Throughout this series on Gathered Worship in the House of God we have considered the role and responsibilities of God’s people in corporate worship. The first two parts of the study addressed preparing for and participating in gathered worship. In the third and final part we have focused on rightly responding to worship.
A right response to worship is more than saying right things, or even doing right things. It springs from the mind and heart. It involves acknowledging and confessing our sin. It urges us to flee to Christ and rest and trust in Him. It rejoices in the glory and praise of God. And it compels us to walk in obedience and submission to His Word. A right response to worship encompasses our whole being. It calls us to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength (Luke 10:27). As Isaac Watts wrote:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
We rightly respond to gathered worship when we live a life of worship. This brings us full circle to where we began. We prepare for worship by worshipping everyday. And we respond to worship by living each day a life that aims to honor and please God.
Gathered worship is an event; it takes place at stated times in designated places. But it’s an event that sets the stage for life. It prepares us to walk in the ways of God. In worship we learn our identity, our tactics and our direction as followers of Jesus Christ.
Gathered worship is a declaration of our identity in Christ. It marks us out as belonging to Him. He has made us and brought us together to declare His name.
Let this be recorded for a generation to come,
so that a people yet to be created may praise the Lord:
that he looked down from his holy height;
from heaven the Lord looked at the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners,
to set free those who were doomed to die,
that they may declare in Zion the name of the Lord,
and in Jerusalem his praise,
when peoples gather together,
and kingdoms, to worship the Lord.
He is our King and our Lord. We believe in His Word. We sing His praises. We trust in His promises. Our time, our possessions, our lives are all His—not just on Sundays, but every day of the week. We worship so that all who see us may learn of God and come to know and praise Him.
Gathered worship is a formation of God’s people for spiritual battle. It teaches us the cadence of walking together in Christ. It instructs us in the tactics of being a disciple. It drills us in truth and arrays us for spiritual warfare. We stand together as we fight against sin in our hearts and press on together in the pursuit of holiness. Paul admonishes us to turn away from sin and “keep in step with the Spirit.”
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another (Galatians 5:16-26).
We live in a day where the distinction between light and darkness is becoming starker. Christians who are walking in the light of God’s Word are finding more and more that they are out of step with the world around them. Our expectations of acceptance and our assumptions of agreement with those around us on matters of culture and conduct are eroding. God has arrayed us together in the church to faithfully shine the light of His Word in a dark world and proclaim the message of hope in the gospel. We worship so we will be strengthened for the spiritual battle and victorious in the fight against sin and darkness.
Gathered worship is an orientation for our journey through life. It not only identifies us as Christ’s and keeps us in line against the onslaught of darkness; it also points us in the right direction. It orients us to God and His Word.
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.
Gathered worship brings us again and again under the preaching of the gospel. It keeps the truths of God’s Word ringing in our ears and running through our minds. It keeps our hope and joy anchored in Christ. It sets a paradigm for walking in this world. Though we only meet a few times each week for corporate worship, we need to continue worshipping all through the week. We need to worship God every day as we face new trials and circumstances. We need to remember the gospel every day. We need to pray, read the Scriptures, sing and preach to ourselves every day.
Worship is not something we leave at the church building when we go home. It is the life and breath of a Christian. We worship because God is with us. He leads and guides and upholds us every moment of every day. Let us daily, as Paul exhorts us, present our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).