the light is dim, the room may not look too bad. It may look rather pleasant. But as it shines more brightly, we begin to notice spills and stains, dirt and dust—messes we never even knew were there.
This is what Christ does through His Word each week as we sit under the preaching and teaching of truth. He comes into our lives and opens drawers, and goes through closets, and looks behind our cherished possessions. He exposes our darkness and smashes our idols. He makes us aware of our sinfulness and we begin to realize just how dark and deep our sins really go. Our repentance deepens as we learn to confess sin, fight sin, flee temptation and turn away from sin.
But for us to have hope, repentance must be accompanied by another response in worship. Though we must see ourselves in light of God’s Word, we must look even more intently at Christ. As the Word of God shines on Christ, revealing Him as the way of salvation, we must respond with faith. In ourselves we have no hope. But in Christ there is mercy and forgiveness. In our sinfulness we face fear and condemnation. But in Christ we find joy and redemption We must put our hope and trust in Christ alone. We turn away from sin, but we turn to Jesus.
Because of Christ our faith is strengthened, even as our repentance grows deeper. Our sin is great; our need is certain. But our Savior is greater, and the promise of the gospel is more certain. As we look to Christ by faith we realize more and more just how precious He is, how much we need the gospel, how much we need His perfect righteousness to clothe us. This is why we so need the gospel—even after we have professed faith in Christ. We never outgrow the gospel. We must day by day learn to walk in faith and repentance.
Faith, like repentance, is not something we can find or create in ourselves. Faith is a gift of God rooted in His grace.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8–10).
By faith we believe the gospel and walk in its light, trusting that all God has said in His Word will certainly come to pass. Faith allows us to lay hold of the promises of God, though we have not yet seen the final outcome.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
We have every reason to trust God and rest in Him. Over and over the Bible exhorts us:
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock. (Isaiah 26:3–4)
Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. (Psalm 37:3–6)
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)
Even in times of trials, the promises of God remain true. Trials, as Peter teaches us, can be God’s means to increase and test our faith, that Christ would be magnified in our lives:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:3–9).
This is how we respond rightly to worship—trusting Jesus by faith.
As we go out from worship, we must go out into a life of faith, a life where we are not trying to sort things out on our own, but a life where we are committed to walking in the light of God’s Word and trusting in His promises. Responding rightly to worship is anchoring our hope and securing our faith in Christ alone.
See a Table of Contents (thus far) for this series: Gathered Worship in the House of God
(Scripture quotations are from the Holy BIble, English Standard Version (ESV) ©2001 by Crossway)