“I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.'” –Psalm 122:1
The attitude with which you perform an activity speaks volumes to others about the value of that activity. After all, if you habitually treat your duties as drudgeries, they will be perceived negatively by those who witness your acts of carrying out those duties. This principle is especially important when being mindful of the fact that, much of the time, we are being observed by people in whose lives we exercise a considerable amount of influence and leadership–be it our children, our spouse, a co-worker, or a younger brother or sister in Christ who might be watching us to figure out how to live the Christian life.
Participating in the corporate worship of the local church on the Lord’s Day is not exempt from this principle. The attitude with which you perceive the weekly gathering of God’s people will largely determine how you influence others concerning the value of corporate worship. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve encountered who have a desire to see their children grow up in the church, yet refuse to make corporate worship on the Lord’s Day a priority for their own lives, nullifying their professed desire for their children. Simply put, if you treat the church like it’s a pain in the neck, those around you will soon start feeling the ache as well.
Priorities Are Spiritual
The truth is that priorities are always spiritual. Always. Even more than words we speak, the manner in which we order our lives demonstrates which kingdom we decidedly belong to, regardless of how well-intentioned we think we are. And so we must joyfully submit our schedules, resources, and energies to God’s design for the Body of Christ, which establishes the gathering as the weekly apex of life in a local worshiping community.
Therefore Sundays are one way we orient our lives to reflect our radical allegiance to His Kingdom. There’s no way around the fact that our loyalty to the local church and its participation in the mission of the Kingdom ought to surpass even our loyalty to our own earthly family (cf. Matt. 8:22; Mark 3:31-35). Offensive as that may seem to the sensibilities of our family oriented society, we must consider our participation in Life Together to be of highest importance for our lives and the lives of those we have been entrusted to influence for the Cause of Jesus. In light of what Jesus demands from His disciples, we can’t honestly conclude that our priorities reflect anything less, making them a profoundly spiritual issue.
Sheep And a Horse Called Grace
At this point, it should be said that Jesus is indeed a King with a Kingdom, but He is also a Shepherd with a flock. Yes, He rules over our lives, but He also loves us and cares for us with all tenderness. This is why the weekly gathering of the local church exists. It isn’t some kind of rote religious observance we exercise in order to curry favor with some petty dictator who barks orders and expects us to carry them out or else. No, the gathering of God’s people is a weekly reminder that, before you are anything else, you are a sheep who needs to meet with the Shepherd. You need to sense His presence, power, and protection among the flock, drawing strength and confidence from an atmosphere of Gospel renewal. Therefore, the assembly of God’s people is about empowering grace before it is about responsibility. Let’s not put the cart before the horse.
However, at some point the cart becomes a factor, though it is pulled by the inexhaustible strength of that Horse called the grace of God in Christ. So let’s see all this for what it is: if you are in Christ, you have a responsibility to God and His people. By being faithful to participate in corporate worship each week, you are bearing witness to those around you that Jesus is Lord and your highest allegiance is to His Kingdom. And this weekly gathering is a conduit of grace that invigorates your worship of the Shepherd-King.
In the end, I feel like I should put my cards on the table and say that I don’t believe that you can worship God faithfully and obediently if gathering with God’s people on Sunday morning isn’t a top priority for you. You just can’t. If your priorities are askew, you’re missing out on a key component of biblical worship. I’ve concluded this, along with the writer of Hebrews, who admonishes us:
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV)
Don’t be fooled. Sunday isn’t an optional add-on for a DIY spirituality. It’s a life-giving practice that has shown throughout the ages that God will form us in His grace to be a people for His mission. So this week, let’s be giddy about coming to church. Prepare your heart as Sunday approaches. And when it does, sing like you’ve got some fire in your bones. Lift you hands high; shout “Amen!” with gusto; take sermon notes with great diligence; let your heart leap out of your chest when the Good News grips your soul afresh. Show those around you that the gathering counts. Such a demonstration will make a pronounced impact.
So let us go–joyfully, exuberantly, eagerly–to the house of the Lord.
Liturgy for Sunday, January 18, 2015:
Call to Worship: Hebrews 1:1-3
Song: God Undefeatable
Confession & Assurance: Isaiah 54:7-10
Song: Oh the Scandal of Golgotha
Song: Oh the Blood
Song: Man of Sorrows
Benediction: Psalm 20:1b-2
Hear these songs on Spotify.
How to Prayerfully Prepare for This Sunday:
1. In a spirit of prayer and meditation, think about your attitude toward the Sunday gathering at LifePoint. Do you ever find yourself wishing you could sleep in on Sunday? Do you ever feel tempted to skip out on church for the sake of convenience? Or are you eager to gather with the people of God? Why or why not? How can you be more faithful in your priorities?
2. Take a minute to pray for our gatherings this Sunday. Ask that God would show off His glory in a mighty way. Pray that through His Word and His Spirit He would compel us to worship Him passionately and genuinely. Ask that God would be glorified, the Gospel magnified, and the church edified through Sunday evening’s Night of Worship event.