“I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” –Psalm 16:8-9, 11
In ninth grade, I made the school basketball team. At the time, it was a dream come true for me. I remember the coaches congratulating me for making the team, and I can recall the sense of pride that came with such an accomplishment. However, my delight soon began to wain as the season unfolded.
Since the Lord in His wisdom decided not to bless me with natural athletic abilities, I soon realized that the game of basketball did not come as easily to me as it did to some of the other guys on the team, resulting in very little playing time for yours truly. Though I worked hard in practices and scrimmages, I often sat on the sidelines during games hoping for an opportunity to play, which didn’t happen unless we were losing significantly. Looking back, the only real difference between me and the spectators in the stands was that I got to wear a jersey.
Truthfully, I sometimes wonder if some of us feel this way about the Lord’s Day. Is it possible that we sport the jersey of c0ming to church without getting into the game of joyfully engaging with God as the church? In other words, do you show up on Sundays and watch from the sidelines while others show up to play? As people all around you lift their hands, clap, and sing joyfully with smiles on their faces, do you ever feel compelled to join them? Or does the thought of that kind of heartfelt, glad participation make you uneasy?
If you’re on the fence about this, I’d like to invite you to re-examine your experience of corporate worship in light of the Gospel and its untold graces. The Gospel might just eliminate every excuse you have for such reserved, passive behavior in the assembly. Why? Because God loves low-life sinners, which should be more than enough to convince all of us that there are no sidelines among the people of God. We have unbeatable News to share with the world, and it demands a joyful witness when we gather.
My Whole Being Rejoices
If we belong to this covenant community called LifePoint, God is calling us to be pacesetters of Gospel gladness. He is inviting us to set the bar high when it comes to bearing joyful witness to what He has done for us in Christ. So let’s hold up our expectations for worship next to the Scriptures and see how they fare.
I really love the way Psalm 16 invites us to come and experience the joy of the Lord. The psalmist is constantly setting the Lord before him, beholding the endless wonders of the God who saves (v. 8). And this vision compels him to encounter God in a richer, more meaningful way. The glory of God consumes his mind, body, and soul with explosive happiness; his whole being rejoices as he worships (v. 9).
Why? Because when people start seeing God for who He actually is–when we see that He is for us and nothing can be against us (Rom. 8:31)–every fiber of our being is overtaken by holy joy. No part of us remains unaffected and unmoved. Our flatlining hearts are revived, bringing a glad expression to the entirety of our personhood. The joy of the Lord is all or nothing.
When God Unleashes His Joy
Real joy in the Gospel is highly contagious. And, therefore, it is essential to faithful witness. When the Spirit of Christ comes down and brings us into the divine gladness of God, the results are powerful. There is fullness of joy and endless pleasure awaiting the church that embraces all that God has for them in Jesus. There isn’t an unmelted heart among its ranks; only the eternal happiness of God replacing our stoney demeanor with fresh responsiveness. And the people notice that kind of joy when they see it. Will they see it in us? Will we make a commitment to bring the joy of another world to this one?
If we are going to be this kind of congregation–if we are going to partner with the Holy Spirit to build a thrilling culture of joy–we need as many people as possible to courageously step up and take the lead in spreading the joy of Christ. We need you. So I encourage you to reach out with a smile and greet the stranger warmly. Lift your hands high and sing in reckless abandon of self to bless the Lord. Don’t be afraid to get a little rowdy when the band strikes up its anthems of grace. After all, Christ has trail-blazed the path of life and invited us to follow Him! What possible reason do we have for giving anything less than everything to praise our King? Why not be a pacesetter of Gospel gladness? What’s stopping you?
Christian, if your heart grown dull to the Gospel, an encounter with Christ on the Lord’s Day can change that in an instant. He can transform our reluctance into eagerness, and our staleness into wholesale Gospel renewal. He can increase our capacity to bear joyful witness for Christ. And He wants to begin this Sunday. That’s right, God is inviting us come alive to the praise of His glory this week (Eph. 1:6). Will you surrender to Him? There is no excuse not to. He is more than happy to unleash His joy and pour out wave upon wave of grace in Christ. All we need to do is come and soak it in. Christ has set you free for that kind of experience. So put on your jersey and get in the game.
Liturgy for Sunday, March 29, 2015:
Call to Worship:
Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 12:2,5-6)
Confession & Assurance:
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21)
May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion! (Psalm 20:1b-2)